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Crest project for a Corinthian helm
I have recently finished a project which might interest some of the members here. I have created a horsehair crest for a Manning Imperial Corinthian helmet. Included are some images of its construction, particularly the dyeing process, which was documented for my customer.

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The hair in a laundry bag, ready for a mordant bath of cream of tartar and alum.

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Weighing out dyestuff for a sample - I used madder and cochineal. You can see the cochineal beetles on the scale.

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The hair drying after sitting in the cooling dyebath over night. A far more vibrant red than I had hoped for with traditional dyestuffs. Thanks to John at for excellent advice and supplies.

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The crest finished and roughly trimmed.

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The crest stiffened with 'helmet head' hairspray and trimmed. Voila.

If anyone is curious about some detail not covered here, feel free to ask.

Do you have a picture for us of the finished crest detached from the helmet, in "wardrobe position" so to speak?
No, that isn't something I thought to photograph.
Do you have the exact formula for dying it red?

I followed the advice here for making a dyebath. Weight of fabric is used to determine amounts, but horse hair has less surface area than wool - I still went with the high-end recommendation because I didn't want an orangey-pink crest. The madder contributes the orange and rusty tones in the colour, and the cochineal is responsible for the vibrant red. Cochineal is expensive, but the dye specialist told me to strain the beetles out of the dyebath and re-use them. The other important consideration is temperature. If you want red from madder you need to control the temperature carefully. If it overheats you will get closer to brown. Also, neither madder nor cochineal require mordant to strike well, but it is recommended for increased vibrancy and colourfastness.

I used traditional materials because it tickled my fancy, but there are certainly easier, cheaper ways to dye hair if it just the result you are interested in.

Is Helmet Head the name of the brand or is that a type that multiple brands produce? Is it something that can be purchased at a local Fred Meyer or Target or does one need to go over the internet for it? Thanks.

This is the stuff I used. I am not sure what stores might carry it in the States - I bought mine in an exclusively Canadian chain store. Anyway, I don't think that the brand is all that important, as long as it holds well.
Thank you, Mr. Hildebrandt. I couldn't find it for sale locally, so I purchased it via Amazon. Thanks again.

That's my Manning helmet and crest. It's been worn by hundreds if not thousands of kids and adults since I received it. This helmet is my most popular piece, by far, and the crest still looks great. Its only been dropped once and that was by me.

The crest is always taken off for storage and laid flat on brown paper to keep it dry.

Before each presentation I use Sassoon Flexible Hold on it and that works well. Before I spray it I get it thoroughly damp, not wet, and form it into the shape I want. I lay it on its side and spray one side at a time, giving each side a few minutes to dry before flipping it over. Generally each side gets two sprays. I then let it dry on its side overnight.

I don't connect it back to the helmet again until right before it gets used.

My preference is for a stiff high crest and no natural horse hair crest is going to stay up straight and not get fuzzy for long without some help. Not sure what the ancients used, but generally the crest is depicted high and stiff.
Joe Balmos

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