Every year, Halloween creeps up on me slowly, and then is swiftly gone for another 364 days. I decided this year I was going to put some effort (and a lot of spare time) into crafting a cool costume for parties and trick-or-treater greeting. There were a few other ideas, but I ultimately decided to go as Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk.
Day 01 (10/09)
A lot of other peoples’ work, and moreover their blogs and online guides like this one, helped me immensely in early planning stages. Here are all the sites that helped me out that aren’t referenced directly later in this guide.
- http://iroboticshowoff.com/makeadafthelmet.html – RoboticShowOff’s basic textual guide, includes links to corresponding YouTube and Flickr material
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/luchofunk/ – LuchoFunk’s Flickr account, lots of photos of a really well done Bangalter helmet
- http://www.thedailyswarm.com/swarm/daft-punk-girls-how-masks-were-made/ – The “Daft Punk Girls” and their very cool LED displays explained
- http://www.cosplay.com/gallery/106611/ – HeavyArmsDan’s photos of a Guy-Manuel helmet
- http://www.instructables.com/id/Daft-Punk-Halloween-Costume/ – Conadia’s account of a nice full Bangalter costume, not just the helmet
The following prices are approximated from memory.
Used navy blue youth baseball fielder’s helmet....$04.99 from GoodWill Factory defected George black leather shoes.......$05.99 from GoodWill New black rubber-coated work gloves...............$01.99 from Harbor Freight New plastic face shield/safety visor..............$02.49 from Harbor Freight New 6 feet of ½” black wire casing................$01.99 from Harbor Freight New 16oz can of Bondo (regular)...................$08.99 from Wal-Mart New Krylon Brilliant Finish Silver spray paint....$02.99 from Wal-Mart New 16"x20" poster frame..........................$04.99 from Wal-Mart Dark (reflective, if possible) window tint........$00.00 (ask a shop for scrap) LED array (programmable LED belt buckle)..........$09.99 from eBay Subtotal..........................................$44.41 FL State sales tax................................$02.66 TOTAL.............................................$47.07
Other Materials (I had these laying around already)
Being a bit of a pack-rat helps.
Approx. 3ft of masking tape Hot glue gun Approx. 2 glue sticks Sand paper (at least 4” squares, 2 each of 80grit and 120grit) Pencil Marker 4 sheets of office paper (Access to) A computer (Access to) A printer Cardboard (approx. 9 square feet will cover everything) Xacto Knife Box cutter Elmer’s Glue Metal edge ruler 2 empty 12oz soda cans 2 empty ½ gallon jugs Duct Tape 2 square feet of Masonite Board, plywood, or cardboard Sanding block Scissors Electric drill (1/8,” ¼,” and ½” bits) Yogurt container or similar 9v battery Electronic Switch or Variable Knob 2" PC case fan Stereo wire Soldering iron and solder A nice (subjective) suit Neck tie
Day 02 (10/10)
If you’ve seen any other How To’s online for either Daft Punk helmet, you’ve probably already seen Pepakura put to use. If not, it can be summarized as a series of Windows programs of Japanese origin (translated versions are offered), used to create and/or view 3 dimensional models and export them as flat printable surfaces, that can then be printed, cut out, and glued or taped together to form a tangible representation of that computer model. Someone created native models of both helmets for Pepakura — I think this forum thread is the original appearance of the files online. These files proved indispensable to me to replicate the compound curves seen in the visor and lower jaw portions of Thomas Bangalter’s helmet. The Pepakura model builder license costs, but the viewer (which is all you need to open, view, and print the model) is freeware, available on their website here. The models for the helmets can be found via their original forum post here. I used the viewer to open the PDO model file, selected only the faces I needed, took screenshots, and rearranged them onto just 3 sheets of paper (instead of the 5 or 6 it would have taken in its default configuration). The pieces are numbered and marked to show you where and how to fold and attach them together. Some people have advised using cardstock, but I just used regular office paper stock, and then reinforced it later with cardboard. In the end, it’s a bit stronger, and I imagine it resists warping under the weight of the setting Bondo later on. That’s just speculation though.
Day 03 (10/11)
Initial Surface Smoothing
The baseball helmet I got from GoodWill had a lot of air scoops and ventilation ports, which of course needed to be filled. (Note that it took me 3 trips to this GoodWill before they got a baseball helmet in, so persistence pays off!) I first covered all the holes with masking tape on the inside of the helmet, then filled them with hot glue from the outside, using a scrap of cardboard to smooth out the results. The biggest holes (over the ear parts of the helmet) had to be filled by cutting out some scrap cardboard to fit. In retrospect, I probably could have skipped that, as the robot “ears” that come next covered that area completely.
