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Helmets, Head Masks and Shields From Carrymats

This technique brought you such great props as Bucket Helm, Scary Black Knight Helm (now peeling) and Big Giant Skull Heid (TM). Essentially the same techniques were used for the Nest's little shields that came into use in April 2006: two layers of thick camping-mat with hot glue, papier mache and some sort of paint. Contact adhesive is better than hot glue for large areas though.

What you need:

  • A carrymat (or some denser foam such as plastazote LD45)
  • Scissors and a craft knife
  • A hot glue gun (or you can use a hot wire for cutting and welding foam)
  • PVA glue
  • Bowl
  • Newspaper, torn into strips
  • Paint
  • Varnish (for those who fear latex). Or you could latex/isoflex like a larp weapon if so inclined.

First off, cut out the shapes you need out of carry mats. This is the hard bit. It will definitely save you money to cut the shapes out of cardboard first to try them on before wasting your carrymat.

The bucket helm

The shapes you need are roughly like this.

As long as you are careful when measuring and cutting, this one's easy! Just make sure that you glue the edges exactly, so the whole thing is like a cylinder.

Knight's Helm

This one requires more experimentation, but here's a rough idea. Cut the width of the mat at the nose edge at a 45 degree angle, so that you can glue it together into a point, not a cylinder. Viewed from the bottom, this helm is a tear shape, with your nose in the point of the tear. You'll need to hold it together while the glue dries, and trim the square edges on the head pieces with a small craft knife to get a proper 'pointy' look.

To paper mache: Mix PVA glue and water half and half in a bowl. Dip or soak your newspaper pieces in the mixture one at once and simply cover all of the carrymat. The first layer is trickiest to get to stick, so paint the carrymat with pure glue first, then contine for at least 4 layers of paper, letting each layer dry in between. The more layers, the stronger the helm.

Decoration: You can add decorations by cutting out bits of cardboard into shapes and then papering only a couple of layers over them. They will be fairly bold though, paper mache is difficult to get detail with. Use your glue gun to make little blobs that will look like rivets.

Painting: (At this stage, you might want to latex the helm, but if not here's the instructions for paper mache). When totally dry, paint your helm black. This is the basis of getting a metallic look. Make sure no newspaper print shows through. Then, get some metallic paint on your paintbrush and - here's the trick - wipe almost all of it off again onto some scrap paper. Very very lightly scribble the paintbrush over the helm so that the texture of the paper and decorations is highlighted. This is called 'drybrushing' - if you've ever painted a minature, you might have used this technique. It looks far far better than painting something with solid metallic paint, and much more realistic. Let it dry, then varnish. Do a few coats of varnish. These helms aren't great in the rain and the more varnish, the stronger and more water resistant your helm will be.