Mk 50 Compression Suit — The Helmet Begins

I know I haven’t posted anything here for a while.  I ended up taking a bit of a break after DragonCon 2015, but I already had a thought in the back of my mind of what I wanted to work on next.  Unfortunately, we won’t be able to attend DragonCon in 2016, so I’ll have two years (more or less) to finish off my next Alien costuming project, so I decided to get a little more ambitious.  I’m going to make my own Mk 50 Compression Suit like the ones used by Dallas, Kane and Lambert to explore the derelict.

I’ve done some research and it seems the original suits used in the movie were not particularly comfortable for the actors to wear;  I mean to the point where people were passing out from the heat and lack of air.  Obviously that isn’t going to cut it if I plan to wear this thing for very long, so this will be my first costuming project that will require some form of life support in terms of cooling and ventilation.  One thing at a time though–I’ve decided to tackle the helmet first.

The helmets are pretty big, but I needed to figure out just how big.  I took a few screen captures from the film and made some measurements in Photoshop.  I made the assumption that the average width of a male head is about 6 inches (I found that somewhere on the internet.) and used that to extrapolate the size of the face plate.  The measurement I came up with was 16 inches in diameter.  The next step was to figure out what I could use for the glass portions of the helmet.  What I found is a clear acrylic globe for a street lamp, and, wouldn’t you know, they just happen to make them with a diameter of 16 inches.  If you are interested, you can pick up your own clear acrylic globe from 1000Bulbs.com.

Mk. 50 Helmet Broken Globe

The big ole crack in the acrylic globe. My spirits dropped when I first saw it. But before it’s over that crack will be completely cut away, so it’s not as bad as it looks.

Mine showed up at the doorstep yesterday, so I decided to play with it a little bit.  It’s going to take a lot of staring at reference pictures to get the design right, but one thing is certain:  I won’t need the whole globe.  It looks like it is going to get cut roughly in half, which is lucky because the globe I got was cracked.  The crack wasn’t big enough to make the thing useless, so rather than go to all the trouble of sending it back and getting another one, I decided to keep it.

I spent some time today trying to figure out a good way to cut this thing.  I learned a couple of things that don’t work at all and a method that sort of works.  I started out with a coping saw, but the sawing motion put too much pressure on the globe and I ended up making the crack even bigger as it flexed back and forth!  Oops!  Then I was going to use the Dremel with a cut-off wheel.  Unfortunately my Dremel was broken (the motor runs, but the shaft won’t spin–crap!), so that was a no-go.  Next I tried a razor saw, which is like a tiny dovetail saw.  I used the razor saw to cut a shallow scoring mark around the globe and then just continued making the groove deeper and deeper by sawing repeatedly around in a circle.  This worked, but took forever!  In the end I cut off all of the cracked portion of the globe just so I won’t have to worry about the cracks propagating across the whole thing.  I now have a globe with a 12 inch neck opening, which, incidentally, is more than big enough for me to fit my noggin through.  Pretty cool, but I’m not looking forward to cutting this thing again.  I may need to invest in a new Dremel, because I’m pretty sure that would have worked and been a lot easier.

So, that’s where I am right now.  There’s going to be lots of planning ahead to figure out the best materials to use, measurements,  how to incorporate adequate ventilation, and probably a million other things I haven’t thought of yet.  This should be interesting.

Mk 50 Helmet - Test Cut of Acrylic Globe

The results of my attempts to learn the best method for cutting an acrylic globe. It now has a 12 inch neck opening, all of the cracked bits are gone, and there is more than enough left with which to construct the Mk. 50 Helmet. So far I’m pretty happy.  Naturally, I couldn’t resist sticking my head in there.

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