Steamdown: How I Made My Liquid-Cooled Steampunk Rifle Prop
I know, "Steamdown" conjures images of a hoedown, but "Steampunk prop breakdown" is a bit of a mouthful, I thought.
Anyway, I'm going to show you how I made my very first Steampunk prop! It doesn't require any tools at all, just some glue and some parts from the hardware store. Oh, and a screwdriver for one screw. So almost no tools at all. Still, pretty much everyone has a screwdriver, so I don't think that's asking too much.
In the following pictures, I'm going to break down every part on the rifle and tell you where I got it and how I attached it.
While you don't have to copy this tutorial exactly (after all, the prop is far from perfect... it was my first one ever), the idea is that knowing what all the pieces are will give you the confidence to go out and make something of your own! Or just satisfy your curiosity.
This is what the whole thing looks like. The only specialized piece on this entire prop that you can't just buy at the hardware store is the stock itself.
The stock is a parade rifle, which is a non-firing replica rifle used either to train for marching in parades, or in some cases used in place of real rifles. You can buy them on the Internet, and they range from really simple and ugly to replicas that look pretty realistic. The price varies accordingly, of course, but if you don't have the ability to make your own stock, this is a great option for you.
This is the other side of the butt of the rifle. You can see the connector used to supposedly send the liquid into the run itself, where it would circulate.
The metal piece in question here was bought at the hardware store, and is actually three different pieces all screwed together. The first is an elbow joint, the middle is an adapter, and the last is a piece that you can put tubing onto. If you go to the plumbing section of your local hardware store, you can easily find all of these pieces. I bought these at Lowe's, which I've found has a better selection than Home Depot, but it's really up to you.
A tip, though, is to bring any pieces you're working on to the hardware store with you, and hold them up to each other and screw them into each other while you're actually in the store, so you don't get home and find that you've bought the wrong pieces. There's a better shot later on that will help me explain how I attached them, so let's move on.
That's a nice-looking design, isn't it? Well, it's made of wood, and they sell them at the hardware store. All I did was buy a pre-made wooden piece and spray paint it with brass-colored paint. Because these are stiff, pre-made pieces, they will only go on a flat surface. Bear that in mind.
I tried to find these online to link you, but I don't actually know what they're called. They come in a variety of designs, though, and can be found in both hardware and craft stores. Ask around at your local store, and I'm sure you'll find them. After they're painted, they can just be glued on with your glue of choice. I used epoxy, but other glues would probably suffice.
This is a gauge used for measuring the pressure on your water pipes. It can be purchased easily at your hardware store, and is intended to screw onto your pipes, making it easy for you to screw it onto your prop.
This is a water splitter, intended to send water to two different locations. It's the heaviest piece on the rifle, and as such, it had to be attached very firmly.
What I did was sink a screw into the rifle, leaving the head protruding about a half an inch. Then I plugged up the top of the splitter with epoxy putty, filled the rest up with liquid epoxy, and put it over the screw. This way, when the epoxy dried and cured, it would set into the grooves inside the splitter, and around the screw, effectively permanently bonding it onto the rifle. The putty was to make sure that the epoxy didn't leak out.
So here's a side view of the liquid attachments, so you can kind of see how I put them on. As I said earlier, these fittings are composed of three different pieces that have been screwed together.
The adapter and the tube-fitting are larger than the L-piece at the end, so if I'd just attached them in one place, there would have been a noticeable empty space there. Instead, I filled the area with epoxy putty. It's not the most elegant solution, but it got the job done. Meanwhile, I basically just epoxied the whole thing on there. It's been remarkably strong! Don't forget to score anything that you intend to glue, too. Scoring consists of cutting little grooves into the material so as to provide a rough surface for your adhesive to bond to. It makes your glued parts so much more sturdy.
Meanwhile, those pieces are hollow, because they're meant to transfer liquid (or gas). So if you don't want your coolant-liquid to leak out all over the place, you need to stop them up somehow. What I did was I filled up the inside of the tube adapter with epoxy putty, waited for it to dry, and then caulked over it. If you're going to do that, make sure you get the waterproof caulk that's for use in pools and whatnot. Otherwise it'll just deteriorate over time. But if you use the right kind, it'll make a watertight seal, and will never leak.
This is another version of the one in #3 above, and is the same sort of wood decoration that can be found in both craft store and hardware stores. Paint them copper or brass and they end up looking really great!
Now, we have a lot of things going on in the following picture.
First, I used these copper pieces as guides for the liquid tubes. I have absolutely no idea what they're supposed to be used for, but I found them in the hardware store. They're only there so that the plastic tubing will sit properly, and will stay where I want it. That said, I think they look kinda cool. I just tied them down with a metal strap, and I was good to go. No glue necessary.
Okay, I'm sure you've been wondering this whole time what's in those tubes. Yes, it's real liquid, and no, it's not food coloring. The yellow tube wouldn't be nearly so vibrant a color if you were using food coloring. What I did was buy a package of highlighters, cut them open, and soaked the ink-filled felt in a cup of water for a day. Afterward, the water was bright like a highlighter! Then I just used a funnel to pour it into the tube.
If you're going to do any work like this, remember to leave some extra empty space for air. Trust me. Your tubes will get squeezed over time, and if you don't have some extra air for overflow, it will leak.
Remember how I said it wasn't food coloring? Well, the blue one is food coloring, so I guess I kind of lied. It was just the standard food coloring that you can get at the grocery store, though when you're experimenting with such things, remember that it will always appear darker in your cup than it will in a tube. The thinner your tube is, the lighter your final product will appear to be.
That's all there is to it. No cutting, no sanding, no using any expensive tools... Just the proper application of time, money, and glue.
I don't expect everyone to go out and replicate this gun, but maybe the techniques I used to make it will be helpful to those considering making their own props!