B.A.B.E. – a custom gun build from Hatton Cross Steampunk Created by chalagi1 on 12/19/2011 8:53:23 AM
Steampunk gun build by Hatton Cross Steampunk
When I first started out in steampunk I did my fair share of gluing gears on things and was mildly content for a short period of time. Then I saw some amazing pieces of art and was inspired to push my talents to a new level. I decided that I needed to build contraptions that not only looked cool but had some degree of function to them. I’ve always had fun making things and am fairly creative so this seemed like a logical step for me. Thankfully, there was a plethora of DIY article out there and friendly artists that were willing to extend a helping hand and provide tips as well as encouragement. It only seems fitting that I repay their kindness with a DIY article of my own in hopes that someone out there is inspired to push their art to a new level of function as well.
While at a great steampunk convention in South Carolina (The Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza); I met a delightful couple named David and JoAnne Merritt. David and I hit it off fairly quickly and began talking of a weapon of great magnitude, epicness even. Perhaps a month later, he commissioned me to build him this weapon and we began a great little journey. We exchanged ideas and concept drawings until we agreed on the following:
You may look at it and wonder what the hell we were thinking but David wanted a blunderbuss weapon that incorporated a wooden barrel, shot smoke and had flashing lights. I had a magnificent French Oak wine barrel (5 liter) and figured that I’d simply create the rest. I laugh at the use of “simply” because nothing I start turns out simple.
I took said oak barrel and applied a wonderful oak stain with polyurethane.
Next I started on the rifle stock. I took a 2x12 and drew the design. I wanted to add a nautical effect. My client was prior military, with the US Navy. As I drew the design on the board, I thought about Captain Nemo’s ship and fish skeletons. This is what I came up with:
A jigsaw helped me get a rough cut and get the curves I wanted.
Next, I got to work with my Ryobi electric chisel. I love this thing.
After hours of carving, sanding, carving some more, sanding some more, I was relatively happy with the look of it and put it up for this picture.
I could already see that this was going to be a big gun. Keeping with the nautical theme, I decided to put in an octopus design in the stock. I used my trusty Dremel and had a blast.
A few layers of stain and polyurethane gave it a nice finish.
Next, I cut the door in the barrel. I would need this for several reasons. One, I had to get on the inside for the electronics. Two: needed to connect the pipes for the Whizzer stick so it could shoot smoke. Three: I figured that it may provide a decent storage space for a cell phone or wallet. I used brass hinges from my local hardware store and a brass hinge for the top.
I needed to cut out a hole for the Whizzer Stick. This was tricky (for me at least) so I made a template using cardboard. Actually it was from an old pizza box. Mmmmmmm… but I digress.
Next it was time for the barrels. I cut up pieces of 1” copper pipe. I secured them by screwing in the copper pipe caps to the base like so…
I left some space when laying this out for the center pipe to be clad with PVC and then a black plastic tube that I had in the garage. The caps were screwed in nice and snug. After that, I glued in the barrels with GOOP mariners glue. I’d like to have soldered it but I was afraid I’d melt the center pipe or burn the barrel.
Next I had to make a connection for the center barrel and the Whizzer Stick. It ended up like this:
I found that the smoke became denser and created this really cool spooky effect. It also seemed to fit the nautical theme as well. Then I had to turn that God awful blue into something more steampunk looking. I have found that if I use chalkboard spray paint (matte black) and then spray or dust gold over it while it is still wet, then I get a pitted bronze kind of look. For this one I put a layer of Rustoleum hammered green first as I wanted to have the hint of green and old brass.
I found this magnificent old brass gauge at a thrift store and was quite happy to discover that it was solid brass. The way the fittings were on this one lent it to a good position at the end of the gun. This was slightly different than the original drawing but like I told my client in the beginning, there would be mild changes as the build progressed.
In order to attach the rifle stock to the barrel, I figured I’d need some heavy duty hardware as the last thing I would want is for it to break on my client. It is also this mentality or philosophy that I blame for it weighing around 20 lbs.
I found these great steel brackets and then made the other two from light steel.
After that, I was forced to test the smoke function again, just in case something changed. Ok, because I think that it’s beyond cool. I think that the duration of this build, my garage was a bit hazy.
Initially I wanted to put a scope or binoculars on the top to act as a scope but after thinking about it, my client suggested a sextant. I thought that it was a great idea and what a beautiful nautical touch for the piece. We found one that was mounted to a base which translated to “possible to mount to the gun” for me.
The next day I ended up stepping on something and after much cussing and fuming, I held the item in my hand. Then, like most moments in my life lately, I thought “How could I steampunk this?”.
And a trigger was born.
For the flashing lights my client requested, I wanted to go with something unusual, unique even. I could have easily installed little flashing LEDs but a recent visit to the Depot of homes, I got an idea. I saw a great little cabinet handle that was made of plastic. Plastic=easy to drill holes! (this turned out to be not so true). So, donning my trusty safety equipment, I drilled a hole and inserted a flashing blue LED.
I may have actually giggled like a little kid who just hatched a brilliant plan. I figured for my next light I would drill a hole in a vacuum tube and really be cool but I broke every one. After more cussing and fuming I chose plastic. This is actually an empty Dremel disc case. For the third one, I used a piece of copper pipe and a brass fitting topped with an old mini-flashlight lens.
For me, no project would be complete without cool rubber hosing. I’ve had people question the authenticity of using rubber hoses and I found this funny to be honest. We are after all talking about ray guns and plasma pistols, time travelers and flying ships. After some research you’ll find that rubber hoses were first produced and used in the early 1830’s. Like many things in the steampunk world, we take the initial use and stretch it a bit, or a lot in some cases. Anywho, I installed a rubber hose. I used a small screw for the ends and a brass key hook on the top to hold it in place.
Here are a few views of the gun as it was coming together:
I then added a headlight. Let’s face it, you never know when your client may be hunting monsters or demons in the dark and need such a thing. That being said, I took a left over brass candle part and installed a white LED in it and then ran the cable to a switch in the back. I ended up painting the switch as the red just looked out of place.
At this point, when I looked at the gun as a whole, I felt it was missing some ooompf on the stock so I dug through my bin of brassy goodness and found these two brass candle parts. I installed them with a small pulley and used ceiling fan chains.
This next part was a flash of brilliance but I have to be honest, I got the idea from French artist Maurice Grunbaum. Look him up on facebook, he has amazing art projects. Anywho, the idea was to add barnacles to the item using plastic beads and seashell pieces. I put down a thick layer of GOOP in strategic areas (corners) and then let it dry. After it dried, I started with the paint.
First black, then green, then my wife hand painted each barnacle with whites, yellows and gold.
Last but not least I thought about my client walking around a con and imagined him cussing me out because of its awkwardness. This got me thinking and so I made a shoulder strap. I got the hinges from my favorite Depot of homes and some trusty flat brass rivets, the strap was born.
Finally, after about a month, BABE was finished. I took a few photos of her and posted them to the Hatton Cross Steampunk FB page. My client was very happy with the finished product and we are anxiously awaiting the first con where we can show it off.
I present to you B.A.B.E., the Behemoth Acaulescent Blunderbuss of Eradication
Hatton Cross Steampunk is led by Dave Lee of Gloucester Virginia. The group’s main purpose is to promote steampunk with anyone interested. We try to encourage our members and artists to create items with as much function as possible. David has several creations in art shows throughout the East Coast having been a part of Dr. Grymm’s Steampunk Bizarre Exhibit (Hartford CT), the Marscon art show (Williamsburg VA) and AnacroCon (Atlanta GA). You can visit the Hatton Cross Steampunk website at www.hcsteam.net and click on the FB link to visit their FB page.