Custom wood helmets to delight and inspire you


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.  

For Small Businesses and the Curious January 14 2014

I found this article through a small business email list I am on.  A lot of the time I just ignore posts from the list but this one caught my eye.  

In the end starting a business is an expression of myself.  It can have meaning and connection or it can be about generating revenue. It can be about getting things done on time or it can be about looking good when things are really not going well.  It can be about making big, stupid mistakes for NOT the first time and it can be about learning things that seemed so ovewhelming at first.  It can be about a lot of things and it is usually about all of them at the same time.  Right now in this moment I strive for it to be about inspiration and about a new team of people .  This article spoke to me because of its honesty.  There is a lot that "looks good" in this article.  Lots of successes recounted and celebrated.  AND, shared, there is some realness about what starting a business can look like for even the most heroic among us. 

Imitation is Flattery December 28 2013

One of the first amateur engineering endeavors made in the development of Tree Piece's inner protection system was figuring out how to make cork work as an effective substitute for molded EPS foam.  Cork is inherently good at absorbing impact energy but it isn't absolutely perfect for the particular types tested for in helmets.  It was a little too resilient (strong) and needed to beable to fail more easily during impact testing.  This problem lead to several potential solutions that were proto-typed for testing. In the end what made the most sense was to create a honeycomb perforated layering system that gave 3 advantages       


  1. More effective impact energy 'absorption'
  2. Significantly reduced weight
  3. Significantly improved airflow within the helmet shell

More than the wood shells this is really, from an innovation standpoint, the most valued 'invention' that Coyle developed.  Coyle started showing off this technology at tradeshows in the summer of 2011.  Since then plenty of folks, including designer/engineers from other large helmet companies have checked out this technology with interest.

So, since I am a little more product focused that market focused it took me til now to discover that one large company has adopted the same approach to lining in their helmets.  Smith Optics rolled out their first bike helmet line this August (2013) which features what they are calling Aerocore™ Technology featuring Koroyd.  Its a plastic honeycomb protection system which they claim is:

  1. better protection
  2. lighter
  3. better venting

While its fun to wonder if the honeycomb system that Coyle debuted in 2011 helped inspire their approach its definitely validating to see a large company has come to the same conclusion.  That being that using a collapsing honeycomb arrangement to absorb energy enhances the effectiveness of the substituent materials.

Maybe its bad form to provide links to other helmet company product lines but I can't help myself here.  Its just really cool to see Goliath playing with a slingshot. 

Added Inspiration 2.0 December 23 2013

As promised here is an introduction to new Coyle Team Member Matt Holland!



Matt is a hometown Corvallis guy who graduated from Oregon State University in 2011.  He found out about Coyle through a Craigslist help wanted add.  After combing though dozens of replies Matt filtered in for a visit during which he immediately expressed interest in building a helmet himself (its getting close to done and its featured on the website right now as the cover shot for the Custom Helmets on the shop front page.)  He showed up in a big old american pickup with baseball bats hanging from a gun rack.  Turns out he has an enduring passion for baseball which he indulges in via spring/summer softball leagues. Matt also delegates his passion to a variety of other pursuits including pursuing opportunities as a thespian (he's even got himself out there to get a part in the next Star Wars movies!), writing gaming blogs and getting outside.  He has his own landscaping business AND he freelances in website development and coding.  On top of it all he just got married and bought his first house in a year which has been a big one in many ways.


Matt getting crazy in an outdoor theater adaptation of MacBeth


Matt is taking on development and maintenance of the website as well as building the social media presence of Coyle.  He is looking into better understanding how to share what's happening at Coyle with people who would find inspiration from it.  This includes creating surveys, monitoring web traffic and experimenting with social media channels among other things.  Matt is a stand up guy who came with enthusiastic recommendations and Coyle is excited to give him interesting challenges to tackle.


Along with Nick its been great to create more community at Coyle.  These two guys are putting themselves out there in a way that is more adventure than anything else.  Its a real inspiration to watch them shape things.


