[Editor's Note: Great DIY story today from Mark Kluczynski, who wanted to get his favorite NFL team's helmet juuuuusssst right. -- PL]
By Mark Kluczynski
Back around 2001 or 2002, I wanted a “real” Bills helmet to display but was frustrated that the helmets for sale had little details on them that you wouldn’t see on the field. They were always quarterback-style but the facemask wasn’t like any that a Bills player ever wore. Also, the warning decal on the back was usually the wrong color, and they had a Riddell decal on the back that wasn’t on the helmets they wore on the field.
It seemed foolish to drop upwards of $150 and end up with something I wasn’t satisfied with. So I decided to make my own.
I stared with an old red helmet that I purchased on eBay for about $35. It was advertised as a Bills helmet but obviously the decals were too small and were peeling and there was nothing authentic about it. Nevertheless, it looked to have a red shell that was in decent shape, so I placed the only bid. It arrived looking and smelling like something that had sat around in the living room of a chain smoker for 20 years. I removed the facemask (not authentic-looking), clips (yellowing, needed to be replaced), padding (OK to re-use after some soap and water), and decals, leaving me with just a blank shell.
In the meantime, I studied photographs from Sports Illustrated issues I’d saved from the late ’80s and ’90s. I bid on eBay for a Bills decal kit, choosing one that came with a “free NFL sticker” for the helmet. It also had the “Bills” neck bumper decal, which I decided I needed since the players all seemed to have those. I think the decals cost me around 15 bucks. I also purchased the warning decal with white letters on a clear backing, to match the on-field helmets (there were a couple of eBay sellers that printed these in a variety of colors). That was maybe 10 bucks, which seemed like a lot but I couldn’t find it any cheaper at the time.
I purchased a linebacker-style facemask from an online retailer, which came with plastic clips to replace the ones I’d discarded. On many photos I noticed there was a larger white clip that was often fastened near the ear hole. Research revealed this was a “shock blocker” clip and I decided I needed to purchase those to be authentic.
I also purchased a hard-cup four-point chinstrap from the Riddell website, which I believe was just coming online about that time.
I cleaned the helmet shell and then buffed it with synthetic steel wool, leaving a dull finish. I carefully applied the decals based on photos, with the nose of the buffalo just above the front padding clip, the front toe just above the bulge for the ear hole, and the back toe coming down at about the same height as the rear neck bumper. The center blue stripe was easily applied on the raised area of the shell and the white stripes are applied to leave red stripes of the same width. Back in those days they had white numbers that were incorporated into the base of the white stripe in the rear, but I decided to go with no number and keep it generic. Based on a tip I found online, I then coated the entire helmet with Future brand floor polish, which brushes on like water but leaves a great durable shine.
Then I carefully reinstalled all the padding, facemask, and snaps for the chinstrap. It probably took me four months of research, purchasing, and actual assembly (a process that would be much faster with all of the online resources these days). I’m sure it’s not 100% authentic, but I’m completely satisfied with what I ended up with. And the whole thing cost me about $100.
And you know what happens now: Paul here, with our regularly scheduled dose of bonus DIY coverage:
• From Steve Johnston: “I recently took my son to a DePaul basketball game and wanted to have a Blue Demons T-shirt for him to wear. But I’m not a fan of the current DePaul logo, so I made a shirt with the old logo. I started with a pennant that has the old logo and scanned it into my computer. Then I used Photoshop to remove the background color, so the logo was on a plain white background. I had some Avery inkjet T-shirt iron-on transfers here at the house (from another project) and printed the logo on one of them. Then I went to Wal-Mart and got lucky, because they were selling their kids’ long-sleeve tees for $3. Long story short. It worked great. No, it’s not as nice as a silk-screened shirt, but not bad nonetheless. I’ll likely be making a few others down the road.”
• From Larry Bodnovich: “I made myself Ohio State throwbacks from 1917 (based on this), 1928 (based on this), 1931 (here’s the back view; it’s based on this), and 1942 (based on these). Now, I did these before learning about some of the talented Uni Watch DIYers, and I have little artistic ability and no sewing skills, so I just went for the look of the Buckeyes’ old jerseys. I used fabric paint for the 1931 design and had the #42 printed for the 1942 jersey (I had to tweak the 2 to get it to look just right). But after reading the Bryan Justman DIY entry and the Facebook DIY page, I have now learned how to find an old-fashioned font, size it, and print it on cardstock to use for tracing old fonts that I would not have been able to do. So I recently made a simple 1929 Buckeye throwback and a 1934 design with old-style fonts (no photos of my versions yet). For now, I have just painted the numbers on using fabric paint, but in the future I may try to use material to sew the numbers on. I’m not as skilled as many of the DIYers, but I made my jerseys for myself and am pleased.”
