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  • Fred

Hang on to your hat (or helmet).

I'm working on a project for an old friend. He's a career C-130 Navigator who just took over a position leading an ROTC detachment. One of his main duties as the Detachment Commander is to motivate the cadets and help them choose the career field that best suits them. To that end, he wants to be able to display his flight helmet from his navigating days so that the cadets can check it out and begin a conversation about a career in flying.

I had a nice chunk of poplar lying around that I thought would do the trick.

This is a piece of 6/4 poplar that's about 11 inches wide. Remember, the thickness of a rough-cut piece of lumber is measured in quarters of an inch, so 6/4 (said "six quarters") is an inch and a half thick. Just right for this project.

Here it is after being run across the jointer and through the planer (which was out of commission for a few days with a shredded belt).

I cut this piece into three pieces: a base, a support rod and a helmet mount.

Base with the support beam above:

The base was cut on the table saw and the band saw. Notice that the front of the base has a beveled edge large enough to mount a plaque with my friend's name on it. The support beam is just a square cross-section piece that will connect the base with the helmet mount.

The helmet mount was a little bit tricky, but a fun challenge. Cutting straight lines in a woodworking shop is pretty much the norm. Cutting circles and curves is a bit more art than science.

To cut the helmet mount (this is a large puck), I first traced out a circle using a compass. I then brought the piece to the band saw and cut just outside the line (about 1/32 of an inch). The bandsaw leaves a slightly rough edge, so leaving a bit of material gives me something to smooth out. I took this rough puck to the disc sander to smooth out the edges.

I don't want just a flat puck to mount the helmet on, it should be flat on the bottom and curved on top, so I broke out the chisels.

Working around the edges and taking off a bit at a time, I rounded the edges of the top of the puck. Above you see it after just a few bits had been taken off. Here's what it looked like after chiseling and before sanding.

I hope my friend isn't hoping for a machine-made looking display piece. If he were, I don't suppose he would have asked me to do it. This piece is hand made and has some carved elements, so it will certainly look hand-made. I'm also planning on carving the support beam.

After the carving, I started drilling holes to insert the support beam into. This will be a mortise and tenon joint. It's EXTREMELY strong.

When I get back to work on this, the hole will be cut into a square to fit the support beam. The same will be done on the hole in the helmet support piece.

The helmet support piece's mortise and tenon joint will be quite visible when the helmet is removed from the stand. I plan to make this a wedged tenon. I will make two longitudinal cuts in the end of the support beam (on each end). Into those cuts I will drive wedges made of walnut to make the joint extremely strong. It will also look wicked awesome.

Thanks for checking the project out and I'll post more as it progresses.

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