Custom wood helmets to delight and inspire you


Mountain Bike trails and Wood Helmets November 17 2015

Over the past year we have developed a new Hard Hat line and two new helmet styles that fill out that line . These are a wood forestry helmet and a baseball cap style common in industrial manufacture and construction  A large part of the motivation for prototyping and then finishing these product lines has been my volunteer work a local non-profit trail building group and their membership. I serve on the board of the group and have spent a lot of free time raising money for the group and building trails out in the forest. You will see some of the images from just a few events on this post including a the local business owner that has supported us, even as much larger box stores have dragged their feet.  

While building we always wear the hard hats and they can sometimes feel like a nuisance. So, to make things more fun, I used them as inspiration to create a couple of new helmet lines. So far hard hats have been built up from Oak, Maple, Douglas fir and Black Walnut.  To date these helmets have not been tested and it is likely that wood is not the best material for hard hats. Hard hats work differently than bicycle, skiing, motorcycle or equestrian helmets do and we sell these explicitly as artwork. Nonetheless they have been popular and fun to build and figure out. We connected with a business in Wisconsin that now builds custom leather and canvas harnesses for this product line to keep the integrity of the natural material theme intact.

Getting back to what inspired all of this, the trail building has been a huge passion for me. It gets me outside with my dogs and working hard with my body along with other folks creating community by serving the community.  I've met lots of really generous people who have a lot of great energy to share.

Designing trails is, it turns out, a balanced combination of exact science and creativity. That exists in building helmet as well. On trails there are certain parameters that need to be followed to make a trail sustainable and make it work with the bike.  Some of those things are really well defined han use established technology and methods. Some of the things are done through experience, by eye and intuition. Making a wood helmet is much the same. From understanding the software it takes to design the initial model to setting up the CNC machine correctly and then using creativity and gut feelings to finish and craft the rough stock so that it brings out the grain and the color of the wood.  In the end it's just really great to be able to build helmets that are iconic symbols of both trail building and trail riding.

Building a trail is its own custom product.  The community comes together to create a sort of functional art that is the product of many minds and serves the experience of many more.  Trails are a sort of legacy object.  They have existed for most all of human history and we still make them today.  They exist in sayings and cliches and there is no one in the world who would not know what a trail is or what it is for.  Across cultures they are ubiquitous and historic.  I suppose I am drawn to those sorts of legacy objects and it is what has me fascinated with the helmets we build.  The simplicity and history of them.  I think that is a big and core part of what our helmets offer people.  That sense of nature as art and as tool.  Going back to our connection and deep dependency on nature to do our lives.  I like seeing our helmets as a touchstone for reflection on nature and the magic of what can be brought out of it.

WIN EXPO 2015 November 08 2015

Last night Coyle tree pieces hosted a booth at the 2015 Willamette innovators network Expo at Hewlett-Packard campus in Corvallis.  The Expo has been a event that showcases, annually, various tech and innovation business start ups in the area. Coyle has been invited to participate each year based on the patented technology that we use in our natural fiber helmets and based on other prototyping work that we do (Currently, we are looking at developing a new product with an extremely earth friendly theme that would address a large segments of the helmet product world.) Participation in this event who's been relieve able to however development has a helmet technology company. Mostly, we are viewed as a company that makes beautiful helmets. However, the sometimes more exciting and more challenging part of what we often do is to figure out how to improve the performance of our helmets given they are made of alternative materials.  This show was no exception. There was a variety of micro manufacturers and makers using various types of 3d printing machines as well as more traditional CNC technologies. Being able to see what these people are doing and pick their brains is invaluable. Also, there were other innovative industries, such as, for example, one that has created a protein powder using crickets.  Other companies were building electrically powered garden and farming implements, an essential oils extractor kit, small scale nuclear power plants, fighting robots and on and on. These companies and their product development stories are just really fun to learn about. Meeting the people behind it all is an experience full of eccentricity, optimism and genuine curiosity.  Seeing people do new things and being successful with it inspires us to get off the couch regarding ideas that we have been excited about but maybe aren't putting 100% into.  Going back to the shop today has me thinking about getting a few new tools, small ones, so that we can try out some fun stuff and the story inspired about what is possible.  In the end it's less about cool ideas and more about the courage and assistance involved in making an idea a reality.  While at out booth we got such amazing interest and encouragement from folks who were clearly inspired by the helmets, the cork interior and their weight (which was really satisfying as we have worked so hard to get the weight competitive with the weight of mainstream helmets.)  The folks at WIN who put on this event each year really give the community a new venue for connection and collaboration.  In the course of the evening we met several professionals and entrepreneurs that were interested in corresponding together in the future on various projects.  Always a boost of energy to get that type of new interest and energy from the community here locally.  Next year we hope to come to the show with some new models and new product lines that will keep the spirit of innovation alive in the Willamette Valley.Lulu & Jackson at the WIN Expo booth

Myrtlewood Burl Holz, first of its kind. Thanks Ron! October 31 2015

This amazing helmet came from a rare piece of Myrtlewood burl after several failed iterations of its vision were executed.  Thanks go out to the customer, Ron, who had the passion and the patience to let this become an amazing piece of art.

