The gentleman’s guide for building a deadmau5 head

March 10, 2012

Let me start off by saying that if this inspires you to make a deadmau5 head of your own, keep in mind that constructing it is only half the work. The other half would be crowd control when you wear it. Expect “some” love from the crowd. But more on that later.

So Purim was coming around the corner, and it’s been a while since I made a worthy costume. Purim is the Israeli equivalent of Halloween. You know, when girls are “allowed” to dress slutty, and for “some reason” we’re fine with that 🙂 . I decided I’ll make a deadmau5 head.

Sneak preview of the end result:

A quick Google search yields some great tutorials on how to make it, and I made good use of them. In the end,  I chose different ideas from different tutorials. First off you need the primary globe for the head. A whole different approach to making a mau5head is to use papier-mâché, but I think that yields a brittle result, and seeing that I don’t want to spend most of my time worrying about someone hitting my mau5head and putting a hole in it, I opted for the more durable acrylic approach. So I got my hands on one of those hamster balls, which wasn’t so easy in Israel. The biggest one I could find was 13″ in diameter, which is the bare minimum. I guess we aren’t that keen on big hamster balls over here.

In order to let my head come through, I had to cut one hole bigger. In retrospect, I did not cut it like I should have. I made the hole bigger by simply making a bigger circle, adjacent to the existing one.

Marking where to make the cut

That was eventually a problem, as my chin was too visible, ruining the effect. To counter it, I later “hacked” the helmet inside, but that came at a cost – comfortableness. Oh well, live and learn 🙂

What I should have done is cut it askew, tilting the cut towards the back of the head. That would still allow my head to get inside, but would make the front look better. The back would be a bit more exposed, but obviously it’s less important than the front. So if you do make your own deadmau5 head – make sure to cut it the proper way (with the tilt).

Here is how I cut up the acrylic:

Safety first!

Safety first!

Dremel FTW!

Circumcised hemisphere

Next up – the mouth. I sketched out how to cut the mouth freehand, using the globe’s notches as reference points, to make sure I’m drawing an equal curve on both sides. I also had to make sure I leave enough plastic on the bottom, so it will have structural integrity later on (again, this would have been easier if I had tilted my first cut). By the way, the acrylic itself is very easy to cut. Luckily, I have a Dremel at home, and the acrylic cuts up nicely (doesn’t crack or anything like that). Here’s a short clip of me making the first cut:

Since I was going to wear the mau5head for several hours each time, it needed to be comfortable. So I bought a simple construction helmet, and bolted it to the inside of the upper hemisphere. I simply drilled two holes in the helmet and two holes in the acrylic, and connected them using two nuts and screws.

The ears: Before deciding on the material for the ears, I had to figure out how to attach them to the head so they won’t fall off easily (simply gluing them won’t cut it). Most tutorials propose the approach I eventually chose as well – inserting two metal rods into each ear, drilling two holes into the acrylic, and fastening them together with two butterfly nuts. Since I chose that approach, I also decided to use some sort of lightweight, porous plastic foam for the ears. I inserted the metal rods into each ear by heating them up and driving them inside the foam. A little silicon to hold it all together, and viola!

Metal rods inserted in to the ear

I gave the ear its bottom curve using a heated knife

Silicon reinforcement

Silicon reinforcement

Inserting the ears

Inserting the ears

Securing the helmet - view from above

Securing the helmet - view from above

Securing the helmet - view from inside

Securing the helmet - view from inside

A quick overview of how it all fitted together:

All those hours playing Lego are starting to pay off...

All those hours playing Lego as a child are starting to pay off...

The next part was my least favorite – covering it up with fabric. I won’t elaborate too much on that part, mostly since I find it to be highly frustrating (I hate working with fabric). I used felt cloth to cover the mau5head, covering the ears and hemispheres:

Covered hemisphere (top)

Covered hemisphere (top - front)

Covered hemisphere (top - rear) - ugly post-lobotomy look

Covered hemisphere (top - rear) - ugly post-lobotomy look

Covered ear

Covered ear

It was starting to take shape:

Covered top mau5head

Covered top mau5head

Looks like it’s missing some eyes… for the eyes I took two small plastic hemispheres, used strips of electrician’s tape to make a + (plus sign) pattern on them and spray painted them:

Pre-spray

Post-spray

Once I finish the eyes’ inner electronics, they would be hot glued to the mau5head.

Now came the fun part – wiring the electronics 🙂 I wanted the eyes to light up, so I drilled two holes in the upper hemisphere, where the eyes would roughly be and cut up a tennis ball in two, as it will be used to hide the cables inside the eye, while offering a place to hot glue the led strips.

Hot soldering action!

Hot soldering action!

Tennis anyone?

Tennis anyone?

Making good use of the butchered tennis ball

Making good use of the butchered tennis ball

I can see!!

I can see!!

But lighting wasn’t the only reason I ran cables inside my deadmau5 head. One issue which wasn’t addressed in any of the tutorials I saw was ventilation. You’re gonna spend several hours lugging a big plastic sphere on your head, breathing out a pantyhose. Condensation is gonna build up and you’ll start resenting your own creation. I needed to make sure fresh air was flowing into my mau5head – so I went and bought myself a computer fan. I actually got my hands on a unique model which used the same 9v voltage as the led strips (well 12v, but that just meant it would operate a little weaker), and also had a pretty mean blast of air compared to regular fans. I think it was this model (threw away the box so I’m not sure). In order to accommodate the fan I cut up a square hole in the back, into which I could slide in the fan, which was promptly secured into its place with some hot glue and zip-ties.

Yep, it's a fan.

Yep, it's a fan.

Fitted, hot glued and zip tied!

Fitted, hot glued and zip tied!

Rear view - after adding a mesh to prevent... "finger-related accidents"

Rear view - after adding a mesh to prevent... "finger-related accidents"

The led strips and the fan were connected using a parallel circuit, which got its “juice” from a small 9v battery at the end of approx. 1.5 meters length of wire, which was covered in duct tape to make it a bit more resilient.

Tethered power source

Tethered power source

The power source included the on/off switch. Very handy.

The power source included the on/off switch. Very handy.

Everything powered by this itty-bitty battery. Each one lasted for 2-3 hours.

Everything powered by this itty-bitty battery. Each one lasted for 2-3 hours.

In retrospect, I should have also made the cable easily detachable near the head, allowing me to more easily remove the mau5head when I wanted to give my neck some rest, or simply to return to my human form for a few minutes 🙂

The final missing piece was the mouth. I bought one of those metal baskets which you hang in the shower to hold your shampoos and soaps and whatnot, and cut out the mouth from it:

Mouth grill - front

Mouth grill - front

Mouth grill - side

Mouth grill - side

I covered the mouth grill with a low density (20 denir) white pantyhose, stretching it until I was satisfied with the visibility. I then fastened it to the inside of the mouth opening using some foam tape and zip-ties. It was important I use strong material for the mouth (and not some flimsy mesh), since cutting out such a big piece of the bottom hemisphere made the head a bit… “wobbly”. The added mouth really boosted the head’s structural integrity.

Once everything was in place and working (the lighting and the fan), I hot glued the eye covers and tried it on!

See the chin?

See the chin?

This is where you can see how my chin protrudes from the bottom 😦

So I “hacked” the helmet (moving the harness which sits on my head deeper inside the helmet), smoothed out some places for added comfort and here is how it looked on Purim:

At the Tel-Aviv Purim street party

At the Tel-Aviv Purim street party

The bunny dude saw my fan and almost cried...

The bunny dude saw my fan and almost cried...

Nananananana... Batman!

Nananananana... Batman!

At the Mashina-Infected Mushroom concert!

At the Mashina-Infected Mushroom concert!

A severe case of pinkeye.

A severe case of pinkeye.

A severe case of pink eye

I really should have that looked at.

Walking with my deadmau5 custome was a weird/awesome experience. The reactions I got were crazy. Since you look so cartoonish, people’s reactions become… uninhibited. I was hugged, poked, lightly smacked and generally treated like an attraction. I was photographed with so many people, at some point I thought of all the money I could have made if I had gotten a sponsor 🙂

On the other hand, since you are inside a mask, people can’t see your face, and therefore your reactions, which adds a whole different dimension to the experience.

Overall – it was a lot of fun (and the fan came through like a champ – the only issue with wearing the mau5head was the weight, no heat/condensation problems) , and I’m sure I’ll make use of my mau5head at least one more time sometime in the future.