Wooden Tommy Guns


Back in January of this year, my brother and his then bride-to-be decided on a gangster-themed wedding. Zoot suits, speakeasies, and a toy Thompson Machine Gun for each groom. After looking online and not finding any Tommy Guns that were neither rinky-dink nor expensive, I got it in my head that I could just make nine wooden Tommy Guns.

Hey, I had five months to get it done. Easy peasy.

Fortunately, I did in fact get it done:

Right from the beginning I knew the drum magazine would be the hard part, since I'm working out of an apartment, not a proper wood shop. Though occasionally I would stop in to use dad's drill press and sander.

For the drum magazine I used a couple of wooden-plaque blanks I found at Hobby Lobby and glued together, back to back.

I spent a lot of time mulling how to attach the magazine to the receiver. In the end, I decided to go the less realistic route and cut and chisel a notch into the magazine, which I later attached with pocket screws. The barrel I made out of some toy baseball bats I also found in Hobby Lobby, along with dowels. I didn't notice the baseball bats were all different though, but hey, now each Tommy Gun is unique.

The grips and stock I made using 1 × 4s and 2 × 4s, using a template like the image below for the front grip. The grips were scalloped for fingers, so after drawing in the template with drill points, I used a hole saw to cut the scallops. Then I cut the grips out with a jig saw. For the stocks I set the template down and cut them out with a circular saw and pull-saw.

The next two pics give an idea on how I planned to assemble the pieces:

I whittled the stocks down with a knife and then sanded the stocks, grips, and magazines with a standing sander, though the stocks are nowhere near as rounded as a real gunstock.

In the receiver, I used a Dremel router attachment to cut a channel in the top for the charging handle, and then used a dowel and finial knob to make the handle itself. The sights are molding. I attached most the components to the receiver with pocket screws, but the barrel I used a dowel pin, with a pocket screw holding the Cutts Compensator to the barrel.

Here's the assembled product:

While thinking about how to attach the drum magazine, I also invested time in figuring how to ebonize the guns. I knew I couldn't mimic the guns perfectly, so I'd already decided the pieces could be artistic as long as a person saw them and immediately thought Tommy Gun. With that guideline, I really wanted to stain them black like the metal, but still have wood grain showing through. The wood grain is what makes wood attractive after all, otherwise I could have carved these out of foam board or something.

Eventually, I landed on this very informative video:

Great video if you want to know how to ebonize wood to varying degrees with three different methods. I decided on using India Ink to stain the wood, since according to Les Casteel's video it had the best results without fading over time.

I also decided to fully assemble first and then stain. I had made the pistol grip and trigger one piece, because I knew I'd never get two pieces attached straight. So I bought Frog-brand masking tape and aluminum foil to mask the grips. Prior to that I applied a shellac sealcoat to prevent the stains from blotching in the pine. The India Ink does work great for putting down black:

But to be honest, the final result wasn't quite what I wanted. The grain isn't as distinct as I'd wished and the result isn't much better than using Minwax-brand stain-in polyurethane in ebony. After that I used a mix of red mahogany and Sedona to stain the grips and stocks.

After staining, I spray painted some dowels bright red and hammered them down the barrel like a toy gun. I'm not claiming a great deal of verisimilitude with the real thing, but I didn't want a groomsman to get shot because of me. After adding the red barrel plugs, I sealed the Tommy Guns with shellac, since I had used that for the sealcoat and also because I wanted to experiment with it.

And because it is made from bug excretions.

Finally, the pièce de résistance was adding an artificial red rose to the end of the plug. Like its the bloom of exhaust gases from a firing Tommy Gun. And because they were for a wedding.

The final result:

The wedding was at a ranch in Whitewater, Colorado. I'd taken over this Green Room for tying ribbons and laying the guns out.

My nephew eventually got his hands on his groomsman dad's Tommy Gun and mowed down his cousins:

The groom, Chance, and our brother Derrick posing with the Grand Mesa in the background.

"Oh, George... not the livestock..."

Here's a final image with flash to perhaps show some more detail:

Of course, this would have been a whole lot easier with a lathe...

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