Yeah, I Cosplay: Making A Cobra Commander Costume Part 4

Post 6th Bondo Coat

So, I never realized I had any OCD tendencies until I reached the Bondo and Sanding phase of creating a Cobra Commander helmet. I had nearly moved on to the painting stage. I was *this* close. That was until I sprayed on a coat of primer and realized that my helmet looked like a hyperactive kindergartener’s paper mache project. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I still couldn’t let the bumpiness slide. My entire Sunday was spent adding a sixth full coat of Bondo and sanding some sexy curves into the helmet.

And to think I brushed aside warnings that the Bondo/sanding portion was the most difficult part of this process. After the first week in this stage, I could almost hear Terry Silver from Karate Kid III saying, “Now the real pain begins, Danny-boy.”  

You know, I spent years proselytizing Karate Kid III’s greatness to a chorus of jeers and snickers. Now, through the jaded eyes of a middle-ager, I guess I can understand why the movie is so reviled.

Still, Terry Silver is forever my go-to for all occasions that demand a malicious, venom-tinged quote. The ludicrously evil, millionaire, toxic waste mogul had a peculiar fixation with punishing young Daniel-san for winning a small-time karate tournament. My working thesis is Silver was an old filthy with a fetish for dominating teenage boys.

Post 5th Bondo Coat

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! It's lumpy! Back to Bondo.

What, do you think you can rely on that crane crap?

What, do you think you can rely on that crane crap?

That was a bit of a tangent. And now for a jarring segue from Karate Kid III to building a Cobra Commander cosplay helmet.

The Bondo/Sanding Phase

Bobby At Work

Me sanding and applying some spot putty. My wife calls this my Dexter table.

I have a couple of power-sanders; I figured that would ease most of the difficulty attributed to the Bondo/sanding stage. The hard part, however, is not the manual labor of sanding or even piling on endless coats of toxic body filler. The difficulty is in mentally accepting when the job is actually complete.

Cobra Commander Bondo

The first of many Bondo applications. It only takes 20-30 minutes for this stuff to solidify enough for sanding.

CObra Commander After Bondo

And here's the result after sanding down the first coat of Bondo. Not bad. Not good either. Next coat!

Bondo, sand, Bondo, sand, Bondo, sand. It’s actually addictive and it’s not just the mesmerizing, noxious fumes. Each coat of Bondo produced a progressively smoother finish that magically wiped away most evidence of my inept Pepakura skills. For days, every bump or crevice in the helmet simply demanded another full round of Bondo and sanding. Even typing this now, after spending all day applying a sixth coat, I’m still convincing myself not to pull an all-nighter and do a seventh.

Mouse Sander

Mouse Sander. I hated its fragile, specialized velcro base, but I've learned to love this thing during this Bondo phase.

After applying the hardener, Bondo rapidly congeals into a useless rock. You have mere minutes to slather it onto the helmet. Mix small batches at a time or else you’ll just end up pissing away your paycheck. Go with no more than a tennis ball-sized helping of Bondo, and then add a little dab of the hardener on top. As for the exact amount of hardener, I went with roughly a thumbnail sized dab per batch. That gave me a reasonable amount of time to apply the Bondo and smooth it out some, which saves a little sanding. Experiment with the amount of hardener and see which works best for you.

Bondo Hardener

Just use a little bit of Bondo at a time to minimize waste. The red goop on top is the hardener. Mix this up until you get a smooth, eraser pink color. Then slap that shit on quick!

As for the sanding, after each Bondo application use 60 or 80 grit to strip away all the nasty Bondo. Then gradually work your way up to 220 grit. Pay careful attention to the curve of the helmet and smooth out all of the subtle bumpiness. These bumps will rear their ugly head after applying primer. A final round of 320 grit sandpaper should leave the helmet with a nice slick finish.

After five full coats of Bondo, I finally stopped the insanity and switched to spot applications of Bondo putty. Little did I know that all this fine-tune puttying and sanding would be fully erased by the need of a sixth coat.

Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty

This putty is a lifesaver for dealing with Bondo's annoying habit of leaving pits and pores all over.

Bondo has a habit of leaving pores everywhere. Don’t sweat these too much; use Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty to fill these in later. The advantage to the putty is that you don’t need to whip up a whole batch of Bondo and rush on craggy layers. You can take your time, pick your battles, and cover up divots and bumps with reasonable precision.