As most before me, the ears are constructed (primarily) of the bottoms of two 12oz soda cans. My process was to first sand the cans to give them some tooth and help Bondo and paint adhere to them better. Then I propped a permanent marker up on some scrap object about an inch high, to act as a jig — I rotated the can around as I held it to the tip of the marker, making a good level circle. I repeated the process ¼ inch higher, and did the whole thing over again for the second can. I used a box cutter to slice the higher of the two lines, and discarded the top (Recycle!). I used a cruddy old pair of scissors to create a series of vertical slits connecting the two lines on each can, and then bent the resulting tabs outward creating kind of an aluminum daisy wheel. The purpose of the tabs is to ease the process of attaching them to the helmet. I used hot glue, then covered the tabs with masking tape for safety. Lather, rinse, repeat for the other side. Watch out for symmetry.
New baseball helmets (and used ones, if you’re lucky) come with fat foam pad inserts to keep the helmet on your head. I had to cut mine to half thickness with a razor blade to make a firm but comfortable fit. Elmer’s glue does NOT work on foam, as I found out. Use hot glue instead — Just be sure of your positioning.
The paper visor and jaw produced on Day 01 are weak and flimsy. I held the constructed piece down on scrap cardboard, traced the outlines onto it for each flat face and cut them out (one for the mouth, one for either side of the jaw, three for the bottom of the visor, one for either side of the visor). I used Elmer’s glue to hold them to the paper on the inside, then some masking tape to bridge gaps between pieces.
Day 04 (10/12)
The paper visor and jaw assembly were attached to the bill and sides of the helmet with masking tape. Positioning was eyeballed, compared against the three-dimensional model in Pepakura. I added some more thin strips of cardboard along the bottom edge of the jaw, with their bottom edges lower than those of the piece before them, so as to create a new surface along the bottom edge. This was all covered with masking tape before the Bondo came out.
At this point, the paper assembly was fortified enough to go for a test fit without worrying about ripping anything. It’s a bit difficult to get on and off, especially with glasses on, but the fit is good.
Day 05 (10/13)
I wanted the electronics in the mask to be controlled externally, which involves running wires out of the helmet to somewhere more accessible, like a wristband or something. To protect these wires and add a touch of robotic flair, I got some ½” corrugated black wire casing. I drilled two ½” holes in the back of the helmet to run the casing out of. Don’t put them in yet, though, they’ll only get in the way of the Bondo and painting processes. I taped over the holes before adding Bondo to cut down on mess.
Those air scoops filled with hot glue didn’t quite do it. I wanted the helmet to be as smooth as possible so as to minimize how much Bondo I’d need. More cardboard came to the rescue. Edges were covered with masking tape to create smooth contours wherever possible.
I bought a cheap plastic face shield to be used for the visor, but it didn’t end up working out — Just a bit too small. I ended up using this material later for the gloves instead.
In preparation for adding the Bondo, I needed to make some sort of base to hold the helmet up off the ground (so as not to cement the helmet to my work surface and cut down on the mess… There WILL be a mess, but this helps a lot). I just used two ½ gallon plastic jugs out of the recycling bin (wash them out first, of course), held together with duct tape, and held to a base of peg board with more duct tape. The helmet fits right down on them and can be positioned pretty easily, so all parts of the outer surface are accessible and up off my work surface.
First Bondo Application
This was my first time working with Bondo. I think it shows. Not all of it was mixed ideally, and that’s fairly important. Bondo comes as two separate compounds — A gray paste filler, which makes up the bulk of the final substance, and a brick-red hardener compound, which is apparently composed of Hydrogen Peroxide and some other stuff. You add about a pinky-nail sized blob of the hardener to a half-golf-ball sized blob of the filler. That’s terribly qualitative, but about as accurate as I was working with. I used an old plastic card to scoop out the filler, mix in the hardener, and apply it to the helmet (I think the card was from CVS pharmacies, one of those member discount sham cards. You could use an old ATM or Debit card, but the one I used didn’t have embossed numbers or letters and was therefore easier to clean). I’m not sure what factors affect the setting process, but here in Florida (humid ~90 degree weather), the above-mentioned amount of Bondo would set to an unworkably solid state in about 45 seconds, if that. Using any less hardener lead to spots that took a day or two to totally set. So… Work quickly. Just be confident and slap it on quick, don’t worry too much about keeping it perfectly smooth or consistent at this point. You WILL need to sand and add more layers later, so if you look at this as just one of several applications, you’ll be in the right frame of mind.
Day 06 (10/14)
The Bondo applied yesterday was allowed to set overnight. Not entirely necessary — If you mix it well, it’s pretty much set and ready to sand after just a few hours. Use a really low grit sand paper (I used 80) for now, you just need to move some material now, and can beautify later.
