SilverState55: Custom & Collectible Football Helmets & Minihelmets

Helmet Crack Repair Helmet Refurbishing Tips & Tricks
**NOTE: This information is provided solely for private collection purposes ONLY.  THIS SITE DOES NOT SELL REFURBISHED FOOTBALL HELMETS, USED FOOTBALL HELMETS, NOR DO WE RECONDITION FOOTBALL HELMETS.  If you need football helmets reconditioned, please contact your appropriate supplier or manufacturer's representative** assumes NO liability for incorrect use of any football helmet.  All helmets subject to the steps listed below are for DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY.  DO NOT USE ANY FOOTBALL HELMET FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE(S) THAN DISPLAY IF YOU SUBJECT IT TO THESE INSTRUCTIONS.  Read and follow any written instructions that accompany any helmet before using.

I still get many inquiries regarding full-size football helmet refurbishing, so to better assist you I've posted these FAQs.

  Do you offer a refurbishing service?


  I just bought a NEW helmet that I want to paint, do I still have to prime the shell before painting?

  NO.  This is totally up to you.  The purpose of the primer is to seal the surface and provide a suitable surface for the paint (color coats) to adhere to.  Proper surface preparation is essential for your final finish to last.

If you are painting similar colors over the original, you probably won't need to prime the shell as long as you do wet-sand the surface first!  This is VERY IMPORTANT to provide the color coats with the necessary adhesion to stay on the helmet; otherwise, you run the risk of having the paint peel right off the too-smooth surface.  If you are painting over a red or yellow helmet shell, these pigments can bleed through your color coats and so a coat of primer to "block" these pigments will be well worth the effort.

Remember, a primer's purpose is to provide a good surface for the color coats to adhere to.  The primer should be used to fill minor scratches and imperfections, block the pigments in the helmet shell itself, and to block to pigments in the underlying paint (if any) from contaminating the color coats.  Sure, you could skip priming the shell and directly apply color coats; but from my experience, priming is always worth the effort.

  I just bought a USED helmet that I want to paint, do I still have to prime the shell before painting?

  See the answer above.

  What type of primer should I use (enamel or lacquer)?

  This is totally up to you.  Enamels are the most common type of spray primers (and paints) and are widely availabe; they are also inexpensive. Enamel primers are fairly forgiving and are best for general uses. They can also be used under most lacquer spray paints, as long as you allow the enamel primer coat(s) to properly cure for at least a week. Why a week? Because the enamel composition is such that it takes about this time to properly cure and harden. If you are spraying enamel colors over the enamel primer, then typcially you only need to wait about 2 days before applying your enamel color coats. This time allows the enamel coats to properly "de-gas" and cure.

Lacquers are more expensive than enamels, but offer a couple of advantages. They dry quickly and allow you to recoat whenever you want without the restrictions of enamels; lacquer primers also cover an area with a thinner coat than enamels. However, lacquer primers are difficult to find; the only ones I've been able to discover are custom-mixed jobs from auto body & paint supply shops, or at hobby shops.

Remember, a primer's purpose is to provide a good surface for the color coats to adhere to.  The primer should be used to fill minor scratches and imperfections, block the pigments in the helmet shell itself, and to block to pigments in the underlying paint (if any) from contaminating the color coats.  Sure, you could skip priming the shell and directly apply color coats; but from my experience, priming is always worth the effort.

  Can I use a sanding block or electrical/air-powered sander to sand my helmet shell?

  I would NOT recommend this.  Take a look at the sanding block or powered sander's surface: it's flat.  Now take a look at your helmet: do you see any flat spots on your helmet?  I didn't think so... all you will end up with are flat spots and ridges all over that helmet surface.  Your hands and fingers can contour themselves to the shape of the helmet much more effectively than anything else I've ever found, so I recommend doing all sanding & polishing by hand.

Something else to consider is the speed of the sanding device.  Many sanders move so fast that heat & debris build up very quickly.  The possibility of these ruining your paint finish is not worth the risk.  Now, if you want to use an electric car wax buffer to apply the machine polish and to shine up the helmet afterwards, as long as the speed is on the lowest setting and you use approved soft buffing cloths, I don't see why this wouldn't work for shining & buffing.  But for sanding, forget it!  Do it by hand, it will save you time & trouble.

  What brand of spray paint should I use?

  Again, this is totally up to you. I have not noticed any difference in paint brands (such as Krylon, Dupli-Color, et al).  Some of my favorites happen to be the generic brands of enamel paints marketed by Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart also carries Dupli-Color lacquers in the automotive section, and some auto supply shops (such as Auto Zone) carry Dupli-Color spray paints (advertised as "auto touch-up paint").

  What type of paint should I use (enamel, lacquer, or urethane)?

