Steampunk inspiration and resources

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Spotlight on Traders: Island of Dr. Geof

The HindenBOOB by Dr. GeoffWhile I was in Lincoln for Weekend at the Asylum in September I got a chance to meet several of the Steampunk world’s writers and traders. During the run of Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark was also featuring a tea-riffic exhibit of Dr. Geoff’s printwork. And then at the markets for Asylum, I got a chance to meet that man himself selling his wares. We traded stickers and had a nice little chat, and I got to see more of his whimsical work. Most of his work has a military bent, while other pieces dabble in the risque, but for me that is the fun!

The good Doctor also offers a variety of Steampunk-inspired pins and patches to compliment his work on paper, and you can see what he has to offer on his website.


Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 3, “Torch and Scorch”

Even though it is strongly associated with the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars, welding has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The Bronze Age (in Europe 3200-600 BCE) and the Iron Age (in Europe 800-51 BCE) were both eras shaped by the pounding, heating and joining of metals. But what happened in the Steam era were new techniques with fancy new power sources.

Stick weldingFor a long time, application of fire or hot coals was the only way to get metal to reach a high heat, and together with pressure (ie, hitting it with a hammer) with time and patience you could create weapons and other items that were made of metal fused together (this is called forge welding). But, at the beginning of the 19th century, the electric arc was discovered almost simultaneously in two different countries and shielded metal arc welding and its versatile tool the stick welder were born a short time later. An electric arc, in the simplest terms, is the shape that an electric current takes  as it “jumps” from one point to another and ignites the gasses between those two points. This burning gas is hot enough to be considered plasma, which means that it burns extremely brightly, can throw off intense UV radiation, can create noxious fumes that you don’t want to inhale and is extremely likely to make your nice unmarred flesh resemble a roast suckling pig if it makes contact so BE CAREFUL.

During the Taming Metal session at Weekend at the Asylum the panelists didn’t get to spend too much time on any one method, but this was definitely Trevor Frank’s favorite. Stick welders are especially easy to use nowadays because of advancements that keep unwanted gasses from the air out, thus creating a more stable and predictable arc. You definitely must use a mask that covers the full face to protect your skin, eyes and lungs. Frank and others mentioned developing something they called “the welder’s nod” because of deploying their mask with a nod of the head. Plasma burns so bright that the eye part of a welding mask has to be so dark you cannot see what you are about to weld when you have your mask on. So the artist can lift their mask, get their pieces into position and right before they ignite the plasma they give a sharp nod of the head to bring the shield down. But masks have also been coming a long way, and there is now a type that darkens to eye shield the moment the arc is struck, thus saving your neck from all that nodding. There are many different kinds of welding, but for the non-professional, stick welding is a great method that their portability and relative ease of use.

There are some welding methods that use open (and extremely hot) flames in the form of torches. Personally, I have used a cutting torch to do some freehand sheet metal art, but I have never actually done welding myself. So in lieu of giving you bad information, I wanted to provide some links to resources instead.

Instructables- Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding tutorial

Welding Tips and Tricks website


Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 2, “Treat and Heat”

One of my very first sun-catchers.

My favorite of the sun-catchers that I have made

Last time I covered some of the kinder, gentler ways to work with metal. In this post, I want to tell you about soldering. This is the metallurgical technique with which I have the most personal experience. I have used it to create silver jewelry and to attach transistors to electrical components like circuit boards, as well as making stained glass sun-catchers and sculptures.

Soldering

    • Solder, a metal alloy used to join other metals together, comes in different varieties that have different melting temperatures, and your solder must always have a melting temperature lower than that of what you are joining.
      • There is soft solder (melting between 190 to 840 °F) and hard solder (840 °F and above), which is sometimes called ‘silver solder‘. When working with high-temperature solder it is often referred to as ‘brazing.’ When a joint is particularly delicate (ie, joining two very small things or a small thing to a large thing) or the finished item is going to see a lot of wear and tear, it is better to use a harder solder and more acidic flux.
    • In some cases, once your solder hardens it may actually be stronger than the materials you are joining. (This is also true of wood glue, by the way. It is usually easier to break the wood that you join than the place where it is joined.)
    • Solder is often in the form of wire on a spool that is unwound and cut to the size needed for a particular joint. I have also used soldering solutions where tiny bits of solder are suspending in a liquid (see ‘flux’ below).
    • There are two different kinds of tools you can use to melt your solder. A soldering iron is more or less shaped like a fat pen and is held as if you are writing. Be careful with this kind because once gets hot it stays hot as long as it is on. A soldering gun is shaped like a pistol and has a trigger that the artist presses to heat the tip each time. In both of these cases, the tip of the tool comes in direct contact with the solder and melts it so it can flow into the crack between whatever is being joined. When I making circuit boards, I used a hot air soldering iron that was held like a soldering iron but it had an open tip where air was heated and forced through, so the tip never came in contact with the solder itself. This was used with a very low temperature tin solder that has a high rate of conductivity which made it is ideal for electronics. Some hard solders may require a torch instead of an iron or gun.
    • Before you can solder, you have to treat the joint with flux. This is a slightly acidic solution that takes away residue left from handling with bare hands, and it facilitates the solder’s flow into the joint. It is only mildly acidic, but if it gets into your eyes it can cause discomfort (trust me, I know from firsthand experience.)
  • Safety: It is a good idea to wear gloves when soldering, especially if you are using a soldering iron which stays hot between joints. Stained glass soldering works at a low enough temperature that I have never gotten a blister from contact with the iron, but I have gotten sore, red fingers that last for a couple days. Keep in mind that the longer you have to apply the heat to the solder, the more the surrounding metal will also heat, so you can get burned if you are holding the materials you are joining with bare hands. Also, when flux heats it can sometimes spit like bacon grease in a frying pan, so if you may also want to wear goggles to keep the hot liquid from getting into your eyes.

