How to turn a plain, ordinary, off-the-shelf Nerf gun into a sorta-piratey themed gun with the use of a few paints, some sandpaper, and a 3-day weekend.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
You will need:
1. A plastic weapon of your choice. I went for the Nerf Maverick Rev-6, it's a pretty accurate gun with good range and a good heft to it. Not particularly piratey, but them's the breaks.
2. Sandpaper - medium (about 100 - 120 grit) and fine (200+ grit)
3. Matte black spray paint.
4. Red & brown spray paint in hues that you choose.
5. Black model (acrylic) paint.
6. Yellow or orange acrylic paint.
7. Rub'n'Buff in your choice of colours. I used Antique Gold, and Silver Leaf.
8. Matte & gloss finish coats.
9. Old brushes.
10. Old clothes.
11. Somewhere to get all painty.
Step 2: Disassembly
Take apart your gun. Note carefully the position of any screws and other fittings, and watch out for springs that might make a bid for freedom as the gun halves are pried apart. Use an egg carton or similar to collect the parts, keeping together things that need to be replaced with each other (e.g. trigger assembly).
Step 3: Surface Preparation
As with any painting job, the more careful the preparation, the better the final product will be. I probably spent an hour sanding down each side - which seems like a lot, but the end result was worth it. Don't skimp on the fillets and joints, either - paint that doesn't adhere properly will rub off in a very short time, ruining all your hard work.
As you perform each step, it's a good idea to think about how the gun might have seen action, and plan the next steps out in your head. Any antique item is likely to have a few scratches, maybe a notch or two. Don't be afraid to carve these into the plastic - take things carefully, doing a little at a time. Sand any carvings you make, giving the notches a worn effect, but don't overdo it.
Once sanding is complete, it's time for the base coat. I used 'Ultra Flat' (I forget the brand name), which produces this super-flat colour that I really like! (and not just because the fumes made me say that).
I use a cooling rack to raise the gun parts above the overspray surface - this allows good coverage where the seams would otherwise rest on the cardboard, and prevents the parts sticking to the cardboard.
Step 4: Metalling the Smaller Parts.
I wanted the bulk of the gun to have a wood effect, with the foresight, trigger, chamber, and slide to look as if made out of metal.
The parts were given a coat of black model paint, using a small brush to work the paint into all the detail. Once dry, the fun begins!
Use the Rub'n'Buff to achieve a worn metal look, again thinking about how the gun might have been used. You'll want to apply sparingly - remember, it's easy to add more later, but harder to remove too much. You can always re-paint the parts, however, so don't panic if something goes a bit wrong.
Place a tiny spot of Rub'n'Buff on your forefinger, rub the bulk of it off on your thumb, and use your forefinger to gently apply the remainder to the highlights of the surface. You want to hit just the edges and top-most parts of the surface. If it looks like you're not adding enough, you probably have it about right. Replenish from your thumb/ the tube as necessary.
Once dry (about 12 mins), gently polish with kitchen towel or a soft lint-free cloth, and re-examine the piece. You've probably removed a little of the metal wax when buffing - that's ok. Now is the time to go over any missed spots and maybe add a second application if needed. I ended up doing four applications, though in the first picture there is only a single coat.
Thinking about how the gun might have been treated by its pirate owner really helps here. The more worn areas will show the brightest, polished to a smooth finish over the years. Thus edges and highlights, particularly where the gun may have been placed down on a hard surface in a rolling sea, will require the heaviest application of the Rub'n'Buff.
Step 5: The Wood Colour
It's now time for the wood-colour coats. It's very easy to put too much paint down here, requiring another basecoat, so take it steady, doing a very small amount at a time. If you have some reference pictures (a trip to images.google.com is well worth the time), the going will be easier.
The first application will be the wood grain. I used a yellow-orange, but any pale colour should be fine. There are various techniques for this, but mostly if you think the results look good that's all that matters. I used a sort of ragged drybrush technique, although I was a little heavy in some areas. Those can be fixed easily, though, so don't worry if the first attempt doesn't look great - it took me three tries before I was satisifed. Practice on a piece of scrap, if you like.
When applying the grain, follow what you imagine to be the real grain of the wood. Grain generally runs in approximately the same direction, but will have bumps and other impurities. Take special care on hard edges, to avoid large blotches. Also, remember that your gun halves will eventually be re-fitted together, so think about where the grain will match up.
Once the grain is dry, apply sparing and varying amounts of red, black, and brown. The red will give a nice mahogany or cherry effect, with the brown balancing this out, more a sort of chestnut colour. The black is used to tone down the red, and also to achieve a worn look - again, thinking about the gun's likely treatment will guide you here.
Prior to the colour coats I masked off the areas I wanted to have a metal effect.
I did about three or four applications of colour before I was satisfied. Don't worry if yours doesn't look exactly like wood (and it won't, in places) - the overall effect is really what's important.
Once you are happy with the wood colour, apply the Rub'n'Buff to the metal areas just as for the components - a little at a time - and buff lightly once dry.
Step 6: Putting It Together
Once all colours and metal wax is dry, apply two or three coats of finish. I used a matte finish on the metal components, and a glossy finish (since wood is generally varnished and polished) to the wood parts. Let dry for at least 20 minutes between each coat.
Re-assemble the gun once fully dry, and test - it should still work, although you might need to take some of the paint down with some sandpaper in a couple of areas. I had two or three chambers that wouldn't fire, I think because I got finish coat in them, enough to tack up the surface. This is easily fixed with a little acrylic thinner.
Overall I was very pleased with the results, especially since this was my first attempt at a project such as this. There are a couple of areas that require further attention, mostly because I didn't correctly anticipate parts that would be visible upon re-assembly, but on the whole I consider this a great success!