Oregon-based woodworker Dan Coyle started making his own wooden-shelled helmets in the late 90s, for his own use while whitewater kayaking. Just in the past few years, however, he got the idea of making them for other people. The result is his current line of Tree Piece Helmets.
The helmets are made mainly from sustainably-harvested kiln-dried Douglas Fir, although a number of more exotic woods are available for discerning customers. Coyle designs them using CAD software, then carves them from solid blocks of wood (or sometimes multiple blocks laminated together) using a CNC router. Cork is used for the inside padding on some models while coatings of epoxy and polyurethane are added to the outside, for added strength and protection against dings and scratches – oh yes, and because it makes them nice and shiny, too.
Dan has been able to safety-test his helmets on a professional impact drop tower, and they reportedly scored quite high. Unfortunately, however, because all of his helmets are unique, getting official safety certification is proving to be a challenge. As he points out, though, a wooden helmet won’t suffer from the amount of UV degradation that would occur with one made from plastic.
Tree Piece Helmets are available in three basic models, or can be custom-designed. Prices range from US$265 to $350.