Wednesday, November 16, 2011

M1911A1 Custom

Metal Gear Solid 3 is still my favorite video game.  Ever.  I've been making improvements to my Snake costume over time, and you've likely seen the other props I've built for it.

This past August, I updated my costume with Snake's iconic handgun from the game.

The first tutorial I did for Cardboard Armory features the M1911A1 I'd been using in conjunction with my Snake stuff, but it's been bugging me that it wasn't the custom version he uses.  I had to change that.

Here's the gun we're going to be making:

In this video, Sigint and Snake have a conversation regarding all the intricacies of the weapon.  Yeah, they did their research and made certain everyone knew it.

Anyway, since I like to work off of images and numbers rather than just some spoken details, I came across someone who was actually building a legitimate firearm with all of the custom details Snake had described.  He had a few illustrations of all the changes:  

I took the dimensions of a real M1911A1 off of Wikipedia(where I tend to find most of my firearm dimensions), and brought that into Photoshop to get a 1:1 scale version.  Then I overlaid the above image onto it, matching it in key places on the firearm on-screen, to get it as close to how large it would be in real life.

Once this was all laid out, I went to work the way I usually do, and traced the gun onto cardboard, cut out those templates, and began gluing them together.

HOWEVER, this time around I wanted to do something different.  You'll notice the custom M1911A1 has a threaded barrel for attaching a suppressor to.  I wanted to include a suppressor(the proper term for a "silencer"), so I began planning for one.  The problem, however, was that my leather holster doesn't have a hole in the bottom that would allow me to holster my weapon with the suppressor still on it, so it would have to be a removable one.

I went to Home Depot and began fitting pieces of PVC together in the plumbing department to see what would work.  I knew the barrel would be 1/2", so I started off with a threaded male-end plug, which I then fitted a corresponding female end to.  I wanted the suppressor itself to be about 3/4" in diameter, so that female end had to have a wide enough base for it to produce the smallest gap between the PVC suppressor possible while still fitting that 1/2" threaded barrel.  I had to use a bit of glue to keep it all flush, as I couldn't find that magic fit that united both of those pieces.  The end cap was just a plug that I flipped so the raised end was inside the PVC, and then I believe I drilled a hole into it so it looked like an actual barrel.  Yes, I realize that explanation is a little confusing, but I don't have any progress photos chronicling that process, which I apologize for.

ANYWAY, I took a wooden dowel and fitted it into the back end of the threaded barrel piece.  I knew that I was going to carve out a channel and fit the dowel and threaded barrel piece into the cardboard itself, so I cut that into the cardboard.  Here's an image of that cross-section, with the PVC assembly as well: 

Then it was just a matter of gluing it all together, carving down the edges, and sealing those edges with hot glue.  The coolest part about this gun?  Definitely the removable suppressor.


Screwed on:

Now unfortunately, I didn't measure the width of the gun properly, so even though the reason I made the removable suppressor in the first place was to be able to holster the gun, it was too wide to fit in my holster, so I'll eventually have to split the prop open again and trim it down a little bit more.

However, it's still awesome to break it down and piece it back together, which just adds to the overall feel of the costume.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out:

It looks pretty nice alongside all of my other gear, too:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Joker's Custom Revolver

All of my previous builds thus far have had a real-world equivalent that I could get sizes and other supplemental information from.  This build, however, is for a custom revolver used by Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum.  This was a commission for a friend of mine for his Joker costume, so there's a level of trying to impress a client enough to be paid.  Let's begin!

I went through countless Google image pages under different searches, trying to find a profile view of the gun to work from, since the above image has a fair amount of perspective to it, which tricks the eye in regard to the actual scale of the weapon.  I wanted it to be as precise as possible, which meant scouring.  Eventually I came across a Resident Evil 4 mod with a Joker's Revolver replacement for the .50 cal revolver in-game.

That would work nicely for me.  I brought it into Photoshop, and actually opened up the file from the Colt Anaconda build I did in order to match up the trigger guard and grip, allowing me to pit it against a real-world equivalent.  From here, I did the same-old method of mine of scaling it to 1:1 and zooming it in so one inch on the screen was one inch on my ruler.