I added thin strips of cardboard around the base of each can to make them more visually interesting — The cans just by themselves were too easily identifiable as cans, which is bad. I understand the final result will look handmade, but I don’t want it to look shoddy, either.
First Sanding, Continued
Sanding entirely by hand is not impossible, but is more of a task than I was willing to take on. I borrowed a Ryobi 1/4 sheet pad sander from a friend and did most of the rough sanding that way. After about an hour or so with the power sander, I was ready for the next coat of Bondo. You can tell you’re ready when you sand through to the helmet (or just close to it, preferably) in some places, but still have divots and dips in the surface of the Bondo elsewhere. Almost unavoidable, I’d think.
Day 07 (10/15)
Today was my birthday, and production took a backseat to having some fun with my family. I did get some work done in the morning, though. I hit the whole outer surface of the helmet with some cheap generic silver spray-paint, just for visual approximation of the finished effect. An initially unforeseen benefit of doing this turned out to be that having a layer of color between layers of Bondo makes it MUCH easier to see where one layer ends and the other layer begins… This is good for seeing where you need to sand more, versus where you need to hold off before you sand too deep.
Second Bondo Application
This time, I used about a third of the Bondo I used for the first coat. Just filling in big dips left from the first time, and patching over anywhere I sanded too deep. I also added it around the newly modified ears.
I got started on the gloves today, too. I put the gloves on that I bought from Harbor Freight, placed my left hand flat on a piece of scrap paper and traced it with pencil, and then sketched out the segments. I numbered them all for ease of identification later on. I took that face shield that didn’t work out as a visor back on Day 05, and found that it being clear made it easy to sit on top of the paper tracing I just made, then retrace the lines and numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker. The plastic was thin enough to cut with the same cruddy scissors I used on the aluminum can ears. Doing the right hand was as easy as repeating the process above and then just flipping the pieces over after tracing and cutting them.
Day 08 (10/16)
The paper I used to trace and sketch on doubled as a carrying tray to get the pieces outside without losing order. After a light sanding with 80 grit to add some tooth, I hit them with the Krylon Brilliant Silver spray-paint, 3 or 4 coats, waiting about 1 or 2 minutes in between coats. Careful of the littlest pieces, the force of the aerosol spray might blow them around. Just spray from no less than a foot away and they should stay put. The pieces dried for about an hour, and then I used hot glue to affix them to the backs of the gloves.
Day 09 (10/18)
I took the day off yesterday. All of my aunts and uncles on my father’s side came into town for a week long reunion starting on the 17th, and I haven’t seen a lot of them in a long, long time. I wrote most of this guide while at the condo they all rented in Cape Canaveral. I found time here and there to work on the helmet while the family was just relaxing and taking it easy. Today, the whole helmet got another power sanding. It looks like marble, a bit, which is good — It shows that the two coats of Bondo (and that layer of silver spray-paint in between) are coming together to form a singular smooth surface across all the various infrastructure materials below it…
Third Bondo Application
At this point, only little tiny divots and rough spots needed more Bondo, so I applied it with a finger tip. Used up the very last bit of the hardener during this application — Pretty good timing, right?
I found a good way to plan for my visor material. I wrapped an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper around the front of the mask, and from the inside, traced onto the paper. I cut this shape out, leaving about a half inch extra on each side to act as tabs to secure the material to the inside of the helmet. I test fit it, and all looks well, so I knew I had my template for the final visor material.
Day 10 (10/19)
Everything got hit with the 80 grit sand paper again, this time all by hand. The power sander wasn’t necessary — I did make much use of the sanding block, though.
Fine Tuning the Shape
I used a hobbyist’s dremel with cutting wheel attachment to cut out the mouth slot (and the X-Acto knife to cut the upturned corners, creating the robotic smile). I used the dremel to reshape the smooth jaw line into one with a notch in it, more like the real thing. These areas were hit with 80 grit sandpaper to match their surroundings.
I went over the entire helmet with 120 grit sand paper to get an extra smooth finish before painting.
The Krylon Brilliant Silver came out once again, and following the same painting-waiting-painting-waiting pattern as with the gloves, I gave it at least 6 coats all over. Break out the stand again from the Bondo applications for this, too, to keep the bottom up off the work surface.
Day 11 (10/20)
Adding the Hoses
I used the ½” bit in my electric drill to clear out the Bondo over the holes I made earlier, and hot-glued the corrugated ½” plastic wire casing into place, seam-side-down. A little more hot glue around the base of each hose really secured them and made me sure I wouldn’t rip them out when taking the helmet off. For added effect, I masked off the hoses with masking tape and hit the hot glue with more silver spray paint – The result looks a lot like a weld.
