Star Fleet Research Startup & Phaser Prototype (TOS)


New Member
Brad Nelson visited the earliest of Star Trek conventions in the 70's. There he met Bill Hickey where the two became acquainted. Bill indicated to Brad that he would like a "functioning" phaser to sell plus, use as a sales tool to attract buyers to his Star Trek uniforms table. Identifying a lack of a replica phaser with light and sound at the time, Brad enlisted the assistance of a colleague and together they established Star Fleet Research. Both were skilled electronically and mechanically but it was his colleague who introduced Brad to mold making.

This phaser is the original #1 prototype built by the pair from several phaser "patterns" they came up with. Shortly after, Brad’s colleague was recruited to California's Silicon Valley to work for a tech giant and Brad took over Star Fleet Research as sole proprietor. Post Star Fleet Research, mid-to-late 1980's, Brad joined his former colleague out in Silicon Valley.

The phaser body is made of wood, the handle is aluminum tubing and the aluminum & acrylic parts are hand-machined. The rear fins are inlaid aluminum strips and the strobe circuit is from a modified camera flash unit. It features many similarities to the final design which, was further refined by Brad and went on to become the phaser many of us know and admire.

Brad has requested that we keep his colleague's name private.

Link to this phaser with pictures, videos, and detailed descriptions below. The little info icon toggles on/off the full descriptions.

Star Fleet Research Prototype Phaser

I Love reading this history. I remember, as a young boy, attending an early Trek Con and seeing the Brad Nelson Phaser for about $125 which seemed like a lot of money back then. I wanted it so badly! It still brings so much excitement and I can hear the pulse of the xenon strobe firing! Magnificent work on Brad’s part.

Where is Brad Nelson these days? what is he doing?
Very cool to see the Proto heard a little about it back in the day

I remember when they first hit and were $75.00 , and boy did they not only bring people to the table, but news crews in the towns where we were

Brad himself repaired mine back in the 90’s when he was still out in Ca.
My dad worked around the corner from Federation Trading Post (NYC), took me to my first con in Jan of 76. The dealer room was packed, Brad’s table the center of attention. At 11, $75 bucks was big money. Dad bought one for me, the several months wait for delivery nearly killed me.

Repairing, restoring, and maintaining an archive of these phasers along with the other fan-produced prop replicas from this time is very rewarding. Brad is humbled that his phasers are still revered to this day. Often thinks about “what if” the studios made Phase II and not the motion picture. More on that later…

Brad is alive and well, still works in the tech sector. He was blown away when this phaser showed up after all these years…

Seven months?! You got off easy!!!

I remember when the wait was over a year sometimes longer.

Funny story George Takei was at the table and a fan was complaining about the wait being a year George chimed in a year and a half for me

Needless to say the fan shut up quickly :D
Very lucky indeed, it was more like 3 to 4 months. A year and a half? "Oh my..." Brad estimates he refunded roughly 50% of his orders, he simply could not keep up with demand. His initial $50 selling price jumped to $75 quickly. By the time he made the phasers for Roddenberry his working units were up to $250. And by the close of Star Fleet Research, $500.

BN Letter Page 5.jpg
Yeah the rf meter fiasco pretty much stopped his Production of them

He had to raise the price to stop the orders coming in, those were crazy times .

When I worked behind Bills tables I was on the today show ,good morning america ,and cbs morning show as well as all the local news channels and newspapers

Being in Uniform brought a lot of attention but when you pulled out that Phaser forget about it

At some Cons the fire marshal came in to clear the people from the table because to many people were there
Crazy times indeed. Wow, so you worked these early cons with Mr. Hickey. IIRC some of his students did so too. Do you recall the earliest of them before Brad came into the picture?

hickey_star-fleet uniforms_order_form.jpg
Ahh yes the Lts. almost all were his students, don’t remember any names

Brad mostly did the NY Cons, Bill was all over the east coast

I started in 76-77 mostly part time a few times it was just me running the table when Bill went off to schmoose.

Later in the 80’s and 90’s went full time untill Bill retired in 97

Never did any of us thought we would be doing this for over 20 years, as Bill once quipped about having to change the order form blurb, “Since 2001” which was rapidly approaching

It was one helluva ride and I have many fond memories and storys…..

Your message may be considered spam for the following reasons:

If you wish to reply despite these issues, check the box below before replying.
Be aware that malicious compliance may result in more severe penalties.