Several new helmets posted! October 19 2015

After a busy Summer NOT attending to the online store several new helmets were finally added to the IN STOCK page.  As usual these are a good purchase if you are looking to save a little money.  AND, they get there a lot faster than a custom helmet.  

In the near future look for the online store to get updated with a new line of helmets and look for pics of more laminated helmet projects.  Enjoy the fall!


OSU Basketball has a Hardhat!! October 19 2015

Comfort padding assembly April 21 2014

This video post is actual meant to be educational.  We found out that some of you don't realize that sharing the contest on facebook, on your timeline, directly with friends etc. gives you more chances to win.  Unlimited.  Goto the contest page, login and share

Then, check out this short and interesting tid bit on how the comfort foam for the inside of each helmet is ALSO made right here.

Be the Coolest Kid on the Block April 15 2014

Win a Truly One-of-a-kind Work of Art During Coyle's Spring Helmet Giveaway

Two grand prize winners will win one of Coyle's prized wood helmets, made right here in the heart of the Pacific Northwest! Coyle Design & Build makes the world's only fully-customized, sustainably-sourced, hand-made and totally unique multi-sport helmets.


To enter the contest and share with your friends, simply click the link above and complete the short entry form. 

If you have any questions please email us at




Finding and Salvaging April 15 2014

This is a quick blog post following up on the article written earlier in the month about black walnut.  This past weekend we found out about several black walnut trees that a nearby orchard farmer wanted removed.  This is always a workout but its a can't pass up opportunity as there is a lot of competition for this wood.  Got stuck in the mud twice (shame!) driving in and out of the orchard but it was a sunny day and we got a lot done.  In the video you'll see a short clip of one of the main branches of a tree being lobbed off.  

This limb gets diced up into rounds and then measured and cut into blocks.  Then loaded, taken back to the shop, painted on the ends and stacked to dry.  Each block, at this point, weighs around 35 pounds.



True Natural Artwork as a Gift April 08 2014


The word or phrase 'functional art' is about as generous a compliment as one can grant to a made thing.  Our "Hats" embody the meaning of that phrase.  Combining the power of human inquiry and experimentation with the beauty and diversity of nature's materials to deliver a product that is at once both astonishing and elegantly simple.

As a gift they are the experience that those who are typically difficult to surprise or amaze are surprised and amazed by.

The story of each Tree Piece begins before we salvage the wood from an old farm tree that's died or a burly maple that been left to rot after a clearcut.  Of course, these pieces of wood were at a time part of the home for birds and squirrels or shade for generations of family gatherings.  Finding them and meeting the people and places they come from is always a great adventure to start them on the road to becoming a helmet.  

When we get to them we choose from the largest trees with the greatest character.  We look for the stuff that is far too pretty to be burned in a wood stove or fireplace, examining the wood for the best coloring and grain.  Cutting out stock blocks one by one with an old used up chainsaw.

To cure the wood each block is sealed across the end grain and stacked carefully with others from the same tree, This slow dry process and particular sealing regimen is one of only a few ways to guarantee against the large cracks and fissures that would otherwise corrupt the blocks. Each helmet is made into what it is via the tools of nature as much as it is through the tools in our shop.

When the day comes that a block is 'wedded' to its customer we have already begun the customization process.  The customer has already chosen the type of wood they want.  For each block we must re-calibrate the CNC router to unique mate the customer's size and shape with the dimensions of the block. Each block is tracked by the customer's name in sharpie on the inside.  In few other products and no other helmets is this degree of customization available. 

After a relatively quick roughing out machine process the helmet takes a basic shape and gets thinned down to a finely even, lightweight shell by repeated fine machining steps with a finish tool.  Slowly the final basic form of the helmet is arrived at.


With the machining process finished the piece is taken up by the artisan in the shop to be sanded and finely shaped by hand.  This tedious and painstaking process is where the creativity and imagination of the artisan builder reveals and gives extra character to the natural grain and color of the piece.  The artisan carefully drills the vent holes matching any customized requests from its owner.  Along the way it is not uncommon to lose helmets to small defects that can't be tolerated and have to start the process anew.

Finally the helmet is sealed and finished.  Sealed by hand with both an anti fragmentation coating on the inside and a bio based green epoxy resin on the outside.  This ensures water won't ever get in.  After sanding these surfaces smooth, again by hand, the pieces are sprayed with several topcoat layers a glossy, satin or matte finish.  At this point you have a true piece of original art that happens also to be a helmet shell!