The downside to the putty is that sanding it can disintegrate your hard work like chewing a stick of 20 year-old Topps bubblegum. Am I the only one who’s ever opened an old pack of baseball cards and mindlessly tossed the gum in my mouth? One of life’s greatest horrors is realizing this blunder and spewing gritty bubblegum dust like a Cinnamon Challenge video on YouTube (the good part is around the 1:00 mark). Anyway, only use 320 grit or finer for sanding the putty.

After six full coats of Bondo, two applications of putty, two more Bondo coats on the trim, and a coat of primer, here’s the final result:

After the 6th Bondo application

The is the result of a hard day of Bondo'ing, sanding, and puttying. Now to add some primer so it doesn't look like a herpied penis head.

Post 6th Bondo Coat

And here's the result after a coat of primer. Much better. There's still some minor bumpiness, but I've GOT to move on to the painting.

Post 6th Bondo coat


Post 6th Bondo Coat


So, I jacked up my other helmet

Like Epic Fail. I mentioned in my last post that the Rondo job was way more flexible than I expected which already had me nervous. When a crack began to form on the inside of the helmet, I considered just chucking the helmet.

I jacked up my other helmet

Yeah, now it's an indestructible piece of crap. This is after I used a heat gun to undo some of the warping. It's still a bit off. Fixable, but meh.

In a desperate attempt to save the helmet, I decided to reinforce the Rondo with a layer of fiberglass. Unfortunately, the drying fiberglass sucked in the helmet like Spanx on a world-class twerker. The helmet seemed irreparably warped. However, using a heat gun, I managed to mold it back into a reasonable facsimile of a Cobra Commander helmet. But, I’m running out of time before DragonCon, so I’m sidelining it until the other helmet is fully complete. Which is really my way of saying, "Fuck this."

Bumble Hands

Fiberglass + adhesive + safety gloves = Bumble Hands.

And About That Staff

Todd’s hard at work on the Cobra Commander staff. He sent me a set of pics this evening for this post. He applied Bondo to the staff and he’s now in the detailing phase. Check out his attention to detail: dude’s using the actual scale pattern of a King Cobra to etch in the details with a Dremel tool. Love it!

Cobra Commander Cosplay Staff

The current progress of Todd's Cobra Commander staff.

Side view of the staff

A view of the staff after the Bondo application

Staff with scale template

Todd er, scaled up, his scale template to match the size of the staff.

Side View

Side view of the staff with the scale template


Staff Template

This figure's staff is Todd's template.

Next up is the painting stage and applying a visor to the helmet. I’ve also started the process of disassembling a perfectly good NES Zapper to serve as the base of my Cobra Commander gun. So painful to cut this baby up. If all goes well, I may have a post on that in the next week, too.

The innards of a NES Zapper

A little teaser for next time. The innards of a NES Zapper before I chop it up into a Cobra Commander gun.


To Do List – Cobra Commander Costume
  • Build Pepakura
  • Resin, Rondo, and Bondo the helmet
  • Sand, sand, and uh sand some more
  • Primer and paint helmet
  • Beg father-in-law to donate a strip of white vinyl for the glory of Cobra
  • Create form for visor
  • Build vacuum-forming machine (Shyeah! Right!)
  • Purchase sheet of plexiglass and mirror tint
  • Shape and tint visor
  • Procure NES Zapper
  • Build gun from deadly combo of styrene, Worbla, and NES Zapper
  • Paint Cobra Commander-fied NES Zapper
  • Get black leather gloves
  • Get holster for weapon
  • Let Todd complete that amazing Cobra Commander staff


Comments (5) Trackbacks (4)
  1. Wow! You did a great job!

  2. That looks amazing! I a impressed. How is Mrs. Zenestex’s costume coming along?

    • She answered below, but her costume is coming along nice now. All she really has left is sewing. I toyed with the idea of making her a weapon, but I’m probably out of time now. She was wearing in her thigh boots yesterday. Pretty hilarious seeing her walk around all day in white, vinyl, thigh boots while wearing her vegging clothes.

  3. Scaled up…bwah ha ha ha.

    Frosta is moving forward. I cut out the skirt fabric last night and primed the top armor. Still quite a bit to work on, but, finally, it looks like the costume is a go for this year’s con.

  4. wow…. awesome job (alot of work) it”s going to look very cool