Like goggles, I don’t really think that a ray gun is something that fits the kind of costumes I want to build. That being said, I see a lot of the Steampunk style being sort of ‘wild west’ – Wild west, powered by steam, in a neo-Victorian environment mind you… so if it’s ‘wild west’, then a lady would have to defend herself against rouge airship pirates or gutterrats.
So, that brings me to weaponry. If I decide to use something weapon-y, I want to ensure that I wont have any problem getting it into a bar, mall, pub, hall, or wherever else I might want to go. Like my Jabberwock costume, it needs to be “fake” enough to not cause any concern, but not ~tacky~. I wouldn’t want anyone somewhere to get the vague impression that what I have is real, but at the same time I have no interest in carrying around something neon yellow.
Lights and glass appeal to me in a way, and some of the amazing ray guns that I’ve seen have some of those elements. (Along with lots of real brass and other non-plastic bits…) I went to a dress up event a while back and spent a good deal of time putting together two ray guns (to choose from) and in the end, ended up bringing neither. (Partially because I wasn’t entirely thrilled with them, and partially because I lacked a holster or way of transporting them other than holding them in my hand.)
First attempt at a raygun
The first one is just a bubble ‘gun’ – it was battery powered with a small motor – you would dip the end into the bubble solution, and then the motor would spin when you held the trigger, and it would “blow” (it was incredibly weak, so I doubt it would work as advertised) bubbles. It was a dollar-store find.
First I gutted it, removing the plate that would hold the batteries, removing the motor, removing all of that stuff. It was a vague thought that I could hook up the battery pack to some lights or something, so that the gun would be like a flashlight, but I never did that, because I felt I was running out of time. I removed the trigger and the back panel (where the air intake would have been) and spray painted them silver, along with the entire gun. I then masked off parts of the gun (handle, some “buttons” with painters tape and spray painted the piece copper.
Yeah.. there’s no way anyone would think this is a real gun…
The first ray gun from above.
I tried a few other things with lights, glow sticks, etc… and nothing really worked for me, so I re-assembled the gun and called it a day. Then I put on a varnish, so the paint wouldn’t so easily peel/scratch off the plastic. If I were to do this again, I’d use paint intended for plastic, just to start. I also found that even though I sprayed it with first silver, and then copper, there were parts that just didn’t get painted. The back panel didn’t get as covered as I would have liked (you can still see some yellowish on the inside) and the top has a bit of the original purple. The bubble blowing end also still has some bright pink. Now, I was trying to do this super fast while outside in the cold at night… so I’m giving myself wide latitudes, but still, improvements can be made! I really wanted to add things to this, take it down, etc… but everything I tried just didn’t really feel right. Adding things made it feel bulky and strange, and the only things that are removable are the back panel and the bubble wand part. It didn’t look right without either.
The second gun I basically made at the same time, largely because I wasn’t sure which one would work out and which one wouldn’t. That means that there are similarities, in both technique and mistakes…
The second raygun
So, this raygun started life as a kid’s toy gun “with realistic machine gun sound”…. um. ok. It was black (too realistic!) and I don’t know… pistol-y? I don’t know guns in case you didn’t realize yet. I took it apart as well (mistake, it took forever to get the elastic band back on to fire that ‘realistic sound’ and once I had it open, there was very little more to do. I punched some holes for the little washers and stuff to go through, but that was totally unnecessary really.
Part one of the mod that really matters involved taking a plastic water bottle (a green one) and chopping it apart. It was slightly heavier plastic than just a regular bottle of water though, so it wasn’t easy. I trimmed and shaped away, until it would kind of go over the barrel in a pleasing way. Then I chopped up a second (and much thinner) water bottle for the back of the barrel. I realized you’d be able to see the gun through the green plastic if I wanted some of the green plastic to show, (which I did) so I spray painted the gun silver before assembly (but not the trigger, I wanted to keep that black). One hot glue gun later, and I had the basic shape.
The green bottle got some painters tape, and I spray painted the thing copper. Then I added on a copper pipe cap for the … um… the end where the bullets come out of a gun….. mostly because I had purchased it, and wanted to use something. Haha. Then I threaded some washers onto a screw and worked it into some of the holes on the barrel. I had this weird thought about using that for the basis for a holster, but that so didn’t work out.
Top view of the second raygun
Then I watered down some acrylic black paint and smeared it all over, and wiped it off, and then re-applied to just the handle. Honestly I really wasn’t happy with this. From there I got some silver dimensional paint and highlighted the lines around the green plastic and some of the decorative lines on the back bottle. My theory is that this kind of looks like soldering.
Oh, and about 15 minutes after I finished the thing, the elastic inside broke. Now the trigger is limp and there’s almost no noise at all. sad.com/raygun.
Overall, I like the shape of this better, but think that the execution looks kind of sloppy.
