US Navy Mark IV high altitude full pressure suit build (the start)

dogstar

New Member
Hi...been away and doing a bunch of research and thought it time to post my first takes on making a replica of the pre-cursor of
the NASA Mercury suit, the US Navy High Altitude Full Pressure Suit. I decided to get an existing, period appropriate, Navy flight suit as a base, and then just begin to convert
it as best as possible to get pretty close to actual. Although it is vintage, it only cost around $25 bucks so I wasn't too worried about ruining a valuable collectible.
I am not particularly good at sewing so, thus the conversion idea rather than start from scratch. Here's
a pic of the current state...the original front zipper is gone and replaced by the zippers you see in the picture. Also, the two Navy
patches you see are reproductions since I was not able to find any available anywhere, originals or repros...I think I got pretty close
and got a sewing whiz lady friend to sew them up on her fancy machine... the one cuff collar you see is a 3d print from a Mercury suit and just
stuffed up the sleeve for grins at this early stage...any comments or input would be surely welcome!
a 1 MkIV start.jpg
 

dogstar

New Member
Hi Stephen...as a matter of fact, this project has been in the works so long you must have forgotten I bought those
items from you a few years ago...but, now that you mention it, I wouldn't mind getting a couple of spares...can I PM you
for items/pricing?
 

dogstar

New Member
Hi...been away and doing a bunch of research and thought it time to post my first takes on making a replica of the pre-cursor of
the NASA Mercury suit, the US Navy High Altitude Full Pressure Suit. I decided to get an existing, period appropriate, Navy flight suit as a base, and then just begin to convert
it as best as possible to get pretty close to actual. Although it is vintage, it only cost around $25 bucks so I wasn't too worried about ruining a valuable collectible.
I am not particularly good at sewing so, thus the conversion idea rather than start from scratch. Here's
a pic of the current state...the original front zipper is gone and replaced by the zippers you see in the picture. Also, the two Navy
patches you see are reproductions since I was not able to find any available anywhere, originals or repros...I think I got pretty close
and got a sewing whiz lady friend to sew them up on her fancy machine... the one cuff collar you see is a 3d print from a Mercury suit and just
stuffed up the sleeve for grins at this early stage...any comments or input would be surely welcome! View attachment 1091303
 

dogstar

New Member
Hi...can anyone help direct me to an accurate source for all the belts, hoses etc on this suit? looking at the photographs may not be
the most accurate way to do this...does anyone actually have one of these? thanks!
 
Obligatory apology for necroing the thread, but I hope this will be useful in any case

Always lovely to see militaria and propmaking -my two favorite hobbies- converge.
I've done a fair bit of research on this suit, mainly for the Mercury suit but the knowledge still applies. Let's start off with a small detail; to my knowledge all the zippers on the MK-IV are by the brand Talon, specifically the kind made from the 40's to the 70's. It's not the most notable detail but for neurotic nitpickers like me it's worth it to swap the zipper pull.

There's also a harness that goes over the entire suit, to stop the problem of the suit ballooning when in low pressure environments as Alexei Leonov discovered on Voskhod 2. The MK-IV and Mercury harnesses are a cut down version of the standard Navy MA-2 torso harness used by pilots. If you have $1,500 you can get an original one in good condition from here: https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/PRTH-MA2-1006.html
And if you dont, you can buy a regular MA-2 for a lot cheaper and cut off everything but the grey strapping. (source: https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/PRTH-MA2-1039.html )

Now for the miscellaneous; the oft-overlooked boots are simply Vietnam era pilot's boots; either black or brown though black seems more readily available. For the helmet hose, it seems like it uses the same connector as a Navy redar hose. Some of the smaller straps can be made from scratch with grey/OD nylon webbing, either 1/1-1/4".