  Your choice. Enamels are inexpensive and widely available.  There are a wide range of colors available as well.  Enamels, however, do not dry quickly and require long periods of time to fully cure or "de-gas" (anywhere from a week up to a month).  Enamels, in my experience, do not dry as "hard" as a lacquer coat and are much easier to scratch or mar.  Enamels also require you to spray multiple coats within a specific time period of each, usually 30 minutes between coats, or else you have to wait a minimum of 48 hours between coats (just try otherwise and watch the "orange peel" effect take hold).

Lacquers are more expensive and harder to find. One exception is the Dupli-Color brand of lacquer spray paints, which can commonly be found in Wal-Mart stores as well as automotive supply stores (such as Auto Zone) as "automotive touch-up paint."  Other places to locate lacquer spray paints are auto body & paint supply shops, where you can have custom colors mixed to your specifications and either loaded into spray cans or a tin for your own spray use.  Typically, you will be required to purchase at least a pint of the custom color(s), and prices generally start at around $35/pint.  A pint will fill at least 3 spray cans, so you'll get quite a lot of paint for the money.  Lacquers dry quickly and are not fussy about timing between recoats.  Within a day you should be able to start sanding & polishing lacquer coats.  Lacquers tend to have a more firm finish and seem to be more resistant to chipping/cracking/peeling than enamels do.

Keep in mind that lacquers are considered "hot" paints...what that means is if you apply a lacquer color over an enamel primer, make darn sure that the enamel primer is fully cured (AT LEAST a week).  Otherwise, the lacquer will eat right through the primer and you'll end up with a big bubbly mess.  Some enamel primers are NOT compatible with lacquer top color sure to read the directions and warnings on each can of primer beforehand.

Urethanes are the newest type of paint, and are widely used to paint car bodies.  Urethanes are expensive, and require special compounds and equipment (such as reducing agents to thin out the paint for spraying, an automotive spray gun and an air compressor to run it with).  The resulting finish is absolutely gorgeous, though, and well worth the expense.  The only difficult part is finding anyone to spray your helmet shells.  If you have your own spray booth set up, then you have the ability to apply urethane paint on helmet shells.  I have several helmets with urethane paint coatings, and I am VERY happy with the results.  Urethanes usually come out so smooth and glossy that sanding/polishing is NOT necessary.  A gentleman named Eric Bakken paints helmet shells with urethane enamels, and starts by blasting the shells with glass beads to smooth out any imperfections.  His work is outstanding, and he has done all my urethane painting for me.  His prices are reasonable, and you can contact him HERE for details and pricing.

  Can I use model or hobby paints on my helmet?

  Sure, why not? The only difference I've found between hobby/model spray paints and more traditional spray paints is the price.  Enamels are enamels and lacquers are lacquers.  Enamels are typified by Testor's while lacquers are typified by Tamiya.  There are many many others, those are just two examples.

Hobby shops usually carry a wide assortment of paint types, brands, and colors. I've never found a difference between brands, just between types (enamels vs. lacquers). Most hobby spray paints are identical to their larger cousins you will find in hardware & auto stores. I've used hobby spray paints on helmet shells with no difference in method or technique as compared to the larger cans...they all end up with the same results. Just keep in mind that it will take more than one hobby spray can to coat a full-size helmet, and you could end up paying more for several hobby spray cans than by just buying one inexpensive can of primer. The choice is totally up to you.

I've had questions about using airbrushes to apply custom-mixed paint to helmets.  This will work, but unless your airbrush can handle large volumes of paint to cover that big helmet is another story...I'd recommend using a PreVal sprayer instead (available from auto paint & body supply shops).

  Do I have to sand and polish after painting?  What about a clear coat instead?

  No, of course not.  Several collectors tell me that they have had excellent results after spraying lacquer color coats, and sealing it with a lacquer clear coat WITHOUT going through the sanding/polishing process; if it works for you, great!. However,I live in a very arid climate, so many times the paint begins to dry before it even hits the helmet shell, and dust particles constantly find their way into the new paint! So I almost inevitably have to color sand every finish that I apply. But if you don't need to color-sand, and can get a good, smooth finish straight from the can, then apply your decals and enjoy your good fortune!

Be aware that enamel clear coats will turn yellow over time, especially if they are exposed to any sunlight.  Lacquer clear coats are less likely to turn yellow over time, but it can happen.

  Where can I get football helmet decals?

  Try eBay or check Facebook for helmet discussion.

Please keep in mind that in no way promotes nor encourages the unauthorized reproduction or use of copyrighted materials. The majority of decals reproduced are custom decals for private businesses and fantasy football leagues that hold the proprietary rights to the images being reproduced in decal form. All images reproduced in decal form are the property of their respective owners and are used by permission.

  Where can I purchase football helmets, facemasks, and helmet parts?

  Check out my LINKS page.

  Do you have paint codes or data available for any teams' colors?

  No, I do not. Try the Society for Sports Uniforms Research, or the discussion groups listed above.

  Can you give me any technical details on specific helmets, or a history of specific types of helmets?

  No, but the good folks at Helmet Hut sure can! I don't think there's a helmet question out there that they couldn't answer.  They also carry replacement parts for the Riddell RK helmets.