The Wood Shell
The Evolution of the Concept
The origin of the wood shell came from an experimental approach to hobby woodworking. Amongst other projects including wood eyeglass frames and wood bent shaft kayak paddles the helmets were an opportunity to “try something out”.
The helmets continued to be made entirely by hand and used on creek boating whitewater adventures for 15 years. Lots of time spent in class 5 rapids. Some drops and tumbles at put ins and hike ins. Always held up.
Building them was a fascinating process of discovering what grain and look each helmet would take on as it was reduced from a coarse block to a very intentional form. The natural beauty and novelty of each piece always guaranteed something with inherent beauty and a sort of mystery.
As pieces went from rough lids, heavy and asymmetrical, to a more refined and efficient design, feedback was encouraging and the concept proved itself to have enduring interest to the builder and many of the people who came into contact with the helmets. A dream formed of turning it into a business and a few half-hearted attempts were made which turned out to require more chainsaw carving than could be tolerated. Not so fun. Nonetheless, other folks have turned stranger things into something successful and it turned out there did exist ways to build in a more automated fashion.
So, for the builder, all it required was some inspiration to take some time away from 'the day job'. Life provided both the inspiration and the time. That's a longer story.
In the summer of 2010, using a hand made model as a template, a CAD (computer aided design) file was created and the first machine made prototype was built on a CNC mill. This was followed by a move to CNC routers and improved design geometry for the shell. Soon cork was added to the process as a natural fiber cushioning insert, a novel harness design inspired by similarly effective and simple harnesses was prototyped and reinforcing and finishing processes were discovered and adopted to create a commercial quality product.
Rendition of the first CAD file based on hand built helmet.