Right front of boxy metal mask made of many small plates riveted together. Steel with brass on side and top of head.

Primary materials: Steel from filing cabinets, rivets, foam sleeping mat.

One day I was looking through a dumpster and found some filing-cabinet parts, a spool of braided thread, a salad spinner, and a curved piece of metal that could fit around my forehead. I envisioned attaching the filing-cabinet parts in layers off the curved metal, cutting the plastic from the salad spinner bowl for a clear face shield, and tying it all together with the thread.

I didn’t start working on this right away. I was already building another mask and then started several plastic masks. The metal sat around for long enough that I considered throwing it out. But the idea of building something with it stuck with me.

I had never made anything of any complexity out of metal. I learned a couple techniques from some YouTube videos and started on this with a drill, a hammer, a baby anvil, and a winter jacket (I was out in the garage in February).

From my experience using the braided thread on plastic masks, I knew it wouldn’t hold the metal sheets together properly, so I went with rivets instead. I used about 150. I decided not to incorporate the salad-spinner plastic after all, and also decided to make it a full helmet rather than a face mask. Building the back half easily doubled the work time on this, and caused me to run out of filing-cabinet parts, so I bought a sheet of metal to finish the project.

Back right of mask. It is mostly covered in overlapping brassy metal plates.

The helmet is actually two pieces: a front mask, and a larger back helmet section. They’re held together with magnets.

I got the brassy look by heating the metal with a torch and scrubbing it with a brass wire brush. Here is what it looked like, before and after treatment:

Before heated brushing. Separated front and back sections of metal mask looking dull and grimy.
After heated brushing. Separated front and back sections of metal mask looking shiny and polished.

The thinner metal heated more quickly and took the brass nicely. Thicker metal exhausted my patience heating up, so I left it steely. Even on these parts, though, the scrubbing made it nice and shiny and removed any paint.

At one point I thought about putting some stripes of black paint up the front across one eye, but after getting it shiny with the brass brush technique, I decided to leave it pure metal. It stayed super shiny for only a short period of time and then began to darken. At this point I think it’s pretty much leveled off. What you see in my pictures at the top of the page is how it looks in its mature state.

I lined with inside with pieces of pipe insulation and sections of a foam sleeping mat. It is surprisingly comfortable for its weight.