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Re: [TheCostumersManifesto] Digest Number 875

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  • Curtis Kidd
    ... I ve never made helmets, but I have made several masks in felt...I m happy to pass on what I ve learned-- --Modelling clay makes a good form. Shape it as
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
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      > From: "judemunden" <judemunden@...>
      > Subject: Felt cornish miner's helmets UK theatre
      > production any advice?
      > I am working on the production of a new D M Thomas play
      > in Cornwall
      > UK and need to make some authentic looking miners helmets
      > of the
      > period 1900 .I have seen some of the real things, the
      > were made
      > cheaply in one piece felt, stiffened with resin (?) and
      > had a lump of
      > clay on the front with a candle stuck in.

      I've never made helmets, but I have made several masks in
      felt...I'm happy to pass on what I've learned--

      --Modelling clay makes a good form. Shape it as needed,
      then cover it with a fine layer of petroleum jelly
      (Vaseline, etc), then cover that with a sheet of plastic
      wrap. The Vaseline helps the plastic stick to the form,
      but the plastic makes it easier to remove the felt once the
      glue has dried.

      --I'm not sure what products you have available in the UK,
      but I have used primarily two glues for stiffening felt,
      depending on what results I wanted. Sobo is a white glue
      that leaves a lot of flex in the fabric once it dries.
      Elmers white glue dries very stiff. Dilute the glue (I
      don't have a definite formula for that, sorry, I make it up
      on my own each time), then soak the felt before laying it
      over the form. You can trim sections out of the felt to
      help it lie flat to the form (use scissors that are sharp,
      but not extremely valuable, as there will end up being some
      glue residue on them--it cleans off easily). After you
      remove your project from the form, you can glue material on
      the inside to reinforce these cutout sections. You can
      also use straight pins to pin through the felt into the
      clay to help it lay tight to the form. After the felt
      dries initially (while it is still on the form), coat the
      felt with another layer of glue (undiluted, this time)--or
      even two, if you really need a smooth, strong, durable
      finish--and let it dry.

      --Pop the dried felt off the form, coat the inside with
      glue and allow to dry. You can also trim off rough edges.
      Once this dries, paint it to color with an acrylic paint
      (inside and out--though you may want to start with a felt
      the right color and NOT paint the outside completely, if
      the final product is supposed to look like felt; but
      painting the inside is an absolute MUST DO) to prevent
      moisture (like sweat) from penetrating the glue and
      softening the project.

      > I have never made a felt hat on a block before and am
      > wondering if it
      > is appropriate to start from scratch like that

      I've never done a hat from scratch myself...just masks.

      > or is there perhaps a short cut , given this is theatre
      > not film and
      > nothing will be seen too close up.

      This process is EXTREMELY cheap (the modelling clay is the
      single most expensive item, and it's re-usable), fairly
      simple...it's a little time-consuming because you have to
      wait for glue to dry (you can speed the process with hair
      dryers, heat lamps, or space heaters); but the end result
      is quite durable, easily colored/distressed, etc. If you
      have the connections to do it, you can make your initial
      form, then have someone vacu-form several duplicates to
      give you multiple identical forms. I've done some fairly
      complex masks using this process in a matter of days per

      Hope this helps...I've used the same basic process to do
      some work in fiberglass (but that is a very messy, very
      smelly, very demanding process), and know some others that
      have done it using paper mache (which takes much longer to
      dry, but can provide an almost perfectly smooth finish,
      with some patience). Someone else may have a better
      solution...but were I in your position, this is how I'd
      tackle the challenge. Best of luck!

      Curtis Kidd
      "Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel could be you!"

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