Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Clone Princess Leia's Blaster

Granitecon is coming.

In a pop culture environment that includes glamorizing anorexia, sex, and drug and alcohol abuse, I am conscious of the role models my girls attach themselves to. So far, I haven't had any issues, as they admire strong women such as Adele, Ms. Frizzle, and Dora the Explorer. However, I am always on guard.

Our regional, major comic book convention, Granitecon, is just around the corner, and this year, I asked the girls if they wanted to cos-play, meaning, 'Do you want to dress up in awesome costumes?' The answers were a definite 'Yes!' (Expect blog posts in the near future covering this concept).

I am so proud.

We ran the gamut of possible role-plays: Classic Doctor Who companions, comic book characters, literary personalities- each with a respondent, 'ho-hum.' Instead, they each settled on Star Wars for the theme. My six-and-a-half-year-old will going as Padme in battle dress from Episode II. No problems there- We have the jumpsuit and the shawl, and Hasbro, thanks to the resurgence of young girl spending power, produces accurate belts and blasters for the costume.

My five-year-old chose to done the cowl of Leia, circa Episode IV. The hair buns, the white dress, and the blaster. Here the issue arose. In 1976, aside from the action figures at 1:1000 scale, the toy companies didn't recognize a need to produce her iconic sidearm. Apparently, girls didn't play with guns, and didn't represent a buying power niche. What a missed opportunity...

Now, that's not to say I couldn't find a modern replica to purchase.

When still in business, Master Replicas made a blaster. It was well detailed, and came with some goodies like a certificate of authenticity, a photo of Carie Fisher, and price tag somewhere around a grand. You can still find these on eBay, for around the same price. This was not an option for a five-year-old. I'd rather buy her a bass boat.

So, to balance my desire for accuracy and price point, I decided to make my own. Here's how I did it:

This is what we're 'shooting' for - a lengthened barrel with some identifying details, attached to an existing 'toy' pistol. Note the extended site, the graduated rings that surround the fore-half of the muzzle, the vent above the muzzle termination, and the pin ahead of the trigger.

Step one was to find the pistol base, and what better place than Airsoft? The original Leia blaster was based off a Soviet .22 target pistol, but alas, it's not a model manufactured in plastic. However, The Double Eagle M28 fit the bill- you can pick one up here for less that $6 minus shipping.

Step two was to re-create a facsimile of the extended barrel to attach to the Luger base. Here, you will need a min-lathe, or a friend who has the ability and time to do your bidding. Luckily, I have such a tool in my workshop, so it was off to work. If you to get one, try this one here. And though not completely inconceivable, you can count on me as a friend. Drop me a message at the bottom of the page, and we'll see what kind of agreement we can come to-

I am in the habit of hoarding broken garden tools, so I had on a hand a suitable stock of wood (dense
pine most likely) from an old shovel. The wood is seasoned, and the natural resin helps form a base finish, once buffed, to which I'll neatly apply the paint and polyurethane sealer. More on these later.

The length of the extended barrel is just over 1/2 inch from the length of the original  barrel, so I cut an appropriate piece out and fastened it in to the lathe. I paired down the wood to a uniform width, then marked off my sections. In the future, I'll pull out the calipers, but for this project, I simply eyeballed the varying widths.

I decided to hint at the ring vents, rather that match them up exactly, so I made my cuts after shaping the main form. Then, came the winnowing down of the end that will slide into the Luger barrel, keeping it snug. Here, you need the calipers. A tight fit will keep the extended barrel in line with the original, and ensure it won't wobble around.

Once the turning was completed, I trimmed to length, and used a quick-set epoxy glue to fasten the two pieces. Once set, I applied a black model spray paint (Testers) to lightly coat the blaster. Two coats will suffice, but three won't hurt. After it dried completely, I applied three light coats of a polyurethane sealer to protect against wear, and voila- the piece was done.

The blaster is complete, now to work on hemming and fitting the costume. As for the wig- I might just have to go back to the epoxy. Who knows how long a five-year-old can keep that thing on without pulling it off?

And a very important note:in this very critical finish application step, I'd like to thank cos-player extraordinaire Ani-Mia for her advice on the surface materials. I could have easily guessed wrong and wasted the whole project- cheers!









More photos of the project:


Pairing down the handle to a uniform surface width. I sanded and buffed occasionally for uniformity.

The first cut, separating the coil springs from the muzzle vents.
 Same idea, different angle.
Using calipers for the male/female match between the wooden clone and the airsoft barrel will save you time and frustration- trust me on this one.

The M28 before assembly and painting.
 Sanding out the muzzle-tip vent.
 Epoxy- what would life be like without extremely aggressive adhesives?
 Fitting the pieces together- perfectly snug.
I inserted a screwdriver through the bore hole so I could complete the spray job without hassling with sticky paper.