Friday, December 18, 2009

I call her Eunice

This here's the big one... I call her Eunice, after my cantankerous old grandmother.

Its a modded Nerf Vulcan, but I think I've gone a bit beyond the typical repaint -- and dear god, did this project involve a lot of masking! The metallic color of the main gun parts was "air mixed" onto the gun, meaning I held a can of spray paint in each hand, one of them a purple metallic and the other copper, and sprayed them both at the gun at the same time, varying the color as I went.

Aside from the standard internal Nerf mods (removal of all air-flow restrictors) I simplified the lines of the gun. I wanted the gun to look more like a real machine gun and less like some kinda techno-space-blaster-thing. This basically meant grinding off most of the raised little techno-gobbins with a motor tool and filling in the recessed mechano-crap with putty. Like, 5 or 6 sticks of epoxy putty.

I had to do all the grinding, puttying, and sanding to get smooth surfaces to mount the fake wood-grain on. The smooth, dark wood grain on the gun itself is the same contact-paper died with acrylic inks that I've used on previous toy mods...

...while the lighter rougher-looking wood is a thick vinyl car-wrap sticker. I used off-cuts from a project we did for the National Guard at work, so good luck finding something similar. But I wanted the tripod and ammo box to look more beat up and disposable than the gun itself, which is oiled and cared for. I added a little support bar to the tripod, too.

The grips got my now-standard fake leather treatment of textured spray paint, dry brushed acrylic paint, and inks.

I really kinda like the chipped up paint look I got on the "enameled" parts of the tripod and ammo box. Continuing with the logic that the gun is cared for but the extras are not, I wanted to paint it to look really beat up. I also wanted to pick a color that would like militaristic, but not remind you immediately of any particular military -- paint it olive dab, and it looks like the US Army, paint it dark gray and it looks like the Whermact, paint it tan and it looks too modern. In the end, I went with a color called "Confederate Gray," which works just fine, since I kind of do a CS thing on some of my military toys anyway.

To get the chipped paint effect, I use a technique model makers call a "salt mask." Basically, what you do is mask off the area that you want to look like rough paint, and paint it silver (I used "nickel" paint, but whatever you want the base metal color to be). Then, using water to make it stick, cover the high-wear spots with salt. I used rough sea salt, but the grain of the salt will determine the size of the paint chips. The water will dissolve it somewhat, you really just have to play with it. After the salt is completely dry, you spray on the "enamel" color (meaning, whatever color you want that part to look like it was once painted) right over the salt and the model section. When the paint is totally, completely dry you just scrub off the salt with an old rag. Most will fall right off, showing you lovely craggy metal beneath; scrubbing off the last bits will give you a nice pattern of smaller surface scratches and generally distress the paint. When you're happy with it, wash off the last of the salt, let it dry again, and spray on a clear coat. After all that abuse, it isn't the strongest coat of paint in the world and will really need that protection.

I added a few other little bits, like this cool looking fake power meter, made from broken watch guts, set into a cap from one of the tubes of putty, backed with a printed-out gauge face plate, and filled with epoxy:

And she's even got a compass and a level in the back:

She still fires, but only with a stock, unpainted ammo belt. I painted one of the ammo belts, so I could look cool and everything, but the paint-on-paint doesn't slide freely enough to keep from jamming. So I keep an un-modded belt handy for field expeditions, and a painted belt for dress inspections.

I must say, Eunice was a big hit at DragonCon this year:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PEM Bombs

The newly discovered technology of the pulsating electronic magnet, or PEM, has offered us another tool to use in the control and containment of otherwise rogue automaton and other mechanical and electrical devices -- an issue of growing importance as these contraptions are employed an an ever increasing rate.

Simply pull the pin and toss the device (called a "PEM bomb" by the boys in the field) at the offending mechanical nightmare and marvel as a harmless flash of light (and an invisible pule of magnetic electricity) render the machine instantly as docile and lifeless as an unloved Erector set.

I made these up from some huge old vacuum tubes and sheet brass. Here's the prototype while I worked out the shapes:

And note the clever use of a re-purposed mouse pad to keep them from breaking. These can be worn on the hip without fear of glass shards.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leather Holsters

Over the summer I started playing around with making holsters and such from raw leather. These were the first ones I made (after the holster that goes with the Duck Hunt gun).

My process is as simple and intuitive as can be. I make a prototype loosly shaped like the gun in paper, and transfer that to the leather with plenty of room to spare. Then I rivet the whole thing together -- I just don't like to sew.

Once I've got the basic holster fitting properly (there's lots of fiddling and adjusting going on while I set the rivets, making that stage as tight as I can) its time for the water soaking. I wrap the gun up in plastic to keep it dry, and set it aside. Then I dunk the holster completely in water for a few seconds and flick off the excess.

I had a lot of fun with this shot gun rig, coming up with the straps for a low thigh holster that also fits my shoulder holsters for the over-the-back carry.

Then I put the gun back in the holster, and work all the folds and creases with my thumbs and fingers. While it sits on the counter drying all afternoon, I go by every now and again and work the folds a bit more. As it dries and shrinks slightly it really starts to take the guns shape. Then when its all dry I go back and glue the edges tight with shoe glue.

After I'd made some for the guns, I figured I needed in-costumes for my every-day items, like a cell phone, multi-tool, and .mp3 player.

After I'd gotten a few simple holsters under my belt, I decided to try something nutty. I had this old pair of combat boots laying around with a few big holes in them, and my wife had mentioned wanting some spats, so...

There are a few buckles secured with snaps to get them on and off. The fit is pretty much set to her feet, though strangely I can wear them myself as an elbow brace (interesting, as I've shattered one elbow and dislocated the other over the years...) I even gave her a little loop to hold her pipe wrench!

I like this leather working thing, and aim to do more of it. I'll probably have to learn how to sew at some point....