Then I mapped a template onto cardboard and cut them out.  Bear in mind the…well, I want to call it the ejector rod, but that's not in the right place…  The thing underneath the barrel...  Bear in mind that it will be made of a dowel, so it's not included here:

Once more pieces are cut out, I add the sight.

Here's an view of nearly all the parts going into this build before I glue it all together.  You can see that I've cut the hole into the body for the chamber to sit.

For the chamber, I got a chunk of...honestly, for the life of me, I can't recall the diameter, but a chunk of PVC, cut it to scale, and filled it with a bunch of cardboard rings with a hole down the center for the 1/2" dowel to fit through.  I cut a groove into the body for the nub end of the dowel to rest in in order to keep it all stable.

As you can see, it fits nicely.  Also, for the hammer, I grabbed a paper clip, hot glued it into place, and bent it into the right shape.  It's a little small at this point, but I'll fix that later.

All the major pieces are assembled.  The dowel goes through the muzzle, stopping maybe an inch short, at most, so that I can build a removable orange tip for the finished piece.  The sight, as you can see, has paper clip reinforcement pieces that will help the sight retain its structural integrity when it's up top.  The dowel is in place on the bottom.

Here's the hammer, lookin' quite a bit more beefed up from layers of hot glue.  Also, the edges of the revolver frame are all filled in with glue at this point, and shaped with a bevel around the edges to keep it lookin' good.

And here she is with the completed construction.  All that's left is to prime 'er in black and paint 'er silver with the proper accents.

And voila!  All done!  I added a little red enamel paint(honestly, it was because I couldn't track down where I put my red acrylic) to keep the blood splatter a little bit moist looking.

Andrew has said he likes the way it looks.  Unfortunately, this is the only photo I could find with him and the prop.

This build only took me about two days of work, and, mind you, I was AT work while I was working on this, so there were a lot of intermittent stops to...y' my actual job.  :P  Weekends are always slow at the station, though.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ithaca M37

One of the pinnacle weapons in movies and games is the shotgun.  With so basic a design(stock, trigger, barrel, forend) and so prolific in our culture, it's a wonder it's taken me so long to build one.  Today,  I'm building an Ithaca M37, one of the shotguns used in Resident Evil 5(along with much of the rest of the series), and even more games, like Metal Gear Solid and Call of Duty: Black Ops(It's referred to as the "Stakeout").

Here's Chris Redfield in the game with the M37(sounds like I'm playing Clue):

Here's a real M37:

Pretty simple.  Cardboard grip and body, two 3/4" PVC pipes, and a chunk of larger PVC with grooves for the forend.  Let's get started.

First off, as usual, I get a profile of the shotgun into Photoshop and blow it up to 1:1 scale.  Then I trace it onto cardboard, cut out that chunk, and use it as a stencil.  I believe this thing was 1 3/4" wide.  Here, you can see the new, industrial cardboard my uncle gave me.  It's 3/4" wide, whereas normal cardboard is roughly 1/8" on average.  Saves me pleeeeenty of time.  The only problem is that I eventually need to cover all the edges with heavy paper instead of just hot glue.

 Here's a shot of the gun(see what I did there?) body from the side.

To reinforce the gun, I plan to sink the PVC as far into the body as possible.  That means having to cut in some grooves.  Each groove is 1/2" deep at its lowest point(The outside of the 3/4" PVC brings it up to 1").

Here you can see the PVC sunk into the body.

And then I glue it all together.

Looking pretty sweet.  Now I just have to run some heavy paper around the edges.

Looking at the design, I noticed that the front of the forend looks vaguely bottle-shaped, so I lopped the top off of a bottle of Propel and electrical taped it on.

It's lookin' more and more like the M37.

To add the grippy grooves(I love sayin' that) to the forend, I measured them out to about a 1/4" apart and drew those concentric circles onto the PVC.  Then I started using a Dremel to cut a channel into each of the lines.  Dremeling a straight line is a lot more difficult than you'd think.

Once it's done, I hit it with some sandpaper to take all of the rough edges off and to rough up the shiny finish of the PVC so it holds the paint better.  Speaking of paint, I hit the whole thing with some flat black.

After that, I painted the forend brown and added a bit of wood texture that I achieved by letting the paint get a little bit tacky so it'd create stronger brush strokes(similar to wood grain) when I painted on it.  I also painted in all of the little details, which there weren't too many of.

