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Steampunk Prop Modding 101

Updated on April 16, 2014

Now that you've got a steampunk outfit, you need a prop!

Until I started doing steampunk costuming, I never really tried to make my own props. I didn't have a lot of space or time, so the techniques I use are fairly simple. Anyone can do them, I think. I'm going to tell you some easy basic steps to make your own steampunk weaponry.

I see gun modding in three levels.


The first is a simple repaint. You don't do much more than give a squirt gun or dart gun a new coat of paint.


The second level is a little more ambitious. You might add a few small details, hoses or lights to the basic repaint. I call this "kitbashing", from my days reworking model kits.


The third is a whole 'nother level of complexity higher. You completely build up a gun from scratch. No squirtgun required. You build this piece out of bits and bobs. This level takes a lot of ingenuity. You will need skill, vision and a large helping of luck to come up with something fabulous. This skill is often called "bodgering" in the steampunk community. I will be doing a lens on this technique soon.

In this module I am going to show you how I created a gun that is in between level one and two.

Step one - Preparation

Find an old squirt gun that has possibility. This one has what looks like hoses and lots of small details, so it seemed like a good base. I first unscrew the whole things and remove the working part. Wash it thoroughly so paint will stick to it. Reassemble. I left off the water bulb at the back and debated about what I might add to make it more interesting. Next, I like to use a Dremel tool and sand the logos and any writing off. Sanding off the logos will make it look a lot better. You don't really want your gun to say "Nerf" or whatever on it. That's all the sanding required for this project. Depending on the paint you use, you may have to sand the entire thing to get the paint to stick. The kind I use doesn't require this tedious step and it will look shinier for not having been sanded. If you really want it to look extremely worn, sanding can add to the effect.

Step two: Paint

I usually do a primer coat at this point, but since I was using a fairly dark base, I didn't. I painted it with a spray on paint called Krylon Fusion because it's made to stick to plastic. This one is a "hammered finish" grey. It gives a really cool splotchy effect if you don't overspray it. I took a small paintbrush with a little watered down black acrylic paint and dabbed it in the crevices. I used a paper towel and wiped off any that was outside the cracks. This will help the details stand out.

Step three: Details

Next I painted the hoses and some details with a little silver paint using a dry brush technique; it will mostly highlight the highest points on the gun. Next I used copper and bronze on the bulbs and front pieces to give them a different effect. Lastly, I spray the entire thing with a matte spray to seal the paint. The last thing I did was add a gold colored plastic Easter egg to the back with E6000 glue. I wrapped it in gold art tape to partly disguise the seam.

And voila! I give you "The Bulbous Overthruster". A light weight raygun for any occasion.

You can certainly take these basics and go further. You can add lights, gauges and more. This was my third gun mod. I am always learning and experimenting with new techniques. Don't be afraid to fail.

Help finding basic guns

I find most of my guns at thrift or discount stores. If you don't have any luck, you can always troll eBay and see what pops up.

Great Stuff on Amazon

One of the most popular types of plastic guns to modify is the Nerf Maverick. Depending on how the widget is behaving, there should be one displayed below.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful. Let me know what you think.

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome and indeed, spiffing work!

    • agoofyidea profile image


      8 years ago

      The results are amazing. You'd never guess what you started with. Great lens.

    • auxpwr lm profile image

      auxpwr lm 

      8 years ago

      I never thought of that, great ideas come from great minds

    • auxpwr lm profile image

      auxpwr lm 

      8 years ago

      I never thought of that, great ideas come from great minds


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