Steam Gun

Upon completion of my steam lamp and my Halloween steampunk costume I really set out to stretch my legs.

First stop when I’m getting in the mood to make is the antique store. A bit of mantiquing always gets me pumped to make. I love looking through the rust and dirt to find the mechanics of yester-year. I usually come home with some sort of new idea of how something used to work. Which as a side note I have relied on this knowledge for some time, and it has proven to solve many problems that I face daily at work. It really is surprising how useful playing with old contraptions is!

On this particular day out I found an old radio display. whats more, I found an old radio tube grab bag. Only a few buck and a I got myself a ton of 7 and 9 pin full size through mini tubes.  This is a good start!


So where should I start with this gun? Lets tackle the handle. Everybody always starts with a nerf gun. I’d like something that feels functional as much as fictional.

Starting with a design I drew up from my brainporium, with a hint of design element from the tesla guns of warehouse 13. (some day I’ll do a build of one as a replica prop)

Clamp and glue onto a piece of 1/4″ walnut. What a marvelous wood.

rough glue and cut out of both sides sandwiching the walnut.

Nice polished handle in my hand. What a great start.

Ok, now what? What should I put onto the gun?

The Barrel!

So lets custom cut some tubing! but how should we make it even?

Yep you guessed (and dreaded it), I cut the 1 1/4″ pipe I had and opened it up, applied my pattern and cut it out. I used a series of hand files and my belt grinder to shape.

Then its back into a pipe shape. Not surprisingly, this was the most complicated part of it all. I ended up turning a brass insert that was of proper inner diameter. Combine that with a 2oz hammer I got it back round. The fun part is that copper work hardens, like crazy fast. This piece took 3 or 4 heats to get back round without breaking.

The brass inserts were then bored out to accept a mini-tube on one side and a 5mm LED on the other. I’m just getting into electronics on this level. (basic circuitry really…) but I love the look of green LEDs in steampunk gear. If I had done anything different I would have waited and used a slow color changing RGB diode. but theres always the next gun…

So next step was a second photonic plasma transducer. (I just made that up). Blue didn’t look bad for the pair of them.

Well with two barrels built its starting to take shape!

About this time, Christmas was in full swing. I was off of work for several days, amazing time to sit and think in my workshop. I must have made a dozen drawings, and tried 1000 ways to fit these barrels. But I’m not a fabricator in a traditional sense, I don’t have industrial tools or materials either.

So after an intense internal struggle…. Enter the nerf gun.

This is probably the most heavily modified and steampunked nerf out there, the Maverick.

I want my gun to look and feel like I did a thorough facelift. So Bondo!

This was actually my first experience with Bondo. I stupidly bought the wrong one too. I went to the home center. and bought the blue can, all purpose filler. It seems to feel and act like Bondo but it takes WAY longer to set up. (well at least in my shop’s environmental settings) I found it wouldn’t grab the plastic, even though I had heavily sanded rough. Do notice I also cut the frame of the gun too. Opening the trigger guard made it feel more rounded and whimsical to me.

So after I sanded and scraped and sanded and sanded and sanded and the applied more Bondo, and then sanded. I was finally ready for some paint.

I first did about 3 coats of a flat gray filler primer. Then after it dried for not nearly long enough I did a coat of a bronze/antiqued copper primer. I could have probably started here. I’m still not in love with this color.

While that was drying I took out my spare Maverick, because if you can get two of everything it speeds up recovery of your mistakes….

I started fitting and drilling up the barrel ports. I already had a hole from the original barrel, but I needed to add one for the longer tube. not easy to do without measuring many times. I totally butchered the spare. lesson learned I guess.

With the holes properly drilled for the barrel I placed and epoxied in the copper fitting that I had bought for a totally different part. This acted as a great base. It also finally bonded the nerf plastic together. so I closed the open holes with some more Bondo. finished and painted. At this point I went all in with model paints in brass, copper, rust, silver, black. I am real happy with this look. Its the first model painting that I’ve ever done… fumbled through it but it turned out nice.

 Here’s the barrel placed with the painted gun next to the original.

And, shit. The gun is Bondo’d shut. where the hell am I putting the electronics?

Ok the second barrel is now a battery pack. Or, a plasma compression chamber…

I fished the green LED from its holder all the way down and out one of the holes in the copper fitting. I’m using Cat5E UTP wire here. So 24AWG copper strand. Its probably not heavy enough, but I figure its powering a single 1/4w LED so I figure its like less than single milliamp at 3.4V. I don’t really know the maths side of this yet. but why not live a little!

I capped of the battery tube and put an inline switch to turn it on and off. similar to the cane built. No, actually identical….

Once again, I used some 4-40 screws, and drilled and tapped my fittings. It looks more industrial I think. It also comes back apart if I need it to.

Additionally, I added some 1/4″ copper pipe that I heated and bent to contour the gun frame. I think it really adds to have a plasma charging port on one side and a photonic chamber pressure gauge readout.

At this point I could have stopped. But, in the words of Sherlock’s Moriarty, ‘I’m so changeable’.

I have been also playing a ton of Fallout 4, which probably has fueled my steampunkery as well. (unhealthily most likely) I’ve fallen in love with the Gauss Rifle’s design. I love the exposed field windings on the side. So I set out to steampunk them and add them. The biggest hurtle of all of this was finding solid core copper wire.

I want to scrimp and save where I can. I have a bad, bad, habit of blowing money on builds. At this point I’ve gotten 2 nerf guns, 10ft of 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 copper, about 10 various fittings, a pressure gauge, switches, LEDs, 3 spray paints, 9 colors of model paints, brushes, some acrylic paints… Yes, a ton of this will get used in future builds. but this gun probably has about $75 in it already. So I started looking for copper. literally impossible to find. It could also be from me not willing to drive around the neighborhood on trash night and try and scrap it out of other people’s old TVs and such.

Well I broke down, I bought 25ft of solid 18AWG copper and went to town on a transformer casing.

Its a walnut box re-enforced with brass plating.  There are 2 field windings. I had not anticipated it getting crowded so quickly so it is what it is.  I made some brass L brackets and attached them to the bottom rail of the gun.

I think it really turned out nice, and totally unique. I’m very happy with my first steamgun, and my first model paint job. It was a crazy hard build. I should start planning these more!

And the final reveal, with the stand that I built for it to display in my office: