These are some of the first ray guns that I put together. I would comb dollar stores and junk shops for bases and pieces and then sit at my table trying to make all the parts fit. There were a lot of happy accidents and its amazing where you can find inspiration. I knew from the beginning that I wasn't just going to do simple repaints and that each gun was going to be an assemblage piece.
Funny thing here; getting random parts to fit together is lot easier than getting them to stay together. Making a gun that can stand up to constant handling is always a challenge and I've experimented with lots fasteners and glues. The important thing here is never get comfortable with one way of doing something, and always be willing to change your methods.
This my favorite part of this gun and actually came up with the chamber design in the store as I was filling basket with stuff. I was very happy when it actually worked. Also, a big thing about the steampunk/retro aesthetic (to me, at least) are the little frilly accent designs sitting next to bots and screws, and its awesome when you can find parts that already have these elements.
My wife calls this one the Flash Gordon:
Its more 20th century than the other guns, but I love how thick and heavy it looks.
I tooled around with a lot of random pieces and gun bases, but when I found something that worked, I bought it in bulk and tried to used them as much as possible. Some components show up often in my work (like that bumpy piece at the mouth of the gun), though I try to mix it up as much as possible. The fin on this piece was a lid to a plastic kitchen container (we use to call these Tupper Ware, or something; not sure what it was) and it fit the bill pretty well.
I found the trick to adding pieces like this is to try to anchor in as many ways to the base as possible. As I remember, you are only seeing about 60% of the fin; the rest of it fits inside the gun and I drilled holes so that the screws and tabs that held the body together laced through the plastic fin, holding it in place. I also had to file down where the fin fit so the base would seal properly. Dremmel tools are a big time saver, here; I know this because I didn't use one when I built this gun.
I stated getting tricky with dials, here. Its kind of hard to see in this photo, but there is a dial in that coin, which actually moves. It took a while to find something that the coin could sit in while accommodating the brad that holds the dial in place. The other hurdle to jump here was that the dial didn't want to stay in place; it kept pointing down. I ended up bending the coin slightly so that there was some tension between it and the dial; that worked pretty good-free tip!
My favorite part to work on for these guns are the gauges. So far, I have not found an actual gauge that was of the right size for the right price, and I pretty much just make my own. This works out better in the long run; having too big a gauge (or any part, really) can overpower a model, so its best to go with a solution that stays in scale.
The two gauges above are pirate compasses from a kids birthday party pack. I drafted up the labels (you probably can't read them. One says AETHERIC WAVE PRESS'R and the other says THERMO TRONIC PRESS'R (I think...). The needles are glued in place, and don't move.
Tubes are fun, too. I've seen some models and pictures where there will be a tube with some strange liquid on top of a gun, but I haven't mustered up the courage for that yet...too afraid of a leak. Filling them is neat and challenging; kind'a like building a ship in a bottle. I remember thinking when I started this hobby that the tubes were going to be the most pricing thing to find, but really it hasn't been that way (thankfully, because nothing makes a ray gun pop like a nice 'ol tube on top of it).
Well, this was my first batch. I don't actually have any of these originals any longer. They have been auctioned off, and hopefully being enjoyed by steampunk enthusiast and con-goers, somewhere. I still make some of these models from time to time, and certain elements pop up a lot in my current work, and will continue to (until I run out of those parts...).