This year I decided to step up my old helmet (How-to video here) to a fully self contained LED version DJ Marshmello’s helmet. The materials I used for this project were fairly inexpensive (links below) but finding things locally at hardware stores tended to be a little cheaper than the stuff I bought online
- Concrete form tube (base of helmet) https://www.amazon.com/SAKRETE-NORTH-AMERICA-69220…
- White poster board (dollar for two at dollar tree) https://www.amazon.com/School-Smart-Railroad-Boar…
- Window screen (dollar or two at hardware store) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D34VMHY/ref=sxbs_sxw…
- Foam padding for inside https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013A4ATCQ/ref=…
- LED’s (need 2 packs) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075F6NTKP/?coliid=I2IK…
- Battery holders https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VE7HBMS/?coliid=I25S…
- LED strip connectors https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01J1GWIOY/ref=…
- Small piece of a 12v DC plug (I cut mine off an old cable) https://www.amazon.com/Connectors-Security-Lighti…
- Ventilation fans https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072FW3DDQ/ref=…
- Electrical Wire (for fans) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LH1FYR4/ref=…
- 9v battery clip https://www.amazon.com/IDS-Leather-Housing-Connec…
Basic, cheap tools
- X-ACTO knife
- Soldering iron
- Electrical tape/ Packing/ Duct tape
- Coping saw etc.
To start off, I measured how much of the tube to cut off to fit my head. Keep in mind there will be a 1/2 inch piece of foam in between the top of the helmet and the top of your head. I then found a template online for his eyes and mouth (here) and carefully cut out the face. It was tricky to cut out the thick cardboard but it helped to score it with an X-ACTO knife, then cut it out all the way with a heavier knife. After I did that, I hot glued a circular piece of scrap cardboard to the top. To finish off the basic structure, I cut a small rectangle out of the bottom to allow the LED strip power cable to enter into the inside later.
To add the LED’s, I began by attaching the two strips together with the 4-pin connecter (linked above) and then anchored it at the bottom through the previous small rectangle we cut in the last step. Make sure to string through at least an inch or two into the helmet before anchoring it. After it was secure, I loosely wrapped the lights around the entire thing so I could get a feel for how close they needed to be to each other. After a few minutes of messing with the strips, I was satisfied with the spacing of the strips. I secured them by first taping the strips down vertically with pieces of thin, white duct tape, every few inches. I then “frapped” the vertical strips with more thin strips horizontally to secure the first strips. It is important to not use black electrical tape because it will absorb the light and you will see lines through the outside.
Once the LED’s are wrapped and secured, you will now use black electrical tape to wrap around the LED’s where the eyes and mouth are, this way you don’t see light through the eyes. I also cut specific shaped pieces of tape shaped as his eyes and mouth to border the outside to get a clearly defined line around the blacked-out strips.
The LED’s will later be attached to the IR wireless receiver and that will be attached to the 12v DC plug, attached to the battery holder.
LED’s <–> 4 pin connector <–> IR receiver <–> 12v DC plug <-soldered-> Wire extension <-soldered-> Battery pack
When I originally decided to add foam to my helmet for comfort, I wanted to have the foam pushed up to the inside of the helmet, the only problem is it didn’t do much for holding your head, just making the interior smaller. So through an accident, I found that arranging the foam in a specific shape, (pictured above) added many useful things to the helmet. It held my head tightly enough to stay on my head without moving everywhere, it provided a space to hold the electronics between my ears and the cardboard tube, and conveniently was all held together with pressure from itself which meant it didn’t need glue and I could take it apart easily for adjustments. Depending on how big or small your head is, you may need to adjust my measurements, but this part is where you can customize it for personalized comfort.
