Steampunk inspiration and resources

DIY Steampunk Christmas Ornaments

Steampunk Christmas Cage

Steampunk Christmas Cage

I am excited to present my first Steampunk craft tutorial, and the project was designed by yours truly. I had a colleague that made simple yet snazzy ornaments from regular printer paper, but I wanted to step it up a notch by using my beautifully patterned scrapbook paper and cardstock. I was thrilled to find it was also easy to adapt these Christmas balls in to “cages” that can have something pretty dangling in the middle.

I’ve been building my assortment of assemblage craft supplies for awhile now, so I could make these with what I had on hand. With the exception of the real brass clock parts I got all of the metal elements and cardstock in my two samples from Michael’s.

“So, how is it done?” you are asking. Let me show you!

1. Choose your paper. If you are using regular weight paper you can use more strips than if you use cardstock. I decided to get the cage effect I didn’t want to use more than 8 strips. These look really nice if you mix paper or if all 8 strips are the same.

Painted paper waiting to dry

Painted paper waiting to dry

2. Decorate the back of your paper or start with double-sided scrapbook paper.  The back of each strip will be visible inside the cage, so if you don’t want plain white you can decorate the back. I chose to paint my cardstock with different colors of metallic paint to compliment the metal elements hanging inside the cage. I chose to use a brush rather than a roller for this step because I like the texture the brushstrokes add. 

3. Dry and flatten your paper. Make sure the paint is really really dry before you add books or something to help them to flatten. I accidentally put newspaper over these before adding weight before the copper was dry enough and the newspaper stuck to it and ruined the whole rectangle. It’s okay if the paper doesn’t get totally flat, the tension in the ornament should get out any remaining kinks.

IMG_01644. Cut your strips. The length of strips you use matters less than the width. I was working with a fairly large hole puncher (which you’ll need later) so I had to make my strips about 1.25 cm wide and 13cm long. (I am planning to make some cages that are much larger for non-holiday decor later, but for now I am just making the small ones.) The longer your strips the larger the cage you will create, and also the more space you will create to see your centerpiece through.

5. Choose the order of your strips. Depending on the paper you are using, you may want your paper strips in a particular order. On my strips with distinct patterns or writing I decided I wanted the writing upside down half of the time to add variety. Here are two different sets I was working with.

IMG_0173 IMG_0174

IMG_01856. Add preliminary holes to each end. With cardstock you will probably have to make a hole at the end of each strip before adding your brad. Generally a hole-punch hole will be too large and the brad you will use to fasten the bottom would slip through. On one end of each strip I used my compass (the kind for drawing circles, not the kind for navigating your airship) to make a small hole around .75cm from the end. I am going to show you three different methods for what to do on the top of your ornament, and two of them need a hole-punch sized hole. I recommend you play around with a prototype and experiment with what materials you have on hand to decide the best way to hang your cages before you start adding holes to your nice paper. But if you are following my directions precisely, then use a hole-punch to add a hole on the opposite end of each strip.

7. Fasten the end with the small holes with a brad. Make sure that you push the brad through from the front so the fins will end up inside your ornament . (Recollections makes a really nice sets of mixed metal brads, findings, etc. and that is what I used to make mine.) Now you will have a neat stack of strips with a brad through one end.

8. Add the top, which will be what you use to hang your decoration inside and to hang the cage on the tree. This is the weight-bearing part of your ornament. The original paper balls that I took my inspiration from used an eye to hold the top together and threaded ribbon directly through the eye. I didn’t have any of those so I devised three different solutions with the materials I had on hand.

Jump Ring Close-up8A. Use jump rings. Jump rings are those little pieces of metal that hold chains together. Usually they are round, but any mix of links where one is small enough to pass through your hole and two that are too large to do so will work. Attach one large ring to the small ring, put the small ring inside of the unoccupied hole on the other end of your stack ‘o’ strips and add the second ring. You will end up with a very short chain and it will be the job of the larger two rings to keep the top of the paper in check.


finding8B. Use a finding. I had a set of 6 clasps lying around that I hadn’t found a use for. One half consisted of a large oval attached to a small oval, so with the large oval touching the “outside” of my strips, I pushed the small oval through my hole and then added a ring on the inside to hold it all in place. You can use a jump ring, or something larger like the loops for DIY wine charms which is what is shown in my examples.

8C. Use an ornament hanger. Those little wire hooks that you use to hand ornaments will also work if you don’t want to add a ribbon to hang your finished product. Simply put the hook through and bend the wire in place right at the hole to hold your paper snug.

IMG_02239. (Optional) Check out your progress. At this point I fanned out each cage to see how they looked. They will be stiff at first and you will have to work to get the paper to rotate around your brad the first time. It’s better to spot any mistakes at this point before you add your center decoration. This will also help give you an idea of how large the space is inside your cage.


10. Create and hang your center decoration. I used a combination of gears and keys, plus a compass face, to make my center decorations for my two samples. The biggest thing to consider is that you want the center decoration to hang freely and not catch on the brad that is holding the bottom together. You can use jump rings to hold everything together, or I used the wire loops for making wine glass charms to thread through the center of my gears rather than the top. When the decoration is complete, attach it to your topper on the inside edge. Here are two that I created.

IMG_0167 IMG_0178

11. Add a string, fan it out and you’re done!

Here are some photos of my finished products.

IMG_0172 IMG_0193

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial as much as I enjoyed making it! If anything about the process isn’t clear or you’d like to share your own steampunk Christmas decorations please leave a comment below or email me at ForWhomTheGearTurns <at>

Happy holidays!

10 responses

  1. Very cool. I bought a load of old watch gears while looking for materials to make my wife’s Christmas present, so if I have time I’ll try turning them into decorations like this.


    December 19, 2013 at 5:38 am

    • For the watch sized gears you may want to try threading wire or thread through them rather than jump rings. Glad you like them!


      December 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

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  3. Very cool-I love steam punk anything-best ana
    Please check out my art blog


    December 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

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