• As some of you may have seen in last Wednesday’s comments, Matt Powers has completed his latest sweatshirt project — a mashup of Virginia Tech graphics (additional pics here, here, and here). And yes, he misspelled Druckenmiller, so he went back and fixed it.
Resarch Project: Got an interesting note yesterday from Derek Weidl, who’s a TV producer at Red Canoe Productions in Canada. He’s working on a project that I wanted to share with you:
We’re working with Canada’s CBC Documentary channel on our quest to find a Hamilton Tigers NHL sweater, which was listed as one of the top 25 lost sports treasures in a 2005 Sports Illustrated article. We know that at least one sweater exists — a local Hamiltonian collector had a sweater in the early ’90s but sold it for a mere $500 to an unknown American when his life was threatened. The collector doesn’t have a record of the guy’s name or location. We estimate that the jersey would now fetch upwards of $60,000.
We’ve immersed ourselves into the collector’s world and are hunting down descendants. As our leads begin to dry up on those fronts, we are looking to open up our search to a broader audience. We just had an article in the Hamilton Spectator, and we’re also getting the word out via several TV and radio outlets. Since your audience is interested in sports uniforms, I was hoping we might be able to work together.
If you have any leads for Derek, contact him here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Last year’s Chivas jersey had relatively restrained logo creep — especially when compared to this year’s model (with thanks to Randy Williams). … Two teams are adding memorial patches: the Angels, for Preston Gomez, and Virginia Tech basketball, for Allen Calloway. … And Spectacular photo gallery of Umbro soccer jerseys here (with thanks to Tim O’Malley). … Yesterday’s entry on cycling jerseys prompted Zach Laughrey to direct me to this site, which sells lots of cool cycling gear, including some wool jerseys. … And then there are these guys, who offer custom-designed wool cycling jerseys (with thanks to Kevin Corcoran), and these guys, who make some great wool throwbacks, including several designs that were featured in yesterday’s book review. … Remember my recent entry about the Cheney Studs? Austin Cohoon used to work at Cheney Stadium back when he was in high school and passed along this tidbit: “There were all kinds of murals around the stadium. My favorite was this one, showing all of the teams that called Cheney Staduim home since it opened in 1960. From left to right: Giants, Cubs, Twins, Yankees, Tugs, Tigers, and Rainiers. The name Tigers for the A’s affilate in the ’80s and ’90s was a homage to the old Tacoma Tigers of the PCL, which was sold to the San Diego and later became the Padres.” … Also from Austin: “The University School (a private school run by Nova Southest Univ.) has copied Oregon’s uniforms.” Wow. Additional pics here. … “Every year the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) wear special jerseys for charity auctions,” says Mike Kingery. “In past years they’ve done a Boise State football theme. This year they wore an American flag-themed jersey to honor the World Special Olympic Winter Games, which just wrapped up in Boise.” … Paul Bielewicz is working to document the uniform and graphic history of the Rochester Red Wings (the nation’s oldest minor league franchise, don’tcha know). “One detail that’s proven difficult to document is a one-year style that the Wings wore in 1932,” he says. “Until a few days ago, all I had to go by was a team photo and a few questionable illustrations. But I recently stumbled across a link to an old home movie taken at the Wings’ 1932 home opener. Among the interesting tidbits I gleaned from the video are much better views of the pennant-shaped ‘wings’ on the sleeves, which were unique to this one-year style. In addition to this, the video shows their two-tone hats (which were colored on the front panels and white in the back — the opposite of the modern convention), colored belt tunnels and pocket flaps, and some decent views of the beautiful outfield scoreboard and advertisements.” … Yesterday’s Ticker item about Andy Chalifour turning his battered old caps into fridge magnets struck a chord with Dan Wagner, who writes: “I too get very attached to my old hats. Until recently, I had an old University of Michigan hat that I’d for over 10 years. This past fall, a coaching buddy and I took a trip up to Ann Arbor to take in the UM/MSU game in the Big House. After the game, I paid my last respects by placing the hat on one of the rails at the edge of