I'm infatuated with my newly spray painted riding helmet. Sure, underneath it's still the scuffed up, sweated in, basic black helmet I've been using for about a year, but look at this baby now! It's my glittering tiara, my guardian angel, my Superman cape. Look out DQ's in the warm-up, because I AM INVINCIBLE when blissfully encased in my newly pimped-out helmet's metallic awesomeness.
What, you ask? Why not just get a new one?
Well sure, I have my eye on several new helmets (let's see I'll take the One K Defender in grey ... and don't even get me started on my wish list for the Kep Italias), but in the meantime, my current everyday helmet is still quite functional and well within its defined life span. [Manufacturers generally recommend you replace your helmet every 2 to 5 years, but its also important to remember that your helmet is only designed for ONE SINGLE IMPACT, so replace it after a fall regardless of its age.]
Second reason: I'm a total control freak and I wanted a helmet to wear with my Kingsland Magritte Competition Coat that was EXACTLY the right color.
Mostly, however, I wanted to test for myself the phenomenon psychologists call the "Ikea Effect". Researchers at Harvard and Duke coined this term to describe "the cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created." That's right, studies prove that "building/creating your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent." Sounds dressage-y enough to me. Let's get started.
SHADBELLY DIY: Pimp My Helmet
1. Sand. All you need is a super light once over with a fine sandpaper or sanding block. Your goal is simply to smooth out any scratches, break up any caked on gunk, and improve overall adhesion for the glorious paint you've painstakingly chosen.
2. Clean the Thing. Wipe it down well with A MANUFACTURER APPROVED CLEANER. I used a little diluted Fantastic on a cloth, because that's what I've always used for my annual helmet cleanings, but ok, I admit I HAVE NOT DONE THE RESEARCH on whether or not Fantastic is an approved cleaner, etc. etc. I'm sure my wonderfully conscientious readers (and more than a few helmet manufacturers) will set me straight no doubt. [Note: If you or anyone you know is a personal injury attorney, stop reading this blog now, sell your horse and secure yourself safely on the couch with your organic, vegan, organic, gluten-free cupcakes.]
I took out the removable portions of the interior padding and the chin pad, placed them in a mesh lingerie bag and tossed them into the wash along with a bunch of saddle pads. I wiped down the inside of the helmet as best I could, then sprayed a few shots of Charles Owen Helmet Deodorizer (from SmartPak) because well, why not?
3. Allow to Dry. Really well, like overnight. Make the most of this roughly 12 hour "cooling off period" and change your mind on the color ... at least twice.
4. Prepare the Workspace. Overachievers get your drop cloths. Everyone else can just set the helmet on a fence post in a discrete location.
5. Tape. Tape off any areas you want to paint a contrasting color, or not paint at all. I used Frog Tape. It resisted sticking to the outside of my helmet at first, but with a little coaxing I was able to make it work. I tucked my cleaning rag inside the helmet to avoid errant paint.
6. Paint. I originally planned to leave the harness on my helmet its original black color, but after finding out that the AMAZING Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint works on almost any surface, including plastic and VINYL, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
First, I did a quick test spray on a piece of newspaper to get a feel for the nozzle and the volume of paint it produced. Once confident, I lightly sprayed the harness using Rust-Oleum Universal's color "Chestnut", moving from left to right about 8-12 inches from the helmet.
The paint pretty well dissipated into the nylon portion of the harness strap, but who cares? Most of that is going to be covered with the chin pad anyway and I got really nice, uniform coverage on the vinyl portion of the harness.
[Note: If I had it to do over again, I'd choose a non-metallic spray paint for the harness - something that would better replicate the look of a nice leather. Oh and don't even think about tackling this project the night before a show. While the main portion of my helmet dried really quickly, the vinyl was a touch sticky for a few days.]
7. Re-Tape and Paint. Remove the applicable sections of the Frog Tape and reapply tape where needed. If you are applying Frog Tape to areas you previously painted, make absolutely sure the surface is dry. I perched my helmet atop a wine bottle (just happened to have one laying around the house) which enabled me to easily navigate around all sides of the helmet with Rust-Oleum's "any angle" spray paint nozzle.
Painting the main portion of the helmet was instantly gratifying. I chose Rust-Oleum's Universal spray paint in "Burnished Amber" - a near perfect match to the sheen on my Kingsland Magritte. No matter what color you choose, be sure to use a paint that is specifically designed for use on plastic. I spent about 3 hours at Home Depot ruminating over all the spray paint options. In the end, I brought home 4 candidates from the Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic's collection at a cost of $6.76/each.
Ok, listen up. The biggest mistake you can make with this project is apply too much paint. To minimize runs and drips think thin, VERY thin light coats, and allow the paint to dry for a few minutes between each application. Honestly, I almost feel like I just "misted" the helmet a few times with the paint, a light dusting, a whisper - that was plenty enough coverage to change my helmet's look COMPLETELY without ending up with a gloppy, sticky, indiscernible mess. Trust me LESS is MORE.
8. Final Touches. Reposition your now fresh as spring lining and be sure to check for proper helmet fit. I tucked one of those cool turquoise Headline It! No Sweat Comfort Liners in to brighten up the interior.
9. Fall in Love. Stand back and admire your masterpiece. Not perfect? No problem. Researchers found that the IKEA Effect works even when the results are ... well ... less than stellar. Like that crooked table you made when you got your first apartment, you will most likely find yourself quite attached to your customized helmet simply because it is the fruit of your own labor.
Strap on your magnificent partially self-created helmet and RIDE ON!
- Thanks for blogging with SHADBELLY!
IMPORTANT SHADBELLY DISCLAIMER: Consult your helmet manufacturer before applying cleaning agents, paints or adhesives to an equestrian helmet, as these may negatively affect the integrity, stability and protective effect of the helmet ... and you're not supposed to leave your helmet in a hot car either. Oops.