Note: A new version of this helmet is in progress. See this post for progress reports.
For Otakon 2010, I was commissioned to convert a normal motorcycle helmet, provided by the client, into Celty Sturlson’s “black rider” helmet from the light novel & anime Durarara!!:
I should mention at this point that my understanding of the necessary work for this project was entirely theoretical. I had applied all the basic principles before (sanding, priming, cardboard prototypes, etc.) but most of the actual materials and processes (fiberglass, paper clay, spray lacquer, epoxy putty, window tint film) were entirely new to me. To call it a learning experience would be a gross understatement.
I began by removing the visor and all removable padding, then sanding the helmet to remove its clear coat and decals. After doing a little digital imaging to get the scale of the ears right, I built the basic shape of one ear out of cardboard. I then removed the prototype ear, cut it apart, and traced its pieces onto another sheet of cardboard to make a mirror image. I taped both ears to the helmet and filled in the front and back “vents” with foam. I wanted a strong, light foundation for the ears, so I slathered on several layers of resin and fiberglass. The resin also soaked into the cardboard prototype, giving me another layer of support.
The tips of the ears were filled in with epoxy putty to make them stronger. I layered a thin skin of paperclay over the fiberglass to get a smooth, sandable surface. (I’ve since learned ever so much about better ways I could have done this entire project, but paperclay is what I had on hand.) I also built the helmet detail below the visor out of paperclay and filled in unwanted helmet details with epoxy putty and sanded them smooth with the helmet surface.
Next came white automotive primer in my improvised bathroom-turned-spray room. You can see the backs of the “vents” here. The insides will be painted with a flat black to make them look more like holes.
I ended up having to work with spray lacquer to get a smooth, uniform surface in right teal color. Yellow came first, followed by the large block of teal on the back.
While these were drying, I applied (through 6 rounds of trial and error) a sheet of Gila window tint film (limousine black) to the originally clear face shield for the helmet. After the teal and yellow were completely dry, I couldn’t help but take a shot of the face shield with the helmet.
After that it was time for more intricate masking. I added the black to the front and back recesses of the ear vents and the black and teal details to the forehead. With those dry, I masked the insides of the ear vents to keep them flat, then added the ultra-gloss topcoat to the rest of the paint.
I covered the original face shield mounting hardware with painted styrene to replicate the original’s look. I learned a great deal about several techniques and materials working on the project. I feel like I know how to make a much better version 2 if the opportunity ever presents itself. That said, building this thing was a blast, and my esteemed associate and I are already trying to decide what we should make next.
I’m working on a new version of this helmet that I’ll be able to cast multiple copies of. Lighter, stronger, more screen accurate. What’s not to like? See this post for details.