My cardboard Rocketeer helmet


Well-Known Member
Before kits were available, before I learned how to use a computer, and before Pepakura, I had built a Rocketeer helmet out of a cardboard tube that was large enough to fit over my head. I had used a water spritzer to dampen the tube and placed it into a rectangular wastebasket to dry to get a more oval shape. I stuck a balloon into the top and used shredded paper grocery bags and wallpaper paste to paper mache the top of the helmet. I would sand the roughness smooth between dried layers and continued to build up until I had the same thickness as the tube. I used a smaller cardborad tube to create the vents by cutting small angles one one side then with slits on the other side to get the tube to bend. Waterputty was used to fill the gaps. Layered carboard strips were used to create the details on the helmet. Teddybear eyes were used as rivets. All of this was done by using an Exacto knife, sandpaper, and patterns I had made for the eye openings. The fin was layerd cardboard sheets cut from a pattern I had hand drawn.

The following is the result-

Me explaining how I had built it.

A front shot.

A fellow fan I placed the helmet on.
Last edited:
that is absolutely beautiful. do you have any in progress photos? after i finish my jetpack(which im scratch building), i have to start over on the helmet, and im looking for different ways to do it.
That is amazing! I would never have thought it was cardboard..

It just shows you don't have to have deep pockets to have replicas. Just a little ingenuity.

Thanks for sharing and giving me some incentive to get creative.
There has been a couple requests for more details on how I built this. I'll do the best I can as memory serves since I made the helmet shortly after the movie was released.

If you had read the opening post of this thread, I gave a brief disciption on how I built the helmet. It took a lot of patience as I applied the strips of shredded paper grocery bags, soaked in a pan of wallpaper paste, onto the balloon, to about five or six layers at a time, and smoothed over as best I could with my hands. Let each each session of layering dry overnight. You may find soft spots (air pockets) as you gently sand between dried layers to keep the top of the helmet smooth. These I had to cut out and refill with small strips to keep the top part solid. Continue layering until you get the desired thicknes of the base cardboard tube. After this all dried and had the desired look of the top of the helmet, I popped the balloon.
I then added stips over the front of the helmet to achieve the curviture of the "face" of the helmet, and covered the entire tube base with strips to hide any tube seams. I gently sandpapered smooth the entire helmet to blend.
I had then cut out the bottom of the helmet with a pattern I had wrapped around the tube. After I had located the center of the helmet and drew a center line from the front over the top to the back, the back of the helmet needed a curved spilt - /\ - about 2 inches high by maybe a half inch wide, and moistened with water to soften the tube a bit, and closed the split with glue to tighten the helmet to the back of my head. I added more stips to hide the spilt and strengthen the closure. Sandpapered smooth and blended.
The helmet details were the toughest part since I had to locate where they began and ended. I had made the details with another pattern I had made and cut them indiviually from flat cardboard stock and glued them onto the helmet. each layer was a bit different because of the curvature of the helmet wouldn't allow the same pattern to be used. So some adjustment had to be made. It looked rough after they had been glued on, but it was expected. I had to carefully sand the edges to the rounded finished look.
Using the centerline, I located where the eye openings and mouth opening would be. I had made patterns and drew these onto the helmet but didn't cut them out just yet. I needed the helmet intact to form the acrylic eye pieces.
I had found an 1/8" thick sheet of smoke colored transparent acylic plastic, cut larger than needed pieces out of it for the lenses and carefully heated them individually over my gas oven range. When the palstic had softened, I had held them in a gloved hand and pressed them onto the helmet over where they were going to go until they cooled and held there shape. BE WARNED, the heat was very uncomfortable even through the glove.
I then used an Exacto knife to cut out the openings for the eyes and mouth. After I had the openings fiinshed. I had held the larger than needed squared lens against the inside of the helmet eye openings and lightly scribed the plastic with the pin part of a compass. I gave an 1/8 " allowance around this scribe to cut out my lenses.
After the lenses were completed, I again held them in place on the inside of the helmet to scribe a slight recess into the cardbord tube for the lenses to set. Don't glue lenes in place yet.
As I said before, solid black plastic Teddybear eyes were used as rivets. I located were the rivets were to go, drilled small holes for the shaft of the eyes and glued in place and trimmed the exess shaft.
Finally the fin had to be made and positioned on the helmet. I already descibed how I had made the fin. What I didn't decribe was how I had located where the fin began and ended on the helmet. I had the general shape of the fin with the bottom portion made as a straight piece from front to back. I didn't have the curvature of the top of the helmet yet. Again using the centerline on the helmet, I located the front point of the fin to the back. I then used the Exacto knife to cut a slot for the fin to fit into. Once this was done, the fin was glued into place and trimmed the excess cardbored off the fin from the inside.
Now it's ready to finish. I had made a mixure of white glue and water. I then paint theis mixure onto the helmet to seal the paper and give it a hard surface shell once it dries. I give it perhaps several coats and use extra fine sandpaper to smooth out the "sharkskin" texture after drying. This is part of secret that gives cardbord a great resin look and why you don't think it's cardboard at all. The other part is I'll give the entire build a coating of sprayed on urethane before painting with bronze laquer I get from the auto parts store and one more caoting of urethane after.
Now it's time to glue in the lenses and your done.

I hope that this is helpful to those who want to try to scatchbuild there helemt. The only thing I can say is you gain experince in this sort of thing is by doing it and learn from your mistakes. I had once been called the Cardboard King by a friend of mine. This really is no longer the case since I've seen many projects others have done without my assistance with fantastic rsults. I've often said what you can make out of wood, you can make out of cardboard, since it's essentially the same material.

I also give you this WARNING. Since I use Exacto knives to work on projects such as this, I always seem to leave a bit of myself into my work. In other words, there is some of my blood soaked in all of my stuff.
Last edited:
Looking at it in the pictures, I wouldn't even guess it was primarily cardboard. It's better than I'd probably do given access to more materials than cardboard - very nice.

I have a soft spot for the Rocketeer too, so with that write up I might be giving this helmet a go.
Looking at it in the pictures, I wouldn't even guess it was primarily cardboard. It's better than I'd probably do given access to more materials than cardboard - very nice.

I have a soft spot for the Rocketeer too, so with that write up I might be giving this helmet a go.

Use whatever resources you can find that I didn't have to help with your build. For instance, if Pepakura can be used as pattens, use them.
This thread is more than 10 years old.

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

  1. This thread hasn't been active in some time. A new post in this thread might not contribute constructively to this discussion after so long.
If you wish to reply despite these issues, check the box below before replying.
Be aware that malicious compliance may result in more severe penalties.