Introduction: Steampunk Pirate Gun Mod

Wanna Steam up a plastic gun? Or just make a more "Yar!-worthy" prop gun? Here is a couple common cheap plastic pirate-themed guns you can paint to look like wood and aged metal that could be the perfect piece-de-resistance for your costume.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

What you will need:

For Aged Metal:
  • matte black spray paint
  • black model paint and a brush
  • your choice of metal Rub n' Buff (Rub n' Buff is a brand name for a wax with metallic powders and pigments used to gild household items. Or Steampunk guns. ;) In this tutorial, you will see examples of antique gold and pewter)
  • paper towels or a rag
  • sandpaper (fine or medium grit)
  • matte finishing spray/sealant

For Wood Grain:
  • yellow or cream colored acrylic craft paint
  • paper towels
  • matte black spray paint
  • matte or semi-gloss red spray paint
  • matte or semi-gloss brown spray paint
  • sandpaper (fine or medium grit)
  • matte or semi-gloss finishing spray/sealant

Step 2: Prepping for Modifications

Take apart your gun, as is possible. Squirt guns, for instance, may not have many or any screwed together parts. Cap guns or other toy guns may come apart completely. Remove the "safety" orange end pieces, if any, and discard. If your barrel is enclosed (many squirt guns are), and you want an open barrel, you can use a small saw or Dremel to saw off the end.

Put your screws in a safe place, and if they vary in size, make a note of where they go on the gun.. I sometimes take photos of the stages of taking things apart to refer to later. Having a second, identical gun on hand can also be a big help.

Sand all surfaces with the sandpaper. The rougher the grit, the more worn your final result will appear. Some people use acetone for this step, but it's smelly and messy, and can be unpredictable if you don't know what kind of plastic you are dealing with (read: melt!) Ultimately, you are trying to make the piece look worn, and the sandpaper can only help with this!

Sorry, I have no pictures of this step.

Step 3: Aged Metal Technique

Using spray paint or model paint, cover entire gun with black paint.

Note: I personally prefer the model paint because to get the effect you want, you need to get the paint into every nook and cranny. Those darkened creases will be what makes the piece look aged. And in the process of painting it, you get to become familiar with the piece more, familiarizing yourself with all the relief areas on the gun.

Let the black basecoat dry for about 10 minutes. While you wait, wash your brush and put away your black paint. You shouldn't need it any more.*

Get out the Rub n' Buff in your color of choice. Gently daub your finger onto the end of the Rub n' Buff tube to get a very very little amount of the material on your fingertip. ***I want to emphasize this: very very little. If you squirt a dot onto your finger, you will get way too much onto your work, which will press into the creases and ruin the aged effect. So only the tiniest tiniest amount is needed.***

With very gentle strokes, start to brush your fingertips across the raised areas. Do it even lighter than you think, to avoid pressing any color into the creases. When you feel you have almost no metallic material left to distribute, rub the very last traces of it into any open areas between the raised areas. This will make it seem as it some of the metal is peeking through the aged grime (see closeup images).

When you finish an area, run your paper towel or rag vigorously over the metalic'd areas to buff off any excess.

If doing a large smooth area, like the barrel of the pewter gun, use an extra light touch and create long striations of metallic color, to emulate the texture of folded or cast metal. On a barrel, work from handle/stock to tip. Go back and spread in an even motion, lengthwise down the barrel. Add more Rub n' Buff as needed to get the amount of coverage you desire. Finish by buffing with a paper towel or rag to remove excess.

Let set for 10-15 minutes. Spray with two coats of matte or semi-matte acrylic to set.

  • if you find that you put too much metal on any area, or get it where you didn't want it, crack open that black paint again, re-paint the area, let set, and re-gild. So there is no "mistake" you can't fix!

Step 4: Faux Wood Finish

My technique achieved a worn mahogany look. I am certain with a little tweaking one could achieve different "stains" of their choice. This took about a half hour from beginning to end. It would take longer if you wanted the paint to dry completely before sanding each layer, which you will see I didn't in my tutorial):

Paint a basecoat of black all over. I used spray paint in this step since the surface is not as detailed, so covering was easy. Let dry 10 minutes.

Then apply a layer of the yellow acrylic using a crumpled piece of paper towel. Do this by dipping your paper towel into some of the paint, then dab it against a paper bag or newspaper, to take some of the paint off and get a more dry-brush application.

Apply the paint with the wadded towel, drawing it in long strokes in a uniform direction--namely the direction you imagine the grain of your wood would run. Make sure you are getting a little striping, and you are getting plenty of the black showing through.

This can be done with a rough paintbrush if you prefer, but the paper toweling works just fine for me.

Step 5: Layering Your Colors

After acrylic has dried about 10 minutes, you can start the layers of the other two spray paints.

Start with the red paint. Holding the can at a good distance away from the work, make short bursts of spray while swinging it from side to side along the length of the surface you are painting. You want a VERY light layer. You should still be able to easily see the acrylic striations beneath.

Next, spray some black on the areas you want the darkest and most "worn" looking. Again, make sure the paint can is a good distance away, you are using short bursts and sweeping across the work. I sprayed diagonally across the very edges of the handle.

Finally, spray a very thin layer of the brown paint on top of it all.

If you go too heavy on any layer, you can wait until that layer has dried completely, then use the very fine grit sandpaper to take that layer thickness down a little bit. And if you take it down too far, you can respray as needed. This is very forgiving. Of course, it's best to simply put the thinnest layer you can manage and work up as needed, but know that nothing is too permanent to prevent a re-do if you need to.

As you can see, it looked like wood immediately! Like a well polished, slightly cherry or mahogany aged wood! If you like how it looks, and want a more refined polished finish, you can stop here and put on your acrylic sealant now. But I wanted mine to look more worn. So I continued.

Step 6: A Worn Finish

I wanted my wood finish to look more worn, so I got out my sandpaper.

Before my last step was completely dry--that is to say, when the thickest painted portions were only very lightly tacky and the rest of the work was pretty much dry--i sanded the areas I felt would take the roughest wear. These would include the highest points and edges. This not only took off the most layers of paint, but created a very rough edge. The result was that it looked like the wood had been re-stained and polished many times over the "decades", and was peeling and wearing back from use.

Step 7: Finishing

Some of the areas came out too black,and in some areas too rough, for my taste. I wanted some more brown and to smooth out the edges a bit. So I did a final very very light spray of brown over the entire piece to draw it all together.

Finally, apply two coats of your chosen finish acrylic sealant.

Step 8: Admire Your Work!

Put your gun back together, and admire your handiwork!