That's all I can offer off the top of my head, I really hope this is still being worked on as this seems like it's shaping up to be absolutely fantastic.
Best wishes,

-Galifreyscall
 

dogstar

New Member
Hello Galifreyscall...
thank you so much for your reply...I am still working on this project! Although progress is obviously slow, it's been tough to get info on the various pieces that I want to fabricate or to source from used sources...what do you think of the suit in the photo I posted so far? I couldn't find the ""Navy" patches anywhere so I guessed at their size and had them made for me...here's two photos of a 3D print I just made of the helmet...one with a genuine visor (which I got from flight helmet.com) just put in place for grins and one without...so glad you reached out as I do have a lot of questions I'd love to throw at you plus it's great to find someone else who is interested and knowledgeable about this suit!
 

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Hello Galifreyscall...
thank you so much for your reply...I am still working on this project! Although progress is obviously slow, it's been tough to get info on the various pieces that I want to fabricate or to source from used sources...what do you think of the suit in the photo I posted so far? I couldn't find the ""Navy" patches anywhere so I guessed at their size and had them made for me...here's two photos of a 3D print I just made of the helmet...one with a genuine visor (which I got from flight helmet.com) just put in place for grins and one without...so glad you reached out as I do have a lot of questions I'd love to throw at you plus it's great to find someone else who is interested and knowledgeable about this suit!
An original visor?? I'm burning with envy! That helmet model looks fantastic too, a little low-poly but nothing bondo wont sort out. Now I wish I had taken some photos of the MK-IV helmet in the USS Lexington, it's the only one relatively close to me to my knowledge and even that's an almost 7 hour drive.

Excellent job on the patches btw, they're what really caught my eye here. Just to check, how do your custom patches measure up? I took a quick image measurement, and it seems the USN chest patch is approx. 4x2.5". The suit actually looks quite good, especially for just $25. It's a cold weather suit, right? It would explain the shiny material and soft fabric cuffs. How far down the back of the shoulder does your zipper go? There's a great pic of the back of a suit from a Bonham's auction that shows it goes down maybe another 3-4" past the shoulder seam.

Capture.PNG


I'm more than happy to answer any question I can, high altitude suits have always been a soft spot for me. Guess it's the childhood dream of being an astronaut peeking through still-

-Galifreyscall
 

dogstar

New Member
I am digging thru my boxes in storage (we've moved since I last worked on the suit) to find the suit...if I recall correctly the chest patch was indeed about a 4x2.5" configuration...and I also made sure the two main zippers followed the beginning and end points on the photos that I have from various sources including the one you posted here...sure would love to see and photo the real thing too. I'm also trying to source appropriate vintage parts, like the zippers I used are from the 60's...also, when I get around to it the boots are indeed brown or black vietnam era army issue all leather ones...I also managed to get my hands on the actual Navy riggers guidebook on how to suit a pilot in one of these...I got an MA-2 harness and a Mk 2 life vest...can't afford a Mk IV so will used the Mk2 as it is period/color appropriate and I got it super cheap... I am attaching an image of a pilot and his boots back in the day and a view of my suit with the navy patch placed but not sewn and the Mk 2 life vest I may convert or just use...more to come as it happens
 

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Small note; dunno if you noticed but Flighthelmet.com currently has an original MK-IV helmet mic (though admittedly at a high price. $95, ouch!)
While browsing through the site I noticed a couple other things pertaining to the helmet. This redar hose is a perfect match, comparing it to helmets I've seen up for auction: ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/OXYP-1034.html ) and when scrutinizing the auction pics I got a sense of deja vu looking at the suspension straps. I believe the suspension harness used in the SPH-4 sans chin strap would be a very close approximation in lieu of original padding. ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/SPHP-9021.html )

P.S. If you have a pair of calipers handy, could you possibly take a quick measurement of how thick the visor plastic is? So hard to find these tiny but important measurements anywhere.
 

