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
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
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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