Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Making Weapon Props from EVOLVE Part 3: the Lightning Gun

In the upcoming video game EVOLVE, you can play as one of four classes of hunter going after giant monsters (or play as the monster itself).  The classes are "Trapper," "Assault," "Medic," and "Support."  Each class has its own unique skills and equipment.  In my last article in this series I detailed the building of the Harpoon gun carried by a Trapper called Griffin.  When I saw the first trailer for the game, the Harpoon Gun was my favorite weapon.

Once I'd built one weapon for each class of hunter, my favorite one to see in real life was the Lightning Gun carried by an Assault-class hunter named Markov Golushko:

That thing's pretty nifty.

Here's the Lightning Gun render that I started with:
Lightning Gun Reference Image

For details about how it was made into a practical prop, read on...

Looking at the digital model, it was richly detailed and there were a lot of pieces:
Lightning Gun digital model

As luck would have it, many of the pieces were just repeated copies of the same parts over and over.  After a bit of cleanup, I'd found about thirteen unique parts that I would have to prototype and mold:
Lightning Gun Parts

Just like the Harpoon Gun, the larger parts were carved out on my Carvewright CNC Machine:
FIrst Two Lightning Gun Carves

Here they are glued up before I'd done any real cleanup work:
August 4 Lightning Gun Progress 03

The smaller, more detailed parts were cranked out on my Objet30 3D printer.  Here's a few of the pieces on the build tray:
August 5 Lightning Gun  Progress 04

After cleaning off the support material, they looked great:
August 5 Lightning Gun Progress 05

These two pieces on the right are most of the support for the plasma ball section in the middle of the gun:
August 4 Progress 01

Once the glue had set up on the carved parts, they were given multiple heavy coats of primer:
August6 Lightning Gun Progress 10

Then I started filling and smoothing out the seams.  Here's the stack of parts after a day or two worth of attention:
August 7 Lightning Gun Part in Progress

Here's a couple of the parts off of the Objet30.  After initially cleaning off the support material, all they need is a light sanding and a coat of primer and they're basically ready to mold:
August 9 Lightning Gun Progress 06

The CNC'ed parts take a bit more effort.  Here you can see the outer rail parts shaping up:
August 9 Lightning Gun Progress 09

And a closeup of the 3D printed bracket that goes on the back end of each rail:
August 9 Lightning Gun Progress 10

Just as soon as I had parts that were ready to mold, I started making up mold boxes and pouring rubber:
August 11 lightning gun  Progress 185

Since I needed more copies of them than anything else in this project, the first thing to be molded was the "tooth."  The finished piece would need six of these teeth to be placed under each of the three outer rails, so I set to work casting copies as soon as the mold was ready:
August 14 First completed mold for Lightning Gun Progress 186

Once the outer rail prototype was shined up and ready to mold, I had my assistant Kate block it up with clay:
August 11 lightning gun  Progress 186

Once a good, smooth clay wall was built up, Kate built a box around the outside of the whole thing and started filling it with silicone.  In order to fill up more space without wasting a bunch of expensive silicone rubber, Kate cut up a bunch of old retired molds and sank chunks of them in the new silicone before it cured:
August 14 Lightning Gun Progress 182

Then she added even more chunks of cured silicone:
August 14  First Molds for Lightning Gun Progress 185

And poured in even more silicone:
August 14 Filling LIghtning Gun Rail Progress 188

When the whole mess had cured, we flipped it over, removed all of the clay, and poured in the second half of the mold.  The next day I removed the prototype and cast the first copy.  Kate was very proud of it:
Aug 19 First Lightning Gun Part Cast Progress 13

While the other copies were cast, the prototype was used to test the sizing of the lettering that would be added to the finished piece:
August 14 Lightning Gun label Test Progress 206

The main body of the gun ended up being the foundation that all of the other parts were mounted to.  Here it is shortly before molding when I'd given it a glossy coat of my standard lightish-red prototype color:
August 14 Lightning Gun Progress 181
Usually I'll spray everything pink if it needs to be shiny before molding.  With four separate projects going simultaneously, I decided not to do this with the parts of the other props in order to avoid confusion.

