I love riding my bike. When I moved to a big city I knew there would be plenty of great places to go for a spin, so I bought a familiar model roadbike but didn’t want to ride it in an unfamiliar place —where there was more traffic than I’m used to— until I had a helmet. My uncle solves that right away by giving me an old motorcycle helmet.
It’s incredibly big and awkward looking, which also describes my head to begin with, so it I feel kind of like the Mushroom People from Mario Kart while wearing it. I realize how dome-shaped it is and immediately know what needed to be done.
Before starting a project, I like to do a little research to see if someone has made something similar before. In some cases it’s a good thing because it will provide inspiration or instruction, while in other cases it may just make it not feel worth the trouble. If I want to appreciate the process of making something, I’ll assemble a model or a Lego set. When I make a project from scratch I want to end up with something unique that cant just be bought.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first person to think of doing this. Someone named Jenn made a pretty good version a few years back and blogged about it. Hers was just a paint job though and I already know I want mine to have all the bells and whistles. Speaking of bells, the bike accessory company Bell makes an R2D2 bike helmet, but only in todler sizes. While this version is a little more 3D, it has holes in it and just isn’t as cool as it could be.
So I set to work. I start sanding it down so I know the paint will adhere well.
After removing the bill on the front I spray it with a primer coat and draw out where I want everything to be. This is a lot harder than I expected. R2’s dome is spherical and the helmet isn’t quite, so to get all the components on and in proper proportion takes some thinking. You can find a lot of good R2 DIY guides among the various communities of people dedicated to replicating the droids. The most useful things I found were usually at Astromech.net or the Replica Prop Form.
Once I have it laid out, I make templates of each piece and use these to cut out pieces of neoprene craft foam. I want the designs to stick up off the surface of the helmet a little to accentuate them and because masking out all those elements sounds like a nightmare. For the larger blue piece that holds R2’s eye, I use a piece of the same type of foam that was part of the packaging for something I ordered off Amazon. It’s the perfect thickness and even has the right size hole already cut out.
I use a hole saw bit for the round openings and a Dremel tool for the square ones. Under the shell is about a solid inch of dense styrofoam. This actually works out well because it will give me a way to fit in and wire the lights and sounds.
For the lights I use some cheap LED flashlights. I also got an LED candle and wired the lights for the rectangular banks through the candle circuit so they would flicker.
For the sound I grab a few buttons from the Radio Shack that’s going out of business on my corner (so many cheap components!) and use them to replace the ones on a sound chip from Invitebyvoice.com. The sound chip is programmable, so I get the 5 best sounds I can find and assign them each to a button.
I have a hard time wiring the lights because of how much current the 9 LEDs from each flashlight uses and I end up splitting the solid and flickering ones into two separate circuits.
A lot of painting and gluing later, and she’s all finished up.