More to come!


and, check out Matt's local business at:

Added inspiration December 19 2013

In the process of building Coyle and the Tree Piece helmet lines there have been successes and failures, of course.  Maybe the greatest shortcoming has been a lack of a robust team.  This has been largely a one man show for lots of good reasons and its finally occurring to me that reasons all too often take space that could be filled with actions.

So, in the interest of bringing more ideas, more passion, more creativity and more energy (and maybe, here and there, more people to share in sanding?) to Coyle I am introducing Matt Holland and Nick Hurwitz. 




Nick hails from Falls Church, VA, just outside of DC and moved to Oregon in 2012. He has a background in environmental policy and natural resource management with a longstanding passion for sustainable product design.  

Nick is consulting with Coyle on new product development.  He is thinking big about solving sourcing and commercialization questions that would lead to the introduction of a revolutionary product line that Coyle has envisioned since day one (Top Secret).  Nick is an accomplished photographer who will be taking on product shoots of the Tree Piece lines (you will see, from the bio pics here, that yours truly needs some help in this department!).

On the weekends, Nick can be found cycling the country roads north of Corvallis or backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge with his lovely wife Mara and their two dogs Berkley & Jonah. He also has a wicked arm and has been known, at just a little over 6' tall, to dunk a basketball from time to time.  Yes, a little jealous there.

Welcome Nick!!


Coming soon, renaissance man Matt Holland.

Win Fund Update #2 July 16 2013

As of today getting the laser replaced and back in production mode is maybe halfway completed.  The machine that Coyle could afford is a Chinese make and getting parts for it (It needs to be upgraded some) is complicated mostly by what one might expect, communication and the opposition of time zones that limits communication opportunities.  Coyle bit the bullet and liquidated some 401K monies and was able to find an unused machine from a person here in Oregon (this is the sort of rare find that would have been ideal when originally buying the machine as it keeps money closer to home and still makes the purchase within reach financially.)  The machine was somewhat smaller and underpowered for Coyle's application so buying some upgraded parts was necessary.  Skyping and emailing with China has been a little bit torturous at times (for the amount of time it takes a person of limited laser machine expertise to buy the right parts from people who are of limited english language expertise) but it proceeds nonetheless and the Chinese do seem to be hard working and reliable from direct experience and from references that Coyle has run down.

The new blue laser!
the new blue laser

In the meantime Coyle was asked to be part of an article being written about fashion for the Wall Street Journal and has been invited to present to students and faculty at OSU in the near future.  

The biggest side effect of not having a laser this past month has been having to let go of some tradeshow/event opportunities this summer as it isn't realistic to create enough inventory to pull off a decent display.

Nonetheless, things are moving forward and there is a best case scenario that could have things back on line in the next two weeks.  

The fund right now sits at $855 supported by 4 donations!  This is a great boost to morale and will pay for a significant chunk of the upgrade parts that will be ordered for the new machine that was purchased.  These include a more powerful Power Source, focal lenses, a special platform table that is most well suited for cork cutting and several miscellaneous but critical pieces to support the modification.

Right now there is no way to identify the folks who have donated.  OSU Federal Credit Union, which is managing the fund account, does not track the identity of donors.  Our hope is to find a way to identify who has helped out so that we have a chance to let them know how much their contribution has meant.  If you are one of the contributors reading this please know how thankful I am and get in touch when you get the chance.

To contribute to the Fund you can mail a check to or contact Oregon State University Federal Credit Union at, PO Box 306, Corvallis, OR 97339 - Phone: 800-732-0173  

Send checks or ask to contribute funds to Daniel Coyle LLC Fund and/or account number 394123

Dan Coyle  

WIN FUND Update June 29 2013

 Thanks for checking in to follow the progress.  As of this morning the Fund had grown to $550.  This is enough to purchase any one of several important components of a new laser.  The total cost of the laser that was destroyed was $8K and a lot of work is being put into salvaging old parts to reduce the total cost of the replacement.  Other time and money was spent on the cleanup.  All fund money will target getting the replacement laser on line.  Once again, to contribute to the fund contact Oregon State Federal Credit Union to deposit a check or funds to account number 394123, Daniel Coyle LLC Fund.  Call OSUFCU at 541-714-4000, on the web at or via snail mail at 

OSU Federal Credit Union

PO Box 306

Corvallis, OR 97339-0306

First donation to WIN FUND June 26 2013

 Today the WinFund for Coyle LLC posted reception of its first donation for $50.  Enough to replace the focal lens that was in the laser at the time of the fire.  Thanks so much.

