M5 Gas Mask project
As mentioned briefly on the Webbing page of this website, the M7 bags for these are easily available to purchase, but the M5 gas masks haven't been reproduced and if they have, I dread to think of the cost. Which for most re-enactors couldn't be justified for something that will almost never be removed from the bag and so never seen! Originals are seldom seen and are usually far beyond the condition need to survive being bashed about by reenactors. My original remains safe inside my coffee table, although I did borrow a piece of it for my own project gas mask!
The photo shows the correct appearance of the bag and how an original gas mask looks. Now, these steps will not look identical to this. So, if you after an exact identical copy, then don't bother reading any further. However, if you want something in the bag that is the same shape and fills it perfectly, then keep going.
After I had completely ruled out using my original example, I had to find something that looked like the M5. There are a few fairly modern made foreign gas masks that do bare a close resemblance to it. In particular a Finnish one and a Yugoslavian one. Both have minor variations and plusses and minus's in using them. I opted for a Yugo one, I managed to find a few at £10 each.
As you can see from the photo, the biggest thing is the colour! However, imagine that being black and asides from the front filter, it is a very close in appearance. The rubber front valve pulls out easily, leaving a big vacant space... so my first issue was to find something to fill this, I started look at all other gas masks online to see if I could find anything that I could easily swap over... sadly nothing was out there. I then came across a Facebook group called "M5 Gas Mask Outlet Valve Assembly". I scrolled through lots of posts and eventually came across a price $30... and that is without shipping. For a tiny piece of printed plastic... ummm, I think not. However, it does look good and would solve the problem. They can be my back up plan!
I then remembered my original one and thought I would have a better look at how they are inserted and how easily it would be to just pop it out and see if it would fit in my Yugo one. After going to find it inside my coffee table (I know that sounds strange) I took it back to the office and had a look at the filter piece, giving it a twist and a pull and it popped out. Simple! Would it push into the Yugo one though, I was doubtful as nothing is ever that easy. However, to my surprise it went it perfect, just like it was made for it. Well, interesting... although that mask was still that horrible grey/green colour.
I plucked the little grey filter back out for now and got some very fine sand paper and gave the whole rubber a light rub, just to help the paint stick a little easier to the rubber. Finding some acrylic paint (being a little like rubber, I thought that would be the best paint to use) I gave it a good few coats all over and the paint took really well (I didn't know that there is a liquid rubber paint which gives a much better result). With the original filter pushed back in, it started to look great. The filter can on the side was painted and I jumped on the laptop, loaded up CoralDraw and bashed out a stencil for the markings on the side. Painted those on and the project was done...
Until today... about 4 months later when I started talking to Miles on Facebook. Miles is a genius when it comes to 3d printing and creating things in that media. I asked if he could or had printed these little grey filters. The answer was a very pleasing yes! I enquired about how much he sells them for and it turns out that it is around £5 a piece! I know that other company was not great value for money. So I told him right away that I'd have 3 along with some other items.
You can find Miles on Instagram '@falconhistory' and see all the other items he makes.
With that completed and the mask put inside the bag, I then went in search of what other items would go with this. Fairly common items to go along with the mask were anti-gas eye-shields (seen in the cardboard sleeve) I purchased 3 packets as I knew others would want some. The tiny round can in the centre contains a cloth and a tiny bottle of liquid used for 'anti dimming', a friend had one and said I could have it (BONUS, cheers Paddy). I already had purchased a small stack of the Cover, Protective, Individuals. So that was handy. The gas detection brassards are pretty crap in the world of re-enacting and generally disintegrate before you even had breakfast! Although I have a couple, I will save them for a special occasion, before all I'm left with is a tiny loop of cord around my epaulette .
My finished example, using the original nose filter piece. As I said, its never going to be perfect, but for a bag filler, it's perfect. Gives the right shape, weight and movement. If people ask what's in the 'weird black bag', then its acceptable to show them, far better to have this, than a block of Styrofoam!