Below is the info on each piece, keep in mind that the pieces marked with an asterisk will be sandwiched between the “head pad” and the “Ring” which are the 1/2 inch thick, which is why you need to subtract an inch from the interior helmet’s length in order to fill the helmet top to bottom with foam. (ex. Helmet interior length: 10 inches. 10-1=9, ~ Foam length= 9)
- Head pad : circular top of helmet ~ Inside circumference of tube
- *Main piece: f ront part of helmet interior ~ *Foam length X Custom width (approx. 24")
- *Main pressure rectangle: Piece to add pressure between edges of “main piece” ~ Foam length X Custom width (approx. 4")
- *Side pressure rectangles: Piece to make sides of foam stiffer ~ *Foam length X 2"
- Ring: foam ring at bottom to hold electronics in place and tie bottom together ~ 1/2" ring with outside circumference a little more than inner circumference to add pressure.
*Length (top to bottom) for these pieces are an inch less than helmets length, as elaborated above.
Once all of your pieces are cut out, you can install the ventilation system. To start, you need to solder together 4 connections; the fan to an extension wire, and the extension wire to the 9v battery clip. Make sure to strip the wires far enough to solder, but not too much for ease of wrapping. Once that is done, you can screw the fan above the mouth. I have mine blowing in air, but you can change the wires or turn the fan around to change the direction.
Fan <-soldered-> Extension wire <-soldered-> 9v battery clip <-soldered-> 12v DC plug
The exterior is one of the trickiest things to perfect because no matter how good or bad the rest of the helmet is, the exterior ties everything together and even changes the way the lights shine through. When I made my first version of the helmet, I just made a piece that wrapped around the helmet with the same height as the helmet and a circular piece the same circumference as the top of the tube. But that design left the seams very open and not very aesthetic. To solve this, I decided to make the main piece that wrapped around the helmet extend in both the top and bottom by an inch or so adding about 2 inches to the total length, compared to before. This way I could intersperse cuts in the paper at the extensions and have it fold over the edges. Once I had the main rectangle cut out, I cut the face out, referring to the layout of the main tube. After that I carefully cut out of the window screen the shape of the eyes with a little bit of a border/overlay so I could glue it to the paper. Then I placed the screen on paper and hot glued it in place. I found when I used clear hot glue, it seemed to reflect the light and make it glow. To solve this I painted over the glue with some black paint and made sure to let it dry. After making the piece, I put it on the helmet and folded over the edges. I then cut a circle the size of the circumference of the top and glued it onto the helmet. Keep in mind most poster-board you can buy won’t wrap all the way around the helmet, so I just taped an extension of the poster-board on each edge which worked well. It’s fine if it isn’t 100% perfect because a lot of the imperfections, especially in the cuts and seams, will be hidden in the dark.
Now that all the parts of the helmet are together, you can now assemble the components. It’s pretty simple this point onward and really whatever works should be fine concerning how everything will fit into the helmet. The beginning of the LED strip will connect to the remote receiver then the receiver will connect to the battery pack with the extension we soldered earlier. I kept the receiver in between the padding next to my head, and the battery extending through my shirt in my pants pocket. Make sure to keep the sensor for the remote sticking out enough to change modes/colors while wearing the helmet. I then put the 9v battery in the other side with the wire extending through the padding on the side to the fan.
Once everything has been put together, fit into place, and the exterior is secured onto the helmet, it is ready to use! Here are some tips I learned while using the helmet.
- Don’t leave the fan on for too long or it might overheat, although I was able to use it for a few hours with nothing happening (it is a 5v fan powered by a 9v battery).
- Make sure to keep fresh batteries in the helmet and on standby at all times.
- Although 8 batteries is a lot, they can die pretty quickly and it is pretty hard to notice it, so make sure to turn off the batteries when not in use.
- Make sure to stay cool
- Throughout the night the helmet got pretty hot despite the fan and cold weather, so to help I made sure to drink plenty of water and wipe my face with a cooling towel every so often.
- If something isn’t working, don’t worry.
- I can’t begin to list all the things that went wrong with the helmet and how much troubleshooting I had to do, but I made sure to look at it in different ways and work backwards, and eventually figured out the solution.