If you want an Iron Man gauntlet, a Halo laser gun, or just some dangerous-looking steampunk mash-up of brass and LEDs, Patrick Priebe can help you. In his workshop outside Dusseldorf, Germany, he churns out homemade weapons straight out of science-fiction movies, which he sells from his website Laser Gadgets. "My most popular is the tiny wrist-mounted crossbow," he says.
With the exception of the smallest and most sophisticated parts, like laser diodes and circuit boards, Priebe says he makes them entirely from scratch, including the mechanics that flip out the Iron Man gauntlet’s laser gun and the metal bodies that appear to be custom machined. In his telling, he makes it all at one of his three workbenches, and two-dimensional sketches of the final result. "When I start it’s aluminum, and some screws," he says. "And when I finish it’s what you see on YouTube."
His YouTube videos include an assortment of items that look dangerous—witness, for example, the flame glove—but he insists these are made only for his own tinkering interest, and are not for sale. "When people ask what damage they can do, they won't get anything," he says.
For example, there is his Gauss rifle—named for the mathematician who grew up a few hours to the east, whose work helped underpin its use of electromagnets as a firing mechanism. This, Priebe believes, could be the weapon of the future. "Very tiny slugs, no sound when fired and no limit in speed: That’s the biggest advantages I can think of," says Priebe. But he is quick to point out that his version is really an inefficient, tinkering experiment. "I wouldn’t even call them weapons yet," he says.
His proto-weapons are more dangerous in appearance than in reality. His videos show lasers popping balloons, but that is about as far as they go. "Lasers are not weapons…yet," says Priebe. His largest laser guns—and he is currently working on his largest yet—are not for sale less because of the damage that can be done by the laser itself, than by the electronics that power it. "If you touch a capacitor, it can be your very end," he says. "And there are a lot of capacitors in there."
His bread and butter are smaller, custom creations, built for sci-fi fans and collectors primarily in the United States. "Steampunk stuff is very popular right now," he notes. (Priebe’s steampunk pistols start at $500 [brass is expensive].) The Iron Man gauntlet is also a bestseller.
The business started as a hobby, and only became a job after a roller hockey injury put him out of his job as a chemist. It’s still very much homemade: He only recently moved his workshop out of his bedroom into the next room over, and he still spray paints the weapons on his balcony.
Priebe says he doesn’t know how much money he makes, but it’s enough to live on. He’s more interested in continuing to make, bigger and better. "Generally, when I am done making things they bore me," he says.