NEEDED: Source for a wizard's skull cap!

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Jack T Chance

Sr Member
Hello everyone.

I'm attempting to finish off my wizard's robes outfit that I've been working on off an on for the last few years. It's nearly done, all I need now is suitable head gear.

My first choice is a skull cap.

It can be metal, like the one worn by actor Nicol Williamson when he portrayed Merlin in the classic Arthurian fantasy film Excalibur...

ExcaliburMerlin7.jpg


ExcaliburMerlin6.jpg


ExcaliburMerlin5.jpg


ExcaliburMerlin4.jpg


...which would be what I'd really prefer, or, it can be made of cloth or even leather, I'm not terribly picky on the material as long as I think it looks good. My preferred color(s) would be silver for a metal one, or black for cloth or leather.

I've tried searching for them on eBay, but all a search on the term "skull cap" turns up is literally thousands of the form-fitting "doo rags" that are so popular with urban youths and motorcycle riders.

A year or so back, someone at the Dewback Wing forums recommended a site called Valentine Armouries as a possible source, because they showed one on their website. Well, after sending them an email inquiring about the piece, I waited patiently for a reply... and waited... then waited some more.... it's now been about a year since I emailed them, and I'm STILL waiting for a reply, a reply which I can safely assume is not forthcoming. (n)angry

I will be most appreciative of any help anyone can provide in tracking down the appropriate headgear... preferably from a company that actually REPLIES to serious inquiries from potential customers.

Any help here would be hot. :cool
 
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Jack T Chance

Sr Member
What about cutting up a child's costume helmet? That might be tight enough, but finding one with sufficient coverage may be difficult. Maybe fiberglass two together?
Actually, someone suggested essentially the same thing over on the Dewback Wing forums, where I originally posted a topic about my search. I've been trying to find one of these since at least October of '06 (which is when I started that thread on their forum.)

My problem with that idea is a simple one: I take my costuming efforts seriously enough that I will never be satisfied with a costume at a quality level appropriate only for an extra, seen in the background of a movie or TV show, at a considerable distance from the camera and out of focus... what I'd call a "Halloween style" costume. For instance, I can't be happy with the kind of rubbish Rubie's typically passes off as a "deluxe" costume.

My costumes that I've done so far are what I'd call "hero" quality, made to be seen up close and personal. I suppose it would help if I showed off the outfit this skull cap is needed for. Here's my wizard's robes, which is also the outfit I wear to the Renaissance Festival:

MeAtRenFest04HalfSharp.jpg


MeAtRenFest2007.jpg


The look is inspired by the multi-layered look of the wizard's robes seen in the Lord of the Rings movies. I have a black hooded outer robe to go with it, as well, but it's always too warm in the month of September to wear it, which is why you don't see it in those pictures... I wish our local Ren Fest ran until November, when it would be cool enough to wear the entire outfit comfortably. :cool

Anyway, the outfit is all real... no "Halloween costume" items present. The belt and pouches are real leather, all made in true medieval fashion, and are fully functional, of course. No Hollywood style fake pouches for this guy... after all, when you're at the Ren Fest, you still need somewhere to carry your wallet, keys, etc. ;)

The staff is real wood, stained to a lovely black color. I bought it at the Ren Fest, from one of the wood workers that makes them and sells them in his shop at the Ren Fest. :cool

So, with everything else in the ensemble being real, a plastic skull cap just wouldn't look right to me. I'd feel like I was cheating.

But, I do have good news. Yesterday, I decided to give Valentine Armouries one more chance. Looking at their website again, I noticed a second email address, one I hadn't seen last year when I originally emailed them. So, I sent an email one last time, this time sending it to both email addresses listed on the site... and I got a reply within a few hours! :)

I specifically asked about the skull cap seen in this picture:

fant_da.jpg


Here's what their craftsman had to say in the email:
This was a piece we made to copy Merlin from Excalibur.

The actual original was in aluminum, and our copy was in 18 ga steel. Two halves welded. I can make this for you, but first you must tell me your head size. Measure around your forehead to the back of your skull. I need to know that measurement in inches.

The price will be $400 in wire-brushed steel, and optionally add $100 for polishing (if you want that).

It might be difficult to guess exactly your shape of your head, abd the best thing is that you send me a head cast. Otherwise I should make is 5% larger to make sure it will fit you.
Now, obviously, he's the first craftsman I've gotten a price quote from, so I have no information available to me to put that price in perspective. I have no idea what a competing craftsman might charge for a similar item, so I'll still look into any other sources that are provided to me... hint, hint. ;)

I don't know if getting a cast of my head done would be worth the time and expense... the only place I can even think of that could do it for me is the life casting people at my local Ren Fest (they'll take molds from your body and make a bust of YOU, so you can always remember how good you looked when you were younger and in better shape! ;)) and I'm sure that would be too costly for the purpose it would be used for.

