Transform the Nerf N-Strike Night Finder into a steampunk gun with paint and a few buttons!
Step 1: Paint the gun.
I first cleaned the gun with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease, dust, dirt, etc. Then I used a variety of sizes of paintbrushes (just the normal artist's brushes from Michael's or Aaron Brothers that come in a pack of five) to paint the gun. Use the fine tip brush to get the edges and little details like the nails. Work slowly.
I used the cheap acrylic craft paints from Michael's (Americana or Folk Art) that you can find on sale for $0.39 each. For the main body of the gun (yellow and gray parts on the original) I used the Raw Sienna color. The recessed and raised details are Pure Gold. You will probably need two coats to get the right coverage. For the "metal" pieces I painted them Slate Grey first, then used my fingers to rub/buff on some Metallic Silver to get the right look.
Step 2: Dirty it up!
To get the antique, this-gun-has-been-through-a-lot look, I had to dirty it up with more paint. I thinned some black craft paint with water, then used my fingers to rub the mixture all over the gun. There's nothing scientific about this step; just rub all over and if it's too dark, wipe it with a damp paper towel before it dries. To get the authentic aged look, pay especial attention to the nooks and crannies that would normally collect dirt and be hard to clean: around the "nails" and in the grooves around the ridges.
You may need a couple of coats to get the right look. Just let it dry and look at it again after a break to see what it still needs.
Step 3: Decorate it!
To cover up the very un-steampunk giant "Nerf" logo, I looked through my button stash for giant buttons that still had the gold/brass steampunk aesthetic. If you don't have a button stash, look through the button aisle at a Jo-Ann Fabrics or any other well-stocked fabric store; they have so many choices for large gold buttons. You'll want ones that either have a flat back, or are made of plastic.
I chose these gold and crystal-esque buttons, but they had a buttonhole thing on the back that stuck out and prevented them from lying flat. Since they're plastic, I was able to use a hammer to smash the back a few times and then break off the sticky-out-y piece. Lay your button on a thick mat (I used my bath mat) before hammering!
I also felt that the bright gold color of the button wasn't quite appropriate for the antique look, so I colored over the edges with a black Sharpie.
Once the button backs were flattened and the front was "antiqued," I used hot glue to attach them over the logo.
I also found a couple other buttons to put in the grooves on either side to dress the gun up some more. I chose a wing for one side and a wood-looking button with a tiny crest for the other side. I attached them with more hot glue.
On the top of the gun, just for a little more visual interest, I attached the handle of a plastic paintbrush that I painted gold and a brass capnut.
Step 4: Make more!
This basic series of steps can be applied to any plastic gun. I used the same paints and similar embellishments on a tiny little water gun from the dollar store for a similar effect. Think about how you can incorporate the existing parts of the gun in your steampunk aesthetic; for example, I left a little bit of the neon green plastic showing here because it can function as a cool little vial of chemicals.