SteamHat Final Shots


A couple final shots of the SteamHat.

Here are the final shots of my Steampunk Top Hat project, I am for the most part happy with this project, however, there are many things I wish that I’d had time to do better. I’d like to have more going on inside the portholes, I’d like to have cleaner solder joints, and perhaps some small tubing running along the outside between the ports.. Just more detail in general. Unfortunately the timeline I assigned myself didn’t allow for all of that. I’m planning on building a V.2 SteamHat in the future, and hopefully I can address all of my nit-picky issues then. But all in all.. not bad for a couple weeks of harried construction.

The SteamHat Project WIP

This was kind of a departure from my normal steampunk direction..

I’d never built anything meant to be worn before. But Halloween was on it’s way and I had a grand vision of a costume in my head. A steampunk airship pirate! ARRRRRrrr!  The costume in my head is far more involved than just a hat, and I knew it would probably take me a few years to get all the pieces together, but you have to start somewhere, right? Might as well start at the top..

I began with a victorian top hat from the village hat shop, a cool online store that sells all sorts of neat hats. My head is rather large (7 1/2 hat size) and I wanted to be able to wear a bandanna on my head under this thing so I bought the 7 5/8 size hat. After seeing how big it was on my head when I got it in the mail, I probably should have just ordered the correct size, but eh.. it was too late to send it back and get another in time to finish this project before Halloween, so I just forged on.

I removed the satin band from around the hat and wrapped a strip of paper around the hat so I could get the correct curvature and shape for the copper band. After a lot of fussing about, measuring, trimming, etc.. I had a paper shape that fit snugly around the hat, and conformed to the slight rise around the brim from front to back. I traced this shape onto my copper sheet and cut it out with my trusty tin-snips.

After hammering flat and filing down the edges to smooth them out a bit, I began shaping the copper band into  a circle. When I had it to the correct shape I built a clasp out of some more copper sheet that would let me snug the band to the hat with a couple 1/4-20 brass bolts. I soldered this clasp to the ends of the band, and had a small victory jig since I had managed to NOT burn the hat or myself with the blow torch!

Once that phase was finished it was time to build the little portholes that I wanted to rim the hat. I decided on 6 of them, but in hindsight I should have stuck with just two in front considering the tight timeframe I had to put this thing together. I wound up having to skimp a bit on details just to get the thing done, and I hate doing that.

For the portholes I applied the same principle as I did for the hat band, I used paper that I shaped into a 2″ pipe and taped together. I then went about the fussy business of finding the right curvature so that the back edge of the tube would follow the multiple contours of the hat band.. what a pain, but it worked. I laid the template out on my copper sheet, traced it and trimmed out 6 of these porthole shapes.

I formed the flat pieces into tubes, and soldered an overlap at the bottom, then soldered them to the hat band. At this point I should have pre-drilled holes in the band for the LED’s, but I wasn’t thinking and moved straight to filling my portholes with gears.

I’d bought a box of 12 little battery powered flickering tea lights online for about a 18 bucks. I figured I’d ruin a few in the process, and I was right.. out of the 12 original lights, I wound up with just 6 that worked. Between trying to solder directly to the PC board and frying the IC, and wrestling these assemblies into place, I killed 6 of them. I was getting a bit nervous there at the end that I was going to have to scrap the lights altogether. But.. perseverance and patience paid off and I was able to attach a LED to the backside of each gear assembly inside the portholes. I ran the wires through the band and wired them all together on the backside.

As I said, I should have planned better and made better accommodations for the lights, as I had quite a time trying to drill the holes from the back side of the assembled band. Oh well.. next time I’ll know better.

I soldered the 2″ lenses in place and ran the wires through a small hole in the hat to a 2x AA battery pack glued to the inside top. I added a small switch to the circuit, and voila! Flickery Steampunk Top Hat! It really does look like there’s a small fire inside the hat.. all the LED’s flicker at different intervals, so it looks like a flame dancing about in there.. I got lucky for sure on much of this project. I was hurried and there are a great many things I’d rather have done differently, but all in all I’m pretty happy with this one. I think at some point in the future I’ll do another variation on this and really take my time and do it right.

I’ll post finished pix in the next post.