Laser Gun! -Need some advice!

Hey guys,

We are gearing up for a Space themed Father / Son camp this fall, and the big finale involves a Laser Gun. The look I'm wanting to shoot for (pun intended) is something akin to the shrink ray from Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

My plan thus far? Well...  I don't really have one other than going to the hardware store and piecing together some do-dads. I'm not very handy, so I don't really know where to begin as far as parts and all that. It doesn't have to be nearly this elaborate, I'm hoping to be able to build it for less than $100 if at all possible. I'm more concerned with the laser gun itself than the mount, as we could just use a camera tripod or something.

So I'm here to ask if there's anything I'm missing. Are there better places to start shopping than the hardware store? Any tips or tricks?

Also, It would be great if the laser had a visible power source as well. I was thinking a glowing crystal type of thing, with a slot or canister or some type of transparent place on the laser where we could place the crystal so the kids could see that it's powering the laser.

Any advice on where to get or how to make a glowing crystal would be helpful too. Thanks guys!


  • Also, we've made some old school spaceman helmets out of large acrylic bulbs. I'm looking for a way to place a tiny microphone on the inside of the helmet and a tiny speaker on the outside. The most effective method I've been able to find is to purchase a kit for a Storm Trooper Helmet, but they're pretty expensive and we're on a budget. Any other ideas for this?
  • Hi Evan,

    On a project like this, before buying any parts, I would try and source "found" parts.  Most of the pieces in the example image you provided are found components that were scavenged from other things.  Tubes, air hoses, wires/cables, etc.    Some have been coiled around things to look more fancy.  There is also a couple spots where copper wire has been wrapped around a piece, either manually or from discarded electric motors or other electronics that have copper coils.

    A good place to start is a junk yard or similar salvage/surplus store.

    Typically on a prop like this you start with a framework and then start building on top of that with various greebles.   That framework can be an existing gun (super soaker, nerf gun, or other similar inexpensive off the shelf product) or fabricated to meet your specific design/needs.

    One thing you'll notice about the example image you provided is there are a lot of different materials, colors, and textures all packed tightly together.  Purchasing that many different components can be expensive, which is why these things are often just cobbled together from random found parts, which gives that thrown-together experimental science look.

    A common trick in props like this are having so many components all crammed together that the eye has no real place to rest, making identifying/recognizing any one component more difficult and making it feel more complex than it really is.  Then you give the eye a single focal point (in this case the end of the barrel), and everything else supports that.

    Good sources for parts are:  Old vacuum cleaners, printers, washing machines and other large appliances, automotive parts, pneumatic/hydraulic systems, plumbing fittings, etc.   When sourcing parts from old appliances just be cautions, and never take apart something you don't understand.  For example, old refrigerators can contain toxic chemicals in their cooling systems, and old televisions can have charged capacitors capable of administering a potentially dangerous electric shock.

    I would try and avoid the plumbing isle in the hardware store, as all the fittings and bits there add up pretty quick and can eat through a budget.  If you can source used components you can save a fortune and leave more of the budget for key focal points.  And remember you can always paint cheap plastic parts with brass/copper/silver paint to get that expensive look for a fraction of the cost.

    I hope you can share your progress on this prop with us here.  It sounds like a lot of fun!

  • Thanks Chris! This is great advice! I'll keep you guys posted!
  • Thrift store! Also, build to create a strong silhouette.

    As mentioned earlier, but bears repeating, know your materials and be aware of any handling hazards.
  • With the original Star Wars special effects (and future ones) the artists would use the term 'Greeblies" which were essentially an indication for the makers to add in all sorts of little wheels/cogs/plastic pieces to make it look more impressive.
    Often in the miniatures they would take apart plastic airplane kits.

    If you have access to a 3D printer then browsing Thingiverse or Yeggi have a lot of bits and pieces you can scavenge from.

    Even taking old heavy duty electrical wire can provide a source of copper strands that can be coiled and being to make 'interesting' shapes.

  • Progress! 

    Originally I was going to construct the base off of a spray painted super soaker, but another guy (who is much more handy than myself) has since taken over the project and is making it much BIGGER and better.

    Spare parts from the junk yard that will eventually be attached to the laser.

    The Base of the laser, work in progress. Eventually it will be painted and the details will be added

    The laser's power source, Work in Progress

  • Very cool!

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