Thursday, February 21, 2013

Handheld Energy Cannon from a Lamp

So it's finally time to share a project that was actually completed months and months ago.  I just kept forgetting to take pictures of it.

I've raved before about Thomas Willeford's excellent instructional book, Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos: A Maker's Guide to Creating Modern Artifacts.  In my opinion the most useful of the tutorials in that book is his guide to turning a brass lamp into a steampunk gun.  This style of gun is a serious step up from a modded Nerf gun, but it does require a little more know-how.

This is a crappy cell phone pic, but it's the
only one I have of the lamp
as I bought it.
Over a year ago, when my husband was hospitalized with pneumonia, I ended up at a thrift store, killing time while he slept.  Up on the top shelf there was the most amazing lamp.  I WANTED this lamp.  I wanted to make it into a gun, badly.  But I tried to talk myself out of it.  It was a big lamp, and I thought I'd never be able to carry it around.  Moreover, it was $10 and I had no cash.  So I had to leave it there.  I was even more upset to hear a man who seemed to be negotiating with the thrift store to buy all the lamps they had.

Meanwhile, I went back and told my husband about the lamp.  He was skeptical and didn't understand why I was so excited about the lamp.  It was only later that I realized I had never actually SAID I wanted the lamp to make into a gun.  I thought that was obvious.  However he was thinking about the fact that we had no need of another lamp in the house.

Anyway, it was several days before I got back to the thrift store with cash in hand, almost sure my lamp would be gone.  It WASN'T.

So the first step to any lamp-gun is to take the lamp apart.  When I did that I discovered that what I had assumed was one large piece was actually three separate pieces.  Which meant I could use the top two sections for my gun and leave off the largest and heaviest section, which makes the gun much more easily carried.  Here is a photo of the two sections I decided to use.

You may be able to see that this lamp had some white paint on it.  I cleaned it off with some Goo Gone, and then used a buffing attachment on a Dremel to get the rest of the paint off.  I used a black Sharpie and some paint to fill in the deep creases to make sure all the white was gone.  I also added some copper colored Rub N' Buff in a few places.

The most difficult part of assembling the gun was to get the two parts to stay together.  Originally the lamp was held together with a long threaded rod with nuts on both ends.  But without the bottom piece of the lamp, the rod was not going to work because there was nowhere for the nuts to hold onto.  My husband tried drilling holes into the join of the two pieces inside the flared barrel, but there wasn't a wide enough lip for that.  Eventually he took the pieces to a friend he works with who used some kind of industrial bolt thing to hold the pieces together from the inside.  But it was still a bit fragile so I reinforced the seam with E6000.

We couldn't find any pre-existing wooden gun grip, so my husband shaped one from a piece of 4x4 with his jigsaw.  We rounded the edges with the Dremel.  It's not PERFECT, but it works pretty well.  I stained and sealed it.  The handle is both glued (again E6000) and screwed onto the gun.  The lamp is made of pretty thick pot metal, so it wasn't possibly to actual do much drilling into it.  I believe there is one screw and then a bunch of glue holding it together.

After the grip and gun body were finally attached, it was time for final decorative elements.   The hole in the rear of the gun was the perfect size for a vacuum tube, so we glued one in place.  And then I attached the brass bits to the sides of the grip.  They are actually parts of drawer pulls, but we bought them as is from a box of similar parts at a junk sale.  I connected these bits to the finial on the top of the gun with corkscrews of wire.  I made the corkscrews by simply wrapping thick craft wire around a thick marker.

And voila!  I had my husband make a stand for it from a pre-made wooden plaque from the craft store and a wooden dowel.  This way I can display the gun on our vending table and I don't have to carry it all the time.  It's pretty heavy, so mostly I will just use it as a display or for photo ops.  I don't think even if I made it a custom holster that I would want that much weight hanging on me.  But it sure looks cool.

1 comment: