Monday, June 10, 2013

The Making of the Mercury Space Suit Helmet

 You can click on any image for a slideshow
Client: Bill Fallover

I was delighted when Bill asked me to look after this part of the job. Museum work is so much more relaxing than film due to longer times available to work with. This allowed me the oppertunity to really enjoy working with the details of the helmet.

It all began with trying to figure out exactly what size the helmet was. I worked from a photo of the full space suit and figured out from an average hight of a male what the seal ring diameter would be. From that worked out the dome diameter.
I picked up a globe of the right size from a local toyshop. This needed a bit of modification which I did with
carbody filler and styrene sheet
Anybody who has ever used carbody filler will tell you how much time is spent sanding in order to get a good finish.
The photo shown below is after 7 or 8 filling and sanding sessions, and a full day. I work with wet and dry paper on this 80grit and 220grit both on long flat sanding sticks. Moving all over the shape in differend directions.

I took an abrasive cutoff disk in the flexshaft to cut the hole for the visor. The reason is that it does not apply too much cutting force to the shape, which may cause it to crack. Which would mean more filling and sanding!
After some more detailing and some coats of filler primer... and sanding, the form is ready to be moulded.

For fear of getting the shape stuck in the mould I decided a 4 piece mould was a good idea. Hard from hard casting can be tricky. Any undercutting and you doomed!
This is a good point to mention the release agent I used here. I applied two coats of beeswax polish,
drying and polishing between coats, and then a spray of Smooth-on Universal mould release spray. It was
excelent. It's a method I strongly advise for polyester from polyester releaseing.
So, you can see the little clay wall I stuck on for the first split line. I cast silicone keys for this kind
of occasion. You can see the six of them there.


Then on with the gelcoat. And after it begins to cure the normal resin and glassfibre mat go on.You should not wait too long to put your fibreglass over the gelcoat as it may distort when it fully cures, so as soon as it has gelledgo for the mat!
Incedntally, I got this resin from GRS in Co. Cork. Wonderful people to deal with. (

I went diagonally opposite for the second part of the mould. This allowed the two final parts to be done in one go!
When the mould was all done I cleaned it up with a grinding disk on an angle ginder.
Here's a tip:
put a bit of a dark colour spray on the seam before next section on the mould is applied. This makes the seam easy to spot
when you go to crack it appart.

Here is me with PPE on. In reality I hate resin/fibreglass, it is smelly, toxic and irritating, dusty and sticky
and irreplacable...unfortunatly.

I popped the mould off the model without any issues.

I re assembled and released with beeswax and spray as mentioned above and cast my first blank.
And the next day two more!

I'll discribe the rest of the job in part 2.
In the meantime why not visit my website if you haven't been there.
If you have a project in mind that you need a modelmaker for, I would be more than happy to have a chat about your ideas. Just drop me an email or give me a call. My details are on the contact page.

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