Saturday, 7 April 2018

Prop Replica Building: Han Solo's DL-44 Blaster
DL-44 Blaster from Star Wars: A New Hope
     After installing the new magnetic bed surface on the Mega Kossel last time, I decided to test it out with another prop replica build. After some deliberation, I decided on Han Solo's DL-44 blaster pistol from Star Wars: A New Hope. Looking around Thingiverse quickly turned up a decent set of files for a static version, (thing:2230835) so that's the model I went with.
DL-44 flash suppressor
     As you can see, the parts printed quite nicely, so I decided to experiment with a couple alternate finishing and assembly techniques. Since the scope is setup to print in two parts with this model, I decided to try some friction welding to join them together instead of my usual 5-minute epoxy.

DL-44 Scope and Barrel after printing and sanding
     Friction welding is fairly straightforward to do, you just need some scrap filament of the type used in the parts and a Dremel with the optional collet kit or 3-jaw chuck add-ons. What you do is cut a small piece of filament, I found about 2 cm (1in) worked best, and stick it in the collet of the Dremel and use it as a sacrificial tool to weld the parts together. It does take some practice and patience to get a good joint but it worked fairly well. Afterwards there was a slight ridge of extra material on the part but some light sanding dealt with that in short order.

Glue-up of main parts
    For the bulk of the main parts I switched back to my normal go to solution of 5-minute epoxy and glued the main body sections together next. I've found that the Gorilla Glue brand stuff actually dries clear instead of slightly yellowed like the LePage stuff, makes it much better for builds like this.

Main Body after gluing with finished scope

    One thing that I did have issues with on the printed parts was the mounting screws for the scope clamps came out really badly, think it was just a slicing issue but looking at the reference images reminded me that I had some M3 cap screws that looked almost perfect in my spares bin, so I drilled out and tapped the parts to fit the screws and bolted things together.

M3 cap screws installed on scope brackets
    After gluing the remaining parts together, the next step is sanding any stray glue off prior to painting it. For this one I decided to layer the pain in 2 coats, a slightly blackened silver for the first one and then the cannon black overtop. This allows for some neat tricks with weathering the final piece since you can just lightly sand the areas that have wear to reveal the underlying paint instead of painting overtop.

DL-44 with first coat of paint applied
DL-44 half painted with initial weathering on muzzle
    After doing the rough coats on the main body and scope, it was time for some masking before painting the handle sides, this would probably have been easier if I'd left gluing them on for after they were painted, but some basic masking tape takes care of things quite nicely.

Masking applied to handle
Painted handle with masking in-place while drying.

DL-44 with basic paint scheme finished
      Once the basic paint was dry it was time to start weathering the prop, so I tried a couple of different techniques that I'd seen used online. I started off with some light sanding with 60-grit sandpaper to create some of the basic scuffing that is seen on the original prop. I followed up with some Scotch-Brite to dull finish to a slightly more matte effect overall and then got to doing some fine detail highlights with a silver marker.

DL-44 with wear marks partially applied
DL-44 Left side with wear marks
    After highlighting some of the surface details with the marker I gave the entire thing one final pass with the Scotch-Brite and then blasted the surface with my heat-gun to seal any residual damp spots. Overall, I'm fairly pleased with the result and I'll definitely be using some of these tricks for future builds.

Finished DL-44 Right Side
Finished DL-44 Left Side
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