The New Command Desk for the Ævil Lair

Industrial Steampunk Desk

 

Upon returning to the mainland after 6 years running away from reality, I found myself with no furniture. Not that I’m complaining. It’s a pretty good feeling to find yourself without physical baggage. You get to start over.. re-invision your world with a fresh eye, and do things the way you wish you had the first time.

I’ve always built my own work benches and desks, but I never really put any thought into them beyond functionality. They served their purpose, but they never really created a cohesive image. Starting out with basically a blank slate, I decided that this time I wanted my work tables to represent a bit more of the feel of the world I lived in in my head.

I googled industrial and steampunk desks for days, and of all the myriad designs out there, I kept coming back to these huge cast-iron machine tables. They were so cool, but very much out of my price-range. The interior design industry has discovered them, and is re-purposing to their hearts content, selling them for thousands. They are really cool, but not five grand cool. Well at least not for someone with my paltry income.

So I decided to build my own.

I reverse-engineered elements from a few different tables that I liked and built a 3D model in Maya. I then took that model into Illustrator and drew up some plans. I took a trip to Lowes to buy some plywood and I was off!

The entire desk is built from one 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ furniture-grade plywood, and one 2’x4′ sheet of 1/2″ ply. The top is a hospital-grade solid core 36″x84″ door. Add yerself a few 3/4″ stainless nuts and threaded rod and bob’s yer uncle.

The legs are sandwiched pieces of ply. I rounded the edges, filled in the corners with bondo and sanded it all smooth. The finish is just that “stone” spray paint from Lowes, covered over with “cast iron” engine enamel. Easy peasy. It really does look like real cast iron. Even without the top, it’s a heavy beast. You could probably park a car on this thing without too much worry. All in all I’m super thrilled with the way it came out!

Cheers!
Mike

Halloween is Nigh!

Halloween-2015

Fall. there’s really nothing like it. The air turns colder, the nights get longer. Halloween looms in the distance, and I start getting itchy.

To say that I have an obsession with Halloween would be a gross understatement. Typically October at my house is filled with painting, decorating, building sets and props, cleaning out fog machines, and checking the blacklight fixtures for shorts and broken tubes.

Before leaving Orlando for key West in 2009, I had a yearly Halloween party with attendance upwards of 150 people or more. I had a committee of sponsors, and we’d get together early every October to start scheming. We pooled our money to buy black visqueen, fluorescent paint, blacklight tubes, and fog machines to turn the back yard into a macabre horror show. The last year that I hosted it at my house, we had so many fog machines the entire neighborhood was under a cloud for the entire night. After that we moved the party to a downtown night club because it was getting too big and unwieldy.

When I moved to Key West I unloaded most of my party supplies that I’d always kept in storage. Some of my friends now have pretty intense yard decorations on Halloween night! I was so bereft in Key West for lack of something to do on Halloween, that I began volunteering for the Haunting of Fort Taylor, a yearly haunted-house held in the historic fort down there. It was a blast, and it was almost as good as having my own party. We left Key West after four years and spent an addional two years in the Virgin Islands.  They have NO halloween down there. They think it’s satanic. *Snort* I was devastated. But now I’m back…

And I’m feeling itchy again.

Which probably accounts for the new color scheme on the site right now haha.

On that note, I’ve been slowly but surely getting the Lab put back together, and I’m gearing up to start some builds, so I’m showing the site some much needed love. I really have been ignoring this poor blog for too long in favor of quick posts on FaceBook. Which I hate. I hate FaceBook. There, I said it. But I digress.

Anyway, I have some new material to post up here soon, so stay tuned!

Cheers!
Mike

Copper Accent Lamp

 

Here’s some shots of a little side-table accent lamp I built. Built out of copper and brass with an oak base. Simple on and off switch and an Edison bulb in it. It’s about 14″ high. It’s always fun to work on projects that don’t take months to complete, and I need a few smaller things that I can sell here and there to fund some larger projects that I have waiting in the wings. They will be signed and numbered.

The bare bulb that I have in it makes it kind of unusable as a desk lamp, but it uses a small candelabra-base socket, so the bulb could be switched out for something smaller that sits up inside the shade so you’re not staring right at the bulb.

I have a couple designs for things like this using different materials that I’m going to knock out here in the upcoming months. Stay tuned!

