Josh Haazard stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, in Monroe. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Josh Haazard stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, in Monroe. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

MONROE — It’s called the Gramophozooka: A combination of PVC pipe, a gramophone horn, a safety cone, air duct parts, refrigerator parts and other bits and pieces put together to resemble a rocket launcher.

Can it fire projectiles? No, but hook it up to an air pump, pull the trigger and cover your ears as a foghorn noise blares out.

The Gramophozooka is one of the many creations of Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard, the nom de plume of Joshua Haas.

On his business card, Haazard, 40, describes himself as an “arms dealer and crafter of fine props, mods, gimmicks & general mayhem.”

To put it simply, he’s an artist who builds fantasy weapons.

Josh Haazard points his gramophonezooka while walking around his workshop. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Josh Haazard points his gramophonezooka while walking around his workshop. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Some of Haazard’s props are replicas of weapons from cartoons, like the Sword of Omens from “Thundercats” or Garnet’s Gauntlets from “Steven Universe.” Other pieces are original designs Haazard cobbled together from junk. He assembles battle axes, swords and other armaments from discarded appliances and scrap metal.

“It’s just a random bunch of assorted parts that I put together to make something fun,” Haazard said. The practice is called “bodgering.”

But Haazard’s bread and butter are customized Nerf guns he hand-paints to look like sci-fi weaponry. These he sells for $50 to $200 online on Etsy under the name Haazardous Laboratory, or HaazLab for short.

Previously, Haazard worked in retail before the COVID-19 pandemic. After the world went into lockdown, he decided to turn his side hustle into a full-time job and work from home. He’s been happier ever since.

He now spends his time crafting contraptions in his workshop: a barn previously owned by a hoarder. A gravel road leads up to the 5-acre property surrounded by the woods outside Monroe.

The barn inside looks like a superhero’s armory, brimming with gadgets and gizmos. Painted Nerf guns line one of the walls and a pirate-themed battle ax hangs from the ceiling. It’s quiet, except for the sound of 40 clucking hens Haazard’s wife, Nikki Haas, raises in the back yard.

Josh Haazard holds two Nerf guns of the same model — one untouched and the other modified in his HaazLab. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Josh Haazard holds two Nerf guns of the same model — one untouched and the other modified in his HaazLab. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Haazard sits at his work table, distinguished by the blue-dyed streak down his burly beard and the words “imagination” and “science” tattooed across his arms. He’s short enough to pass under the prop guns hanging from one of the barn’s overhanging beams. The same could not be said of the slightly taller, bumbling Herald photographer and reporter during their visit.

The barn also houses Haazard’s many side projects, like a metallic gauntlet he made out of a hockey glove, an old mobility scooter dressed up as a riverboat and a helmet with a spinning propeller on top inspired by “Inspector Gadget.”

A homemade scarecrow sits in one corner. The mannequin’s design is based on a recurring nightmare Haazard has where he’s chased by cloaked, humanoid-like featherless owl-people. It didn’t protect his wife’s garden from the crows, but it sure did spook two Herald reporters.

About 60% of Haazard’s prop weapons are original designs he hopes will catch the eye of a potential customer browsing his Etsy shop. The rest are commissioned pieces.

One of his favorite commissioned projects was a prop he made for a horror clown working at the haunted house hosted at Stalker Farms. Haazard made her a giant lollipop that had a circular saw blade. And yes, it spins.

“That was all kinds of stupid fun,” Haazard said.

Haazard likes to add function to his functionless weapons. If he can make a prop light up, make noise or rotate, he will. A lot of his craft knowledge comes from trial and error. He’s gotten quite good at disassembling cordless drills.

Nerf guns hang from the ceiling in Josh Haazard’s workshop. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Nerf guns hang from the ceiling in Josh Haazard’s workshop. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

This passion for tinkering with appliances and creating art has been with Haazard since he was a kid.

“I would take things apart that were supposed to be garbage,” Haazard said. “I would mash things together, and that’s what got me down on this road.”

It wasn’t until around 2014 that Haazard began focusing his effort on making costume accessories. At first, he made prop weapons to go with the outfits he wore to conventions for Steampunk enthusiasts, which is a science fiction subgenre that imagines a world where Victorian-era fashion persists and the main driver of technology wasn’t electricity, but steam. So it’s a lot of people in top hats, goggles and waistcoats with clockwork-like tools and tech.

Costume makers typically have a niche, Haazard said. So he decided to become proficient at crafting Steampunk weapons.

“I figured that there’s bound to be some leatherworker or tailor that has made themselves a really cool outfit, and all they’re missing is a gun or hammer, and they don’t have the ability to do that,” Haazard said. “So I figured I could help out.”

Haazard’s props eventually caught the attention of a vendor who offered to sell his stuff at conventions. He enjoyed the work, and began making more and more. Today Haazard has his online shop and sells to folks as far as Australia and Europe.

Josh Haazard holds an ax he made. Many of the devices he creates involve spinning or light-up features. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Josh Haazard holds an ax he made. Many of the devices he creates involve spinning or light-up features. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“Since I had my first sale overseas, I was able to introduce myself as an international arms dealer,” Haazard said, “which is sweet.”

But for some reason there’s one place where Haazard has more customers than any other.

“I send a lot of pieces to Pennsylvania. No idea why,” he said. “Pennsylvania, for whatever reason, buys more stuff from me than almost anywhere else.”

What separates Haazard’s props from other people’s are two things: dirt and durability. One of his pet peeves is seeing someone in a realistic, weatherworn costume and holding a prop gun that looks brand new.

“It has to look grosser than you,” Haazard said. So he puts effort into making his pieces look beaten, damaged and used.

Haazard also works to ensure everything he builds is “me proof.” On many occasions he’d witness people at conventions with large, elaborate props who’d bump into something, drop the prop and watch in horror as it shatters.

The HaazLab, Josh Haazard’s personal workshop, is covered ceiling to floor in stickers, props and work materials on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Haazard’s home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

That’s why Haazard’s business logo is a fist, because ”I need to make everyone know that this is me proof. This is going to stand the test of time. This is not going to be an easy break.

“Because if anything’s going to happen to this thing, I’m going to happen to this thing,” he continued. “I don’t want to break my own stuff, especially when I’m making fun, cool stuff.”

Haazard likes being creative. He likes being the guy who can make the prop that’ll be the “cherry on top” to someone’s costume. He loves what he does and hopes to do it for as long as he can.

“I’m having fun,” he said.

For more info on Haazard’s work, visit HaazLab.com.

Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; eric.schucht@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.

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