After several months and a series of misadventures involving paints, I've finally finished my (mostly) screen-accurate build of the Starfleet Type II "Dolphin" Phaser from ST: Nemesis.
Throughout the 50 years of the Star Trek franchise, there have been many iterations of the Phaser pistol, and this particular design has always been my favorite because of its sleek profile, which I feel would nicely complement my planned Star Trek Online costume(s).
The Phaser body kit is from Stapleton Productions, and consists of various resin-cast plastic parts, brass fittings, magnets and miscellaneous pieces. The muzzle is cold-cast aluminium.
I noticed that the ends of the top rubber grip are rounder compared to the actual screenused prop, but I actually think it looks nicer this way.
The electronics are an optional upgrade kit available from Gerhard Mros of GMProps, and consists of three small PCBs for the power meter, button pad and phaser coil/speaker/emitter LED that connects to a larger microcontroller-based PCB, as well as a LiPo battery system rechargeable via USB.
I picked up some primer and basecoats from a NZ-based automotive parts chain store.
The primer is relatively thick enough to cover minor imperfections, and will have the basecoats bond to the resin parts better.
Getting the basecoat for the Phaser body was quite a mission. The original props were painted in PlastiKote 7173 Silver Sand Metallic, which has long been discontinued. Various replacement colors from the late 80's and 90's were also phased out, or were not available in New Zealand. So, I had something custom mixed based on some recommendations I found over the internet.
Meanwhile, the Satin Black is for the power cell assembly.
Various consumables, including two-part epoxy glue, wet & dry sandpaper (320, 400, 800, 1500 grit), 3M Acryl-Red Glazing Putty (for filling larger imperfections), ice cream sticks and general-purpose masking tape.
When putting together a prop kit, it is always a good idea to do a test fit of all the resin parts and electronics.
Here, I'm trying to figure out the correct angle to mount the power meter PCB inside the Phaser body.
As the main PCB will sit inside the handle while the smaller PCBs are tucked inside the head, a hole needs to be drilled to allow the connecting cables through.
Here, I'm using a large DC motor with an El Cheapo chuck as a ghetto Dremel tool.
The connecting cables for all the PCBs fit through just fine.
The power cell PCB comes with a reed switch that turns off the power cell LEDs when a magnet is held nearby.
As per Gerry's instructions, I will need to somehow mount the magnets inside the sliding cowl piece, so that the power cells turn off when the cowl is closed to save power.
Marking the outline of the phaser coil on the cowl.
The sliding cowl piece, marked with the outline of the phaser coil and where the magnets will go.
A few minutes with my ghetto dremel, and the magnets fit snugly inside the cowl.
After gluing the lower body to the main body, I filled in all the seams, pinholes and other imperfections with 3M Acryl-Red putty. The stuff stinks to high heaven, and I should probably not have done this in my office.
All the exposed brass rods and magnets have also been masked off in preparation for painting.
Excess putty is sanded off with incrementally finer grades of wet & dry sandpaper.
The resin parts get their first coat of primer.
It is absolutely important to get a smooth finish, or any imperfections will show up when you get to the basecoat. Therefore, I went for another round of sanding, occasionally exposing dried putty beneath the primer, but this is perfectly normal.
A few more iterations of puttying, priming and sanding later, the resin parts are ready for the color basecoat.
And here's the infamous goof-up as previously reported in the Paint Codes thread.
The custom mixed paint came out far too dark, almost metallic black. As it turned out, the person who recommended the paint had practically no street cred in the Trek prop replica world, and provided no pictures of his own Phaser to prove that it was the right color. To my knowledge, he wasn't even a Fleet Workshop member.
What followed were several months of fruitless back-and-forth emails to various paint suppliers, including Sherwin-Williams, the company that made DupliColor paint replacements for PlastiKote. Their local sales rep was very reluctant to bring in the correct color I needed, constantly making excuses about misplacing my email or consulting their legal department.
Eventually, @ChronowerxLLC hooked me up with a paint chip sample of what was known to be the closest match for PK 7173. (Thanks a million, dude!)
I then took the paint chip down to the totally cool dudes at GT Refinishers (https://www.facebook.com/Gtref/), who arranged for Car Colors of North Shore (http://www.carcolors.co.nz/) to whip up a color-matched can of PPG Dulon paint.
I also convinced Car Colors to provide me with the exact formula for making the custom mix, so that I won't have to keep bringing the paint chip in. This will also help all the guys and gals who want to make their own Phasers, in case they can't buy the DupliColor stuff.
So here's the secret sauce, folks - the PPG Dulon version of PlastiKote 7173:
DULON CUSTOM FORMULA
GT REFINISH - METALLIC GREY FROM USA
A940 ALUMINIUM FINE 706.2 mL
A130 BLACK 211.9 mL
A280 VERDANT BLUE 9.7 mL
A020 HI OPACITY WHITE 0.9 mL
The match is absolutely spot on.
The painted body, cowl and decorative knobs. No clear coat was used on the original prop.
The button pad faceplate and phaser coil, painted with Satin Black.
The power meter window inserted in the recess at the top of the main body.
It was a very tight fit, and very little glue on the inside was needed to tack it in place.
The main PCB was mounted to the inside of the handle with double-sided foam tape, to compensate for the uneven surface of the soldered connections under the PCB.
Main PCB inside the handle.
Power meter PCB glued behind the power meter window.
I made some minor modifications to the phaser coil and the corresponding PCB.
The electronics instructions assumed that one would file a notch near the bottom of the phaser coil plate to make room for the emitter LED wires. I decided to instead drill a hole between the two coils, desolder the LED, thread the wires through and solder the LED back.
I also redid quite a few solder joints and replaced the speaker wires with a thicker, more durable gauge.
The phaser coil PCB glued into the main body, with the reed switch positioned just behind where the plate portion of the phaser coil will go.
Phaser coil installed into main body.
Quick test showing the magnet in the cowl and reed switch in the body switching the phaser coils on and off depending on whether the cowl is opened or closed.
Button pad PCB installed.
The power level and trigger buttons are cold-cast aluminium ovals glued to a carrier rubber pad, using the faceplate as a guide.
The buttons should be free to slide inside the holes, but not too loose that they wobble.
The buttons and faceplate glued to the main body.
The Phaser kit came with a pair of little dome-like decorative knobs, that are supposed to be glued on the bottom of the cowl.
I wanted to make sure the knobs were aligned properly, so I marked the centerline and knob positions with pencil, which rubs out easily without damaging the paint. I then drilled some shallow holes and inserted steel wire to act as locating pins.
Similarly, I marked the center of the knobs with a homemade MDF center square, drilled holes on the unpainted side, and aligned the knobs to the wires sticking out of the cowl underside for gluing.
The top rubber grip glued into the handle.
Remember to scratch off the paint on surfaces you want to glue, so that the adhesive can get at the plastic rather than the paint layer on top.
The Phaser kit comes with a retaining clip to hold the emitter LED in place inside the muzzle, so that it doesn't slip out when one opens and closes the cowl repeatedly.
I had to sand down the sides of the clip a little for it to fit inside the cowl and muzzle.
The retaining clip glued to the muzzle, holding the LED in place.
With the muzzle glued to the cowl, the last thing to do is to fit the lower grip.
I had to shave off additional material to accommodate the electronics in the handle.
And now, photos of the completed build!
That's all, folks - on to the next project!