After finishing Boba Fett’s EE-3 Blaster I decided to revisit the Stormtrooper blaster model that I had never finished from a previous challenge. I hadn’t touched the model for almost 2 years. Oh boy, what did I get myself into… This is a long blog post so if you don’t feel like reading it, just go ahead and skip down to the pictures at the end.
This one takes the cake for the most detailed prop model I have ever made. I wouldn’t say it was overly difficult but it was very time consuming. No longer in the time constraints of challenge I did a lot more research on the E-11 Blaster and was able to find countless photos of the blaster and the British-made Sterling Mk.4 L2A3 submachine gun it was based on. It turns out that the pictures I had gathered back in July, 2009 were highly inaccurate and represented an inferior attempt at a replica of the prop. So after consulting The Parts of Star Wars website I found out there were at least 8 known versions of the E-11 used in Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope. I decided to go with version B because it used a functional Sterling instead of one that was had been deactivated with cast resin replacement parts. My model differs slightly from version B by using the scope used in version A because I like the look better. Luckily for me I found a blog that detailed the build-up a realistic replica that the author had built. The blog had every possible photo I needed to work from which made the modeling a lot easier.
When I opened the SketchUp file of the unfinished version, and examined what I had yet to do’, I found out that the dimensions were way off and some things were just plain wrong. I start correcting the problems with the model when I made a laughable mistake. Some of source photos had a ruler in them for size reference. I used one photo to determine the correct dimensions of the Sterling SMG that showed the right side of the gun. According to the ruler in the photo, the gun was 22 inches long. This showed that the gun’s receiver tube was about 3 1/2 inches too short and about an quarter inch too narrow. Because of that I felt I had to start over and make it the right size. I modeled the new receiver tube next to the old one so I could copy parts to the new tube. I then worked on the magazine well and then the magazine itself. Right when I finished doing all of that I read on Wikipedia that the gun was actually 19 inches long. So, I looked at the photo of the left side of the gun and it measured 19 inches and not 22! It finally occurred to me that I forgot to account for perspective! The photo of the right side had the gun resting on the magazine well which made the ruler further in the background and the receiver tube in the foreground. So all that work I did on the model was a complete waste of time because what I had before was already correct for the most part.
After the mishap I made I added the magazine well to the original model which not till much later did I realize that its dimensions were way off. I then worked to correct some other shortfalls that I had fixed when working on the wrong sized receiver tube. The next part I worked on after finally getting back on track was the trigger group. That was no big deal.
After the trigger group I worked on the folding stock. This was part of the model that was more difficult to figure out exactly how it worked than actually modeling it. I managed to find the operators manual for the Sterling SMG in PDF on a gun website which turned out to be invaluable help. I also found photos of a disassembled folding stock on another website. If it wasn’t for the manual I would never have been able to figure it out without have a physical Sterling in front of me. The design is a very clever one. In fact, everything about this firearm seems clever to me and I don’t even like guns. The final result of the model was to be a virtual recreation of a movie prop so how I feel about guns is beside the point. Back to the folding stock… After learning about the function of the stock I got to work on it. I decided that if II was going to do it right that I have to show it not only to show it folded but also fully unfolded. To make sure that everything would line up I modeled the stock in its unfolded position while folding it up along the way to make sure it looked right. The stock on this blaster had to look right or the whole blaster would look wrong because it is a very prominent element of its design.
At this point the Sterling SMG in the model was now complete except for the magazine and magazine well being dimensioned wrong and the bolt of the SMG. The next part of the modeling process was to “convert” it into the Blastech E-11 Blaster Rifle. This involved adding the M38 1942 gun scope, the fins that fit in the cooling holes in the barrel, the Hengstler industrial counter, and the somewhat illusive cylinders that go on top of the magazine well.
The version B of the blaster that I decided to make is supposed to have a M32/M19 scope on it but I did the M38 from the version A instead. The reason for the change is that I liked the look of it on the blaster better and I already had many good photos of the M38 to work from. First I had to add a rail to the receiver tube to mount the scope. The front of the rail is bent at a couple of 90 degree bends to fit in to the Last barrel vent hole. The back of the rail was likely riveted directly to the rear sight of the SMG and that is how I attached it. The scope was easy to do because it is mostly extruded circles. The most difficult part was the adjustable eyepiece which has ridges on its surface. I finished that and bonehead me failed to realize that piece was never even part of the finished blaster. And that really makes sense considering that the scope is intentionally mounted backwards making it useless anyways. The scope is mounted to the rail with its original hex Allen head bolts. The Allen bolts are two different sizes and have ridges like the adjustable eyepiece had.
