Now that you’ve designed your custom pattern, it’s time to use those pieces to cut up your foam and assemble your helmet. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Exercise mats (EVA foam)
- Xacto knife
- Hair Dryer or Heat Gun
- Contact Cement (ie Barge) and/or Glue Gun
- Optionally: Dremel
Step 1: Trace Pattern Onto Foam
Take your pattern pieces and trace them onto the foam. Don’t forget to mirror the pattern over for the other side otherwise you’ll end up with just half a helmet. Mark the lineup ticks and label liberally. It will all end up being covered up later on so err on the side of clarity.
Step 2: Cut Out Pieces
Once all the parts are traced onto foam, take your Xacto knife and carefully cut out each piece. Swift, deliberate, slices with consistent angling will get you nice clean edges without scraps of foam. Practice makes perfect.
Step 3: Assemble
Now comes the fun part! Take two joining pieces and put a thin layer of contact cement on both sides. Give it a minute or two to fully dry and then carefully join the two pieces. Start with one edge and work your way down to the end making sure to line up every tick mark one at a time. Hold the two pieces together for another few minutes and they will be forever joined.
Repeat this process until you’ve got the entire helmet fully assembled. For pieces that need to be shaped, apply some heat with your hair dryer/heat gun and hold the foam to the desired form for a few minutes. The foam will keep its shape when it cools.
Step 4: Test Your Fit
Now that you’ve got a wearable helmet, test your fit! If it’s too tight, it means you didn’t scale up your pattern enough. Make and assemble another helmet from a larger pattern. Don’t be afraid of remaking parts! It’ll save you more time down the road to get things right at this early stage. I completely remade the cheek structures 3x because the original pattern ended up being too flat. Using a dremel, I was able to experiment and shave down new angles until I got what I was looking for.
Step 5: Add Shape Details
With the base helmet complete, you can now build out shape details like the back ridges, the “ears”, and the iconic dent. Try stacking layers of foam and cutting out shapes with your Xacto knife or shaving them down with a dremel. Don’t feel limited to just using foam! I glued in a pair of disposable chopsticks for the antenna because it provided the right amount of rigidity and built in detailing. A lot of detail will come through in the painting, but at this stage, try to focus on adding new shapes that will change the silhouette and catch light/shadow in noticeable, interesting ways.
Now it’s time to add some color to this bad boy in Part 3: Paint and Surface.