First Helmet Write-Up (Skyrim Female Ancient Nord Helm)

Lonestar Lucy

New Member
Hey guys, just joined the forum. I read a lot of your threads and it helped me out a ton during this process. As a completely new creator I wanted to do a write-up of my first build to help those people just getting started avoid the mistakes that I made - and I made quite a few, some painfully obvious. I used the fiberglass and Bondo method.

I had a lot of fun making this, even though it took a million years. :) Constructive criticism is more than welcome, let me absorb the skills of the masters :O

This is a very image-heavy thread, so be warned.

Here is the finished product:

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Step 0: Gather References

I found I nice set of references online. In addition, I borrowed a small piece of antler for a color reference, and saw some fake antlers at Hobby Lobby that looked good so I snapped some photos.


- - - Updated - - -

Step 1: Building the Pep (AKA Be Very Sure You Don’t Make the Following Mistakes and Be Very Sure You Like It Completely)

I don’t have any pictures of this process with the Ancient Nord Female Helm, but I made tons of mistakes here that hurt me further down the line. The first (and the most painful and painfully obvious) mistake was building the Nordic Carved Helm out of regular printer paper. I mostly did this because I was super excited about the whole Pepakura thing, and didn’t think it would be so structurally unsound. Of course it was super floppy and good for nothing but chasing my dogs around in, and even then it was bad because I sized it way too big and it kept flying off my head.

The second mistake was making the helmet almost the perfect size. I finished the pep, stuck it on my already tiny head, and thought “This is just about perfect!” Well, what’s perfect in just paper is a lot smaller coated in resin, two layers of fiberglass cloth, and a coating of Rondo. I had to cut off the support around the sides and sand out the inside some so my head could fit again. This problem was compounded by the Bondo and Apoxie Sculpt later on because they made the form more rigid. Thankfully it still fits, but the only other people this helmet will ever fit are pinheads and children. Better to make it bigger and stick foam inserts on the inside.

The third mistake (and the one that hurt me the most down the line) was building the pep with the antlers attached. This made it nearly impossible to do the hammer marks underneath the antlers, as well as get Apoxie sculpt in for detailing. What I did manage to get in does not look nearly as clean as the rest of the helmet. Additionally, I had a hell of a time figuring out how to reinforce them, something which would have been easier to do had they been detached and done in chunks. I don’t know how to cast, but I was interested in casting this helmet, especially after all the work that went into it. I figure the attached antlers will make this job much more difficult, if not impossible. Somebody who’s experienced, please let me know.

Fourth, the jaw piece on the left side of the helmet stuck out more than the right, and was extremely crooked. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem because I would be covering everything in Bondo, but guess what? It was. Lots more building up, sanding, crying, etc. Thankfully I fixed most of the other mistakes after resin. You can see what I’m talking about in step 2 below.

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Step 2: Resin

The resin by itself wasn’t too bad. Used Bondo Fiberglass Resin, and after mistake #6 I got a package of chip brushes from Harbor Freight, way cheaper than at Home Depot or Walmart. I’d appreciate someone telling me cheaper alternatives to Bondo Resin and Bondo.

Alright. Mistake Five: Not wearing safety equipment and clothes I didn’t mind ruining. This should be obvious because safety, but once again my excitement overtook me and I didn’t take all the precautions. After getting a whiff of the resin I grabbed my pesticide and paint respirator, which completely negated the smell and prevented me from frying the inside of my head. However, I didn’t wear gloves and I did wear fuzzy pajama pants. For many days afterward I had hard, crunchy skin, and I still have hard, crunchy pajama pants. At least I didn’t drip much. But it’s still sad. Besides that, I’m sure subjecting your cells to a toxic compound is not good for them. So don’t do that. Wear gloves.

Mistake Six: Not having the right supplies. I had some foam paintbrushes on hand so I decided to use those, and you know what happened? The resin ate them and spat up chunks of foam that got stuck in the resin all over my helmet. Also, the resin melted all of the solo cups I had. Get some little Dixie cups. They also melt, but they’re a much more appropriate size and you get more for the money. Double stack them when they start to melt.

