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Homemades tips/information
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Argoms
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Joined: 26 Aug 2012
Posts: 76



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General tips/information on homemades. This is based on my personal experience, mostly. Feel free to add your own tips.

Table of Contents
First post (argoms)

Other links:
General reference thread for plastic sheet purchase (argoms)
UK snap materials sources (BlackBoarderV)
British general materials thread (BlackBoarderV)

About me
I've got no experience with crafts/DIY outside of Nerf. I like stock darts and magazine-fed guns. I've got a scroll saw, but haven't really fixed it anywhere yet, so cuts with it are really quite messy. I have a good understanding of the mechanics of a spring gun, but my practical ability isn't quite there yet. I prefer plastics to metals, and mechanical fastening over glue (most of the time).
Unfortunately, I'm sort of a perfectionist, and rarely post anything unless I feel I can do it perfectly. See my first homemade to find out why I stick to that mentality. Oh, and I also occasionally develop games.

Materials
General reference for plastic sheets: http://britnerf.myfreeforum.org/about218.html

Butyrate (plastruct)
Availability: (online) Tubes
Butyrate's a great, colorful material that I love working with. Available in tubes/rods only, with a great variety of colors. The telescoping sizes that it is available in allow creation of bushings, breeches, attachment systems, and all sorts of stuff. It's quite easy to machine, and has a sweet smell. Unfortunately, it's quite expensive. More information on butyrate barrels.
Good:
+Telescoping sizes (not quite loose enough to be sliding)
+15.9mm tube fits stock dart foam perfectly
+Variety of colors
+Easy to work with
+Good impact resistance
Bad:
-Expensive
-Must be bought online

Butyrate (mcmaster)
Availability: (mcmaster) Tubes
Same material as plastruct's butyrate, except that it's clear and costs a fraction of the price.
Good:
+All the goods of plastruct butyrate for a fraction of the cost
+Clear
Bad:
-Only available in the USA (mcmaster doesn't ship here)

HDPE (chopping board)
Availability: (shops) Sheet, (online) rod
HDPE is commonly available in shops in the form of chopping boards, or available from plastic suppliers in rods or sheets. It's soft and therefore very easy to machine. Unfortunately, this also means that parts that contact other parts (such as snap catchfaces) will be worn down extremely quickly. So far, it seems to have pretty good impact strength and doesn't crack. It's my favorite material to work with, but I've found that it isn't quite the all-purpose plastic that polycarbonate is.
Good:
+Available anywhere (plastic chopping boards)
+Easy to cut
+Doesn't crack
Bad:
-Too soft for certain parts

Polycabonate
Availability: (online) Tubes, rods, sheet
A material famous for its extreme strength and good machinability. It's extremely tough, but quite prone to scratching. It's also clear, allowing you to see your internals and spot problems more quickly. While it doesn't exactly react badly to any tools, common hand tools such as dremels and handsaws will take a while to cut through it.
Some people sand their finished polycarbonate pieces with fine sandpaper to created a frosted look and make scratches less noticeable.
Polycarbonate resistant to acetone, and you cannot use it to solvent weld polycarbonate.
Good:
+Clear
+Extremely tough
+Available in tubes, rods, sheet
+Will not shatter, will actually bend quite a bit before snapping
Bad:
-Scratches easily
-Hard to machine with common garage tools
-Quite expensive
-Generally only available online

Brass
Availability: Tubes (K&S engineering), sheet, rod
(Note- I've only worked with tube). First off, I'm going to say this- I hate working with brass. The cutting is extremely uncomfortable compared to plastics and you need to be careful about sharp edges that may cut into darts. However, it has its uses. K&S brass tubing is probably the only common material available with a sliding fit- You can fit tubes into each other, yet they slide smoothly and the seal is completely airtight (for Nerf purposes). Brass is extremely useful for barrel mechanisms such as breeches, and 17/32 tube provides a perfect fit for Nerf darts.
Remember to buy good brass polish too. Oxidized brass can create more friction in your breech systems, and just looks ugly Razz
Good:
+Airtight telescoping fit
+Shiny when polished
+Durable
+Available in many sizes
+Metal
Bad:
-Quite annoying to work with compared to plastics
-Expensive
-Badly made mechanisms can easily shave bits off your darts
-Tarnishes

PVC
Availability: (Everywhere) Pipe, (Online) Sheet, rod
PVC pipes are one of the most commonly used materials because they're cheap, easy to work with, and available in a wide variety of sizes. You can use them for barrels, plunger tubes, general construction, whatever. Unfortunately, they are only manufactured to tight tolerances by outer diameter, so inner diameter may vary quite a bit from what the label says. Clear PVC is extremely expensive and not worth it (polycarbonate is cheaper and just plain better Razz) in the UK.
Good:
+Easy to work with
+Cheap
Bad:
-Quite soft
-Bends
-Pipes are made with varying internal diameters
-Cancer D:
-Deteriorates in sunlight

Hot glue (low-temp)
Availability: Everywhere
Hot glue isn't particularly sticky compared to other common adhesives. However, it can be used to fill a lot of space. When dried, it acts as a translucent, somewhat flexible material. While you definitely can't cast parts out of it, it makes a good filler material for homemades whether you want to add some weight or stop a part from flexing.
Good:
+Cheap
+Flexible
+Can be used to fill in space
Bad:
-Try and cut it with power tools and it'll melt everywhere
-Quite hard to control
-May soften on hot days

Acrylic (extruded)
Availability: (online) Sheet, tube, rod
Acrylic's a decorative material. You shouldn't use it for any parts under any sort of stress- it shatters. On the bright side, it can be laser cut (well isn't that great? :/), flame polished (...), and cheap (sometimes). Be careful if you plan to use it, I like to be able to drop my guns without them imploding, so acrylic may be fine for your purposes.
Good:
+Cheap (sometimes)
+Transparent (or tinted)
Bad:
-Weak, brittle
-Annoying to machine

