Project Mercury Helmet

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Peter P.

New Member
Hi Everybody!
I want to own a Mercury Helmet since I was a child...
And now it's time to make one!
I'm in the sculpting, molding and casting business for 35 years now,
and I never thought that making an accurate replica, with correct measurements(maybe fully functional...)
Will be so hard...
Mr. Ryan Nagata was a great inspiration at the beginning of this task, because his work is outstanding!!
Also I have to thank Imgill for his help!
The major problem was to get the correct sizes for the helmet itself, and all the parts.
Now after 2 years of drawing, testing and sometimes failing I'm ready to start,because
Good is not good enough for me.
First I've tried to sculpt the shell manually with a sweeping pattern, but it's originally made from two spheres,
Slightly oval, and that's impossible with one pattern, also to achieve a perfect smooth finish.
I wonder how the guys at B. F. Goodrich made it back in the good old days, I don't know..
I've bought a 3d printer. Learned to use tinkercad and fusion 360,and constructed the shell, and the O2 valve
And printed it the last 4 days...
The next parts will follow soon!
I sculpted the rubber seal for the visor already on the shell, because it's easy er to cast it with the correct shape.
It will be replaced with a real rubber one later...also the widows peak will be removed completely, and the neck ring is
Not finished yet, it's only a printing test.
I also made a tiny little test helmet to get used to the printer.
IMG_20200224_135255.jpg
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lmgill

Sr Member
Are you making an early or later version helmet? The early version has no cam system in the visor pivot, and the visor seal is an inflatable seal. The later version has a cam lock style visor.
Another note, the internal lip you have in the face opening is the incorrect shape for an early helmet, and this feature was removed on the later helmets.
 

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lmgill

Sr Member
I apologize if this is the impression I give with my posts.
It would be ridiculous to say I know everything. Not even close.
I have however built pressure suits professionally (real & replica) for 20 years, owned my own custom manufacturing facility in the film, television and museum industries for 35 years, worked in the automotive, defense, film, and aerospace industries.
Given that people on the PRF have a propensity to want accurate items, my intent is to post corrections to misinformation, as well as guidance on ways to utilize alternate techniques to achieve the desired results.
In this case vacuum-forming, and blow-forming are very different processes and can produce very different items of very different technical qualities.
If you would prefer, I will let you and others move forward in life believing what you believe, who am I to suggest otherwise.

I would also like to note, I asked a question in my earlier post about the specific model of helmet you desired to replicate, with the intent of supplying technical details that may assist you in your endeavor, but you did not respond to that post.
 
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Peter P.

New Member
I apologize if this is the impression I give with my posts.
It would be ridiculous to say I know everything. Not even close.
I have however built pressure suits professionally (real & replica) for 20 years, owned my own custom manufacturing facility in the film, television and museum industries for 35 years, worked in the automotive, defense, film, and aerospace industries.
Given that people on the PRF have a propensity to want accurate items, my intent is to post corrections to misinformation, as well as guidance on ways to utilize alternate techniques to achieve the desired results.
In this case vacuum-forming, and blow-forming are very different processes and can produce very different items of very different technical qualities.
If you would prefer, I will let you and others move forward in life believing what you believe, who am I to suggest otherwise.

I would also like to note, I asked a question in my earlier post about the specific model of helmet you desired to replicate, with the intent of supplying technical details that may assist you in your endeavor, but you did not respond to that post.
Sorry that I didn't response to your post. I have no desired version in mind.
Well I know that you know very much about this topic in general much more then I do right now.
I'm professional mold maker and sfx artist for about 32 years now, and doin also a lot of work for museums.
I think that's the reason why I reacted a little rude to your posts.... I'm sorry for that!
I would appreciate your supply of technical details!
I'm relatively new to space helmets, and it's relatively hard to get some reference here in Austria (except the www of course).
I didn't know that the visors were blow formed, thanks for the info!
 

lmgill

Sr Member
Peter,
There is so much mis-information here and on the internet, it is sometimes difficult to determine when someone is sounding off, from when someone knows what they are posting about.
Having been in the EFX industry all most all of my adult life, I see people consistently doing things in an inefficient manner or under a false impression of the reasons why something is done. Like many crafts or industries, the FX business is very "tribal" with most people learning on the fly from other members of the "tribe" who often saw it done somewhere else.
As more and more older techniques gets lost due to the lack of traditional training, and the increase in 3d printing, it is understandable when people don't know how something is done or believe the "folk-lore" rather than the facts. I was fortunate when growing up to be around many different professions, from Formula One auto racing, aerospace, art, to scientific and literature professionals.

