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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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."
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!
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.
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 1: Introduction
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 2: Pepakura
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 3: Fiberglass and Rondo
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 5: Painting, Installing Visor, The Gun
- The Cobra Commander Staff
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