the field, took a few pics, then left. Even though I know my hat probably ended up in some dumpster somewhere, the last time I saw it was in the Big House. My original plan was to get onto the field or throw the hat onto the field, but the police officers standing nearby didn’t seem too happy that UM lost to those guys from East Lansing for the first time in like 1,200 years.” … I’ve previously run photos of motocross rider Chad Reed wearing Chargers gear, and now another motocross guy is doing the same thing: Ryan Villopoto. “And Josh Grant, another racer, reportedly wore a Chargers jersey during practice laps,” reports Sean Clancy. … I really need to do more research on Congressional baseball games (great find by Bob Andrews). … A while back we had some chatter about how frat guys at Hamilton College would dress up in bizarro outfits while working the chain gang during Hamilton football games. There’s some photographic documentation of that phenomenon here (with thanks to Mark Kluczynski). … The new Women’s Professional Soccer league will be unveiling its uniforms next Tuesday evening. … If you’ve been dying to own some Marshall uniforms, here’s your big chance (thanks, Phil). … The Lions, after stoking lots of logo and uni rumors, are now playing coy. You heard it here 17th: They’re making small changes but nothing radical. … The 49ers will unveil their long-rumored new uni set on April 25th. … Nike has struck a deal to provide footwear for all SWAC teams, in all sports, forever and ever amen (with thanks to James Prentice). … Ryan Hossner sent along this video clip, which he accurately describes as “a veritable treasure trove of mid-’80s European basketball jerseys. From 0:30-0:40 or so, you can see Fernando Martin and at least one of his teammates wearing sleeved basketball jerseys — but the rest of the team did not! Sleeved basketball jerseys are rare enough, but an OPTIONALLY sleeved jersey is pretty crazy.” … Last weekend I mentioned that I’d seen a red-topped mailbox in an overrated 1971 movie about junkies. Now it turns out that there’s a red-topped mailbox — or, even better, an old-school red-topped letterbox — still in service in Manhattan (best news of the day, courtesy of Kirsten). … The Hurricanes retired Glen Wesley’s number last night. Photos of the ceremony are here, and game photos showing the two commemorative patches (one on the chest, one on the shoulder) are here. … Here’s a real prize: a vintage salesman sample jockstrap (which I might actually have to bid on, simply because of that “Duribilknit” tag). … Cool find by Brendan Tarpey: Hiroshima Carp manhole covers. … Good info here about the Titans’ AFL anniversary plans (with thanks to Adam Loving). … A Colorado county is letting its residents vote on whether to adopt a new country logo design (as forwarded by Stan Bush). … More about Frankie Rodriguez’s tinted contact lenses in the “Not Fashion, Just Function” section of this report. … Not uni-related, but several of you have asked for my take on yesterday’s A-Rod-athon, so here it is: Aside from the obvious (i.e., he’s not a very good liar, which we already knew), the main thing that kept going through my head was, “What a thoroughly boring person.” Now, most pro athletes are boring — that’s what happens when you spend so much of your time on airplanes, in hotels, and in gyms. It’s not exactly a stimulating environment. But even by the relatively low socio-dynamic standards of people who get paid to hit a ball of twine with a stick, A-Rod strikes me as a particularly uncompelling character. I don’t mean he’s stupid — I mean he’s dull. Can you imagine talking with him about books, movies, design, or any other creative enterprise? Can you imagine him trying to tell a good joke? A good story? Yes, he’s a gifted athlete, duh, but take him off the field and there’s no there there. He’s got zero charisma, zero spark, zero curiosity, zero anything. And I’m baffled by the frequent references to him being handsome, good-looking, and so on — to my mind, he doesn’t even have that going for him (I don’t mean that as a potshot; I’m just using it as another measure of how uncharismatic I find him). All he has is some money. Okay, a lot of money, but that’s boring too, because it’s too big for us to wrap our heads around, so it becomes cartoon money. He’s a cipher at best, a construct at worst. I’m rooting for his story to go away, and fast, mainly because I’m tired of devoting time and thought to such an uninteresting person. And you can say what you want about Barry Bonds, but there’s no denying that most of what I’ve just written here wouldn’t apply to him.