How to make a ray gun prop

Our mission at Backyard Space Opera is to make great Sci Fi movies at the lowest cost possible. With that in mind we have experimented with many types of materials and techniques to find something that looks good but is fast, effective, and cheap. To demonstrate the process I’ve outlined making a laser gun prop below.

Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

But before we get started, lets look at the right way to do things. These are fantastically crafted Lensman props created by Bruce Wegmann. First is a DeLameter pistol. He machined each part of this prop by hand with precise detail. Inside the pistol is a working laser that is capable of lighting a cigarette. Bruce took great care to make each component beautiful and functional. The setting ring rotates with discrete levels and the muzzle of the laser is offset to give that specific look, even though extra mirrors and fine tuning were required.


These projector cannons are equally impressive and extraordinarily dramatic. They are made of individually machined pieces where each part fits together and connects through clever design to create a final look of one solid piece. Working lasers are also inside each one.

Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking
Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking
Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

This is the ideal level of craftsmanship. Our goal is to approximate these props with cheap and fast methods that of course will not live up to the standard, but will still look good on film.


My method is to use EVA foam flooring sheets as a base material. This laser pistol took about one square foot. The pieces were heated with a hair dryer to make them flexible and then hot glued into place. Details were added using balsa wood strips from the hobby store. The key to getting the final metallic look was coating the whole thing in fiberglass resin. This two part resin is super cheap and the whole laser gun only took one ounce of material. After a light sanding the gun was painted with a metallic spray paint.


It was weathered with standard acrylic paints using primarily a dry brush technique. Greebling was added by super gluing bits of left over wire and age painting them as well. The handle material is from a sample of flooring material I got for free at Home Depot.


Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

Hopefully this helps in some way, please feel free to contact us for more information: info@backyardspaceopera.com