Category Archives: Props

BR85 Build Skills, Episode 3

The series finale, in fact!

Once again, the purpose of this series has been to demonstrate some individual, self-contained elements of a build that translate well to other builds and materials that elevate a build beyond simple assembly and paint.

This time, it’s mag catches:

Even shorter again, clocking in at under 15 minutes!

It would indeed have been up by February as promised last time, but some people decided they wanted to pay me to do stuff, so it’s late. Understandable, right?!

The scope, safety selector and paint are being axed. The scope because the LED system in there isn’t sufficiently different to the ammo counter to warrant a video, the safety selector because they ended up being less functional than I’d like and the NN-14 has a much better version so demonstrate when I get that far, and the paint because honestly, the surface prep is 95% the same as for moulding, and the actual paint schemes themselves are pretty obvious in their execution (just slow and tedious!).

Onwards unto better videos on newer, better projects!


STAR WARS: Episode VII – The Force Awakens LPA NN-14 Blaster

The Rey gun!
Because, apparently, I’m incapable of being reasonable, I decided for my second trick I’d do the LPA NN-14 that Han gives Rey on Takodana in The Force Awakens. Not in foam or resin, but in metal.
“I think I can handle myself.” “I know you do, that’s why I’m giving it to you!”
 It caught my eye, because despite being objectively fairly unbalanced, lumpy and ugly, it has some individually beautiful design elements, as well generally appearing to be an homage to Original Trilogy lightsabers. It looks to be the only blaster we’ve seen so far manufactured by LPA, which makes sense because it’s heavily divergent from the general design lines common to most of the blasters we see in either Old Republic/Pre-Empire or Empire/First Order settings.
On top of this, it’s relatively simple to machine manually due to its mostly 30’s machine-age aesthetic. This is very appealing to a guy who hasn’t yet built any CNC technology! Similarly important for me right now is that every part of it fits into a 4″ square, which is all the space that my lathe milling attachment gives me- and even then, the extremes are iffy because the dovetail ways and gib on the thing don’t have a lot of grip on each other and can rack under pressure from the cutter. Sometimes it’s better to flip parts around near the end of its travel.
 This isn’t going to be a completely exhaustive build log by any means; that’ll come if I can find the time when I build version 2, hopefully later this year. But I will touch on the highlights, with plenty of pics to break it up. Don’t be fooled, this is still a seriously substantial write-up, should probably grab a beverage of some sort… But there’s a lot more to it than this. Ok, let’s get started.

Continue reading STAR WARS: Episode VII – The Force Awakens LPA NN-14 Blaster

BR85 Build Skills, Episode 2

New video is live! Yay!

The idea of this series is to focus on a handful of specific, fairly self-contained parts of the build that can easily transfer to other prop builds, kit assemblies, whatever. To look at some of the more “functional” aspects of a prop build that can be used to improve a project beyond good assembly and paint. Check it out:

This one even manages to be about 35% shorter than my usual running time! 😀

One idea I also had was to make an L-shaped slot so that the handle has a point to catch for an empty/missing magazine, and then could be flipped forward after “reloading”. Since the BR85 seems to have a closed-bolt firing position or a floating bolt assembly- it gets fully racked back-and-forth after replacing the mag in the game- this wasn’t really relevant to this build, but there may be some other weapons (particularly pistol slides) that operate that way in-universe.

For a pistol, you’d need a separate lever that could flip the lever (connected to the slide) back up into the main guideway. Alternatively, a spring-loaded crossbow-style wedge, that allows you to rack the slide back, and then pops up into the main cylinder in front of the returning piston head. The wedge itself would be directly connected to the release lever that would allow you to depress it back out of the cylinder. May be easier that way, since you wouldn’t need to allow a floating, rotating bolt to connect to a linear slide. Anyway, random ideas aside…

Continue reading BR85 Build Skills, Episode 2

Video Post! LED Lighting for Props

While I continue to work on the Blender particles-of-particles post (I maybe sorta kinda forgot how I did it so I’m having to reverse-engineer it), here’s a video I published yesterday on installing RGB LEDs and building a diffusion box for light-up screens on prop builds!




The Borderlands Episode: Commercial Recasting

(The following issue was resolved shortly prior to publication, but if you’re interested in the legalities of replica propmaking, feel free to continue!)

Well, that escalated quickly. First from Abby Darkstar, then Harrison Krix (post deleted), and most recently at time of writing is Steven “SoloRoboto” Meissner sharing Steven K “SKS Props” Smith‘s Twitter spat last night with the BusDev and Licensing exec at Gearbox, David Eddings (no, not that one). It started over the image at the top of that back-and-forth, Glitch Gear’s PAX announcement of their “Psycho Mask prototype”, which SKS claims as a recast of his own. I can’t imagine it’s going to get better from here unless the Gearbox marketing department starts swinging, but all’s quiet on the western front, which indicates that emails are privately a-flying.

