I'll point out that the first link is the actual blaster created by thingiverse user Ported to Reality and this guy deserves a huge thank you from the 3D printing community for such an exquisite design.
Preparation and priming
I had to make some decisions and concessions on this blaster quite early on. One of the biggest concessions to make was accepting that no matter how "real" I made it look I would never be able to replicate the feeling that I was holding a real metal firearm (what the original blaster was made from). I should however be able to represent the weight and provide an approximate feeling of "real" by substituting some printed parts such as the handle and trigger with wood and metal respectively. For the remaining printed parts I began sanding, filling with squadron white putty and spraying with Halfords filler primer to get the smooth look that I desired. I also began looking for modifications to the blaster that other makers had designed to improve it some way. The two main modifications that I opted for (links above) were the printed greeblies for the top of the barrel (Hero version of the blaster) along with the barrel insert and the sprung loaded trigger, also a later mod to include sprung cocking mechanism and hammer.
The handles were made from some Tulip wood. I chose this because I had access to an abundance of this type of wood and it is really easy to work with by hand. The close grains also allow for additional details such as the ribbed design in the handle that you would probably not be able to achieve using a softer wood such as pine. The original handles are made from Walnut (I think). I did consider this as an option, however I could not justify the cost of a piece of walnut when I could replicate the look using another cheaper wood type. The trigger was cut and filed from a single piece of thick aluminium using the 3D printed part as a template.
I also ordered a small length of brass rod and cut two small pieces from it to resemble the mounting pins from the real blaster/gun. the two parts were polished and then inserted into a hole drilled into each handle. These brass parts were glued using 2 minute epoxy. I also applied a good coat of spray varnish over the handles so that they would stand up to a lot of handling.
PaintingI opted for an all over initial colour of satin black. I chose a satin finish as this seems like a logical choice being as the original item would be "blued" steel and as such has a satin like finish. I am however still struggling with the finish for the main body as far as colour choices to achieve as close to an original finish as possible. I have chosen to have the finish as "used" and not "as issued". The wear and tear of the weapon will be added after it has been completely assembled so that it will make things easier to ensure that the wear is even over the entire piece.
AssemblySome of the pieces could be assembled into sub assemblies quite early on in the build. Where a permanent joint was required I opted for 5 minute epoxy as an adhesive. This should give the Blaster a robust joint that should hold up to lots of handling without the worry of the finished blaster being too fragile. Where joints are intended to be semi-permanent, I will aim to use bolts into threaded holes. One of the issues that I faced with the assembly was discovering additional modifications as I assembled. This is completely my own fault for not researching and planning the build thoroughly to begin with. The two main modifications to the original design that I opted for have; in my opinion improved the blaster in a significant but not obvious way. It gives a more complete feel to it while remaining subtle in their appearance. I also added a little more plastic to the joint between the upper housing and the barrel to provide a closer fit of the parts. I am not sure whether this is a printing issue or an issue with the design but in either case it was easily remedied.
For the scope; there are a number of options available to you:
1. assemble and leave as a hollow tube
2. use some clear plastic as the lens and glue to the inside of the scope ends
3. print off one of a selection of reticules available on thingiverse for this blaster
4. buy a small monocular and insert the glass into the scope (another thingiverse mod)
While I considered using option 4; I ended up taking option 2 but used some domed clear plastic taken off some make up packaging (one of the many advantages of having a wife and daughter). I also added one of my "maker labels" to the underside of the magazine cover as this is where the majority of commercial prop makers seem to place their company logos.
To mount the scope onto the blaster the designer has used printed pins and thumb nuts in the expectation that the whole assembly is then glued together. I wanted it to again look and feel a little more "real" and found a seller of nylon thumb nuts on Ebay. The bonus of them being made from nylon is that they are very easily worked by file to the required thickness to resemble the original ones used on the actual blaster. I have also opted to use bolts through the body of the blaster to actually screw clamp the scope to it. I'm really happy with the choices I made for mounting the scope as it looks and feels like a "real thing". For the top of the scope I bought a brass thumb nut to replace the printed one. Again the only reason was to give a more authentic feel to the blaster, the 3D printed part provided is a very good approximation of the original part.
I had a lot of fun completing the sub assemblies to the point where I was happy with and where possible I tried to use metal nuts, bolts and screws. Not only would they provide a stronger joint, they would add a little more realism to the blaster. I also used some natural beeswax furniture polish over the blasters paintwork as this gave it a sheen that was remarkably close to the "blue" finish on a real weapon. I also added weathering to parts that would be difficult to access once the blaster was completely assembled.
With the major sub assemblies completed, the final assembly was extremely easy to do. This was also the most satisfying part of the entire project. I didn't experience any issues putting everything together and I kept the weathering simple by using a silver leaf colour and dry brushed it across the entire blaster using a few photographs as reference. The finished blaster is nothing short of fantastic. If you are a Star Wars fan and have access to a 3D printer I cannot recommend this print enough. I have made 10 year old me a VERY HAPPY boy indeed. I have even printed a display stand for this to take pride of place in my office. As always here are some final shots of the finished blaster and feel free to leave comments below.