The Secret Island Lair, New Concept Art, and Rum.

Hey There! It’s Been a While!

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted here. I’ve been busy getting my life settled here on our Secret Island in the V.I. Well, I suppose it’s not really very secret, but there aren’t many people here, so that makes it feel pretty secret!

Back in July (of 2013) we uprooted our home in Key West to make the final leg of our “10-year-plan” to run away to the Caribbean. This involved selling even more of our stuff, purchasing a bright yellow Jeep, a road trip to New York to see my son graduate high school and drop off our old Toyota 4-Runner for him to drive, camping in the Smoky Mountains, more road tripping to Traverse City, Michigan to visit with the extended family, a scary trip through blighted neighborhoods in Detroit, a flight back to Orlando, a trip to Jacksonville to drop the Jeep at the freight docks, and finally, a flight to St Thomas. It was a long, arduous, and immensely fun road trip that took a few weeks, and ended with us transplanted on our new rock… Water Island.

Honeymoon-BeachPossibly the happiest photo on the whole site…

Water Island is a small little island just south of St. Thomas. It’s about 490 acres, and has no stop lights, no convenience stores, no grocery stores, and very few people. There is however, a world-class beach with a beach bar, an old abandoned government fort tunneled through the mountain, lots of turtles, and very little traffic. I love it. The yellow Jeep lives on St. Thomas, and we drive our golf cart on Water Island. Our dinghy gets us between the islands for food and booze runs, and gets Christina to Charlotte Amalie for work. I work on Water Island, so I don’t leave very often, and that suits me just fine.

Another thing that suits me fine is the price of rum here.. apparently the government subsidizes the production of rum in the VI, so the prices are silly-cheap. It’s half what it costs anywhere else in the US. Not that I drink or anything. Much.

So Anyway…

Uprooting things like we did, I had to dismantle my tiny shop in Key West and put most of my tools in boxes to wait for shipment at a later date. The large things like table saws, mitre saws, drill presses, etc. had to stay, and they are being harbored by a friend in Orlando so whenever I decide to go back to the real world, I’ll have them there.

I’ve been slowly trying to get things back together, not really worrying too much about it until recently when I was contacted by a gentleman in Connecticut who wanted to commission a Steam Amp. Well, never one to back down from a challenge, I told him I was game if he wasn’t in too much of a hurry, and we agreed on a design and price, and off I go!

The Steam Amp II is somewhat similar to the original; same circuitry under the hood, but with much upgraded drivers, more inputs, a bluetooth receiver, and some cool-as-shit spherical speaker cans. I’ll be posting construction shots of this project along the way, so I’m not gonna go into any details now. I’m going to build 5 of these as a limited-edition run. That means there will be 4 more available, so if you want one.. drop me a line.

Another concept I worked on was the Æther Lamp. It shares a lot of the same aesthetics as the Steam Amp II, and would probably look great sitting on the same shelf. It’s built around an old 10″ glass fresnel lens I picked up on eBay a few years ago. I’d like to build a couple of these, and sell them as a pair.

I can’t wait to get started on these projects… stay tuned for updates.

Images modeled and rendered in Maya.

Stay Ævil..


6 thoughts on “The Secret Island Lair, New Concept Art, and Rum.

  1. I have to say. I am impressed beyond words. I hope to commission you to build me one. I can’t afford it right now. I build console stereos and modify consoles as well. I want to use your amps for a project in the near future. Anyway i am blown away and it takes A LOT to impress me. Amazing look out McIntosh

  2. Thanks Tom! Although, I hardly think McIntosh has much to worry about from me unless they decide to get into the dieselpunk-stereo market. 🙂

  3. Most steampunk looks like an old brief case with op-shop trinkets glued on. Yours does not. You have superb aesthetics…. nice ratios and balance.

    Tube amps were all figured out by the 1950s. Tubes haven’t changed. There’s no reason for a good tube amp to cost thousands of dollars.

    Funny, I was telling my wife a story from my youth about the “fort” on Water Island a few minutes before I stumbled on your site.

    Thanks putting your work on the net, Mack

  4. Hi Mack! Thanks for the kind words. No, they don’t need to be expensive, but they certainly can be depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go with fancy capacitors and boutique tubes. The most expensive parts to any tube amp are the output transformers and the power transformer. The rest is mostly resistors, capacitors and wire… not terribly expensive! That being said, I’ve spent well over 2k in parts alone to build my latest amp and speaker combo, the SteamAmp II… so when you start adding fancy enclosures and high-end speaker connectors, gold plated rca jacks, etc, etc to your build, you’d be surprised how fast the price gets out of control.

    You’ve been to water island? How cool is that! What a small world.


  5. Hi Mike,
    I think the most pleasurable music reproduction comes from the simple purity of tube amps and single-driver speakers. The fewer components the better. I’d rather spend time and money on appearance since that has a stronger physiological effect on sound perception than $20k cables. Just by seeing the pics, I KNOW your SteamAmp II sounds fantastic! It just has to.

    I lived on Hassel Is in 1979. Discovering Fort Segarra and exploring it with a Mini Mag flashlight was a (somewhat enhanced) magical event. The ammo rooms hadn’t been turned into cisterns then and contained office junk and lots of coffee cups.

    Cheers, Mack

  6. I’m with you on the appearance issue 😉 That’s why I build these, it’s really more about having a functional piece of artwork than a super high-end tube amp. I definitely try to market them as art, not stereos. It certainly does not hurt that they sound really good though!

    I have yet to get over to Hassel Island, it looks like there are some cool spots to hike and photograph.

Leave a Comment