The Steam Amp WIP


A Steampunk Amplifier? Why Not!

This is my latest project; a steampunk tube amplifier (or valve amp if you’re a brit). I’ve always wanted to build a tube amp, and it’s been a long road to get here. I think I began this obsession almost two years ago, but just haven’t had the chance to get to it until now. What I really want to do is build a HUUUUUGE direct-wired tube amp, but I figured it’s probably wise to start small with new things.

This is a simple kit to build that I bought from Tube Depot. It’s an 8 watt stereo job, the K-12G model. It wasn’t too terribly expensive either, and considering how freaking amazing it sounds, I’d say it’s well worth the money. Of course the kit didn’t come with a case, so I built my own.. that’s half the fun right!?

I won’t bore everyone with too many details, I think the photos are pretty self explanatory, but a few little notes:

It took perhaps an hour to construct the kit, anyone with a little soldering experience could build this thing. I mounted all the components other than the tube sockets on the underside of the board so I could mount it to the underside of the 1/8″ copper plate.

I actually broke down and bought a full set of forstner wood bits for this project. They are pure bliss, I highly recommend them if you like clean holes in your wood. Also I bought metal knock-out punches for making nice holes in metal, no way you’re getting holes that large in metal that thick without them.. well worth the money.

The glowey-rods in the round glass window are 1/4″ blue ultra violet acrylic. I bought a 6 foot length of the stuff on line for about 10 bucks I think, it really lights up with the UV LED’s I put under each one. It’s a very cool effect. God I love black light.

The LED’s run off a separate transformer attached underneath. It was a sony power brick type, and a very stable 12 volts I might have to pick up a few more of those, as most 12v wall warts actually put out between 13 and 15 volts.. you can seriously tax your LED’s unless you adjust your resistance accordingly. My LED’s had the resisters and leads pre-soldered, so I needed to make sure I wasn’t over 12v.

I’m building speakers to go with this, they hopefully will be done soon, and of course I’ll post pix here when they are.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a line!


10 thoughts on “The Steam Amp WIP”

  1. I’d really like to build one of these. I don’t suppose you could say where you bought the acrylic rods & uv leds & the specs for the UV leds…There are quite a few on e-bay… I have no idea what I’m doing, but I want to try. 🙂 Where do you get those cool copper components, too…

    • Hey there!

      I don’t recall exactly where I bought the acrylic rods, I just did a google search for ‘fluorescent acrylic rod” and lots of choices popped up. Just from a quick search I find one here:

      The LED’s I bought on ebay. They were pre-wired with a resistor for 12 volt use. It’s so much easier buying them this way than wiring them up yourself, but if you do want to wire them yourself you can find resister calculators everywhere on the net: Just plug in your numbers and it gives you the resistor value you need. Most LED’s can only handle 3 volts, hence the resistor to drop the voltage from whatever source you are using to a suitable level that won’t blow the LED. If you have a 3v source, you could do without the resistor, but most power supplies are in the 9V to 12V range. To make matters more difficult, most wall ward power supplies output more power than they say on them, so it’s always a good idea to either test the output with a multimeter, or over build, and put a resister in there that will handle more.

      You definitely want the brightest UV led’s you can find. LED’s are measured in MCD.. the brightest ones are 2000 MCD and higher if you get into the really big ones, but for the ‘classic’ T3/4 LED that I’m using in this instance, look for them in the 1000 to 2000 MCD range. Brightness is a bit deceiving with UV led’s because they don’t give off much visible light, but there will always be some sort of brightness number attached to them.

      The copper parts are mostly plumbing fixtures and such. The large ‘can in the center is sheet copper rolled into a tube and soldered, the outer cans are 3″ pipe caps, the plate copper I bought on ebay. If you can’t find what you need on ebay you can always get it from, but copper ain’t cheap these days, so I always prefer to troll for deals on ebay before buying directly from a supplier.

      I hope that answers your questions! For the LED wiring, just read up on the internet.. there are tons of sites out there that explain all of this better than I just did.. haha.


  2. Hi Denise!

    Sure you can! It’s currently on display at a gallery downtown Orlando, and the price we have on it is 1200.00. I was actually just about to throw it up on eBay in the next week or so. If you’re really interested drop me an email at, and we’ll discuss it!


  3. I love the look of this project, I just got started on planning a tube amp of my own and this is by far the best looking one I’ve seen. I really want a wood enclosure with metal only on the top, and I never would have thought to use copper but that would look really nice. I’m curious, if I wanted to use your enclosure design, but just leave the exposed transformers on top along with the tubes, would you have anything that would help me do so? Like instructions, drawings with dimensions, etc…?

    I do just fine with all of the tools involved (I think) but my experience with actually designing things is much less developed. Anything you could provide would help. Thank you!

  4. Hi Anders, thanks for the kind words!

    I don’t have any actual “plans” for this one.. I build all my designs in a 3D program before I start construction so I can make sure everything will fit together. Unless you are building the same amp circuit with the same tubes, etc., there’s not much I can help you with in regards to dimensions and such.

    What I can suggest is that you get dimensions for all of your components (especially the transformers) and either draw it out on paper, or use an illustration program like Adobe Illustrator to lay the components out and get the size of your box that way.

    I tend to work with the dimensions of the wood that I can get to cut down on the amount of wood work needed, especially lately because my current workspace is so small I don’t have room for a table saw to cut lengths down. So my wood boxes are typically 2 1/5″ tall because, say a 1×3 board is 3/4 by 2 1/2.. I find this is more than deep enough for wiring and underside components.

    Unless you are really patient, I wouldn’t suggest copper for a first amp.. it’s a royal pain in the arse to polish, and it’s very expensive. Try aluminum, it’s just as easy to machine, and much cheaper!

    Other than that, the usual tube-amp layout rules apply.. keep the signal circuitry as far away from the power supply circuitry as possible, keep wires bundled neatly, and be really careful with the capacitors, they can kill you if you’re not careful..

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