Godzilla multiplied by Arcade Games plus McDonalds divided by Pepsi Max plus StepMania equals Tom Tilley
Thomas Tilley
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Stormtrooper Motorbike Helmet

2010


My wife wearing her Stormtrooper motorcycle helmet

I had always wanted to make a Star Wars Imperial Stormtrooper helmet. As a teenager I tried making a helmet using the lenses from some old sunglasses, a chicken-wire frame, and some plaster of Paris. I really only got the basic shape happening and it turned out to be ridiculously heavy to wear with sharp pointy bits of wire on the inside. For may years it sat atop a fence-post at my parents farm - perhaps acting as a kind of Stormtrooper scarecrow (I guess it worked because we never had any run-ins with the Empire) - until my next oldest brother started to use it for target practice with his rifle. Unfortunately, he is a better shot than your average Stormtrooper - which isn't that hard really.

This is a picture of a Stormtrooper helmet I made for my wife when she started riding a motorbike here in Thailand and when the photo was taken she had just received her motorcycle driver's license. This helmet is far lighter and less pointy on the inside than the one I tried to make all those years ago. You can read on below for information about how it was made and you will also find links at the bottom of this page to some of my other custom helmets.




DISCLAIMER: Don't do this. If you do, you do so at your own risk. The booklet that came with the helmet explicitly warns against re-painting or modifying it. Additionally, your local law enforcement officers may be less than happy to see Blossom, Master Chief, Bobba Fett, or even Mojo Jojo riding a motorcycle down their streets - even if they are wearing a helmet!

Riding a motorbike anywhere is dangerous but particularly here in Southeast Asia. When my wife's parents heard that she was wanting to learn to ride here they offered to buy her a full-face helmet for a present. We went shopping for a suitable helmet and settled on the Hybrid 3 helmet made by Index.

Front view of the original unmodified helmet Side view of the original unmodified helmet Rear view of the original unmodified helmet

I took the above photos of the pristine new helmet and then using IrfanView I converted them to grayscale images, applied edge-detection, and then turned them into negatives to produce outline drawings of the helmet. I combined the outlines with some reference Stormtrooper helmet images in Paint.NET and with a bit of squashing and stretching produced these concept images:

Original concept for the front view of the new helmet Original concept for the side view of the new helmet

I planned to build a white foam "skirt" around the base of the helmet (using a similar technique to my Halo helmet) to keep the original Stormtrooper shape but my wife didn't like that idea - and it was her helmet after all. So, I trimmed down the concept images to match the shape of the Hybrid 3 helmet:

Front view mockup of the new helmet Side view mockup of the new helmet

The helmet had logos on the front and back so I started the modification by removing the visor, masking up the helmet and spraying a few layers of white gloss over the helmet. Once the white paint had hardened I re-taped the helmet and sprayed in the matte black chin and side details. The "jaw" and visor on the Hybrid 3 helmet can be raised after pressing a bright red catch on the front of the helmet so this also helped to disguise the release mechanism.

Spraying the helmet white Black detail on the chin of the helmet Black details on the side of the helmet

Two clear vent covers on the rear of the helmet didn't fit well with the overall Stormtrooper look so I cut replacement covers from the plastic lid of an asthma inhaler. The front of the new vent covers sat in the mounting hole of the original covers and the rest was secured using epoxy resin. They are less obvious than the originals and the vents still work.

An asthma inhaler New vents cut from an asthma inhaler cover The new vents fitted to the helmet

Without the luxury of foam to help create the classic Stormtrooper shape I was going to have to rely on other helmet details to help with the look. Using the concept images I had created as a reference I covered the visor and parts of the helmet with paper and started drawing in details like the frown, lenses, chin vocoder, etc.

Using paper overlays to draw helmet details Hand-drawn visor artwork Hand-drawn artwork for other helmet details

A lot of helmet and prop makers use Pepakura to turn a virtual 3D model into 2D plans that you can then assemble into a real 3D model. I already had a real 3D model but I needed to produce some 2D artwork for it. I scanned the drawings I had created and then used Paint.NET to create some life-size printable images of the visor and other helmet parts. Here are the printed parts stuck on the helmet to get a feel for the overall look:

Checking the visor and detail artwork using printed paper overlays - front view Checking the visor and detail artwork using printed paper overlays - side view

The final visor and detail sheet images are shown below (note that the visor image size has been reduced but the detail sheet is full-size - in case you want to print your own). I tried to a add a simple relief/shine effect to the Stormtrooper's cheeks but it ended up looking like some sort of anime crying instead and in retrospect I should have left it out.