Mistake Seven: Mixing more than what I knew I could use. I had never used resin before so I mixed a small amount – but it was still too much. I did this many times and wasted a lot. Go smaller than you think you can do. This also applies to Bondo, I want to kick myself with how much Bondo I wasted figuring out how much hardener to use. Speaking of hardener, make sure you use enough – I tended to err on the side of too much. The first resin layer I did was a bit tacky days after application, and I think it’s because I didn’t use enough.

What I did now that WASN’T a mistake, and helped a ton in the long run, was fixing the pep some. I should have done it until it was perfect, but what I did was good. Here’s what I did. I got a hair dryer (at the time I didn’t have a heat gun, I’m sure that would work too) and heated the areas that needed to be reformed. I heated them until they were pliable, then squished them into position and held until they cooled to the proper shape. Repeat as needed. It took a while but was really, really worth it.

Step 3: Fiberglass (AKA the PITA Step)

After having so much trouble with this, I read about several different ways of doing it (or not doing it at all). Some people just do a few layers of Rondo, some lay in fiberglass cloth while the Rondo is wet, some do Rondo after fiberglass… I’d really like the opinions of people who do it differently than just fiberglass, or what they think works best.

I originally decided to just do fiberglass cloth since I didn’t really know what Rondo was. Basically what I did was cut lots of strips out, wipe some resin on the pep, stick some cloth in (shoving it into corners if there were any) and then getting more resin and tapping it down with the tip of the brush. Very time-consuming and messy. The little threads would break apart and stick to the brush and glove, and since they were sticky they’d catch the next piece of cloth and convince it to mutiny as well. Anyways. I did two layers of that and let it dry.

I then stuck it on my head and was horrified to find that after all that work it wouldn’t fit! So I trimmed off the supports around the bottom and it fit again. Unfortunately, my hair got stuck in all the little edges of cloth that stuck up, and it was quite unpleasant to wear. Not to mention, I wasn’t able to fit any fiberglass cloth into the antlers beyond the part that stuck out from the inside of the helmet. I put a few strips on the outside (that’s mistake number eight, folks! Don’t do that!) before thinking that there HAD to be a better way. Before I tell you what the better way was (it’s not doing the antlers separately, too late for that), let me explain mistake number eight.

Mistake Eight: I put some fiberglass cloth on the outside of the antlers. Why was this a mistake? Well let me tell you! First, while the fiberglass cloth was very happy going into a concave area (bending inwards, like a dent), it was very unhappy getting smoothed down over a convex area (like a bump). The antlers are extremely curved, so any piece of cloth I put down had a tendency to peel up and straighten out. It was nearly impossible to do. Second, and what I found out later, is that the fiberglass cloth makes the surface extremely rough. It doesn’t look good, and if you decide to sand it, all the little fibers will come up and make your life a living hell.
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Step 4: Rondo (AKA The Better Way)

So, I knew I had to do something to reinforce the antlers because they were extremely squishy and in no way would hold up to anything. At all. In addition, I wanted something to cover up the spikes of fiberglass cloth, and sanding them down only did so much. What was the solution? Rondo!

I’d really go and look up a tutorial on how to do it because I had very little idea on what I was doing. But basically, I mixed about 50/50 Bondo (with Bondo hardener added) and resin (with resin hardener added). I did more resin than Bondo, my mix was pretty thin because I wanted to make sure I got to the tip of the antlers. I poured the Rondo into the helmet and rolled it around, making sure I got all of the antlers. This got EXTREMELY HOT. I was wearing dish gloves which are a pretty good protector from heat, and still felt like I would have gotten burned if I held onto my helmet for too long. So I played hot potato with the helmet for a while, beads of Rondo started popping out the tips and seams of the antlers, and it was a good time. As a bonus, it completely covered all the fiberglass cloth spikes I couldn’t sand off! Win! The antlers felt much more solid, and I could pick up the helmet by them without fear. I figured two layers of fiberglass cloth plus Rondo was enough support, and it was time to move on.


