Author and self-described "mad scientist" Rob Flickenger has accomplished what we only wish actual 19th-century scientists had done: make a steampunk lightning rifle. His Tesla gun, inspired by graphic novel The Five Fists of Science, is essentially a hand-held spark gap Tesla coil powered by an 18V drill battery. When fired, it produces anywhere from 8 to 24 inches of lightning and 100,000 volts of electricity. Flickenger is adamant about the fact that it's much more an art piece than a real weapon: "if you hit somebody over the head with it I’m sure it would hurt," he says. That said, it's still quite dangerous, and he cautions anyone against making or firing one without extensive preparation.
Flickenger is an experienced DIY enthusiast, but building the gun — which puts out lethal amounts of electricity — was only possible with the help of multiple hacker collectives and crash courses on metal and porcelain casting, among other things. The finished product is made of a nerf gun cast in aluminum, a custom porcelain high-voltage switch, and a series of coils, all topped with an aluminum toroid. He'll be showing it off at the Seattle Mini Maker Faire, and we've got a recent talk about it below. You can also check out this interview or his own extensive documentation.