Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Princess Leia DDC Defender Sporting Blaster Build

I should re-title this post, "Always Make Sure Your Craft Materials Won't Melt Your Project."  

What follows is my original blaster build, which I wrote as I was working.  Unfortunately, this project got majorly messed up right around the penultimate step.  If you're looking for inspiration from this build, just buy some good epoxy, glue everything together, and stick to products you know or test them if you need to use something you've never worked with before.  I would still recommend my parts list, and possibly even the anchor screw inside the body of the squirt gun.  If I could go back and redo this, I would just follow my initial plan of using adhesives and craft clay/foam with the plastic plumbing parts and squirt gun body.

Original post, written July 4th, 2014:

This is a photo of Leia's DDC Defender sporting blaster, used in her costume during the speeder bike chase and bunker assault on Endor in Return of the Jedi.  Wookieepedia calls it a, "socially-acceptable sidearm for aristocrats," and mentions that Leia also used this model aboard the Tantive IV.

Unfortunately there don't seem to be any replicas available that are similar enough to this blaster and within my budget.  And I haven't found any Nerf or other toys that could be an easy mod.

So I built my own!

For this build I used:
  1. a cheap toy gun - I bought mine at the Dollar Tree, it's just a basic squirt gun
  2. a length of PVC pipe (a dowel could work too) - 1/2" diameter
  3. various plumbing parts to add the barrel details
  4. black spray paint - Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastic
  5. epoxy and hot glue to hold it all together
  6. craft foam to build up the pieces and help fit them together
  7. my Dremel and sand paper, to rough up the surface and remove unwanted details from the plastic pieces (not pictured)
  8. hack saw (not pictured)

There is a slight color difference on the blaster - sort of a steel gray on the top of the handle and along the length of the barrel - but I'm not worrying about that right now.  Mainly because I already have the black spray paint from a steampunk Nerf mod I did a few years ago and I don't want to buy any more paint.

If you look at these photos, you can see that Leia's holster is roughly the same length as her forearm:

(FYI Padawan's Guide is a great starting point for Star Wars costume reference photos)

I used that as my guide for how big to make this blaster.  My forearm is 8.5 - 9" in length, so my blaster will measure 8.5" along the barrel when I am done with it.

To begin I cut the PVC pipe down to 8.5 inches.  Then I used my Dremel to sand a guide line along the squirt gun barrel, where I then used a hack saw to cut off the extra length.  This can be seen in the photos by the Sharpie marks.  I just used a cheap, rechargeable, cordless Dremel that I bought at Walmart a couple of years ago.  I hope to eventually upgrade to a corded model, so I won't have to worry about battery life.

Once the extra length on the squirt gun was removed, I found that there was a solid plastic barrier inside, so I trimmed my PVC pipe and removed about 2-3 inches.

Then my dad got involved...

Long story short, I was visiting my parents when I made this, I brought my supplies with so I wouldn't lose an entire week without working on my cosplay at all, my dad is pretty crafty but also kind of pushy, and his involvement added four hours to this project. But it was time I got to spend with him, and he showed me how to use his new tabletop grinder, so it was time well spent.

Instead of detailing everything we did, then everything I went back and took apart because the pipe blaster barrel was angled down, from here on out I will only include steps that actually contribute to the final blaster.

My dad suggested using that plastic barrier piece as an anchor, so we drilled through the barrier, inserted a long screw, and fitted the PVC pipe over it to help hold it in place.  Unfortunately, I don't have a photo.  In the next photo, you can see the darker area where the wood filler is, showing the extent of this hollow space.

I used hot glue to hold the pipe in position against the top of the squirt gun.  My original plan was to epoxy the pipe in place, then pack in foam clay if needed, but the screw we added and a few other details made it impossible to completely remove the pipe to use the epoxy.

I then packed the space with wood filler at my dad's suggestion, then screwed a custom made plastic cap over.  This photo shows the pipe in place, with the plastic cover and screw, while the wood filler dries.  Altogether, this gluing and wood filler stage took 15 minutes before leaving it to dry.

Unfortunately when I went back to check on it a day later, I found the wood filler had MELTED the plastic.  It was squishy and resembled plastic grocery bags.

Even though the wood filler was a single product, without a hardener added, it generated a lot of heat as it dried.  I had never worked with this product before and didn't think to question when my dad said to use such a thick amount - even though I know the two-part wood filler generates heat!  Stupid me.  But my dad, who has worked with this exact product before (of course, he owns the tub) wasn't even expecting it to generate so much heat.  So we learned something about this particular product.

Yeah... when I saw that, I decided to just start over.  Except I found it on the day I was leaving to head back home and the laws in my state restrict this style of toy gun (because it looks too realistic, I guess?)  I stopped by my parents' local Dollar Tree (where my mom had bought the gun for me before my visit, since I can't get them in New York - says so on the Dollar Tree website!) to see if they had any more, but they were all out.  BOO!

So starting over isn't really an option at this point.

My plan is to try to salvage what I have, using craft foam or some clay to smooth out the melted parts.

If that doesn't work, I'm just going to saw off the handle and permanently glue it into the holster, so it will look like I have a blaster.  Too bad I won't be able to use it as a prop for photos... I might not even bother with it at that point, so I won't have to stand in line at weapons check at SDCC.

I will update this post once I figure this out.  I already delayed posting this because I was hoping to have it finished, but I wrote this as I was working and didn't predict having this project derailed so spectacularly.

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