Dr. Horrible’s Death Ray

For Halloween this year, I wanted to be Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and one of the main elements of this costume was the Death Ray. Here’s the process I used to build it.

First off, I shamelessly used the MDF build process that Harrison Krix used to make his M8 Avenger Assault Rifle from Mass Effect 2, so if you’ve seen his awesome work and thought that this looks familiar, it is.

Dr. Horrible’s Death Ray is actually the same prop as the Sonic Rifle from “Firefly/Serenity” and also the movie “The 6th Day”. One of the members over at The Replica Prop Forum owns a screen-used copy and was nice enough to post the reference pictures that I worked from.

Sonic Rifle

Source: http://fireflyprops.net/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=141&start=0

To get an idea of how big this thing is, I used a screen capture of Nathan Fillion holding the Death Ray, looked on IMDB to see how tall he is, and then estimated from there. I ended up figuring 24″ for the main body and another 6″ for the front beam concentrator assembly.

Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer

Here’s the first rough cutout using a jigsaw on 3/4″ MDF.  The only problem with the jigsaw is that the blade tends to bend, giving you slightly angled cuts, but it was a bit more useful than just a bandsaw or a scroll saw for the interior cuts.

Rough Cutout

I used more 3/4″ MDF to make the larger details on the rifle, and 1/4″ MDF to make some of the smaller details. This gave the ray some width (and some weight!) You can see my reference picture in the background, I was working on a 3.31 multiplication factor between the printed out images and the real thing.

The butt of the rifle as depicted by 3/4″ MDF:

rifle butt

For the canisters attached to the side, I used 1″ dowel sawed in half lengthwise with 1″ pvc straight coupling glued to the outside of the dowel.


After a bunch of sanding/priming, and about an hour at Home Depot finding the right combination of PVC pipe fittings, here’s what it looked like with the pieces mocked up.


I used Bondo Spot putty for the fill-in work on the scope with Krylon Ruddy Brown primer

Bondo on PVC

Of course this thing would need to be wired up for lighting (I decided sounds would be a bit annoying but will probably put some in my next project), so I cut a channel in the base body with a router and fed the wires throughout the body. I used a 9v battery to power the LEDs


The beam concentrator was cobbled together using a 4″ PVC end cap, some threaded lamp pipe nipples, and Apoxie Sculpt

Beam concentrator

The body after primer/bondo/sandpaper/primer/bondo/etc.


The front of the beam concentrator consists of 1/4″ MDF cutout using a hole saw with more Apoxie sculpt and 1/2″ PVC pipe pieces

Front of Beam Concentrator

Fit together and mocked up


All the greeblies painted up and ready to be attached

random parts

First round of black paint and the Beam Concentrator attached using epoxy:


The scope was attached using more threaded pipe nipples

scope attachments

More of the pieces attached and some of the details. I used pieces of Sintra for the finder detail lines, since it can be cut with scissors. You can see the picture from the show in there too.


The internals came from an old motherboard that I cut up

We have lights!


I made a small box to go around the 9v battery out of Sintra. This is on the back of the “Death Ray” label panel

battery compartment

The panel with some weathering done. All of the weathering was done with an airbrush. I’m still trying to perfect my technique, but it was a start

back view

Detail Shots after a coat of Krylon Matte Finishing Spray

detail 1

detail 2

I’ll take some better pictures and post them, but in the meantime, check out my Flickr Page for more shots of the build

Here’s a picture from the night of Halloween with the completed costume. I need to take some better pictures, but it gives an idea of the size.
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