I always recommend that a person wanting to learn a new craft, try to find a craftsman or industry where the skill you want o learn is the skill that the craftsman or industry needs to do well in order to survive.
Example: Want to learn composite plastic lay-up?(fiberglass / carbon fiber) Learn from a person who works in an industry where the strength and quality of composite lay-ups are important. (aerospace or racing) When you learn how it is really done, and why it is done that way, then, you can streamline the technique for your application.
For the most part, a person in the prop or FX business does not need to be "the best" at any particular skill, other than getting something filmable made in the time they are given. Upon close inspection, most props are pretty poor when compared to the real world thing or skill they are replicating. Of course, there are exceptions to this, as I have seen some very talented individuals in the FX bussiness.

Now if all you want, is to build something to sit on a shelf and impress your friends, who know less than you, then all of what I just wrote can be ignored.

As for the Mercury helmet: There are 2 basic version, the early helmets with a simple pivot which utilizes an inflatable rubber seal around the face opening, and the latter versions that have a solid rubber seal and a cam system at the visor pivots that cams the visor inward, tightly against this rubber seal. The difference is easy to see, as the later helmets have a flattened aluminum hoop , known as a "Bail bar" running from pivot to pivot below the visor.
The semi-circular opening you have near the pivot on you printed shell, seems to be from the later style of helmet, with this bail bar, as this semi-circular opening is actually supposed to be a half round grooved "track" for a pin on the back side of the visor pivot to follow.
In addition, the lip on the top of the face opening you have going from one side completely across to the other. This is often referred to as the "duck bill" (I don't know when this name stuck) This curves up at the edges and sticks down more in front on the first couple of mission helmets. The astronauts complained of this feature, and it was removed very early on.

The visor has a very thin FRP surround, bonded to the blown acrylic visor. (Note: acrylic visors where replace with polycarbonate visors at a later date, maybe Gemini- but definitely Apollo and beyond, because one of the astronauts bounced his helmet off the control panel during landing and damaged his visor)
The best way we have found to do this is to make the surround, then form the visor into it. However, if you are only making one, then this is not going to be very efficient. If you plant to vacuum form the visor, you will have to make your pattern very smooth. No need to be "glossy", just very smooth and free of bumps, pits of scratches. In fact, you can pull a thin piece of plastic tightly over your form (vacuum-form tool), trim it, then pull your clear visor over that, this will help smooth out the pull.

For the white frame around the visor: The real frame is fiberglass with a white outer surface, with a detectable glass cloth pattern. The additional sheet aluminum pieces are applied over this FRP frame.
To make this from a vacuum formed visor, you can either make 2 visors so you have a spare to layup the FRP surround on, or you can pull an additional thin piece over the visor to use as a lay up surface. I would recommend 2 visors and use the lesser quality one to lay up the FRP. If this is too involved, then use the thinner pull over the visor as the surround and just scenic paint it.

The difference in blowing verses vacuum forming, is with V-forming, you are eliminating all of the air between your hot plastic and you pattern, and any contact with the tool causes the plastic to cool and stop moving, while other plastic is still hot and stretching. This is called mark-off, and subtly changes the thickness of the plastic in these areas, thus bending light, (think lens) resulting in distortion.
Blow forming blows the plastic either into free air, or into a mold, thus trapping air between the mold and the hot plastic, forming a cushion of air that prevents the hot plastic from contacting the mold. This of course eliminates (if done correctly) any mark-off, resulting in a much cleaner looking visor. While this is a trickier process to get perfect, it does produce superior transparent items.
 

BrianM

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Imgill,

Well explained. I blow molded 2001 helmet visors "into free air" as you put it. Using PETG, much easier than plex. They are much smaller the mercury helmet. I have a kit from Global Effects, and would like to make a better visor, but they are larger and not sure they'd blow right in just a frame. Maybe you have one laying around... ;-)

BrianM
 

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Peter P.

New Member
IMG_20200817_223625.jpg

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A little progress... This is my resin version of the pressure valve for the visor seal, mostly correct except for the non-moving parts. Thanks to Mr. Nagata for providing me with some measurements!
A later version will be machined from aluminium, but at the moment it's good enough to work with!
 
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