Once the paint had dried, a mold wall was set up and it was ready to go.  Here's my assistant Jason pouring the print coat for the first half of the mold:
August 14 Pouring Print Coat on Lightning Gun Body Progress 195

Later that day, I thickened it up and added the half-dome registration keys:
August 14 LIghtning Gun First Half of Jacket Mold Progress 198

There was a lot of other moldmaking going on at the same time.  Most of these molds would be used to make Lightning Gun parts:
August 14 Lightning Gun Part Molds in Progress 199

With the first half of the mold cured, I flipped it over and laid up the second half:
Shawn Thickening Mold for Lightning Gun Body

The later stages of the process are a lot like frosting a cake:
Shawn Thickening Mold for Lightning Gun Body 2

Molds for Lightning Gun Parts

Since the silicone is flexible, I needed to lay up a fiberglass mothermold in order to keep it from collapsing under its own weight:
Aug 17 Lightning Gun Body Mold Progress 03

After I'd laid up both halves of the fiberglass mothermold, the edges were trimmed smooth:
Aug 19 Lightning Gun Main Body Progress 06

Then I drilled a series of bolt holes around the outside edge before prying the mothermold open:
Aug 19 Lightning Gun Mothermold Parting Progress 08

After removing the prototype, the mold was reassembled and bolted together:
Aug 19 Lightning Gun Main Body Mold Ready to Pour Progress 09

The first casting came out a bit heavy, but it still looked pretty good:
Aug 19 Lightning Gun Body Casting Progress 14

At this point, I'd already been stacking up castings of all of the other parts:
Lightning Gun Assemblies Begin Progress 17

There were a lot of them:
Complete Set of Lightning Gun Castings Progress 19

To see if the whole thing was too heavy, I taped a full set of pieces together and had Kate carry it around for a while:
Lightning Gun is going to be Heavy Progress 32
We decided that, yes, it was heavy, but that the weight of the whole thing would actually be a good thing when it was handed to folks at conventions.

Satisfied that the parts were good go, I set to work gluing together the various sub-assemblies:
Lightning Gun Assembly Progress 37

Most of the weight comes from the central core piece with all of the teeth installed:
Lightning Gun Assembly Progress 42

Once it had been bonded together, I added the electrode-looking points to the front end:

Lightning Gun Assembly Progress 41 
 Then it was time to dry fit the outer rails:
Dry Fitting Lightning Gun Parts

Fully assembled, this thing was quite a sight:
Lightning Gun Dry Fitting

Since there was no time or budget for functional electronics, I wasn't able to build a plasma ball into the back end of the gun.  Instead, my friend Matt showed up with a couple of Christmas tree ornaments that were just the right size to fit in.  We ended up putting in a blue metallic ornament in the finished piece, but we had a plain silver one for test-fitting:
Lightning Gun Taped Together

Once I was certain that all of the pieces fit together properly, it was time for a tiny bit more sanding and filling:
Lightning Gun Main Body Prep

The parts were all given a couple of coats of black primer:
Lightning Gun Sub-Assembly

When the primer dried, it was time for final assembly:
Lightning Gun Final Assembly

Throughout the priming and painting process, strips of masking tape covered a few areas of the blue metallic Christmas tree ornament.  The rest was painted to match the body of the gun.

I was damned proud of this piece:
Lightning Gun Base Color

Here's my friend Matt practicing his best "brandishing" look:
Lightning Gun Showoff

With the primer dry, the whole gun was given a few coats of a very dark, almost black, metallic grey:
Lightning Gun Black

After a heavy drybrushing with silver paint to bring out all of the raised edges, a few of the details were picked out in various other metallics and a rust orange color.  Then it was time to peel the masking tape off of the Christmas tree ornament:
Lightning Gun Detail Painting

The final touch: a warning label for either side of the main body.  Since the lettering was going to be so small as to be nearly illegible, I had a bit of fun with the text:
Lightning Gun Label 2  Lightning Gun Label 1

With the painting and weathering done, the Lightning Gun was stacked up with the rest of the props to await pickup:
Evolve Hunter Weapon Lineup in the Workshop

Here it is loaded into the pickup:
Weapons Loaded

Finally, here it is all finished in the studio, (image courtesy of Make: magazine):
Lightning Gun Studio Pic

Here it is in action at PAX Prime in Seattle:

Next up I'll be detailing the build process for the Lazarus Device:
Lazarus Device Reference Image

Stay tuned...



  1. Those warning labels made me laugh. Excellent job, as if that is surprising coming from you.

  2. Amazing, I would love to hire y'all to build a prop for me.

    1. If there's something you'd like me to build for you, shoot me an email at sthorsson99@yahoo.com. Just let me know what you're after and roughly what kind of budget and timeline you have in mind.