Step 5: Bondo

You would think I would have learned, but apparently I’m a dense person, so let me reiterate Mistake Number Seven. DON’T MIX MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU CAN HANDLE IT. I wasted so much Bondo. So, so much. It’s very hot where I live, so I found I could use significantly less hardener than the instructions called for and have it dry completely. Be aware though: Like the resin, if you don’t use enough hardener it will never harden completely, no matter how hot the environment. I’m sure it varies from place to place, but I found a light pink color when mixed was enough.

To mix the Bondo you want to do a scrape and smash spread motion, not a stirring motion. Stirring gives you air bubbles, which make tiny holes in your project. I didn’t have too terribly much trouble with this. Take the Bondo, scrape it up with your spreader, and smash it down while spreading. I used only one side of the spreader for this, and mixed it until it was a consistent color.

Let me also share a tip I figured out: Get some cheap baking/cookie sheets and foil, cover the sheet with the foil, and use that to mix. You will have a disposable surface you don’t need to clean, and a wide area for mixing. I could get about three mixes of Bondo for each side of the foil. I picked up a set of three cookie sheets of varying sizes at Walmart for five bucks.

Mistake Nine: Slathering Bondo on the helmet. I read that you’re not supposed to slap Bondo on there willy-nilly, and I didn’t intentionally. But I was doing super thick layers, and then having to get my Dremel to sand them down because they were so messed up (see the next mistake). The right way to do it is to scrape the Bondo across the surface of the helmet, filling in divots, NOT creating a giant thick layer all at once. Then you go over it again and build it up. Thin layers. Not thick layers.

Mistake Ten: Trying to spread the Bondo when it was drying. This mostly happened in the beginning when I was using the amount of hardener the instructions called for, and everything was drying within a few minutes. I’d continue to try and spread the Bondo when it was rolling up, and this left me with tons of divots, missing chunks, and lumps. If it’s starting to peel up, for the love of god LEAVE IT THERE. Sanding all of it and trying to compensate with the next Bondo layer was a complete pain. Which brings me to Mistake Eleven.

Mistake Eleven: Not sanding as the Bondo is drying. You’ll get a feel for this. I hated reading that when I found out about this, but it’s true, you will. As the Bondo is drying there will be a point where it won’t peel up, but it will make tiny semi-hard rolls when you sand it. At this point, sand with some rough-grit sandpaper. When it’s mostly hard, get some more fine sandpaper and sand again. Repeat as you wish. This will get most of the bumps out and will save you a ton of work later on when everything is dry. I highly recommend the 3M sandpaper that says it prevents stuff clogging up the grit. I thought it was a load of bull but I got some anyway and tried it out. Regular sandpaper clogged on just a few passes, the special stuff is still going strong – and I’ve used it over my whole helmet several times. One sheet. I also recommend using a sanding block. Your fingers can push harder in some areas that others, but using a block clearly shows you the high and low points in your helmet. You can see the outlines of polygons in the picture below, the unsanded areas are where more Bondo needs to be added.

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Step 6: Filling Holes

This step wasn’t a huge deal to me because I was planning on doing a hammered finish to the entire helmet, but I wanted to smooth out the bigger patches and try out the Glazing and Spot Putty. The bigger patches I filled with more Bondo, the small with the Putty. The putty worked really well, so if you have lots of little holes I highly recommend it. Big holes not so much. You can see I went a little crazy.


Step 7: Primer

At this point I was having a ridiculously hard time seeing what I needed to work on more, and I was tired of filling in holes. So I decided to try Rustoleum’s 2 in 1 Sandable Filler and Primer. It did crap on filling in holes, but it was kind of sandable. I could still even see the tiny lines my rough-grit sanding Dremel bit left on the antlers. So if you want to get rid of spots, don’t use this, use putty.

