Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Restoring a World War II German Helmet

German M-40 Army Helmet
I bought this German M-40 helmet from a source in Czechoslovakia.  In the pictures it appears pristine, but is actually freckled with rust spots.

The liner, bottom right, is not correct.  This is the type of liner used in World War I German helmets, as well as various European army helmets.

The helmet was painted black after WWII and used as a Civil Defense helmet.  Since the paint and liner are not original, it is permissible to restore the helmet.  You would never want to restore an authentic German army helmet, with the original paint, decals and liner, no matter how poor their condition.  You would be altering an historical artifact, which greatly decreases its interest and value.

This morning I removed the liner, held inside the helmet by three pins.  The liner smelled badly, like old sweat or body odor, indicating it is indeed aged.  The inside of the helmet was fairly rusted, worse than the outside.  I applied a rust remover (Naval Jelly) and got rid of most of it.  I will have to buy some steel wool today and scrub away at what remains.

Next, I washed the helmet and dried it, and applied a paint stripper to both inside and out.  It loosened the paint, but I can see it will take more than one application.  The stuff contains methylene chloride, a rather nasty solvent.  I will have to begin using thicker rubber gloves, as this stuff burns right through the thin ones I was using.  This is going to involve some work.  Ugh.

After I strip off as much paint and rust as possible, I will prime the helmet with Rustoleum, then paint it with German field gray paint.  After that, I will apply German army decals and replace the liner with a good reproduction of the type used in German helmets, an eight finger affair made of goat skin.  Right now, that seems to be days away.

It's difficult to tell whether this helmet ever saw combat.  I doubt it. Thousands of helmet shells were stamped out in advance of need, and many remain in Germany and elsewhere.  Reenactors and hobbyists can buy one of these shells and have it restored to the original condition of a new Nazi helmet.  I am doing my own restoration.  When it is done, I plan to invade the Sudentland.  Or not.

UPDATE:  See the restored helmet here.  I have one last task to do, and that is to seal the decals to prevent them from rubbing off and from scratches.  I have ordered a spray can of Dammar varnish to do that, the same varnish used on the original helmets.


Proof said...

Too cool! I'm sure you'll keep us posted on your progress...

Stogie Chomper said...

Yep! I've never done this before, so I am sure I will learn a lot just by doing it.