Steampunk Aether Ball


Go ahead and get your Blue Ball jokes out of the way right now.


Here’s a little something I threw together from scraps one day. It’s just a copper fitting soldered to a round copper disk with a coil of 6 gauge copper wire wrapped around it. A wooden base from the center of the Boiler Speakers front panel, a 1 watt UV LED, a Quartz ball, and VOILA!… a.. um… steampunk thing-a-ma-jiggy.

This is a cool little thing that you just plug in and sit on a shelf.. it glows with blacklight goodness, and that’s enough for me!

The Steam Amp WIP

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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!


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.


Solar Globe Garden Light


This was another of those ‘what if’ projects. Not sure if it falls into the steampunk art category, but I’m always looking for inspiration! I had picked up a dozen of these little solar panel/battery/LED assemblies from a surplus electronics store for cheap. They sat in a box in the closet for a year or so, then one day fumbling about in the shed I had an idea. I could build a bunch of little solar powered garden path lights!

I grabbed a handful of 3/4″ copper fittings and some pipe and went to town. I had a spare selenite globe lying about, and thought it would be perfect for the project as Selenite glows like fiber optics when backlit.

The solar panel and battery assembly is housed in a small box attached to the back of the thing. I built the box with some copper sheeting, and sealed the top with a sheet of acrylic held in place with some fish tank silicone.

I snipped the LEDs off of the circuit board and soldered a length of wire to each LED and re-connected them to the circuit board.

I ran the wires through the pipes and siliconed the 3 LEDs into the top L fitting above the globe, then soldered the joints between the top and bottom to hold the globe in place. I stuck it in the ground and waited for the sun to charge up the batteries!

When it got dark, the lights came on and the globe lit up! The LED’s are red-orange, so it wasn’t bright enough to provide any light onto the ground or anything, but it looked really cool. I envisioned building a bunch more of these to put around the yard, then realized my back yard was mostly in shade…. Crap. So I decided I would make a bunch of them that ran off low-voltage wiring.. a choice that brings some more options to the table. If I wasn’t relying on the solar cell / battery unit, I could use different color LED’s – perhaps white or blue.. maybe even ultra-violet.. really get some cool mood going!

After a couple of weeks of the globe light sitting in the back yard working flawlessly every night, I made a disconcerting discovery.. Selenite is water soluble! The rain was melting my globe away. It was rattling in its mount already, it would only be a matter of time before it shrunk so much that it fell out all together. Well.. lesson learned. Maybe a coat of lacquer on the globe could fix that problem, I have yet to do any experimenting on that front. But at any rate, it looks cool, and I’m not giving up on it..