Naturally, “no recasting” being rule #1 in the cosplay community, everyone piled on Glitch Gear and David Eddings to defend their fellow maker. Is it as simple as that, though? Since I don’t identify specifically as a propmaker but more as a general physical and visual creative, I tried to think my way through the tangled web of our broken IP legal system as best I understand it, with the facts that I’m aware of. I haven’t played Borderlands (though I did rather like the 2003 Halo PC port) and don’t really know Steven in any meaningful way, so I don’t particularly have a horse in this race. The usual “I Am Not A Lawyer” caveats apply, as well as “I am not a long-time professional propmaker” and others. Feel free to disagree with my points.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that the mask IS a recast, since if it’s not, and it’s simply an SLA print of a high-res asset (which would have been the logical way to do it) the entire argument is moot and Steven’s drawn some unwanted attention for naught.

1) The Commission System

Commissions are used in the cosplay community to legally mask the appearance of mass-production of unlicensed works. That may be an unpopular opinion, but as best I can tell it’s a fact. I may even be guilty of it myself, if a run of five- three kits and two builds- from silicone moulds would be judicially considered “mass production”. The idea is that commissions of popular IPs are individual artworks unencumbered by copyright and trademark law, since they’re built from scratch as one-offs by clients who are paying for the skilled labour, not the object. Big difference, legally.

Continue reading The Borderlands Episode: Commercial Recasting

TIL: BR85HB-SR Edition!

AKA. The First Mistakes Post of Many!


I was just reflecting on some of the things I’ll be doing differently on future builds and/or kits, and realised that it might make an interesting post. Currently I’m in the unique position of being still just about post-first-build, and therefore the things I’m reflecting on now are likely to be “obvious”, overlooked by builders further on in their pursuits.

Here’s the top five that I think about regularly: Continue reading TIL: BR85HB-SR Edition!

HALO 4 Replica Build: BR85HB-SR… Master Complete

So a couple of days ago, after two and a half months longer than originally anticipated, six months to the day since the original post here, the battle rifle master was complete! The master is the finished original build that doesn’t get used, but gets moulded so that the final strong, lightweight plastic resin versions can be cast from the moulds.

The delay was simply a lack of experience on my part- it turns out that if you want to finish something to a professionally high standard, all the layers of priming, sanding from 220 grit on up to 2000 grit and clearcoat applications take just as long as the build itself. Of course, I was entirely unaware of that going in.

If you’re interested in the details of that finishing work, I produced a video guide on it while working:

That was, admittedly, a not-insignificant portion of the delay in finishing, since 30-minute videos are non-trivial to put together even when conceptually simple, but since I hadn’t really seen any information on it prior to starting I thought it was important to share at least my initial experience with others in that position. My techniques may change over time, I don’t know. If they do I’ll probably do another updated video.

I think that’s about it, so let’s get to the photos!


Continue reading HALO 4 Replica Build: BR85HB-SR… Master Complete

The Bondo Workflow

As you can see, there isn’t much in the way of updates  on the BR85HB, though that’s not due to a lack of progress- in fact, it’s almost complete and ready for moulding, just a couple weeks of work left to do:

The night of "completion"
The night of “completion” after ten hours of straight work. Slightly loopy from exhaustion!
After some more work.
After some more work.

If you want to see how that’s been coming along, check out the 405th update thread here: Major recent updates are around pages 4/5/6. The lack of blog updates is primarily due to the fact that building a piece like this mostly consists of doing the same general things over and over again but in slightly different shapes, not exactly a grand learning experience on every part like I’d originally anticipated.

Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about today, as you may have inferred from the title.


Needless to say, over the course of this build, I’ve learned rather a lot about the use of Bondo body filler. It’s an incredibly useful material, and unsurprisingly a staple in the prop and cosplay maker’s arsenal. I’ve seen the question of how it’s used come up numerous times over the last few months, and since the specifics are usually glossed over in favour of general advice, and I’m now in a position to be able to offer a fairly comprehensive beginners’ guide, it seems right to do so and pay it forward.

So, here we go with my typical Bondo workflow, going from bare surface to the beginning of surface prep for finishing.

Continue reading The Bondo Workflow

HALO 4 Replica Build: BR85HB-SR… Barrel Jacket Assembly Complete

This took about three weeks and innumerable individual actions and solutions, so I’m going to keep it fairly abridged and streamlined.

I now have a picdump thread up on the 405th where almost all my pics will be going, and you can see these at a little higher resolution. The disadvantage there is that the embeds aren’t 600px wide like on WordPress, so you have to click through the lightboxes to see clearly.

Here, I’m going to stick to a general overview with a handful of more interesting events. Let’s get started!

First I did the cylindrical parts because they were the easiest:




The anchor at the front of the frame snaps into this part very satisfyingly. I made it so that the finished piece can be moulded and shipped in pieces which should theoretically glue together nicely with minimal need for careful fit and alignment.


Continue reading HALO 4 Replica Build: BR85HB-SR… Barrel Jacket Assembly Complete

HALO 4 Replica Build: BR85HB-SR… Lower Receiver Complete

Yeah, more of a grip slash trigger assembly, but I’m labelling the build more by traditional rifle geography than by actual mechanical purpose.

