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Steampunk'd Glowing Nerf Persuader

This is something I've wanted to do ever since I started seeing it on the internet. It struck me as a very easy way to make a high quality steampunk gun without spending loads of time building every piece of it. Most people don't have the skills for that. For the ones that do, like myself, sometimes the time or motivation to do that level of work isn't there.

I love Nerf guns blasters. I loved them as a kid because I could shoot them all over the house, at my brother, etc. As an adult (some people I know would disagree with using this term to describe me) and engineer, I still like them because I can shoot them all over the house. I also developed an interest in the technology Nerf has come up with over the years to expand and progress their blasters. Another aspect I enjoy is learning about how the blasters are designed & assembled given that they are all injection molded. I've been involved in the design of several such parts and I always find gems hidden inside the blasters that make me think "Oh, check that out... That's really clever."


This project started as part of a Halloween costume. On that note I'm going to step aside and comment on something I've learned - If you are the type of person that has trouble getting motivated to do projects, try making pieces of a Halloween costume for a couple years (add-on style). It's a great way to have a reason to do something, have a deadline, and show off your project when it's finished.

For my costume I was going for something of a mash-up. I wanted to do a cross between Pacific Rim, Steampunk, and general military. I like aspects from each and wanted to incorporate them into a custom I could add to year-after-year. Last year I had already done up a leather jacket like the one from the start of Pacific Rim. It's from the scene when Raleigh and Yancy Becket were strolling down the hallway, like they were in Top Gun, to suit up for Gipsy Danger. This year I added to that costume by making an Iron-Man-like [Nuclear Vortex] Chest Turbine (I'll do a post on that next). I meant to also complete this steampunk'd gun but I had to put it on the back burner until now.


This gun started off life as a Nerf Persuader. It's from the Doomlands line which basically has the all the greeble necessary for a Steampunk gun. The first thing I did was sand down all the external text so it wouldn't show up in the final product. After that I took a dremel and added small cuts and scratches all over the gun to make it look weathered. Once I was finished with the 3D detailing, I took the gun apart so I could get at all the pieces that needed paint. I found it best to take pictures of how all the pieces went together in case I forgot later.


Once all the parts were separated I started masking all the things I didn't want to get paint on. One of the trickiest things was the clear window. I knew I wanted to add some flare to this gun so I decided to add LEDs to make it light up from the inside. I bead-blasted the interior of the window to give it a foggy look. This would obscure the interior of the gun and help the light from the LEDs spread around. I primed all the external surfaces with black Krylon paint & primer. For the actual colored paint, I used metallic acrylic paint with the occasional mix from some non-metallic green, blue, brown, or gold. When finished, I hit everything up with a clear satin coat from Krylon.


Naturally, I also needed a holster for the gun. You can see the paper mock-up in the above picture. To do this I just glued 4-6 pieces of paper together with spray adhesive. This makes a half-good, cheap, leather stand-in material. Once I had the design finalized I used the patterns to cut out real pieces of leather and riveted them together. All the material can be bought on Amazon, naturally, including the super easy to use 'Double Cap Rivets' from Tandy Leather.


The LEDs were (are) originally white. I needed them to be green. To do this I bead blasted the outside surface of the LEDs and then used this cool little Sharpie [marker] air brush kit to paint the outsides of the LEDs green. And that's how green LEDs are born ;)

It took me several hours to figure out where to mount the LEDs so they would be out of the way of the gun's internals (this thing is still going to fire darts after it's done!!), and then wire them up and secure them in place. All the LEDs have a wide angle, 110°, emitting pattern. Even with that, and the bead-blasted window surface, they still show up a bit like point light sources. At night it's fine, but during the day it leaves a bunch to be desired. Still, after final assembly it still gave a sweet first impression..


And with the holster... Note the cutout to show off the awesome glow.


All the weathering was done by using black acrylic paint toned down with water. The process I used was to take some watered-down paint, apply it to the crack or surface, and then smear it mostly away with my finger. The goal is, of course, to leave some paint on the surface but not to let it have the "brush stroke" look.



The batteries I used are N size alkaline cells. They are basically like half sized AAAs. I needed two of them to get to the 3V needed to run the LEDs. For the battery pack, I used a piece of brass tubing, made by K&S, that fit the batteries well. I lathed down another piece of brass for the cap at the end and used a spring to make contact with the batteries. For the other end, I made a plastic cap to fit inside the tube and used a thumb screw to act as the switch to complete the circuit.


The holster fits the gun really well and looks great. It sits low enough so any coat I wear won't cover the gun but it's still close enough so I can reach the grip.


I really like how this came out. I definitely want to do another one at some point. The choice of gun didn't result in a daunting project, the holster was basic but looks great, the addition of the LEDs gave it a nice differentiating feature, and it still shoots darts!

The one thing I would say as advice when making one of these is to think about color flow. I've only done this once, and am no artist, but if you want to do this and get hung up on the color scheme then do this: Look at your gun and all the pieces & areas you can paint. Group them into 3-4 categories based on if they would look good if they were the same color, and by location on the gun. Location grouping is based on if they are more internal or external. On mine, I grouped the trigger, barrels, and hammer as internal. The copper color is the base color and grouped as external. I like my base color to cover the most area but be continuous (least split up). All the browns & heavily oxidized copper colors are kinda like a middle group. I would really only have 3-4 colors so as to not overkill the appearance.

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