Loki’s Helmet

My daughter is obsessed with Loki (thanks to Tom Hiddleston) and wanted to create a Loki costume for Halloween (and generally wearing around the house).  We talked about it for a while before buying anything.  We made a clear decision early on that we wanted to attempt to replicate the Loki helmet from the movie Thor, and not the Avengers (very different helmets).

Phase 1 – Foam & Clay

We started with a green plastic army helmet.  I used a dremel to cut off the unwanted parts and generally shape it to look like the helmet.  We visited the craft store and bought 1/8″ and 1/4″ craft foam.  We also bought a Styrofoam mannequin head which I thought was silly at the time, but ended up being a very important piece of the build since we needed to hold the helmet up while we were working with it.

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We started by drilling holes into the top of the helmet and pushing through straightened, doubled-over coat hanger wire.  We used duct tape to fix it to the inside of the helmet, and a small paper cup to give it structure on the outside.  We then use tinfoil to create the shape around the coat hanger wire to create the horns.  After these pictures were taken, we decided than the round horns looked a bit cheesy, and we wanted the horns to come to a point in the back rather than be round, so we added another layer of aluminum foil and duct taped them to the round horns.

We used 2 thicknesses of foam in a layered look to give the appearance of depth.  It took a lot of measuring and trial/error to get the shape we wanted.  We also used modeling clay to create detailed pieces for the front, the back, each side, and ridges along the front face and on the top of the helmet.   The foam was good, but we wanted the cheek guards to come in snugly around the face, so we taped some pipe cleaners on the inside of the guards to allow us to bend it and hold its shape.

Phase 2 – Paper Mache

The foam was not paint-able, so we dicided to add paper mache on the whole helmet.  We tried a variety of paper including tissue paper (ripped too easily), copy paper (to hard to work with), and newspaper (just right).  I bought some wheat paste from the local hardware store which was better than a home-made recipe.  Once done, I set it outside to dry.

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I used a credit card while applying the paper mache which helped me press the paper into the ridges of the foam to keep the layered look.  This was much more effective than using my fingers and resulted in fewer paper rips.

At first, I tried to put paper mache over top of the clay, but that was an exercise in frustration.  We made a mistake and selected the kind of clay that requires a kiln to dry.  I was concerned that the undried clay would not take paint, and that we would need to add paper mache on top.  However, the detail in the clay pieces was lost when I tried to cover it, so we went without and painted the clay directly – it worked out well.

Phase 3 – Paint

We bought some metallic paint from a local craft store from a company called Elegant Finish.  The colour is called “Emperor’s Gold DA148” which I thought was fitting.  We applied an initial coat of paint to the helmet and were disappointed with the results.  Although the paint looked good, the strips of newspaper (albeit very thin) were noticeable after the paint was applied and did not meet our quality standards.  We felt that, even with multiple coats of paint, we would not be able to get the appearance we were seeking.

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Phase 4 – Joint Compound

I had this conversation with my wife:

Me:  I wish there was some kind of putty or something that I could spread thinly on and sand down to the desired shape.

Wife:  What about Joint Compound?

Me:  No, I’m thinking something easier to work with (I have no idea what Joint Compound is).  What do they call that stuff that they spread on drywall? 

Wife:  Joint Compound.

Me:  Yea!  That’s what I need.

A quick trip to the local hardware store and I got a 3 lb pre-mixed tub of All Purpose Joint Compound.  At first, I tried to use latex gloves and apply it by hand, but the stuff dries fast and I soon had caked gloves and couldn’t apply it effectively.  Next, I tried using a Popsicle craft stick and that worked very well (and required less clean-up).   I covered the whole helmet in a light layer of Joint Compound.

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Wow, this was really starting to look good.  I read on the label that it is dangerous to sand this material as inhaling it or getting it in your eyes can be very bad, so I took the project outside and wore eye protection and a mask when sanding.  I sanded the compound down using 120 grit sandpaper and discovered lots of tiny little air bubbles.  I was unable to sand deep enough to get these to go away.  Also, there were ugly ridges where I had applied the compound unevenly.  These imperfections really popped out when I added a coat of paint.

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So, I repeated the process of applying additional joint compound to fill the gaps and sanding it down.  This was a multi-day process since each application took time to dry.

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After a while, there were still lots of air bubbles, but we decided to just try to fill them with multiple layers of paint.  The finished product, fully painted, definitely meets our quality standard and is something we’re proud of.

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I water-proofed the helmet’s finish with a layer of spray-on Krylon “Preserve It!”.   Looking back, I’m wondering if I could have put the joint compound directly onto the foam and skipped the paper mache step.

Phase 5 – fitting

The addition of the joint compound added some weight to the helmet and made it difficult to balance.  We glued some pieces of sponge on the inside of the helmet at the temples to provide a better, more comfortable fit.

Looking forward

Next step, build Loki’s Septre.  Lots of good tutorials online, but none do exactly what I’m looking for, so I’m thinking I’ll borrow from multiple.

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