Cheers!
Mike

The Long Journey Home

West-Indies-Map

 

The West Indies are an interesting place. The natural surroundings are undeniably beautiful.  The water is so clear and blue, you can see everything underneath you for 50 feet or more. It’s like swimming in the world’s largest swimming pool. The beaches are serene, the wind rustling through palm trees elicit a level of calm that’s hard to reach on the mainland, and if you are lucky enough (as I was) to live on a mostly undeveloped residential island, it can be truly, almost heaven. Almost.

The journey started back in 2008 when my wife (GF at the time) and I decided it would be fun to disappear into the caribbean for a spell while the economy played out it’s grand guignol. We had our minds set on a small island next to St. Thomas called Water Island. Knowing that it would be a huge adjustment to just up and move there from the relative reality of Orlando, we took a halfway-step and moved to Key West. We lived there for four years, then made the move to the VI.

During our time in Key West I really got some traction with this CopperSteam stuff.. I think I really made some progress on the direction and feel of what I was trying to accomplish with it. I’m still honing in on it now, and don’t expect to ever really stop changing directions, but those four years were really the foundation of the thing.

When we moved to St. Thomas, I kind of hit a logistical wall.. shipping anything to the VI is expensive and slow, and they have virtually NO local options for buying any kind of supplies but for the Home Depot up on the mountain, and even they have a limited cross-section as far as Home Depot’s go. My tools all rusted immediately because of the salt content in the air (We did live on a cliff overlooking the Ocean, so I guess I should have seen that one coming), and polishing copper and brass was a tremendous exercise in futility, as it would begin to tarnish immediately. Needless to say.. not the best environment to construct an evil scientist’s lab.

Despite all the difficulties, I was able to construct one of my favorite pieces to date.. the SteamAmp II, a commissioned piece for a gent in Connecticut. It cost a fortune to get the materials shipped, and I had to re-do every piece I finished at least once, but perseverance paid off and it came out great. I vowed to never again attempt another physical artwork while I was living there.

Apart from the difficulty of trying to build stuff there, life was pretty much a waking dream. I drove around in my golf cart, floated in the pristine waters on our little beach, drove to work in a dinghy… and dreamed of fresh fruits and veggies and cheap and plentiful meat and dairy. You see, while liquor (especially Rum) was a fraction of the cost on the island, the food-supply chain to the VI is slow and expensive, and getting good groceries was really quite a challenge. A small price to pay I suppose, for living literally a two minute drunken golf cart ride to one of the best beaches ever. Water island was a balancing game.. the sooner you just learned to go with the flow, the more you could just relax and enjoy the beauty of it all.

So, as fate would have it, just as I decided to kick back and only work on conceptual design stuff, and play out my days in a dark rum-fueled version of some Hunter S. Thompson novella, Christina got a job offer she couldn’t pass up back on the mainland. After no small amount of deliberation, we decided to come back early.

And so it comes to pass, I am back in Florida, three weeks from moving back into our house that we’ve had renters in for 6 years, and planning my grande return to the original Ævil Laboratory… and oh the fun we will have then!

So stay tuned kiddies, I’m dusting off the workbench!

SteamAmp II

 

It’s cool to see it in the flesh as compared to my 3D model of it that I posted a few months ago.. I think it looks pretty darned close to the concept!

A few technical details for the nerds; the amp circuit is a hot-rodded version of the S5 Electronics K12G amp. I upgraded all the caps, and replaced the stock output transformers with a nice pair from Edcor. There are 5 inputs, 4 on the back, one on the front, and the volume knob is a stepped attenuator. The amp puts out 8 watts per channel and uses 4 10GV8 triode tubes in push-pull.

The speakers are Tang-Band W4-1879’s and the copper spheres are ported through the bases with a 1×4″ flared port. The enclosures are reinforced inside with epoxy resin-soaked fiberglass matte, and they are very solid. They sound amazingly LARGE for such small drivers! I couldn’t be happier.

This was a really challenging piece, not so much because the construction itself was that difficult, but because here in my new workshop the air has so much salt in it that the copper tarnishes really, really quickly if it’s not coated right away after polishing. I’ve re-finished every piece of this thing twice! It’s now wrapped it in plastic and closed up in a box until I finish the speakers. I’ll unwrap it and get some good professional photos of the whole set together, and then ship it as quickly as I can to get it out of this harsh environment and on to it’s owner in Connecticut!

Cheers!
Mike