Epoxy (liquid)
Availability: Everywhere
A two-part liquid mixture generally intended for use as glue. You can cast parts out of it, it's much more durable than hot glue (but still nothing near polycarbonate). Hand sanitizer (or some form of alcohol) will help to get it out of your hands (no promises for your clothes).
Good:
+Forms strong bonds
+Can cast parts
Bad:
-Long drying time
-A pain to clean up (protip- hand sanitizer)
-Smells bad

Epoxy (putty)
Availability: Everywhere
Epoxy putty has been less durable than liquid in my experience. It has its uses where liquids don't make sense though- you can patch up holes, fill in space, build up surfaces. I recommend milliput epoxy putty because it's quite cheap (£2 for 100g or £16 for 1kg) and still durable.
Good:
+Dries hard, good brands can be very strong
+Isn't liquid
Bad:
-Smells bad
-Long drying time
-Finishing can be irritating with certain brands of hardened epoxy (sanding takes forever DSmile

ABS
Availability: 3D-printable (filament), (online) Sheet, tube, rod, (not in UK) pellets
ABS is the plastic that Nerf guns are made of. It's also a common material to use in 3D printing. Overall, it's tough, impact resistant, and quite nice to work with (also has a distinct smell when you melt it). However, ABS sheet is extremely expensive in the UK (more than polycarbonate, which is a better material). A little on ABS tube. While there are often cheaper alternatives, †ABS is a good general purpose material. ABS pellets are actually extremely cheap, coming out to around £5/KG from non-bulk sources (not including shipping from the USA), and can be used with acetone to create a slurry that I use for a lot of things. I'll elaborate more on this later.
Good:
+Tube is available in stock dart barrel sizes (perfect fit)
+Easy to work with
+Can be 3D printed
Bad:
-Tends to be expensive

Nylon
Is a bitch.
Good:
+Tough, impact resistant
Bad:
-Attempting to machine may lead to suicidal thoughts

Other objects you may need
If you want to have a good stock of parts to be capable of making a homemade at moment's notice, I suggest stocking up on the following things:

O-rings
Availability: Most hardware stores
O-rings are good for creating airtight seals for plunger rods and various other moving parts.

Metal washers
Availability: Most hardware stores
Metal washers are very useful for parts that require more durability than plastic is capable of, such as snap catchfaces.

Zip ties
Availability: Most hardware stores
These are great for holding objects together while not making the bond permanent.

Nuts/bolts
Availability: Hardware stores. If they don't have these, it's not a hardware store :I
Bolting/screwing things together will create a better bonds than most adhesives could ever hope for.

Superglue
Availability: Everywhere
Some people swear by superglue. Some people swear at it. Still, it's quite useful when bonding two surfaces. Don't use this if the parts have to twist/bend.

Solvents
Availability: Online stores (hobby stores sell it as plastic weld), pharmacies (stupidly overpriced)
Solvent welding is an extremely useful technique that effectively fuses pieces of plastic together. Apply a solvent to a plastic, and it'll melt until the solvent evaporates. During this time, you can attach it to any other plastic that accepts the solvent, and when it evaporates, the two parts are basically fused together. I tend to use acetone, which is cheap, not as dangerous as some other solvents (ventilation should still be required), and works with ABS and butyrate.
Keep in mind that HDPE is extremely resistant to solvents and is often actually used in the containers for them. You'll have to stick to mechanical fastening for HDPE, I haven't had any glue that can be trusted to keep HDPE stuck to anything that withstands repeated impacts.

Tips&tricks

-Polycarbonate is cheaper than butyrate tube, but it doesn't have the nesting effect and is hard to find in the right sizes. plastock.co.uk 's prices may seem high compared to butyrate, but you have to remember that you're buying around 3x as much tube per item.

-I highly recommend making your plunger diameter 25mm or 40mm, as these are the sizes that metal washers are commonly available at. Don't trust PVC sizes. As many have said before me, PVC sizes not actually being what they claim are the entire reason that plumbers are still in business.

-Attaching a piece of polyethylene (chopping board) to a dremel with a screw can create a sort of "lathe" for plunger heads and the like. Just use pointy objects to chip away at the stuff. Polycarbonate's a bit too tough to do this (you could, but it'd take forever) and PVC machines this way very nicely, but there's that whole cancer issue so I'd advise against it (dust goes flying everywhere). Example:
Spoiler:






-If you had to get one special tool for homemades (not common items like drills or dremels), I would suggest a lathe over a scroll saw. The lathe can make you perfect plunger heads, extremely durable snap plungers, bushings, and more. Meanwhile, I haven't found many non-aesthetic uses for my scrollsaw. Pricing may be an issue though- a £100 lathe is useless while a £100 scroll saw is as good as you'd ever need for Nerf.

-Draw a line on the thing before cutting it, even if you tend to make up your plans as you go along. Having a line to follow will improve the quality of the cut greatly.


Last edited by Argoms on Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:38 pm; edited 6 times in total
Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:18 pm View user's profile Send private message
UKNerfWar
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Loving your work as always. I'm looking forward to some pictures of your new creations.

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Very helpful post Argoms, especially for beginners! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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bitofall
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this will help loads when I get the stuff together for my first homemade, thank you xD

as a note though, in this and the plastic sheet thread you refer to a plastoc.com, this takes you to a design company or something, I take it you meant .co.uk?
Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:31 pm View user's profile Send private message
Argoms
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Joined: 26 Aug 2012
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Oh damn you're right, fixing.

It's plastock.co.uk


Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:25 pm View user's profile Send private message
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