It’s probably a little difficult to see, but there are some very bad symmetry issues from not doing the pep well. The most glaring are the jaw pieces, one of which sticks out more and leans inward. The other is dented in. Also the helmet doesn’t sit flat, and the eye holes are a bit uneven. I Dremeled these areas until they were a bit more even, but there’s only so much I can do at that point. I also Dremeled down the nose piece (it was flat, in the game the bottom angles in). Unfortunately I didn’t realize that the back line of the helmet is pretty uneven, so I didn’t fix it. It looks worse in the pictures than it does in real life, but just imagine that the blacksmith was drunk.


Step 8: Patterning and Hammering!

I blew up my reference picture to about the size of my helmet and just traced out the faceplate and side designs. Unfortunately both of these were extremely skewed, so I bunched up the side design until it looked better, and I completely abandoned the faceplate. I traced these onto my helmet with a mechanical pencil (a mistake, but not a huge one). The mechanical pencil scratched the surface so when I went over it with a sharpie, bits of primer clogged the felt tip. The second time I just used the sharpie and it worked much better.


I bought a large metal carving bit for my Dremel, drew some ovals in the areas between and slightly overlapping the area that would have Apoxie Sculpt, and Dremeled them out. I had to make sure to make them large and overlapping, because when I didn’t they looked like pockmarks. Nobody wants a helmet that looks diseased.


Step 9: Apoxie Sculpt! (AKA The Fun Part)

It was my first time using Apoxie, and I’ve got to say, it was super easy and fun to work with. Not stinky at all. Just mixed it up according to the directions, rolled it out, smashed it into shape, and trimmed off excess. Used the cap of a highlighter to put in the rivets. I did one side and about half the faceplate before running out of what I had mixed, and because my pattern was so skewed I decided to wait on drawing out the second side.


Step 10: Repeat Steps 8-9

I traced over the Apoxie design and got a much better (albeit thicker) pattern, which I then cut out and traced on the other side. Did the hammering, tried to make sure everything was symmetrical. I also smashed some Apoxie on the antlers to build them up.

The most important part here was fixing some of the basic symmetry issues. I built up the jaw piece that was in, and built up and curved in the piece that was out. Then I Dremeled the front support piece for the jaw until it was at the same angle as the other, and no longer leaned in. While it wasn’t perfect, it looked a lot better.

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Step 11: More Hammering

I wish I had taken a picture. Basically I turned on the TV and drew a bunch of ovals. My god. Lots of ovals. Everywhere. Then I Dremeled them out. The only things I have to say about this are I hope you have an attachment that makes holding the Dremel easier, and stand normally while you do it. Don’t hunch over or lean back, or you’ll feel like you’ve broken your neck. I also rounded out the rivets and flattened the bands around the antlers.


Step 12: Antlers

First I sanded the edges of the Apoxie down so they’d look more like they were part of the original antlers and not just stuck on. Then I went over the antlers with my large Dremel bit that I used for the hammering, and added some deep valleys. Next I went over it with a smaller carving bit, and then an even smaller one. Finally I got my sanding bit and smoothed out some areas, especially around the tips. Doing this left some nice tiny lines.

Mistake Twelve: You can see it in the photos, I didn’t hold the Dremel in a death grip so it skipped around and made some dents. I’m not going to worry about it too terribly much, that’s what happens when you toss a helmet around. Sort of.


Step 13: Another Round of Primer

I was having trouble seeing what I was doing again, so I hit everything with the Rustoleum primer. Found that I needed to work on some of the antler lumps, and that some of the hammer marks look fuzzy from the cardstock base getting pulled up. Also, carving the antlers had punched through the Rondo layer in places, so I needed to fill those in with putty or Apoxie. I forgot to put in some slice/damage marks, so I had to do that as well.


Step 14: Fixing Things

I patched all the holes, put in slice marks using two different sized cutting Dremel wheels, and smoothed out the ends of the antlers. All of my references show less roughness near antler tips, so I sanded them down. Then I primed the ends again.

