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Reflective Taping an HGU-68/P Flight Helmet
Taping a flight helmet can be very easy as long as you take your time and plan your taping pattern ahead of actually doing it. After seeing hundreds of Naval flight helmets and many different taping patterns, there seems to be no set method of taping, but more of a personal choice. Actual Naval taped helmets are done by Life Support personnel, different squadrons will have different methods. On this HGU-68/P, it is patterned after a "X" pattern seen on an adversary (Top Gun) pilot's helmet. 
As seen above in the first photo, I have picked 2 spots on one side of the helmet that have identical locations on the other side. In this case, I chose in the front where the top of the leather "elephant ear" meets the edgeroll across the forehead. At the rear, the corners of the edgeroll where the nape corners (later photos will show area). Picking these spots gives us a centered "X" in the back of the shell. Please note that all hardware was removed from the helmet. In order to have a neat job, this must be done, then reinstalled later.   
When working with the reflective tape, do not "force" it too much. It may stick for the time being, but if made to go in an unnatural direction it will eventually bubble. Do not be afraid to pull the tape back up in order to get a nicer line. It will be helpful not to press the tape down firmly until you get it in the correct location that you are happy with. In this photo, I have started from the forehead area and began working back to the "X". 
At this point I have laid down 7 strips. The 2 main "X" strips, and these 5 to fill in between the upper arms of the X. Note on the front strip's roundness- this is from the curvature of the shell meeting the leather edgeroll. Taping a helmet is all about "centers" or "halves." For these cross strips, I found the center and butted a strip against the previous one. Then working my thumb from the center to each side, pressing firmly, you will get an identical overlap due to the shell curvature.
Here, the upper part of the X is filled in with 7 cross strips. Notice how even the overlap is on each of the cross strips. The length of each strip is figured by first placing it on the helmet with the backing on. I ALWAYS add some length for error from the MINIMUM amount needed (perhaps 1 finger width each side). I do around 1/16th to 1/8th inch overlap at the ends of each strip. It will be trimmed carefully with a razor blade (photo below). 
After finishing the top of the X pattern, we start on the lower part of the arms. Again, stressing the idea of halves and making mirror images. The bottom part is done in the same order as the top was. Starting at the widest point and work your way up. Be VERY careful when using a razor blade near the edgeroll. It is very helpful to use a fingernail to press the tape as close to the edge as possible. Use minimal pressure so you do not cut the leather or threading that secures it.
In this photo, the overlap on each strip is very evident. Notice how each piece is butted against each other in the center, then allowed to follow the curvature and overlap the previous piece. I constantly use my thumb nail to create a deep crease in the tape where it overlaps. Only do this after you are happy with the location of the tape. 
On the next piece in this photo, I am shown working my thumb from the center out to each side. As you can tell from the previous photos, I trim each piece as I go. Always use caution when cutting tape on tape, as must be done at the ends of the strips where they meet the legs of the X. You only want to cut the overlapping piece- not the underlying piece.
Here I am shown gingerly trimming a cross strip to overlap the X leg around 1/16 of an inch. I do not measure the overlap. Basically I just eye it and try to keep it uniform.  
The upper and lower sections of the X are completed. This was my first attempt at doing the X pattern and I was quite happy with the results at this point. Now was the decision on how to do the left & right sections. I decided to do a different pattern on the sides, since the elephant ears would be in the way of a simple cross strip pattern. 
In this photo, the forehead of the helmet is to the right, the nape area is to the left. I have already added 2 long strips along the side of the lower leg of the X. Again, starting at the center of the lower right leg of the X, I work the tape to the ends, allowing it to follow the curvature.
After adding 3 strips, I come to the first "obstruction," the leather elephant ear. Although obstructions like this are a hassle to work around, upon completion they make the tape job look great because they appear to have been laid down ON the tape (instead of the tape being around it).
I used 1 long strip here because of that 1/8th inch gap seen between the previous strip and the corner of the elephant ear. After this, you can use smaller pieces for the top and bottom areas around the elephant ear. 
I went ahead and did the top area around the elephant ear because it looked easier. Just simply size the tape (leave room for error!), peel backing and lay tape down, when happy with position press firmly, create creases with thumbnail. Be very careful NOT to press tape onto leather elephant ear or edgeroll- when removed it may damage leather. Just crease with fingernail along the edge and you should be OK. 
At this point I have started adding the strips to the lower section around the elephant ear. Working my way forward from the back as I did at the top of the elephant ear. Doing this, it should appear that a long single strip is running beneath the leather elephant ear.
Here is a great example of the amount of overlap I allow for a piece of tape. As the length of the strip of tape gets larger, so should your "error" length. You can also see how I have creased the tape near the elephant ear and edgeroll prior to trimming. Do not worry about taping over holes for bayonet receivers, nape strap, etc- they will be easy to find by feeling through the tape.
After laying the piece in the above photo, I realized the one inch tape was not going to be wide enough to fill the last area in. Thinking ahead that I had to reinstall the bayonet receivers, I made it so the area not covered with tape would be under them. That saved from having a really small piece of tape that might peel off (not to mention that it wouldn't look very good). I have also trimmed around the integrated chin/nape strap slot and other holes around the shell.
This is my favorite part of taping a helmet- adding the hardware back on and seeing excellent results. Notice how the bayonet receiver covers the gap in the tape shown in the above photo.
Mirror image- this is the other side of the helmet as I come to the elephant ear. The single long strip has been laid down and creased at the elephant ear & the edgeroll and is ready for trimming. Although hard to tell in the photo, I have taken great care in not pressing the tape to the leather elephant ear.
The bottom edge already cut with the razor blade, I crease the top edge with my thumbnail. 
Carefully cutting along the edge of the elephant ear and removing the section of waste tape slowly so as not to damage the leather- nice neat result. Now just trim the waste tape at the edgeroll. 
The top section above the elephant ear goes quickly and the helmet is finished. I will run my thumb over each piece again to make sure it is firmly in place. I will also go over each crease again to make sure it is deep and crisp. 
Here all of the hardware is going back on. The general location of the holes should be known- knowing the general location feel for the edge of the hole. I prefer to make an X in the hole rather than cutting a circle out- the X allows the screw to go through but eliminates the possibility of cutting too much tape out. 
A view of the back of the shell. Do not worry if you can not get every piece to be a mirror image of the other side. That would be very difficult and you would waste a lot of tape trying over and over.

For this large HGU-68/P, 6.8 yards (or 20.4 feet / or 244.8 inches) of 1 inch reflective tape was used- this includes "error" length allowed at the end of each piece. 

3M Reflective tape can be purchased here.


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