I have been making large steampunk styled props and weapons for when I cosplay at cons about 5 years now. In the past I modded plastic toy guns with paint, added new barrels and accessories and had a blast doing it. Last year I did my first scratch build (a 6 foot hypodermic syringe) and have been trying my hand at making larger and more realistic looking prop weapons for my character, "Doc Steamcrunk".
This is my Instructable for making a prop of a 6 barreled volley gun, my personal variant of the Nock gun (http://tiny.cc/oetc6w). I made this prop for Steamcon and used it this Halloween. I hope you enjoy it - it has real wood, metal triggers and painted PVC barrels which fooled several people who thought it was real.
Disclaimer: If you go out in public with a prop weapon please be careful outside of a convention hall! When making realistic props you can get into hot water with law enforcement, so please be aware that this is meant to be shown off at conventions after being safety bonded with the check-in tables. BE CAREFUL. Thanks!
Cover photo by Cliff Nordman
Step 1: Template and Wood Selection
As I previously mentioned I used to modify plastic toy guns and steampunkify them. This year I wanted to up my game so I decided to make a prop weapon with a real wood stock.
I drew the template out of foamboard and used a piece of scrap cedar I picked up for $2 at Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Kansas City, which sells leftover construction materials that are donated for resale and used to fund HFH's charitable home building program.
The reason I used cedar is it is a relatively strong but soft wood. It is easy to carve and also light weight. When carrying around a 7-8lb. prop all day I guarantee that same prop will feel like it weighs 40lbs by the end of the day. Cedar wound up being an excellent choice, light and durable.
I traced the pattern to the board with my template, fastened it to my workbench with a C-clamp, and cut it out with a jig saw. You can see I've cut some sections up in the second photo from the edge up to the traced line which allows for complex curves to be cut easier, as the pieces will fall aside when using the jigsaw.
Step 2: Chisel This!
I have owned a nice set of wood chisels for years but never use them, so I decided after researching on the Internet how gun stocks were made that I would try my hand at carving the gunstock how an actual gunsmith would have. I set about carving the piece of stock down until it was roughed out, which took about two hours. I do not recommend doing this unless you have a lot patience. Looking back on it now I think I was nuts to do it this way, but it was a good experience, and the cedar was VERY easy to work with. Make sure sure your chisels are sharpened on a whetstone, and you will need to resharpen them at least once during the carve.
I was glad I used chisels, but next time I will use something like an air rasp to shape the wood, as this method was time consuming and physically demanding. The final results were really worth the effort.
Step 3: Sand the Snot Out of It!
I used a orbital sander with 60, 100, 150, and 220 grits of sandpaper to smooth this piece down.
I finished it by hand on the complex curves with a sanding block with 150 and 22 grit sandpaper sheets from harbor freight. Time to sand, about 90 minutes total.
Make sure you wear a respirator when sanding!
Step 4: Finishing the Wood
The finish I used on the gun stock is called WIPE ON POLY, which is a lovely polyurethane product you pour onto a shop rag and apply to the wood. It really brought the grain of the cedar out, and is very easy to use. It leaves NO brush marks, which is highly desirable when finishing wood where you want the grain to stand out. Once again, this is toxic stuff kids. Wear a respirator!
I applied 3 coats, allowing for 1-2 hours drying time between coats, and used 220 grit sandpaper between each coat to lightly sand the stock. This is the recommended application method by the manufacturer. The grain looked amazing when done.
The forestock you see in the photos was made, but did not get used on the final piece because it didn't look right when mocked up.
Step 5: Barrel Mock Up
A traditional Nock or Volley gun has 7 barrels. The barrels all fired seven .50cal bullets with a 40 grain powder charge at once. It was a flintlock design, and had the nasty job of being used to clear the deck of a ship that was being boarded by an enemy vessel (think: Pirates).
The downside of the Nock gun was it used black powder and had a wide spread pattern when fired. Another downside, it could only be fired once - you'd have to reload all 7 barrels. The worst problems this weapon had was it would often catch the sails and rigging of the ship on fire, and the force of recoil often blew the firer of the gun backwards off the ship or badly injured them. They were not used for long, but are a neat piece of firearm history.
I planned on making my prop to have 7 barrels but I couldn't figure out a way to mesh them up cleanly with my (now) carved gunstock, so I did what any good Steampunk would do -- I improvised. 7 barrels became 6, problem solved. The nice thing about creating prop guns is you can change and modify things on the fly, because no one gets to tell me how to play make-believe!
All 6 barrels were lightly sanded with 100 grit sandpaper. I have found when using sandpaper on plastics that will imitate metal when painted that you can use varying grits of sandpaper to approximate a metal finish. 60-100 grit sandpaper really feels like cast iron when it is painted. For imitating smoother metals like brass and copper I use 150-220 grit.
The barrels were glued together with 5 minute epoxy and clamped to dry.
Step 6: Receiver Cover (trial and Error)
I had to brainstorm how to cover where the barrels would meet up with the stock and this proved to be a bit of a challenge. I mocked it up cardboard to see how it would look and then set off making them out of different materials until I came across something that worked the way I wanted to. You can also see in photo #2 I made a forestock for the prop gun, which was later not used.