Thoughts on doing it better next time:
- Give myself more time to spray-paint thoroughly (several coats vs. one or two)
- Use a base coat intended for plastic
- Perhaps try rub ‘n’ buff for a more realistic metallic look
- Find a base to start with that is smaller and more lady-like
- Plan the holster at the same time as the weapon
So… next steps… do I bother trying to do a better raygun? Does any persona I might want to develop NEED a raygun? Would another sort of weapon be more appropriate to defend oneself against airship pirates or ruffled ruffians? On the off chance that I do want to try something else, I picked up some of this:
Shelf liner from Home Depot in "black leather" and "cherry wood" finishes
Its shelf liner, and while it comes in a variety of boring or kitschy prints, I picked up some in a ‘black leather’ finish (which actually does a pretty good job of looking like garment-weight black leather) and some in ‘cherry wood’ finish (which looks a bit plastic-y to me, but perhaps that’s ok when it’s mixed with other things…). I’m thinking that the leather would look good on handles, perhaps the woodgrain in panels?
I looked around for a bit to find cool tutorials on how to make rayguns, but didn’t actually find a lot that really appealed to me. I suppose the hardest part will be finding a new gun to modify, and I’m betting I’ll have better luck closer to summer when all of the squirt guns and Nerf guns and all of that come out onto the shelves for kids. That being said, I did find this two part video tutorial that has some good ideas. Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka3TNMwN part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8mP5ZLUb (these wouldn’t embed for some weird reason…)
Then for inspiration, here’s a video (photos would have done, but whatever… of a modified Nerf Maverick. Again, this is a cool design, but finding this brand would be the challenge I imagine. Darn American information… doesn’t always translate so well up here in Canada.
DrJubal's gun from Deviant Art
But with that, I did a Google image search, and I think that might be a good start at least – because once I saw just the basic shape, things started to click in for me. For instance, just looking for the basic shape, I saw how a host of different people modified the same gun. With all of the photos, just click to go to their source material and larger versions.) Looking at some of these I start seeing what I think is more or less successful, with the same base model being used for consistency. I love the pressed wood decorative elements on the DrJubal one for instance, and the extra pieces added to one found on Amatoc (though I dont like the leather-lace handle). I like the aging done on both of those, especially when in comparison to the other example from Amatoc. I don’t care for the lenses on the Dr Jubal one, though I like the concept.
Another from Amatoc
from Amatoc article
from the Steampunk Emporium blog
Next up with the Nerf Maverick, is another simple modification – just painted this time, though it certainly improves it upon the original! This one I found at the Steampunk Emporium blog, which looks a little empty, but might have the chance of more in the future (though recent posts are fairly old, so it might be forgotten too…)
Modification from The Awesomer
Another one that I came across is from a website called “The Awesomer” (interesting name…) You can check this one out by going through the four-picture gallery of examples, it’s not actually featured right on the page. On this one I really do not like the additional gears that the craftsperson has added, but I really do like the wires/tubes/whatever that he or she has added – I think it’s successful because of the brass findings that hook the tubes onto the raygun – I’m not sure about it – but I imagine that these could be bead caps perhaps (though I’ve never seen them in bright brass, so perhaps they’re a lamp part?) The tubing, I’m thinking that shrink tubing for electrical work might work – anything flexible and round though would work – without being too floppy. Maybe that round flex-lace from the craft store – perhaps filled with wire to keep it from being too floppy?
From Cut Out + Keep
Here’s another version, this time from Bethany on Cut out + Keep. I like how the paint makes it look as though the chamber is made of a number of individual tubes, versus one molded piece. I like this quite a bit, and think it’s more successful than the over versions which treat it as one piece. (Seeing the Dreameater video above, it looks like he actually removed the chamber and replaced it with individual pipes, which works very well too.) I also like the fact that this is the ONLY photo that actually shows the scale of this toy! In other photos I get the impression that it’s significantly larger and cumbersome, but this makes it appear much more useable. I also appreciate, that because it is the Cut Out + Keep site, that the maker has included the tools she used – “Krylon-Fusion for plastic furniture paint”. More thoughts on the Dreameater one – I also really like the filigree decorative painting on it, and the attached extra “gas” canisters.
From an article about how to modify the Nerf toy to get more distance from the shots.
Speaking of the original version, I thought it would be interesting to include a photo of the “before” – though it looks as though the Maverick has been made in a bunch of colour combinations – blue/yellow/orange, yellow/orange/black, black/orange. Seeing the original (borrowed from an article on how to modify the toy to shoot further) makes it a bit clearer – all of the modifications that some of the above examples have become more obvious when you can see what the original looks like. I took a look at the Toys R Us Canadian website, and online at least, the Maverick is available. Who knows if the toy is available right now in store though – though it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility… so perhaps next time I’m in or around a toy store I should look into it. (At 13.99$ it’s more expensive than my dollar store varieties, but the shape is interesting, and perhaps might work better for me.)
On the inspiration front, check out the line of “Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Osilators” from Weta (they’ve protected all of the images, so no bloggy-pics for you!
After I find/make/modify a raygun that I really like, I also think that a pretty holster would be a necessity – I certainly don’t want to be carrying around the toy gun all of the time! (I notice that EVERY SINGLE mod on this page has left the ‘carrying hook’ on the back – possibly because it’s impossible to remove/cover, and possibly because they’re actually using it to carry the raygun?)