I’m also not doing a step-by-step, day by day build. I more or less did that on the make-it-up-as-I-went-along Scifi Pistol build, and ultimately other than some new toys, the process is largely the same. Here I just have dimensional plans to stick to.

So with the frame done, I worked on the trigger assembly section first, because I was procrastinating on the grip, which looked horrible in terms of symmetrical compound curves to carve freehand.

This is where we left off in the last post…

Starting on the detail just forward of the trigger guard. This part will mate with the main body's lowest skeleton projection.
Starting on the detail just forward of the trigger guard. This part will mate with the main body’s lowest skeleton projection.

And now I can fast forward through the boring stick-cut-sand-stick-cut-sand process, with the magic of technology:

I sanded down the large portion of those two side scales. The small bottom protrusion is supposed to be about 5mm thick, where the main section is supposed to be about 3mm thick. I just made it harder on myself, basically.

There isn’t a whole lot to tell, it’s fairly self explanatory. Having a set of various size files and rasps is invaluable, though the winner at everything ever for all time is the table sander. Not even necessarily the belt sander part on top, since that doesn’t have much of a precision guide on it and results aren’t a whole lot better than a hand held belt sander. Just the disc sander. 1/3HP, 6″, 80 grit. Magical! If you’re yet to splash the cash on a bench sander, I’d recommend ignoring the combos and just going for a separate pair of disc sanders, one small and low powered like mine, and then a bigger 10-12″, 1-1.5HP one.

Oh, and a band saw would be crazy useful, but I don’t have one… yet. 😀

Anyway, the single-sided contact cemented paper was peeled off and I started creating some semblance of an assembly, and it looked rather nice:

This is where it starts getting exciting
This is where it starts getting exciting

At this point I couldn’t really ignore the grip any more, so I started wrapping my head around its geometry. I could scratch the centre line in around it with the calipers, and then from there I added spot measurements and joined them together with the pen.

The first part to do was the heel of the grip, where it has an indent for the heel of your hand. It looks bullet-shaped on the bottom, and then it has a fairly established simple curvature on the face, and then up the back it ‘s convex as it gets ready to morph into the wider grip curves.

I've been fairly lucky in my pen accuracy thus far. It could get very confusing.
I’ve been fairly lucky in my pen accuracy thus far. It could get very confusing.

Like the rest of this process, it was a combination of careful bench sanding, resin bonded sandpaper and filing. Because the forms were already drawn on as guides, symmetry only really came into it at the very end to finish up.

I added the side scales to bring it out to around 26mm thick. That’s about 4mm short of its actual thickness, but having to use imperial sized materials whilst working in metric occasionally brings some limitations… And I don’t think being a little easier to handle is a bad thing so I’m not rushing out to find 2mm craft foam!


The back side of the grip I did all in one single go, so there are no progress pics there. I think, unless a model is huge, it’s best to do organic shapes in a single session… Kind of a “mindset” thing to do with the visualisation, it’s hard to describe.

Photo Oct 15, 18 57 13

The end result was fairly promising, next to the on-screen model. The right angle gap at the heel will be filled with Bondo to form the curve rather than cutting the scales oversized and sculpting them down. That should give me a more defined edge at the bottom, and let me blend it better at the top.

I considered chopping the bottom off and creating a DIY-Pepakura replacement using UV unwraps, but that didn’t work so well.

Looks like a Pep frog.
Looks like a Pep frog.

Next up was the “rear grip”, the section behind the thumb which blends into the stock and meets the mag well.

Detail never hurt anyone. :D
Detail never hurt anyone. 😀

I like to notate my templates so I don’t have to keep going back upstairs and referencing each part while I’m building.

Cutting it up at the front now makes a little more sense.
Cutting it up at the front now makes a little more sense.

It came out quite nicely, considering I shaped it entirely separately from the grip without any checking. Only very minor filling should be needed:

I was impressed at how well the entirely freehanded curves merged, if I do say so myself.
I was impressed at how well the curves merged, if I do say so myself.

Then, once it was all put together, the grip fell off! The contact cement hadn’t cured for some reason and the superglue hadn’t seeped in to grip as much as I’d like- I must need less viscous superglue.

Oh noes!
Oh noes!

This wasn’t a bad thing though, since I’d previously decided I wanted to remove the grip in order to get at the trigger mechanism area that I’ll have to cut into it, in order to install a switch and spring and all that good stuff. common sense would have indicated that I’d have cut the recess out of the central slab before attaching the scales, but live and learn.

Photo Oct 22, 16 59 43
The two spots that’ll need heavy Bondo work.

A couple of additions and details and cleanups here and there, and it’s finally ready for Bondo and sanding.

Photo Oct 22, 16 59 58

Photo Oct 22, 17 00 14

And, adding it back into the original structure gives us this:

Photo Oct 22, 17 12 45

Looking promising!

Next up, the upper reciever. That’s what I’m calling the middle black bit below the carry rail, encompassing the barrel cooling area and all that good stuff.

Photo Oct 23, 20 24 12

Not having easy access to a large format printer = Tetris.

All for now.