Pepakura Iron Man helmet

So, I stumbled upon something called “pepakura” while browsing the net. Seeing as it was pretty much described as “easy process, awesome results”, I decided to give it a try. I am, after all, an avid maker of things.

A brief browsing through The RPF showed me that the hip thing that the kids these days are building is an Iron Man helmet. Why not? I downloaded the pepakura viewer program and the Sharkmark VI Iron Man helmet PDO-files, and had a look at the files.

The tester helmet has around 250 tabs to glue, while the actual helmet has around 1100. Making the tester seemed to make sense, so I got to work.

Seven hours of cutting, folding and gluing got me something resembling the picture on the proverbial package.

I had already learned a couple of things:

1: 160 gram paper isn’t quite thick enough. The resulting build will be floppy. I ended up adding additional support structures inside the helmet to try and make it stay in shape.

2: There’s a _lot_ of fiddly small cutting and gluing involved! Some of the folds are so ridiculously small that they are impossible to do even on 160 gram paper. I have no idea how that’s meant to work with thicker material. I ended up using extra pieces of paper to extend the small flaps so that there would be enough surface area for the glue.

Well, so far so good, kind of. I also decided to go through the whole process of making the helmet with the tester as a practice run. I’m already glad I did.

Day 2

Next up: Fiberglassing the inside. I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to apply one layer of resin only first, so that the weight of the glass mat doesn’t bend the helmet out of shape. Makes sense. I applied a liberal amount of resin on the inside of the helmet, using a paint brush. Working around the extra supports inside the helmet was a bit of a pain, but I managed. I hung the helmet upside down to cure.

Day 3

The next day I came back to the workshop. The resin had cured nicely. But… It would have been a better idea to leave the helmet so that the extra resin could run out of the helmet. Now I had a nice big chunk of cured resin at the top of the helmet. Well, nothing that a bit of relentless Dremeling couldn’t fix.

While working the extra resin out, I managed to Dremel my way through the top of the helmet in a couple of places. Oops. I also tore the helmet in a couple of places with the Dremel’s cord. Oops. No biggie, those were easy enough to patch with a piece of aluminum tape, and the first layer of fiberglass should do the rest.

A bigger problem was that the helmet was bent out of shape. And asymmetrically, as well. My paper support weren’t doing as good a job as I hoped they would. So, I added some wooden supports this time, hoping that the first layer of fiberglass would set the helmet in a shape that would be at least symmetrical if not completely correct.

I applied the fiberglass to the back of the helmet, and left it to cure.

Day 4

That seemed to work quite well. There were still some distortions in the general shape of the front of the helmet, so I added another set of supports before fiberglassing the front. I attached the helmet to a wooden frame to keep it in the right position while I worked on it.

I then added a layer of fiberglass to the front of the helmet.

Day 6

I came back to the workshop to find a nicely cured fiberglass shell of a helmet. The shape was nowhere near perfect, due to the floppy paper original. But, at least with a solid fibreglass piece, I could now get to work on fixing the shape.

A only had time for a bit of sanding and adding a set of fiberglass filler (the blue-green stuff). The final shape of the helmet will be made with regular auto-body filler, but in places where I wasn’t convinced the fiberglass was going to end up being thick enough, I decided to use the fiberglass filler to reinforce those places.

IMAG0230EDIT: A lot of people seem to end up on this page by looking for “blue green fiberglass filler”. So, if you’re looking for that, this is the stuff I use.

Continued in the next post.

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