WIN FUND June 25 2013


On the 13th of this month we had a big setback.

While speaking to the Willamette Innovators Network (WIN) as part of a panel of 3 crowd-funding 'practitioners' the 3 month old CO2 laser that was bought with the money raised by our Indiegogo campaign caught fire and was destroyed.  The Willamette Innovator's Network has since started a fund to help the business recover and get back on track.



That first picture is the machine first being picked up in March.  The next two are what turned out to be before and after photos for what fire does to a laser machine.

The shop itself survived the fire thanks to the Corvallis Fire Dept.  They were more than gracious and encouraging when I met with them the night of the fire.  

The cleaning up process from the fire has been significant and has definitely put everything on hold.  The smoke and water and soot reached the extent of the shop.  And, unfortunately, the machine itself was not insured.  It had seemed before that the business could not afford the luxury of insurance.  Big lesson.

In any event, the encouragement the firefighters gave the night of this disaster helped cut off any grieving process and the clean up and search for how to replace the laser began that same night.  There has been a lot of help in cleaning up the shop (Thanks Travis, Betsey) and, while not exciting to do, I committed myself to pulling money from my 401K to get things back on track.  I felt thankful that the business has given me the kind of inspiration and satisfaction that made such a commitment seem like the clear option.

One week to the day after the fire WIN contacted me about their wish to help me recover from this setback.  They asked me to set up an account that could receive funds to offset the cost of the recovery.  While I had felt proud of my business and its power to keep me feeling optimistic I did not anticipate the kind of boost that call gave me.  I realized how much others in my own community believed in the business and what its about.  How much being in Corvallis this past couple years has mattered. 

I created this blog to record not so much the fire and what it did but more the story of what being a part of Corvallis, the WIN and the business community here generally can mean.  I look forward to posting my progress and updates on the fund in the coming weeks.

Please, if you get this far in the blog, know that you are welcome to come visit the shop anytime.  I would love to show you around and meet you.

To contribute to the Fund you can mail a check to or contact Oregon State University Federal Credit Union at, PO Box 306, Corvallis, OR 97339 - Phone: 800-732-0173 - 

Send checks or ask to contribute funds to Daniel Coyle LLC Fund and/or account number 394123

Dan Coyle


245 Cummings, Corvallis

New Machines! March 12 2013



Since the Indiegogo campaign several new pieces of equipment have been added to the shop arsenal.  These include a high end orbital sander and a 36" chainsaw (so awesome).  The highlights, though, are the CO2 laser that arrived last week and the CNC Router that is ordered and currently being built.  These two machines will allow in house processing and prototyping of cork inserts and wood shells.  The funding goal was set to accomodate these two purchases and its great to say that part of the campaign goal has been attained. 

On a big picture level it feels good to create a business that builds things here in Oregon.  We no longer buy things from China primarily because it is cheaper.  We primarily buy from China because there is little that is or even can be made in the USA anymore.  A lesson Coyle learned in its efforts to source tools and materials for its endeavor.

The Laser will cut cork sheets into precise, computer generated patterns that will fit easily and elegantly into the helmet shells.  It will be used to prototype new perforation patterns in the cork to improve helmet weight and impact performance.  The CNC Router will allow building shells in house and pre-cutting wood for future orders reducing lead time for customers.

Having both machines in house will allow Coyle to become expert in their operation, maybe the most import advantage that will be manifested.  The whole process of building these helmets will become concentrated and have ample opportunity to really become optimized.

Thansk to everyone who helped out!

Entrepreneur of the Year, Corvallis, Oregon December 19 2012

 Coyle, specifically, Dan Coyle, got nominated as entrepreneur of the year by Celebrate Corvallis.  We'll find out the winner on the 18th of January.  Check out the link below.