Besides, I've always heard it's best to wear padding inside of a metal helm for comfort, so if he makes it a little larger, that will leave room for padding and/or a custom made coif to go with it. :cool
 
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breadbin

New Member
Have you thought about cutting up one of those ornamental stainless steel garden spheres? Finding one at the right size might be tricky, and even so it would probably require some shaping, but it would definitely be shiny!
 

Jack T Chance

Sr Member
Have you thought about cutting up one of those ornamental stainless steel garden spheres? Finding one at the right size might be tricky, and even so it would probably require some shaping, but it would definitely be shiny!
LOL! :lol

Good idea, but I'm one of the least handy fellows you'll ever meet, as far as making things for myself goes. I wouldn't even know the first thing about how to go about cutting one of those down.
 

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Mutant-Enemy

Sr Member
Id say if you want it done right get the head-cast, go to an armorer and be willing to pay for a custom piece.
$400 to $500 doesn't sound that unreasonable for handcrafted steel if it's what you really want.

The budget way to do the head cast is the same as the SCA way of making a body cast with a couple variations:
1. Wet and comb down your hair.
2. Use a nylon stocking pulled over your head.
3. Have someone you trust wrap your pate with
Duct-tape.
4. If possible use a sharpie to outline your ear, brow and
hairline where you want the piece to end.
5. Cut it out.

You should end up with something that fits your head fairly well and will provide an armorer with a descent idea of your head shape and size.
OR you could get a good seamstress to cover it in cloth and do the edges in a nice metallic cording...
It will be interesting to see what you come up with!
 

Jack T Chance

Sr Member
Id say if you want it done right get the head-cast, go to an armorer and be willing to pay for a custom piece.
$400 to $500 doesn't sound that unreasonable for handcrafted steel if it's what you really want.

The budget way to do the head cast is the same as the SCA way of making a body cast with a couple variations:
1. Wet and comb down your hair.
2. Use a nylon stocking pulled over your head.
3. Have someone you trust wrap your pate with
Duct-tape.
4. If possible use a sharpie to outline your ear, brow and
hairline where you want the piece to end.
5. Cut it out.

You should end up with something that fits your head fairly well and will provide an armorer with a descent idea of your head shape and size.
OR you could get a good seamstress to cover it in cloth and do the edges in a nice metallic cording...
It will be interesting to see what you come up with!
Thanks for the suggestion on the head casting! I may try that! :cool

At the very least, I'll have pictures taken of my noggin from various angles, so that the person making it can identify which particular skull shape I inherited from my ancestors, that should help out. I currently wear my hair very short (buzz cut, same very short length all over... the more recent picture from Ren Fest shows my hair after at least a couple weeks growth) so it should be very easy to tell what shape my head is. :cool

And I've received an offer via PM from someone that can make it for me for substantially less than the price quoted by Valentine Armouries. He's also shown me footage that shows off samples of his work, and I believe he's up to the task! :)

Thanks again for the suggestions everyone. I'll keep you posted on how things go, and eventually I hope to have the desired skull cap in hand so I can show off pictures of it! :cool
 

Jack T Chance

Sr Member
Bumping this back up because the person that PMed me has apparently decided not to take on this project after all.

Anyone have any more suggestions before I just decide to save up and go with Valentine Armouries? :confused
 

Jayn

Sr Member
Why not make yourself a leather one!! Would be lots more comfy.. use a styrofoam head form -padded to your size & pull wet(cold) leather over it-mold it with your hands by slicking it into shape-& pin until dry..if you want it to go down to the base of the cranium in the back, you might have to make a slit/dart & glue to shape.. draw out the point in the front & ears -cut-then paint it silver or whatever... (patina'd bronze would be nice)

you can find used leather clothing ( coats, pants, skirts etc) at thrift stores for a fraction of what you'd pay for new leather... but make sure it's in good shape..not dried out or too soft..(silicone tanned)
 
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Mutant-Enemy

Sr Member
I like the idea of a leather one...though, he'd have to do a REALLY great job on it to keep from looking like a lowly surf who sling's mud for a living.
Here's a wild thought (and I have never heard of anyone doing it before so you could be the first) if you REALLY want that shiny silvery pate.
There is a substance called Silver Clay. It's expensive but I believe you could buy enough to do what you need and NOT have to spend $500.
You'll still need to get that stone copy of your head made, I recommend something in Ultracal 30 (which is almost as dense as concrete).
Then pencil in lines on your head form where you want the edges of the piece to stop. Cover your head copy in plastic wrap and start sculpting. You will want a couple of good wooden sculpting tools to help define your edges, don't use metal ones as they can mar your head form.

