Ok maybe real parts X-wing helmet is a slight misnomer because the movie props were not made from the real parts, it’s a bit confusing. The actual props were vacuum-formed using a real APH pilot helmet as the buck with some extra bits added. My plan is to use a real APH helmet and add the extra bits that are missing. This way it has way better detail and real-world feel.
What Other Parts?
The most obvious missing part from the real pilot helmet is the mohawk. There are plenty of other parts missing or a bit off so Ian (who commissioned this build) ordered an X-wing helmet kit from DH-P/FX or darthhair.com. The kit is made in the same way that the movie prop helmets were made and includes a lot of parts that are needed for the build. Another piece that is needed is the clasp blocks for the breather mask, technically the helmet is not the 100% correct version and it has this one difference. So I’m going to cut this perfectly good kit into pieces.
Before I Cut, I Should Clean It Up
The best way to start anything like this is to clean it and strip away the unnecessary. This mean removing the reflective stickers, pulling the gross pads from the interior out, popping the styrofoam liner out, removing the incorrect clasp blocks, and carefully removing the avionics ear-cups and wiring.
And I almost forgot to remove the front crest and rear label.
Unfortunately the reflective tape that was all over it pulled up some of the paint, so that mean I’ve gotta patch and paint the base helmet again. I probably was going to have to do that anyway.
Time to Strip it Down to Parts
Now that the stickers are removed it’s time to pull off what is referred to as the “Rams Horn”, which is the big piece that houses the two visors and sits on the top-front and sides of the helmet. This part while not hard to remove, I can tell it will be a total pain in the ass to put back on. It’s a lot of parts that all have to line up and flex to each others shapes. Not looking forward to it.
Time to Start Building
About freakin’ time. The bad news it’s is sanding, well sanding after applying Bondo to the rough spots. Either way sanding is not my favorite. This wasn’t too bad though, I’ll admit. I’d never used actual Bondo, I’d used other fillers for building plastic model kits before. One word of warning, Bondo stinks to high hell. I could smell it everywhere in my house for a few hours, I should have taken it outside to cure.
I also decided to cut the clasp blocks from the kit halves. This was pretty easy and I needed to see if the would cover all of the holes where the old clasps were. Spoiler alert, not quite.
Time For Cutting and Filling
After much deliberating on how to deal with the holes that I don’t need I came up with a way to do ghetto fiber glass patches. I cut up some old gym shorts into small squares, mixed up some epoxy, coated my patches in epoxy and put them over the holes I wanted covered on the inside of the hemet.
The Turning Point
While the first round was curing up I drew up my cut line for the mohawk with a little jig I made. Then cut the helmet kit mohawk off. It was just a rough pass with lots of extra material left so I can make a more precise pass later without all that extra material attached. I thought building a real parts x-wing helmet was a decent idea before, but after seeing half of the mohawk just set on it really change my opinion, this is going to be badass! I cut out the other side of the kit to liberate the mohawk from it and patched the other sides holes.
This is going to be badass!
Inching Forward on the Mohawk
Now that the mohawk halves are freed from the rest of the base kit, I’ve gotta get them looking professional. I’ve taken inspiration for the changes to the width of the flange and even the shape of the flange at the back of the neck from the rams horn. It also means that I’m cutting the bump off at the back of the neck, it just doesn’t line up with the holes correctly. Not to mention that the since they are bumps I would have to flatten them or drill them out completely, or use a giant head screw and washer to hide the hole, I don’t think it would look good.
New thinner flange Shaped similarly to the rams horn end
Now that the holes that are not needed have a sturdy backing it’s time to fill them with bondo from the front. Nothing too exciting just slather it on and wait until it cures to sand it. Turned out great. Now I think the base is ready to be painted, but that’s not going to happen just yet.
Glue that Mohawk!
Now I have no more excuses, it’s time to glue the mohawk. Technically it’s not glue, it’s a solvent cement, but you know what I mean. The order of operation is glue the inner strip to one side clamp and let cure, then the same to the other side. Except, you can’t really put many clamps on it because of the other side that has already been glued is now in the way. So you clamp each end, tape on the outside to keep the halves together and use a couple strong magnet pairs.
At this point it looks like a mohawk. I’m going to let it cure a full 24 hours just because I’ve had bad experience with trapped solvent fumes melting plastic.
I find it’s always a good idea to constantly test fit and adjust, and it’s a good thing I did. Right behind where the rams horn meets the base helmet the mohawk has a gap beneath the flange. Ian and I tossed around the idea of adding material to the flange to make it thicker and fill the gap. I also thought about heating it up and pushing the flange down but neither idea was good.
Playing around with the mohawk and the helmet I realized that the hooked front edge of the mohawk when over the front edge was preventing it from being slid into the correct place to sit flush. Alas, our solution! Cut off the front edge.
After the lip was removed the mohawk could mostly slide into place, at least enough for it to flex to close the rest. I was finally free to attach the top strip, which was really stressful.
Attaching the top strip
This process is a bit nerve wracking. The solvent cement has about 5-6 minutes of work time, which sounds like plenty, but it’s not. It’s not because it’s also drilling, setting rivets, and clamping several time in succession and you don’t want to get the cement anywhere you don’t want it.
X-Wing Mohawk Attachment
The trick is figuring exactly where to put the holes for the screws. I used a piece of wire to take measurements of the screw placement and found the three screws on the front are evenly spaced closer together than the rear three screws which are not evenly spaced. It came down to the fact that I had 9 screws for each side. I measured the distance from the front most screw to the front edge and used that as the guide measurement for screw hole placement on each end. Then I just evenly spaced the rest of the screws. It worked out well because the distances were in between the short measurement and the long measurement of the existing screws. Basically I just put some tape down on the flange, marked my distances between and then measured the width of the flange and marked half the width. Easy
The Other side
Doing one side is easy but mirroring it on the other side…. well it’s not that hard. After a little bit of thought I came up with making a guide that would wrap over the top of the mohawk out of foam core board. I just lined up one side with the hole I just made, hold it perpendicular to the mohawk and then mark the other side. I had to make two since there is an elevation change.
I’ve really been wanting this to look professional and like it came from the factory this way, and I really had to think out how to do the holes in the actual helmet for attachment of the mohawk. The issue is that it’s not a perfect fit around where the rams horn meets the base helmet, it’s close and it’s flexible. I didn’t want it to be wavy or have gaps. I decided to approach the marking and hole placement on the base like you would attach the head of a motor, or maybe a vinyl decal you don’t want wrinkles in, work from the center out. The most important holes are the ones on either side of where the rams horn meets the base, if those are correct I can work outward from them and it should lay flat without any waviness. The crappy part of this process is I have to take the mohawk off every time I drill a pair of new holes because the hole is bigger than the hole in the mohawk. And even crappier is taking the rams horn off for each pair, because putting it back on it a total pain in the ass. But I did it and it turned out great.
The first fitment of screws Finished the rams horn Real X-wing Helmet Down below