dogstar

New Member
Small note; dunno if you noticed but Flighthelmet.com currently has an original MK-IV helmet mic (though admittedly at a high price. $95, ouch!)
While browsing through the site I noticed a couple other things pertaining to the helmet. This redar hose is a perfect match, comparing it to helmets I've seen up for auction: ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/OXYP-1034.html ) and when scrutinizing the auction pics I got a sense of deja vu looking at the suspension straps. I believe the suspension harness used in the SPH-4 sans chin strap would be a very close approximation in lieu of original padding. ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/SPHP-9021.html )

P.S. If you have a pair of calipers handy, could you possibly take a quick measurement of how thick the visor plastic is? So hard to find these tiny but important measurements anywhere.
hi…will measure this morning and post then…
 

dogstar

New Member
Small note; dunno if you noticed but Flighthelmet.com currently has an original MK-IV helmet mic (though admittedly at a high price. $95, ouch!)
While browsing through the site I noticed a couple other things pertaining to the helmet. This redar hose is a perfect match, comparing it to helmets I've seen up for auction: ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/OXYP-1034.html ) and when scrutinizing the auction pics I got a sense of deja vu looking at the suspension straps. I believe the suspension harness used in the SPH-4 sans chin strap would be a very close approximation in lieu of original padding. ( https://www.flighthelmet.com/product/SPHP-9021.html )

P.S. If you have a pair of calipers handy, could you possibly take a quick measurement of how thick the visor plastic is? So hard to find these tiny but important measurements anywhere.
Hi Galigreyscall, here's a shot of the visor...I took the measurement at the center edge of just the smoked perspex at 1.5mm or 1/16"...the white areas have a double layer of a some kind of fiber/resin material so the pure plastic is 1/16" The second photo is of an accurate resin casting of the oxygen valve and the two visor "swivel" washer stacks (?) if that's what they're called...they were ganged together to make a single casting.
 

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Hi Galigreyscall, here's a shot of the visor...I took the measurement at the center edge of just the smoked perspex at 1.5mm or 1/16"...the white areas have a double layer of a some kind of fiber/resin material so the pure plastic is 1/16" The second photo is of an accurate resin casting of the oxygen valve and the two visor "swivel" washer stacks (?) if that's what they're called...they were ganged together to make a single casting.
Thank you greatly! That cast looks fantastic, a light bit of dremel work would clean that up very nicely. If I might suggest, I think for blackening the valve that some Birchwood Casey gun bluing solution would be best, it would strengthen the metal and also wouldn't fill in that lovely slight texture the casting has like paints would.

Edit: Scratch that, I didn't realize it's resin. Looks a lot like metal, long day I guess lol
 

dogstar

New Member
Thank you greatly! That cast looks fantastic, a light bit of dremel work would clean that up very nicely. If I might suggest, I think for blackening the valve that some Birchwood Casey gun bluing solution would be best, it would strengthen the metal and also wouldn't fill in that lovely slight texture the casting has like paints would.

Edit: Scratch that, I didn't realize it's resin. Looks a lot like metal, long day I guess lol
as to the SPH-4, I got an old viet nam era helmet with the correct (looks like to my eye) from ebay for $20 bucks…should work nicely
 

Under Pressure

New Member
The tinted visor shown above is from the HGK-13, it´s not the correct visor for the Mk-IV. The Mk-IV was made by BF Goodrich while the HGK-13 was manufactured by David Clark Co. They did their own visors. They do look alike but are just not identical.
 

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The tinted visor shown above is from the HGK-13, it´s not the correct visor for the Mk-IV. The Mk-IV was made by BF Goodrich while the HGK-13 was manufactured by David Clark Co. They did their own visors. They do look alike but are just not identical.
It could definitely be from an A/P 22S-2, but there's a chance that it's from a 22S-3, which in essence was a modified MK-IV suit for the USAF untill they could finish production of the -2. Hard to tell without seeing the helm it came off of, and I'm definitely no expert considering I don't have an original one of either. Either way it's still closer than what most makers have access to; worse case scenario he has an X-15 visor instead of a Mercury visor. Now thats a problem I'd like to have!
 

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