As I mentioned back in August, I am planning to convert an old helmet I aquired from an army surplus store into a kettle helmet. Now that I have an anvil to work with, I figured I should should post my plan here in order to get any advice or comments on what I am doing. This is my very first project forming metal, aside from winding wire around a mandril (and boy, those apes really don't like having wire wrapped around them). Since I am currently living in a school residence, I will not be working with hot metal, and I hope that the steps I will need to take will be on a minimal skill level. These are good reasons, I think, for converting a helmet, rather than trying to dive right in and building all the parts from scratch.
About the helmet:
I picked up the helmet from an army surplus store for $15.00 CDN. It was covered with a sloppy thick coating of chocolate brown paint. I removed this paint easily in only a couple of hours with gel paint stripper, then washed the helmet thuroughly to remove any residue. Under the paint, I discovered the helmet's date of manufacture (1942) stamped on the chin strap clasps, and a serial number (55 1843) stamped on the underside of the brim. The helmet appears, by my unreliable estimation, to be made out of 14 guage steel. The metal's surface has a rough texture. This may be good, because it will help the finished helmet look hand forged, and perhaps give it a bit of an antique look. It could be a bit of a problem, however, because the plate metal that I have seen at Canadian Tire is much smoother. I really hope there won't be an obvious mismatch in the look between the original helmet and the new pieces I will have to add to it.
Perhaps soaking the new pieces I make for a period of time in vinegar, like a week or two, will darken and roughen the new pieces enough to make them match.
What I plan to do is add a new and wider brim made of 14 guage steel to the helmet. I originally planned to remove the existing brim from the helmet, but after some thought, I decided to leave the brim in place, because the existing brim would provide reinforcement for the new brim, and because I would prefer not damage the original helmet any more than I have to. I am thinking of making the new brim in either two or four pieces by cutting out arcs of metal from a steel sheet, and using the horn of my anvil to shape them into shallow conical sections.
Where the new brim meets the skull of the helmet, I assume that I will have to turn the metal up at an angle, so that a strip of metal ~ 1/2" - 3/4" overlaps the bottom of the skull, providing a place to secure the brim to the helmet with rivots. I am not sure how successful I will be with this, especially since I am not heating the steel. I am worried that this overlapping section might split when I try to bend it.
To prevent the original brim from being visible under the new brim, I think that I may hide it by adding another layer of thinner guage metal to the underside of the new brim. Do you think this would work? I presume that I will have to form a bead of metal folded around the outside edge of the brim to disguise this extra layer of material. I am not sure I can do this with cold metal. Any suggestions?
The existing helmet is made out of a single piece of steel stamped into shape by a press. To give it a more medieval look, I want to try adding 3/4" - 1" straps of 14 guage steel to the outside of it, in order to make the skull appear to be made from four seperate pieces. There will be a double row of rivots on each strap, and the straps will probably continue down across the brim, possibly folding under the brim's edge.
I am wondering if I should make the straps as two seperate pieces that overlap at the top of the skull, as a single cross shaped piece, or as four seperate pieces that end at the top of the skull. I may want to cover any overlap, or ends if I use four straps, by covering the intersection at the top of the skull with a small disk of steel. I presume that I would have to be very careful when I form my straps, and when I drill the holes for my rivots, to avoid any gaps between the straps and the skull, and puckering of the straps between the rivots.
I don't know if I would be capable of doing this, but I am toying with the idea of fluting the straps along their lengths between the rows of rivots.
I plan to remove the original suspension harness that came with the helmet, because it is made out of modern materials, and create a new suspension harness out of leather, following the instructions laid out in the spangenhelm article I was refered to a few weeks ago. I will probably keep the original harness and chin strap, however, for their historical value.
So what do you guys think? Do you have any suggestions or ideas of how
to make the helmet look better, or advice on how I would be better able
to successfully complete this project?
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