Day 12 (10/24)
Quick Visor Implementation
There’s a monumental annual Halloween party hosted by a friend of mine’s step-father in Merritt Island tonight. Not to be missed, and the perfect opportunity for a “soft opening” before the “grand opening” on this costume, as it were. I still didn’t have the LED array I had ordered on eBay yet, nor did I have a dark-tinted visor material. Time just wasn’t on my side. I made due by getting a cheap poster frame from Wal-Mart, and using the clear flexible (but thick, like credit card thick) plastic cover for the visor. I used the template I made on Day 10 to cut out a piece of the plastic. I had to trim it down a little bit more to get a good fit, but then I hot glued it in place in 6 or so small spots, to allow me to remove it and replace it with a tinted one later.
Day 13 (10/25)
Cooling System Planning
The party last night was a blast, and while hardly anyone (except my pro DJ friend) knew who I was supposed to be, reception was good. People could tell work went into it, and I liked that. Some con’s became immediately apparent, though – This costume is hot. Like, really hot. I spent a lot of the party in front of a free-standing AC unit, blowing cold air into my sleeves. Your head, hands and feet (major escape points for body heat) are completely wrapped up, and the 2-layer suit doesn’t help much either. Cooling has officially become an issue. I have a collection of spare PC parts, including case fans. A little research online told me I could hook one up to a 9v battery and run at a little less than the fan’s full speed (they’re used to running at 12v) for maybe a couple hours. Good enough for me. I wrangled up an old (but still strong) 9v battery from a remote control, a 2” case fan, and some volume knobs from a busted pair of studio headphones to act as variable-speed controllers. I didn’t have a 9v battery wire harness, so I just wrapped the bare ends of some wire around the terminals and then taped the insulated parts down to the battery itself with masking tape. A Dora the Explorer drinkable yogurt (not mine, I swear) container was just the right size to conceal the battery and present the voltage adjustment knob.
Day 14 (10/26)
Some test-connections showed me which terminals to wire on the volume knob to get the desired effect. Turn the knob all the way down, no (or very little) voltage passes from the battery to the fan, and everything remains stationary. Turn the knob up, and at about halfway, the fan comes to life at a slow pace. Turn the knob all the way up, and you’ve got a nice strong breeze. The fan was positioned in the mouth area inside the helmet and tacked in with a little hot-glue. There’s a good 1.5 to 2 inches of clearance between it and my mouth, so no worries about it clipping my lips when I talk or something. I ran about 3 feet of speaker wire through one of the hoses in the back of the helmet, and through a little hole in the lid of the ½ gallon jug that made half the base I made for the Bondo phase. I cut the top off the yogurt container, and then put a hole in the bottom of it about the diameter of the knob. I hot-glued in some cardboard (3 layers thick, just small strips) to act as risers and properly position the depth of the knob. The knob with the wire leads soldered on then goes in, and is tacked to the cardboard risers with some more hot glue. To protect from short circuits between the knob’s circuit board and the battery, another layer of cardboard goes in now. Now the battery goes in, and I just twisted all the wire ends together. A little hot glue on the ends kept them together and prevented short circuits. The half gallon jug lid slides down the wire, and is hot-glued in place to seal up the container. The hose was then hot-glued to the bottom of the container, masked with masking tape, and hit with silver spray paint for continuity.
Day 15 (10/31)
Tinting The Visor
I called Art’s Window Tinting in Melbourne and ultimately drove out to talk to someone about getting some scrap window tint. We talked about my specific needs and materials, and they just gave me this piece at no cost. Really friendly people there, and very helpful. I took it home, popped out the old visor, and carefully applied the tint to it, smoothing it down with a soft sock as I went (way easier than using a card or squeegee if you’re working dry). I cut off the extra with an Xacto knife and hot glued the visor back in place just like last time.
Finalizing the Cooling System
While one of the hoses from the back of the helmet actually held the wire for the cooling system, the other hose was just hanging there. I cut the loose end at an angle with scissors and hot glued it up against the other hose, so they look like they merge together at the controller. Also at this time, the long piece of stereo wire leading into the helmet from the controller was wired to the fan, just by twisting them together. The exposed wire between the fan and the hose at the back of the helmet was just hot glued down to the inner surface of the helmet.
The LED Array
The programmable LED belt buckle finally arrived today. I can recommend this company for price, but not for speed. It’s not their fault, but getting something shipped from China to the US for free is way more cost-effective than time-effective. I removed the circuit board from the metal belt buckle frame (easily, just a handful of small screws holding it in place), and got to work on programming in an appropriate “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!” that continuously scrolled right-to-left. I just tacked it in place on the visor itself with a tiny bit of hot glue. I left enough room above it to see out easily.
With that, the costume was finished, just in time to greet some trick-or-treaters and stroll around the neighborhood. Kids certainly didn’t know who I was, but everyone I came across wanted a closer look!