Here's Nick(the recipient) with the finished product:

And with his Chris Redfield gear:

Monday, April 25, 2011


In my opinion, Heckler and Koch make amazing looking weapons.  The G36c is my favorite weapon(oddly, I haven't built one for myself yet), and the PSG-1 is just as classy looking, so I was really excited to build this prop weapon.  Here's a real one:

I decided to start shooting some video, since I had my Flip sitting on the side.  Woo!  You can listen to my boring droning while staring at my boring face!  OH BOY!  Just a heads-up, this is going to be a pretty video-dependent build, so I apologize if that's not your thing.  This is my first time doing that, so if it works, I may wind up doing the entire build as a video from now on.  If not, I'll go back to a blog-style explanation, so bear with me.

I start off as usual, by grabbing a high-res profile of the weapon I need to build and mapping it out in Photoshop.  Here's an explanation:

However, since this thing is such a long prop, it creates a few issues.

And the prospective solution:

Work begins!  Here's an application of the technique, which is explained(probably much longer than it needs to be):


After this, I basically repeat that process...over and over and over...and over... until I finally get all of the pieces cut out.  Two inches worth of cardboard at an average thickness of 1/8" apiece takes a long time, for the record.  Here, you can see that everything is laid out.  The PVC is sitting where I'm planning on cutting the channel into the body and stock.  The forearm is placed where it's going to overlap that offshoot of the body, and the triangular ribs will help to reinforce the forearm to avoid crumpling, bending, or wiggling.

Next up, cutting out the PVC groove and gluing the chunks together:

Once the whole body is glued together, grinding begins.
video video

Here's the result:

The grinding and filing are all finished now.

After covering the top of the body with some heavy paper, affixing the cheek plate to the stock, carving slots in for the scope mount, and building the mounting for the scope itself(sorry, I never covered that in videos or photos.  It's pretty basic, though), and the painstaking process of coating all of the edges and gaps with hot glue, not to mention smoothing that glue out to keep the body contiguous, I dub the construction finished.  I apologize for the audio.  It was late, and I didn't want to talk too loudly, lest I wake up my parents.

Here's a photo of the finished construction:

Next up… PAINT!

*triumphant music*  Toooootally done.  It's been a trial building this beast, but it's a pretty epic looking prop.  I'm sure Chris will be pleased.

And a photo of the end result:

Here're two shots of Chris in his Dave Johnson gear:

And our entire group together(plus one...whoever that is...):

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Quite possibly the most widely-known and widely used firearm in the world, the Avtomat Kalashnikova, or "AK" as it's most commonly referred to, acquired its "47" from the year it was accepted by the Soviet Army for use as their service rifle.  The AK-47 has been around for so long and has had so many different permutations over the years that it's hard to track down the exact real world model Captain Price uses in the Gulag mission, but, like the M16 and M4, it's all the same basic parts.
Here's a real AK-47, which is pretty close to what I'll be building:

Here's the in-game model, which is the one I'm modeling this entry's gun after:

So let's get started!

As usual, I get my model(as I said, the in-game screenshot seen above) into Photoshop and fit it to 1:1 scale, which, in this case was 34".  After that, I transferred the body of the rifle onto cardboard, saving the barrel, top...rod...thing, and stock rod for use with dowels, and leaving the stock for a separate piece altogether.  However, this time around, I opted to start with the stock, as it was easier, so I got that out of the way immediately.

Next, I figured out where all of the dowels needed to sit, built up several layers of cardboard by hot gluing them together, and carving grooves into the body for the dowels to sit.  Once fitted in properly, I hot glued the rods into place.

After that, I basically completed the body by doing the opposite, carving out grooves into the reverse side and gluing the top into place.  Then, the tedious process of carving the curves in(such as on the grip and top of the rifle), sealing all of the edges with hot glue, and smoothing everything out so it looks like one, uniform piece.  Here's the finished product before paint:

Now all that's left to do is hit it with paint.  Here's the base coat:

Since this was literally the morning before we left for the convention, I was tired as heck and neglected to take a final picture of the finished piece.  However, here's the gun in use by my friend Dale:
Photo © Ronald Ladao

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