I decided to make a receiver cover out of 1/4" foamboard to see how it would look and taped it together. The problem then arose how to make this foamboard out of something more durable. This became the most time consuming step of the process. I wound up making 3 different covers in total. One made of wood (didn't work), one of rigid plastic (too fragile) and the third out of EVA Foam Mats you get from harbor freight.
The foam finish on the mat didn't look period appropriate, plus I wanted the edges curved. So I sanded the foam down a little bit with 150 grit sandpaper with my orbital sander, then used fiberglass mat for auto repairs and Bondo Fiberglass Resin Jelly, which I can't speak highly enough about. This stuff spreads on like cake icing, dries hard and is sandable and paintable. It is highly toxic. Use it in a well ventilated area and sand it OUTSIDE unless you want your entire garage coated in a fiberglass dust. Once again, wear a respirator!
Step 7: Connecting Stock to Barrels, a Lesson About Airlines
Because I travel with these props on airplanes, I need them to break down so I can pack them into a large checked bag. I decided I would use 1/4" threaded rods to connect them. This tip I picked up from my friend Bill at Punished Props from his custom Starcraft 2 Kerrigan's Ghost Rifle build. Unlike a permanent attachment where both ends are epoxied together I wanted mine to unscrew so I could pack it up for travel.
After marking where the threaded rod would best fit, I marked where the hole was going, drilled about 6 inches into stock. lightly hammered the nut into the stock, popped it out and used 5m epoxy to attach it.
Once it dried I screwed the threaded rod into the stock, marked with a sharpie where it came out from the nut. I then epoxied the rod to the barrels using my sharpie mark as a depth guide and wound up sinking it about 12" into the barrels for a really strong connection with the epoxy which I dabbed on the entire rod where it was inserted. A small gasket was cut from scrap EVA foam mat to allow for a firm fit. It worked like a charm.
When I travel on airlines I put a nice handwritten note to TSA inside the bag that they will see should the choose to inspect my baggage before putting it on the plane. My approach is I usually flatter them for keeping everyone safe and kindly ask them politely to not destroy my hard work and repack the bag properly. So far, so good. Nothing has broke in transit in 5 years. Knock Wood!
Step 8: Sanding & Painting Receiver Cover
Now the reason for using EVA foam was so the inside was flexible, but the exterior was now rigid from the fiberglass, this provided enough support that I didn't have to worry about the threaded rod breaking the wood.
The receiver cover attached to the stock using a single zipnut and screw. When this one screw was removed the receiver cover would slide down the barrel a few inches to reveal the threaded rod junction, allowing the stock to be easily twisted off for airline travel. My friend Anthony from Tinplate Studios called this solution, "elegant." It was the nicest compliment anyone has ever gave me about my work.
See how the gun breaks down on this video made by Punished Props, featuring me and Chinbeard!
The cover was shot with Krylon Ultra flat brown camouflage paint, and then sanded. I then applied a rather heavy application of Antique Gold Rub N Buff to give it a metallic finish, then buffed it with a soft cotton cloth to give it a high shine. I use brown as an undercoat with gold rub n buff, black as an undercoat with silver.
If you don't know what Rub N Buff is, it used to add metallic gilt to ornate picture frames. But nowadays this stuff practically has religious and magical qualities in the steampunk community, especially for giving a metal finish to practically ANYTHING. You can find it on amazon.com.
Several nice ornamental scrolled metallic picture frame pieces from the scrapbooking section of Michaels Arts were instant glued to the receiver cover to add an ornamental touch akin to engraving.
I then mist coated the gold and accent pieces with flat black spray paint to take the finish down a little bit and make it look worn and old. A "mist coat" is when you hold the spray can about 4 feet away and cloud the area with paint, allowing only a small amount to adhere to the piece. It is one of my techniques I learned for taking a shiny finish down to look like aging metal.
Step 9: Blueing the Gun Barrels
Older guns have this great blueing that you don't see much anymore. I've done prop guns in various steampunk colors but never a faux gun blueing, so I tried to imitate one with paint and then aged it with several washes of thinned down modeling paint.
2 coats of krylon ultra flat black were applied to the barrel assembly and allowed to dry. A mist coat of Krylon gloss Navy Blue (stock #2326) was applied, then a mist coat of flat black to take the finish back down. A final coat of acrylic matte spray was used to seal the paint and dull it down a little more.
The washes I used were simply lacquer thinner 20 parts to 1 part Testor's Modelling paint (silver, rust and black, accordingly). Thinning paints down in this way gives you a light amount of color, which I applied with a broad fan brush, using a sponge to dab and wipe away where I didn't want paint to show. The recessions took silver, the barrels rust, and finally black to wash those two coats down.
The final result looked aged, worn and metallic.
Step 10: Trigger and Trigger Guard Assembly
This part was pretty easy. I had an old iron plant hanger you'd have outside on your patio that I cut with my sawzall and used a hammer to shape on my vice. The hammer marks gave it a wrought iron appearance, and it was drilled and attached to the gun stock with wood screws. Easy peasy.
And there you have it folks. Building big props is a lot of fun for me, and I hope you enjoyed this instructable about how I made this piece. I'm happy to answer questions here, but if you like what I do you can check me out on tumblr, etsy and facebook!