An umbrella is never just an umbrella to James Wulfgar. “Sometimes, I’ll go to Goodwill and just get random things for the objects I make,” he says. “I think to myself, Hey, the end of this umbrella would look good on a blaster!” The self-taught owner of Wulfgar Weapons & Props has bins filled with found parts for ray guns and similar items.
“If you look at Star Wars, most of the lightsabers are camera flashes,” he says. “And Han Solo’s original blaster has all kinds of different bits and pieces.”
For Wulfgar, who earned an organizational leadership degree from Purdue University, opening his business in 2006 was a happy accident. In college, he hosted an annual superhero costume party. By the third or fourth one, he had fabricated an entire suit of armor. Friends took notice and asked him to make costumes for their visits to Gen Con and Comic Con.
Today, Hollywood film crews are the ones commissioning Wulfgar to create rocket launchers, laser-shooting satellite dishes, and more. “A lot of movie studios want things nobody else has,” he says. “Currently, we’re building a working rotary gun that’s going to be on fire.” Custom items can cost as much as $5,000. In-stock swords, blasters, helmets, and other props—available on his website—usually range from $30 to $500.
Wulfgar works primarily with plastic and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, a material that’s very lightweight, water-resistant, and durable. As for the manufacturing method, there is no mold. “We make things every possible way we can,” he says. “It completely depends on the job.”
For example, to create a basic blaster, Wulfgar first chooses a model. (While some of Wulfgar’s weaponry is based on toys or airsoft guns, the company has an arsenal of options, including 3-D-printing, casting, and hand-sculpting.) Next, he base-coats the gun flat black and embellishes with acrylics, oils, or leather paints. Wulfgar finishes with a protective clear coat and includes extras—like that old umbrella tip—as needed.
Now that he’s making props for film production rather than his friends, however, Wulfgar can’t always count on finding the perfect part on a Goodwill shelf. “I’m constantly designing things to put on our laser cutter,” he says. “When we need to, we can make our own bits and pieces.”
Steampunk pistol featuring hand-painted details along with a working trigger, lights, and sound. $240.