As I understand it, silver clay dries hard after a little while. Once you have a shape and a smoothness you like, let it sit for a while to dry even more and then pop it off your head form and get it fired in a Kiln.
Whallah! Silver Head Piece. And I'm talking SILVER as in .989 Sterling.

I could see this really working but you are going to have to have access to a Kiln or know someone that does.

You could get really creative with this. The up side being if you screw it up you STILL have a bunch of SILVER, which appreciates.
If you do this you are going to HAVE to post pics!
Good luck!
 

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knightoftheroc

Active Member
Bumping this back up because the person that PMed me has apparently decided not to take on this project after all.

Anyone have any more suggestions before I just decide to save up and go with Valentine Armouries? :confused

I'm not familiar (as in having had my hands on it) with their work, but Valentine's price is actually reasonable. I do my own armor in steel, and can appreciate the difficulty a piece like this presents, even with the customer readily available for fittings. I will add one suggestion for you to consider, since steel (or any other material suitable for this piece) does NOT breathe- at ALL- consider using a spray adhesive on the inside to attach a layer of thick felt, this will help ever so slightly in the padding dept., and also help wick away the gallons of sweat you are going to notice while wearing this. Whatever material you decide on, be sure to paint the living crap out of the inside to avoid the natural acids in your sweat from transferring metal to your skin. the best you can hope for if this happens is a blackening that will eventually wash off, the more severe cases can actually end up in metal poisoning. So, to recap- heavy coat of a good enamel paint, then adhesive some felt inside it.
I'm a renny too, so I'd suggest looking around your region for crafstmen local to you that can handle the job- you'll end up with a better fit than any mail order arrangement can provide- regardless of his skill, a craftsman needs your actual head to go by for something like this, or there's bound to be a bunch of guesswork involved, which will not accurately reflect his skill, or the look you want, in the end product. whatever you go with be sure to request he does NOT harden the metal when finished- this will let you 'tweak' the fit yourself later on.

Now, metal work aside, I have an idea for you to consider, which might just work- you just have to promise not to laugh until you spend the buck and try it. Buy a dollar store kickball, cut it, and turn it inside out. If you can get paint to stick to it, you could do it in black, or try some white undercoat followed by a chrome paint for the silver look- don't worry too much about gloss, as you can pass it off as unpolished. I know, you don't want to go with plastic, but consider the options before deciding. A steel piece is going to need to be made in several pieces, dished, welded, tested, altered, ground, polished, and you still have no guarantee as to fit, yet have still spent $500 plus shipping by the time you have it. Or, send the guy a plaster cast of your head for him to work from- it doesn't have to be detail perfect.
 

Jack T Chance

Sr Member
Bumping this back up because I never have got around to getting one of these. I have a mold of my head, made at Ren Fest, ready to send it to someone that can tackle this project.

Anyone here at the RPF up to the challenge? Any armorers here that feel like making this piece for a fellow RPFer? If so, let me know. Thanks. :)
 

Riceball

Master Member
One way you might want to consider trying is to use some sort of fabric like felt and mold, wet it with watered down white glue or maybe even fiberglass resin and mold to your headcast. Once it's dried you could a couple of coats of lacquer or something similar if you used the glue approach for a hard and smooth finish and once that's dried you could use rub & buff or some other high quality metallicizer to make it look like metal. This approach (if you can get a good metallicizer) would get you the metal look that you want at a fraction of the cost and weight and you can take pride in the fact that you did it yourself.
 

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TIGERXIII

New Member
Hi, I have made a Merlin Skull Cap using a child's football helmet.(see picture) I have cut the helmet into two parts (left and right) and reduced the size a little bit to get a snug fit for my head. After this reducing proces I have cut-out the form left and right (symmetrical) needed to get the Skull Cap look. After all this I glued the two parts together and reinforced the inside with the cut out left-over part of the reducing proces. When all of this was finished I have primed the Skull Cap with a couple of layers. After the primer I painted the Skull Cap in bright silver. To finish I placed a medieval coin replica in the front of the helmet. It is not perfect but I am happy with the result of this first attempt to make a Skull Cap.
Best Regards, Kurt
 

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