And that only describes the work that goes into the shell.  The part that makes this piece of art functional, the honeycomb cork innards, the comfort padding and harness, are all done largely one at a time by hand.  This involves just as much meticulous, if less artistic, work as the shell.

And to top it off we send each one out in a handmade fleece helmet bag made right here in town.  Coolest bags we could ask for!  This is a can't go wrong sort of gift that one can display on their head as well as on the desk or wall.  It remains a beautiful inspiration wherever it lives.


And, HEY!  Sign up to win one  






Black Walnut April 01 2014

This is the second post on various woods that Coyle uses for custom helmets.  The first one covered Big Leaf Maple and this one is all about Black Walnut.  For people who are not familiar with wood species this wood appears as a great option for its exceptionally dark color.  Few woods finish as dark as walnut.  


Black walnut is a native species of North America that has been propogated in Europe now for centuries because of its commercial value.  The wood is used commonly in furniture, cabinetry and gunstocks and the nuts are a popular food.  The wood is strong but not as dense as oak.  It is the hardest wood that Coyle commonly makes helmets from (though we have made helmets from a few other harder woods on occasion).  The waste wood (chips) suppress plant growth and people come pick up barrels of black walnut chips left over from helmets to put down on garden paths they want weed free.  The walnut nut husks also have been used to make a dye (but not by us.)


rare black walnut burl

Black Walnut trees can grow very large in width if they are in an open space with no or little competition from other trees.  Coyle gets most of its black walnut from word of mouth or craigslist ads for trees that have been taken down on a farm or yard.  The wood is very valuable and so we have to take any and all opportunities to source it when they come up.  Once here at the shop we seal the ends of sawn blocks with paint to control the drying process and stop/reduce checking (cracking).  

When machining the blocks there is a sweet smell that becomes very familiar.  This wood is a little harder on the machinery and tools because of its hardness.  It ends up making a more durable helmet shell because of this.


walnut helmet being machined, notice chips in background

Finally, it is pretty rare to get pieces of black walnut that have a lot of figure (burl, curly etc.) but we have just sourced a couple of cool pieces that we will be doing a picture story about.  Look for that on facebook and in the blog soon.

Bigleaf (Oregon) Maple March 26 2014

I thought I would do a short blog series about some of the more common woods that Coyle uses in building.  Each one is its own with unique structural and aesthetic properties.  The ones Coyle uses most are Maple, Walnut and Douglas Fir and I will profile a few others that we get to build with.

Maybe the most common, for us, to build with is Big Leaf Maple aka Oregon Maple.  It can grow to have an 8 foot diameter and be over 100 feet tall.  Its a hardwood that sheds its leaves in the winter.  Its native to the western coastal states and provinces of North America and is relatively common there.

The strength to weight ratio of this wood is relatively high.  This means, in a helmet, that it will be more durable but absorb somewhat less energy than a softer or weaker wood when an impact occurs.  That said, Bigleaf Maple is not a particularly heavy hard wood and so it is also not overwhelmingly stiff and sturdy (which is good, you want it to break when you crash.)  Maple has some of the greatest color and grain pattern diversity of any wood Coyle works with.  It is close to impossible to accurately predict just what the end product will look like when starting out.  It also is relatively common to find maple having figure such as burl/birdseye, fiddleback/curly and spalting (fungal infections that change coloring and create organic "patterns" in the wood.


Here you see spalted, burly and fiddleback maple samples respectively.

Here is an example of Maple Tree burls.  There is some debate about what causes figure and burl in woods generally.  Maple tends to have it more often than most wood species though.  It seems to help give extra stability to trees that have undergone some sort of environmental stress or trauma.

Maple is a great choice for helmets because of its balanced strength to weight ratio and its tremendous aesthetic diversity.  Even though I have built more maple helmets than any other species it is still great to build with because of that diversity. 

The maple that Coyle uses comes from forests and urban sites as well.  If we can locate a large tree with a lot of figure it gets processed into rounds and then rough cubes with a big chainsaw and then we can start machining it to dry.  But that is another story!   Hope some curiosity was both satisfied and stirred.



Wood Science and Engineering at Oregon State March 10 2014

Over the past month I have had the privilege to speak to a faculty group and a Innovator's conference through Oregon State University's department of Wood Science and Engineering.  The first presentation was with a group of tenured research faculty interested in how Coyle uses wood and cork as helmet materials.  The second was to a mixed group of private wood products industry folks, students and graduate students interested in hearing how the commercialization process evolves for a product like Tree Piece.  Lots of great questions were asked and a few really valuable contacts were made.  Tomorrow I will be talking with someone about developing a new product that would be entirely unprecedented as a result of these contacts.  Going in with fingers crossed! 

There are products and improvements that come out of such interactions and I am so grateful to have such a top notch forestry and wood science university right here in Corvallis, Oregon.