Finished visor artwork Finished helmet detail artwork

A local printing company printed the detail image as a sheet of pre-cut vinyl stickers which I could then simply affix to the helmet. Another company that does vehicle advertising printed the visor for me and applied it to the helmet. The registration was slightly off but it still looks good. The machine they use has a minimum printing size and so it cost the same amount to print two visor images as it did for just a single one. The middle image below shows the progression of the visor from the overlay drawing through to the final printed artwork.

The printed sticker sheet ready to apply to the helmet Progression of the visor from the drawing to the final printed artwork The final printed artwork fitted to the visor

Apart from changing the vents on the rear of the helmet the only other physical modification I made was to glue on some DIY Hovi Mix microphone tips. I looked around for quite a while for things I could use before deciding on these whiteboard marker lids. I simply cut them on an angle, painted them and inserted some aluminium flywire. The black insert to the left of the assembled mic tip is actually just the inside of the lid that fits over the felt tip of the marker and I simply used this to poke the flywire into the lid. I originally planned to shave down some of the ridges on the side of the lid to make it more consistent with the real mic tips but didn't bother in the end.

Creating mic-tips from whiteboard marker lids and flywire The mic-tips glued to the helmet

When I started looking at Stormtrooper helmet and armour sites online I was amazed to find the level of detail people are concerned with. I'm not sure what the purists will think of this helmet but given that it's all done with paint and stickers I am pretty happy with the overall result. The sticker at the top of the chin vocoder could have been positioned lower, the frown is a bit too big, it needs some shadows around the mic-tip to help infer the sides of the helmet, and I'd like to lose the crying eyes but if you were to see it in traffic you would recognise it as a Stormtrooper. Here's the completed helmet:

Front view of the completed helmet Side view of the completed helmet Side view of the helmet with the chin and visor raised Rear view of the completed helmet

When I started this project I found some other Stormtrooper motorbike helmets on-line. More than a year later when I finally got around to putting this page up I also found this helmet online which uses a similar idea. You will also find some other Star Wars-themed helmets out there like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and even a very cool R2-D2 bicycle helmet.

Here are some more shots of the helmet being worn by friends:

Some friends playing with the helmet A friend playing ping pong in the Stormtrooper helmet

Other Projects

You may also be interested in reading about my Halo helmet or my Powerpuff Girls Blossom helmet...

Halo motorcycle helmet PowerPuff Girls motorcycle helmet

...and/or some of my other projects:

hacked joysticks PVC water pipe Guitar Hero GL-Tron/motorbike mercury switch
Stormtrooper Motorbike Helmet
Stormtrooper Motorbike Helmet
Asteroids Cabinet Fish Tank
Asteroids Cabinet Fish Tank
Wooden DDR Mat
Wooden DDR Mat
Everyday uses for PVC water pipe
Everyday uses for PVC water pipe
Bug-zapper Guitar Hero Controller
Bug-zapper Guitar Hero Controller
PVC Water Pipe Tron Controller
PVC Water Pipe Tron Controller
Virtual Pinball
Virtual Pinball
Halo Motorbike Helmet
Halo Motorbike Helmet
Multiplayer Guitar Hero
Multiplayer Guitar Hero
Bamboo Racing Cars
Bamboo Racing Cars
REAL-Tron
REAL-Tron
Terminator Xeyes
T-800 Terminator Xeyes
Plasma Pong Table
Plasma Pong Table
Voting Machine
Voting Machine
Blossom Motorbike Helmet
Blossom Motorbike Helmet
Coffee Grinder Puzzle Bobble
Coffee Grinder Puzzle Bobble
Tron Handheld POV Display
Tron Handheld POV Display
Countertop MAME Arcade Cabinet
Countertop MAME Arcade Cabinet
Lollybot
Lollybot
Payap Pinball Machine
Payap Pinball