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Step 15: Universal Primer

I was under the impression that this stuff was clear because of a quick test I did on cardboard, but it’s white. I wouldn’t have wasted time doing the antler tips grey if I had known. I also don’t even know if I needed to do this, or if the sandable filler would have worked fine, but I didn’t want to take the chance since I was going to use a really cheap black spray paint for the base coat.


Step 16: Base Coat

I did a pretty simple base coat using flat black in order to make the other colors pop and the hammer marks look dirty underneath. Unfortunately, and much to my chagrin, when I touched the paint some of it rubbed off in places. I wasn’t too concerned about this until I began painting silver on because the rubbed areas looked kind of silver/white, however as I painted more I realized it looked terrible so I did another coat of black over the whole thing. This time it all stuck.


Step 17: Helmet Painting and Weathering

I got some metallic silver paint and followed a video by Coast2Coast Customs on Youtube about weathering props and making them look metallic. Basically I took a chip brush and dry-brushed silver over all of the high points. While it looks decent in the picture, in real life there were only two colors: Black in the dents and silver on the high points. The silver paint was also extremely thin out of the bottle and the color was not solid, and I was really unhappy with how it turned out.


I decided to mix a grey the same color as my silver using black and white. Then I mixed the silver in so the paint would have a metallic sheen. I then took this color and brushed over all of the high areas and edges again, and places with more wear. I also shoved it more in the hammer marks in the raised areas, to simulate those areas getting worn down and polished more.

The next part of painting was weathering. It was pretty simple; I squirted some black paint into a Dixie cup and mixed it with water. Then I got a small paintbrush and went over the cut marks and around the raised portions to simulate areas that were harder to clean, and wiped it off with a shop rag. This left a dark area that looked pretty good.

Mistake 13: Mixing too much water and letting it saturate an area. If I left the wash too long and then tried to wipe it off, all of the other paint I had done came off too because it was water-soluble. I had to go back and repaint a few areas.

Then I got my shop rag and soaked it in the wash. I squeezed it out over the helmet in various places to simulate rain, let it sit for a minute or two, and gently dabbed it off. This left dark streaks all over the helmet, particularly in places that water would naturally sit.

Step 18: Antler Painting (Skip to the end of this step if you want to find out what I did that looked ok)

Oh man, this step was difficult. I painted each side about three times until I got something I could live with. The first attempt was going well until I attempted something which leads to Mistake 14: Doing a brown/black wash. I only had one type of brown so I figured I could use black to darken it some. At first it looked alright, but as it dried it created an uncanny mud color. Seriously. It looked like somebody had gotten their hands all muddy and rubbed them all over the antler. And when I tried to dry off the wash, it peeled off a good amount of paint and the whole thing was crappy and I was very frustrated. If I was trying to make mud that would have been perfect, but alas, I was not.

I tried again, and did the same thing I did before. Unfortunately I was impatient waiting for the base color to dry, so when I went in with the dry brush it all just blended together into more or less one color.

So I started over. I painted the whole thing with a light brown base coat (Mistake 15) and tried to paint over that, because in my previous painting experiences it was incredibly hard to paint over dark areas with light paint. However, the acrylic didn’t have this problem. What was the mistake here? All of the crevasses were filled with light paint with a darker brown on all the high areas, which is the exact opposite of what it should have been. So I did a brown wash, it looked crappy, paint rubbed off, and I started over.

This time I did a lighter brown base coat over most of the antler, a brown coat near the root, and an even lighter top coat. I did this because pretty much all of the deer antlers I’ve seen, in real life or pictures, are a white, grey/ light brown color. You can see the result in the picture below, also showing the updated silver and weathering. It looked ok, but there wasn’t much contrast or variation anywhere and it looked kind of ridiculous against such a dark helmet.


So I started over, mourning my wasted existence and wondering if I should have even done the project in the first place if I couldn’t complete one of the key elements. I was also getting tired of doing the same areas over and over, so I took it easy. I did a plain coat of the darker brown and let it dry while I watched TV. Then I went over it with a mix of light brown and dark brown, dry brushing over the whole thing. Then I used the light brown and dry-brushed everything again, concentrating on the tips of the antlers. Then I made a mix of white and light brown and did the tips and a few areas around the antler with that. I thought it looked acceptable (if not entirely realistic), and did the other antler the same way.

