By Jessica Wilson
I was a big fan of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse back in the 80s. I was pretty sad he rode a scooter at the end of the show instead of his bike but I did adore his helmet. It was a wacky display of all things Pee-Wee and I itched to have one of my own. Flash forward some twenty odd years or so and I found myself with a new pair of roller skates. The mister insisted I wear a helmet and I told him I would if he fancied it up a bit. My bike helmet has wings but anyone can geek out their helmet with a little paint, glue and an odd assortment of Pee-Wee inspired toys.
This is a fun project for all bike helmets, new and old though if your old helmet is truly a mess with cracks from beyond, you best invest in a new dealio to keep your noggin safe. One of the helmets used in this tutorial is cracked beyond repair but we wanted to show you two different ways of geeking out your helmet. So, if you choose to get wacky with it all, make sure your helmet is new and free of cracks!
Primer paint optional
High tack tape but blue painter’s tape will work ok
Hot glue and glue gun or E6000
Soft toys and bits like fake flowers, squishy doll heads and gloves
Needle and heavy thread
Step 1: The first thing you will need to do is remove the thin plastic helmet cover from the foam shape. You won’t want to paint the helmet as is because the chemical makeup of the spray paint may dissolve the styrofoam headpiece that protects your noggin from going splat and you wouldn’t want that to happen, right? Carefully peel back the tape that runs around the edge of the shell (it may be reused if it peels with its adhesive intact). Look for the end of the tape near the back of the helmet. The tape is usually a stretchy black plastic stuff. Clean off any residue by rubbing it with your finger or picking it off with other tape, masking or packing, something with a high tack. Lift off the shell with care, there may be other adhesive or tape between shell and styrofoam. While you’re at it take a careful look at the locations of the helmet straps. Can they move around when the shell is off? These will have to get right back into their original locations when you are putting things back together so try to keep things in order. Making a note is a good way to remember.
Step 2: For best results, lightly sand the surface of shell with fine steel wool. Wash and dry shell to remove any oil residue and dust, which will keep the paint from peeling off. Set aside to dry.
Step 3: Next you need to seek out a space outdoors to do your painting. If you are sensitive to fumes make sure to wear a mask or tie a bandana over your mouth & nose, goggles aren’t a bad idea either. Lay out a large piece of paper or cardboard to collect excess paint and place your newly liberated helmet shell right side up onto the spray cover. Coat the shell with a flat primer spray paint and allow it to dry according to can directions. Spray with your desired color topcoat (several thin coats will give better results) and allow the shell to dry thoroughly between coats.
Step 4: Now you are ready to geek out your helmet with a needle and thread. Skip this if you plan to only glue items to the shell surface. Note that many things could be attached to the shell at this stage. In this example a pair of stuffed knit gloves are stitched to the shell to look like a roster comb. Anything attached to the shell should be very lightweight and flexible. Also, don’t put anything on your helmet that you would not want jammed into your skull with force. Skip the anvils and knives, folks. The orange helmet with the crazy rooster comb was created this way. We used a pair of gloves, some fiberfill and a needle and thread. You will first want to decide where to place your geek items. It may be helpful to tack them in place with hot melt glue. Try piercing the shell with a heavy sewing needle. If your shell is thin enough and it is not too difficult to use the needle directly, you are in luck, just start stitching through the shell. I recommend using a heavy button thread or embroidery thread and work around the base of your geek item. If the shell is too tough you may have to resort to using a drill. Mark the outline of your geek item, drill all the needed holes, and start stitching. Tie off your thread and wiggle your item around a bit. Make sure it won’t flop too much. Add more stitches if needed, now. Once the shell is back on the helmet it will be much more difficult to make reinforcements.
Step 5: Now it is time to reassemble your helmet. But first, check the fit of the shell. Has any of the work you did adding things deformed the shell? Is anything you added sticking out on the inside? Are the straps of the helmet in their original locations? Fuss with all this until you are sure that things are fitting back how they started. Was there any tape or adhesive between the shell and styrofoam before? If so you may wish to replace any that was damaged or removed with the shell, some double stick tape may do the trick. Avoid using any plastic glue on the surface of the styrofoam. Like the spray paint, solvents in this stuff can dissolve and deform the styrofoam and hot melt glue can melt it too. With some luck the original double stick tape under there is still in good shape and will do the job.
When you’re happy with the fit and everything is happy between the shell and styrofoam it’s time to retape the edge of the shell. In a few cases the old edge tape can be reused but it’s likely that you will need some black electrician’s tape. Some hardware places may have the stuff in colors so shop around if black doesn’t suit you. Start from the back of the helmet and work around the edge of the shell. Pull just a bit to stretch the tape slightly and just enough to make the tape form over the edge of the shell and stick to the styrofoam too, but don’t over do it. This elastic stuff will pull away from the helmet if you stretch it too much. Try to keep the tape centered on the edge of the shell.
When you get all the way around to the back of the helmet, cut the tape to overlap a couple of inches where you started. Put your helmet on and be dazzled!
Alternate Flowers and Doll Part Helmet
Follow Steps 1-3 above.
Step 4: If stitching things up is too much for you, you can do wonders with a bit of hot glue and an assortment of thrift store items. First, put your helmet back together and then plug in your glue gun. This is a perfect project to get your thrift and crafty out. Just as when you are stitching items to your helmet, make sure the items you choose have no sharp edges and are not too heavy. We want to protect the noggin, not enable it to doom. We scored a wreath of fabric flowers and a creepy babydoll for $3, perfect.
Step 5: Liberate the flowers from their stems and remove the babydoll head by simply snipping the zip tag that anchors it with a pair of scissors. Play with your hodgepodge until you have a design you like.
Step 6: Get to gluing. Begin with the largest item you have. In our case it was the baby head. Squeeze a bit of hot glue around the base of the head and gently position onto helmet. Hold for a second or two until it sticks and move on to the next object.
Step 7: Continue gluing your items on with the hot glue until you are satisfied. To create depth, we kept some of our flowers on a bit of stem. To anchor them to the helmet, we used an awl to burrow a hole for the stem. Add a touch of glue and pop into the hole and hold until tacked. If you do not wish to use hot glue, try something super tacky like Krazy Glue or E-6000. Just make sure you figure out where you want everything before you glue it down. There’s no going back.
Step 8: Allow your helmet to cure an hour or so then dandify yourself up and go for a bike ride! Make an army of helmets, one for all your friends! Be safe and happy with your geeky-chic self!
About the Author:
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as ‘jek in the box’ and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.