Monday, February 13, 2012
The ray gun John helped me built for my Dragon*Con costume has been sitting forlornly on a back shelf, waiting for a proper display stand so visitors might behold its majesty and goggle at its glory and just generally laud our crafty prowess.
The gun handle is actually inserted into the base about an inch, which helps support it and keep it from tipping over sideways.
First, we clamped two pieces of 3/4 inch poplar together to form one thick board. After the glue dried overnight, John used a router to give it a pretty edge.
We needed the base to be thick so that the gun handle could fit partially inside it, but you might not need this for your own display. Plus, you can buy ready-made wooden plaques from most craft stores for just a few dollars.
We measured the exact size of the gun handle (you'll see how in a sec) and traced the paper template onto the wood:
To get this template, we simply jammed the gun handle into a block of floral foam, which you can see here:
Then we rolled on some black paint around the hole, stuck a piece of paper to the foam to transfer the paint, and cut out that shape to form our template. (You can see the piece of paper up there in my second photo.)
I used my trusty Dremel to carefully carve out the hole to match the angle and depth of the gun handle. My floral foam came in handy here, as I reference it frequently to get the interior shape right. I also had the gun nearby so I could keep checking the fit.
Next, the barrel support is made from copper plumbing pipe:
John bent the top edge like this to form a curve, which we then filled with epoxy putty:
This gave us enough surface area to epoxy on the rounded support piece that the barrel would rest in.
That support piece was made from the same copper pipe, which John cut and hammered into a C shape:
The leather was thick and stiff enough that no glue was needed: I just jammed it into the curve of the metal.
The copper tarnishes fast, so we polished it and hit it with a quick coat of lacquer to keep the shine.
Next John drilled the hole for the pipe:
And we gave it a quick test run:
Believe it or not, the hardest part was still to come, though: figuring out the wood stain.
Take it from two former professional painters: staining is hard. Different woods grab stains differently, the color is never quite what you expect, wood putty stains too dark, and if you don't know exactly what you're doing, odds are it's going to look pretty awful.
John spent over a week playing with samples in the garage, some with pre-stain, some without, mixing colors, and then experimenting with two or three different kinds of clear coat to get the right sheen.
In the end all that trial and effort paid off, though, because this is the best stain piece he's ever done:
John used a wipe-on polyurethane for the top coat, and it gave the wood a beautiful subtle glow. Sooo much nicer than all the brush-on and spray products we've used in the past!
This solid brass plaque only cost $8 from our local trophy shop. Isn't it gorgeous? They have several different edges and corner details to choose from, plus at least 20 different fonts you can mix and match, and 3 or 4 different brass finishes. I usually buy everything online when I can, but this was totally worth the drive. (Unfortunately the shop doesn't have a website.)
And if that name looks familiar: yes, it IS an homage to Marvin the Martian's ray gun. It was John's idea. And he might have begged. A lot.
Marvin's gun was named the Illudium PU
The copper pipe and brass plaque pick up the copper and brass in the gun, and the wood stain is different enough from the handle to provide a nice contrast without clashing. All in all, a success!
I hope seeing our process helps any of you out there who have your own prop gun to display. As always, be sure to send me pics if you give it a go!
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