Finally I touched-up any areas of the helmet where I got antler colors, going over them with black and then dry-brushing with silver grey like before.


Step 19: Rust

I was wondering how to paint rust and thinking it sounded like a massive pain when I came across a post by Volpin Props about using Ferrous Powder. It’s just iron powder that you can paint on stuff and make rust with. I thought this sounded much more low-effort with much better results, and went out and got some along with a spray bottle that misted.

I got another one inch chip brush and a cup of water, a paper plate where I poured out some of the powder, some gloves, and a spray bottle full of Volpin Props’ rusting recipe which is comprised of:
-10 parts vinegar
-10 parts hydrogen peroxide
-2 parts lemon juice
-1 part salt
It smelled lovely. Fortunately I didn’t catch too much of the scent as I sprayed.

I took the paintbrush and painted water over areas where I wanted rust, making sure some pooled where water would pool in real life as well as areas that would be harder to clean. Originally I tried picking up the iron powder with another brush and flicking it off, but it wouldn’t stay on the brush. I also didn’t want to get the brush wet because then the powder would clump and not go anywhere.

What I ended up doing was brushing on water, picking up dust with my fingers, and rubbing my fingers together so the powder would fall over the areas I had painted. I then would spray with the rust accelerator mix. At first nothing much happened because I didn’t put enough powder, which I was ok with. I simply went over it with water again, sprinkled more powder, and sprayed. Repeated as desired. I didn’t notice much bubbling, but the color did change vastly from when I first sprayed and when I finished. Some areas I got too much powder on, so I carefully and gently wiped up excess with a rag while it was still wet.

After I was done and everything was dry, I got another shop rag and rubbed it over the rust, which let some of the silver shine through and removed chunks that wouldn’t have stuck long anyway.


Step 20: Protective Coat

I got some Krylon Satin clear coat and sprayed the whole helmet with it. I sprayed the antlers with a gloss because they looked incredibly dull, then I toned them down with the satin. The pictures really picked up the light, it looks a lot more natural in-person.

Finally I finished! Yay! One project under my belt :)

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My favorite builds are always the ones where the mistakes are put out there alongside the rest, especially when the end result turns out great. I think it looks fantastic and nobody would ever know that you goofed here and there along the way. I hope this is the first of many.

I think it's turned out great! Your weathering looks perfect, not too much, but enough for it to look used and abused.
Thanks guys! Means a lot. I'm planning on trying my hand at the rest of the costume in foam, which I've also never worked with. Hopefully it looks alright with the helmet, if not I'll pick one method and do it in that.
Thanks guys! Means a lot. I'm planning on trying my hand at the rest of the costume in foam, which I've also never worked with. Hopefully it looks alright with the helmet, if not I'll pick one method and do it in that.

Foam armor with paper pep head should look fine. If anything, that's the right way round to do it, because you're going to have more exaggerated facets on the armor than you would on the helm, plus assuming that you're building the Ancient Nord armor set, you've really only got plates to worry about rather than full armor wraps, which would be a lot easier in foam, both to construct and to move in
Foam armor with paper pep head should look fine. If anything, that's the right way round to do it, because you're going to have more exaggerated facets on the armor than you would on the helm, plus assuming that you're building the Ancient Nord armor set, you've really only got plates to worry about rather than full armor wraps, which would be a lot easier in foam, both to construct and to move in

Good to hear, makes sense. The peps look really simple so I'm going to do them and make patterns for the foam.

That came out great! Do you have a picture of which Dremel bit you used for the hammer marks?

I don't have one on hand, but here is where I bought it from:
The bit head is only 8mm, I would have gotten one bigger if I had found it. Still, it worked just fine, made some ripples in the hammer marks that you can see though.
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