I then worked on the fins that go along the barrel. These to hobbyist prop modelers’ best guess are made of plastic drawer guides. The Boba Fett EE-3 Blaster uses these on its barrel as well. The strips of the guides were then bent and shaped on their ends and Inserted into the barrel vent holes. The drawer guides are actually a bit wider than the holes causing me a headache. I tried several different bend angles and bend radiuses until the tapered ends finally fit in the vent hole without causing collision with the receiver tube. One thing I cannot stand in SketchUp models are components that overlap into the space of other components. It just seems sloppy to me and I like things to fit right.
Next I started work on Hengstler counter. These counters are used in manufacturing and other industrial purposes. Version B of blaster uses one that has the name Hengstler on it with an eagle with the number 890 in the middle. The other versions used in alternate versions of the blaster have just the eagle. These counters are hard to find because the new version of that model counter no longer has the eagle on it at all because, after World War II, the company felt the eagle too closely resembled the Nazi eagle insignia. The difficult part of the counter to model was the rotary counter wheels. I tried to “engrave’” the numbers into the curved surfaces of the wheels but I couldn’t stop the faces of the shape from disappearing. That happens when the dimensions of what you are working are so small that SketchUp cannot record the vertex coordinates accurately causing vertices to jump and make the face disappear. At least that is the best way I can describe the problem. To get around this I typically size the component or group 10 times larger than it is supposed to be, then I do what I ‘m having trouble with and then shrink it down to the right size. But in this case it just wasn’t working. So, instead I made the wheels 10-sided so when I inset the numbers, they were on flat faces instead of curved ones. The counter body was difficult to measure leaving me to keep adjusting it until it looked right. It is very close but not perfect. The counter is mounted to the blaster using a short piece of metal strip bent at 90 degrees and screwed to the side at one end and bolted to the scope mounting rail using the Allen-head bolt from the scope.
On the prop there are 2 small cylinders and 2 smaller cylinders mounted to a bracket that go on top of magazine well. It is somewhat a mystery about what these came from but likely they are oscillator vacuum tubes from an old amplifier with smaller capacitors between them. The same parts appear on Luke Skywalker’s speeder and the mouse droids so in the least I have photos of the actual parts to examine. Easy modeling.
After I added the cylinder part I discovered that the magazine well was not looking right in comparison to the photos I had as I mentioned earlier. Somehow I made it 5/16” too wide and 5/16” too thin. I don’t know how that happened but it was so far off that I had to redo the magazine all together. The second time around I was much more accurate in my modeling and I included a few more details such as the scalloped edges and making the end cap so it actually appeared to be slid on instead of just a flat shape. I don’t have a problem redoing something if I make it better.
Some versions of the blaster have wires that go from the counter’s plug to the cylinders. I debated doing that but in the end I decided to omit the wires. It isn’t clear how the wires are attached and the version B of the blaster, according to the Parts of Star Wars website, doesn’t have wires. It I were to have built the original props I would have soldered metal wire terminal ends onto the wires to attach them to the bolt heads on the cylinders and soldered the other ends of the wires to the counter connectors and cover the connector with shrink wrap.
The final part of the blaster model that I added was the gun bolt for the SMG. I had just a cylinder inside the receiver tube in place of the bolt up to this point. It was not difficult to make the bolt. I was worried about the diagonal grooves that the gun bolt has but it was not a problem. I just drew the lines for the grooves of each face of the bolt cylinder at the right angle and did the same a little farther down to make the width of the groove right. There is a large spring that goes behind the bolt. To make the spring I first created a ring in the right diameter and thickness using 24 segments. Each complete turn of the spring was a half inch in length. This meant I need to move each segment over by 1/48” of an inch to get the right pitch of the spring. I didn’t need to move every segment over because all I had to do was copy, paste and rotate a single segment of the spring until an entire turn of the spring was complete. Then I exploded the copied segments and duplicated the result enough times to make the spring long enough.
When all of the blaster was modeled it was time for me to finish coloring the model. I had been doing most of this during the modeling process and I made sure everything looked consistent. In reality the prop would probably been sprayed all the same shade of black but with mine I alternated a few shades of very dark gray to give the model more definition. I did this because models in SketchUp can look flat and hide the fine details. To further combat that issue the SketchUp style I created shows the lines of the model the same color as the components which basically highlights the edges to make them stand out. The only texture I used in the model was the texture of the grip. I actually tried to make the texture with actual geometry when I tried to do it; SketchUp kept crashing because there were way too many vertices. So in the alternative I made a small section of the textured geometry and screen captured a close up of it and turned it into a repeating pattern in Photoshop and applied it to the grip.
And finally I created some scenes to show off the model. Done. Wow, this blog entry is way too long.