Rocket Launchers are cool. And for steampunk? Even cooler. I think there's a lot more interesting cultures around the timeline of Steampunk (if you think mid 1800s-early 1900s), and more interesting technologies than just "steam". So, when I thought about my Steampunk Mulan outfit, I thought of rockets. The Chinese have had a long history of rocketry and combustion. They had portable rocket launchers in the Ming Dynasty (14-17th C). Plus, in terms of firearms, the same time frame saw automatic pistols, howitzer cannons, gatling guns, and the ilk.
Now, imagine if they continued to evolve their rocketry science! (This is historical based fantasy after all.)
I decided to keep it simple however, because of time restrictions (about 1.5 weeks to finish), and went with the simple Chinese Rocket launcher, based on these plans.
The rocket launcher had to be light, portable, and the right size for me to sling across my back and swing to the hip when needed. The arrows I had picked up from the Sporting good store were about 26" long, so the launcher had to be of an appropriate size.
The trip to Michaels didn't yield enough balsa wood of the appropriate size, but it did give me a base starting point for the width. We decided that making it out of thick foam core board was an acceptable substitute (and save us time from having to run around even more looking for balsa wood). As soon as I got home, I made a prototype of 1/2 scale out of posterboard and masking tape.
Having tested the general shape, I started cutting out the foam core board -- top width of 4.5", bottom width of 3.6 inches, and 27.5" long. It came together easily enough, although I had a bit of a hassle making the inner support structures that would hold the arrows in place, but eventually I got it.
The whole thing was taped together with industrial strength tape. Then, it was modge-podged Sunday night, lightly sanded, then I added a coat of primer, and then the final coat of paint. (This took several days to ensure it dried well enough.)
I also made some harmless "rockets" to attach to the arrows out of red thick paper, but I'm did consider using confetti poppers instead (and attaching a long string down each one to allow me to pop each one individually...)
I found a very nice dragon stencil that I transfered over to a stencil film so that the outside could be decorated similarly to the actual Chinese launchers.
Then, it was just a matter of making the straps & the backstrap to fit it. Of course, on hindsight, I should have made the straps before putting on the stencil, so that the straps wouldn't cover it, but ah well. It still looked pretty awesome.