Just to be clear, I’ve never modded a NERF gun before and although I have a little experience with crafting and using paints as a teenager that was twenty years ago.
- NERF Nite Finder
- Cross-headed screwdriver
- Flat blade of some kind
- Brass M5 bolt and nut
- Brass cupboard door handle with detachable base
- Cooling fan & heat-sinks from an old video card
- Cans of car spray paint: white & grey primer, metallic gun-metal and metallic gold
- Touch-up car paint pens: silver and metallic green
- Electrical insulation tape
- Sticky-fixers (two-part epoxy resin glue would be better)
- Pliers might be handy
So a little background: I love steampunk and of course I’ve seen all the funky steampunk gear you can buy. Being a NERF gun fan I’ve also seen all the crazy steampunk mods out there and it got me thinking whether I could do something like that myself.
I decided to mod my trusty Nite Finder. I wouldn’t mind binning this if I screwed it up:
I kept all the bits and pieces in a bowl to make sure I didn’t lose anything:
I used a blunt blade on the battery contacts which slid up and out smoothly:
The LED pointer was a little fiddly:
Now for the scary part – painting! This looked like a messy business, so I wore some old clothes and laid down plenty of newspaper. I found a flat cardboard box which was perfect but the paint from the spray cans still drifted around leaving a nice rectangle on the floor afterwards. I did all the painting in my garage.
I used car spray paints. I have no idea whether this is right thing to do or not! I figured it would be less likely to wear and I didn’t know where else to buy anything. I later found out that there is a craft shop further in town that sells acrylic spray paints and these might have been cheaper. I bought spray cans of ‘gun-metal’ and ‘dark gold’ metallic paints, plus cans of white and grey primer (grey for the gun-metal and white for the gold). I also bought two touch-up pens for high-lighting: silver and metallic green. The silver will be used to highlight the gun-metal and the green will be used to ‘verdigris’ the gold.
The painting took several days, waiting 24-hours for each coat to dry before applying a second coat, or touching up where I had missed a bit:
There were lots of components to paint:
Meanwhile I started planning what extra bits I would add. Luckily I have loads of junk to rummage around in!
There was a logo on either side of the gun that needed either removing (with sandpaper) or covering up. I decided to go for covering it up, adding a few brass bits and pieces.
First of all, space inside the gun looked restricted so I used some blu-tac and a ruler to check for clearances:
I’m right-handed, so I decided to add a small brass component over the left-side logo and a larger funkier component on the right.
I found a nice looking piece of brass from a cupboard door handle, placed it over the logo and used a pencil to mark the position of the hole. I drilled a hole, checked bolt lengths and component fit before taking it all off again (I was still in the middle of priming and painting at this stage):
I found an old video card, and the heat-sinks and fan gave me a great idea. First of all I tested my theory by touching a few wires together and yes there was enough current from the two 1.5v batteries to power the LED pointer that’s built into the NERF as well as spinning up the fan – the fan even has a soft blue light. I removed the fan and heat-sinks from the video card using a screwdriver and flat blade. Then I positioned them on my NERF gun to see how they would look:
Back to the painting, I now applied top coats of the gun-mental and gold. It was looking very dark and plain at this point, and I started having second thoughts about whether it was going to look steampunk at all:
To feed the fan wire into the body of the gun I decided to use one of the existing screw holes. I cut a notch inside to allow access for the cables, but the red-black-yellow cabling looked too modern so I hunted around until I found something to cover it up.
I cut a two to three inch length of the coaxial cable, cut back a half-inch section of the black sheath from one end then used some pliers to pull the copper and shielding from the inside. The resulting tube of black plastic was perfect for covering up the fan cables, and it even matched the width of the screw hole perfectly:
So now it was make or break time, because I still wasn’t convinced the paint job looked very steampunk. I mentioned right at the start that I bought two touch-up pens: silver and metallic green. I used these to weather the gun using a technique called ‘dry-brushing’. I had no idea what this was going to look like, but I remember using dry-brushing to great effect painting miniatures.
Starting with the silver touch-up pen, I dripped a tiny amount of the paint onto a disposable surface, then used a large brush to soak it up, wiped off the excess so the brush was almost dry and then drew the brush back and forth across the gun. Doing this, the lighter paint covered all the edges and upper surfaces giving the gun a weathered effect:
I then used the same technique with the metallic green touch-up pen on the components I had painted gold:
I now had a silly big smile on my face, because it looked fantastic!
Now I had to put it all back together again and this was by far the most difficult part of this project, not because I couldn’t remember what went where (though I did refer to my photos a few times!) but because of the additional wiring for the fan.
First of all I cut the red LED pointer cable around the halfway mark. I then wired the end of the red fan cable to the loose end of the red NERF cable from the battery – and then I wired both of these to the red cable that led to the LED pointer. I had to add a small section of cable between the fan/battery connection and the end of the LED wire because it was too tight.
The end of the black fan cable was simply wired to the end of the black NERF wire where it connected to the battery.
Fitting the two sides together was extremely fiddly, because the cables kept snagging when the two sides of the NERF gun were slotted back together again. You can see I even used blu-tac to keep one of the cables in place! The fan and the heat-sinks were stuck on with double-sided sticky fixers (I will use epoxy glue if these fall off):
The finished product is just incredible! The LED pointer, the fan and the blue fan-light all work when the trigger is half-pressed and it still shoots!
I’m still not entirely convinced it looks very steampunk compared to some of the excellent works of art out there, but I love the fan and I may pop into a local DIY shop at some point to grab some more brass bits and pieces.