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Restoring Doughboy Helmets
By Mickey Collins

To follow up last month's article on the M-1917 helmet, I want to share some tips that I have discovered while painting M-1917 and British "Doughboy" helmets.

Often when restoring a helmet besides replacing a new liner and/or chinstrap we find that we need to re- paint the helmet also. For me, getting a proper color has been the biggest problem. Though we would all like to use original paint or even a good enamel it is almost impossible to find either. So what do we do?

Yep! Commercial paints or paint mixes from the local building supply or retail store. Me? I use Wal-Mart. I have found several "chips" on the paint rack that closely approximate the color I am looking for. The problem is that these are latex, they peel and often the colors dry out different than you expected.

In dealing with these problems I have came up with a few solutions that work for me.

I always take helmet down to base coat or bare metal and spray on good coat of metal primer enamel.

I mix the "mixes" until I get the color I want (add sawdust to paint mix if so desired on M-1917's). REMEMBER! British "Brodie" helmets tend to have a smooth finish. I paint on small area of primed helmet and let dry to see what real color will turn out to be (hold off on mixing in sawdust till you achieve this). When I get the color I want I generally apply two coats of paint. You have to be carefill with latex though because if you use too much it will peel at the helmet edges.

Now you have freshly painted "just issued" in appearance helmet. Plain old "craft" flat black acrylic paint liberally diluted and wiped on the helmet with a paper towel or tissue, works well if you wish to distress/age your helmet. After applying, rub in and wipe off repeating this until you get the desired effect. This process allows for paint to get into the smallest of cracks and areas. If you don't like what you get, you can wash it all offunder a faucet with soap, a little warm water and soft pad. If you do like the result it will wear very well and last indefinitely.

The M-1917 helmet was painted in Olive Drab of varying shades. Most 1st Division helmets I have seen are a medium to dark brown OD shade but I am not sure if that is post war as they were laquered also.

Brodie helmets are more of a yellowish-tan "apple green" but they too varied in shade. I do not believe that British helmets were re-painted to OD for U.S. issue. It would not make any sense to do this.

The U.S. government bought 400,000 helmets from Britain when we entered the war (we had none in our inventory at the time). Since 1st Division went over in the first wave of troops it is certain the initial troops were wearing British helmets. Replacements after January 1918 would have arrived to the front with theM1917.

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