Get Ready to Celebrate Halloween all Month Long with ForWhomTheGearTurns!

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

That’s right folks, it’s time for a monster mash. One popular way to “punk your steam” is to add elements of the supernatural to the tales from history, offering explanations that incorporate ghouls such as vampires and werewolves rather than what the history books say, as well creating brand new narratives where monsters play a role. Also, the Victorian era saw the birth of Spiritualism, the belief that spirits of the dead could and often did communicate with the living. All Hallows Eve, which has now been shortened to Halloween, celebrates the creepy and costume, and Steampunk seamstresses and seamsters, make-up artists and makers the world over use it as a chance to showcase their talents and share their knowledge.

1872

1872

 

Halloween has always held a special place in my heart, and in fact I launched this blog on October 31, 2013, so October is also my countdown the my first blogging birthday. Join me all month long for reviews of Steampunk movies and books that feature monsters and witches, costume construction tips from the sessions I attended at Weekend at the Asylum, LARP-ing games to give you an excuse to dust off your costume early, and other spooky fun surrounding the history of ghost stories and the practices of Spiritualism.

Do you have a scary or supernatural Steampunk story or photos of your Halloween creations that you would like to see appear on this blog? Send them my way at ForWhomTheGearTurns@Gmail.com. I can’t guarantee that I will post everything I receive, but I would love to get some submissions from readers. Make sure that you include the name you would like your creation attributed to as part of your email.

 

 


The Victoria and Albert Museum Part 3: International Exhibitions

The site of the Victoria and Albert Museum was purchased largely through the proceeds from the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was the first international exhibition of its time, though not the last. Many of the wonderful items showcased at these types exhibitions that were held all over Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries eventually found a home at the museum and are still on display today. When walking through the exhibit halls I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt looking for these pieces of history which were seen by millions of people during the course of exhibition and are still breathtakingly beautiful to behold over 160 years later. One of the appeals for me about Steampunk and the era that gave rise to the aesthetic is the emphasis on craftsmanship, and there is no shortage of that at the V&A. Here are two pieces of the most impressive pieces that I encountered during my visit.

This “cathedral in wood” was a gift from the Austrian Emperor, Franz Ferdinand, to Queen Victoria. According to the museum label, it’s decoration reflected the debate about the unification of all German-speaking peoples under one rule. The bookcase had to be at least 20 feet tall, which means it just might hold the entire literary collection of one Steampunk fan 🙂 In the center there is a Belgian altarpiece on display that looked like it had been carved out of the most delicious dark chocolate, but it was also made of wood. These two pieces were not originally shown together, but they both made cameos at the Great Exhibition. The altarpiece reflects the revival of the Gothic style that is often seen in Steampunk works, and makes it a lovely addition to the imposing bookcase.

This symphony in metal is called the Hereford screen, and was on display at the International Exhibition of 1862. Like the altarpiece above, this was a way of harkening back to the Gothic era when churches employed magnificent screens like this one. The choir would stand behind large and ornately carved wooden screens, but this one was intended to showcase new advances in metal-working techniques as much as celebrate the Gothic style. There are several figures on the screen, which is over 10 meters high. The figures could very well have been cast in bronze, but instead were created by using newly-discovered electroplating technology that employed plaster molds and electricity to bend copper to the artist’s will. This is truly an example of old-meets-new in the Victorian era, so it definitely piqued my Steampunk interest.

Have you spotted any pieces of the Great Exhibition or the International Exhibition in London? Please share!

 


Weekend at the Asylum: The Great Exhibition

Besides the amazing outfits and incredible sessions, there was also an exhibition of Steampunk arts and crafts during the convention. There were some fun gadgets, punked paintings and imaginative accessories on display all weekend in the Tennyson Suite of the Bailgate Assembly Rooms. Check out the gallery below, and if you want to know about any particular work or artist, feel free to leave me a comment. I took pictures of almost all of the labels for the gizmos and I can pass them on if you want more info.


Victoria and Albert Museum Part 1: Incredible Iron

Some people might think the V&A is not up their alley if they hear the focus is on ‘decorative arts,’ but believe me when I tell you this is not a place where you are going to be inundated with doilies and end tables. Personally, I love the decorative arts because these are the objects that people really did touch, see and experience in their everyday lives, including architectural features. In addition to the fabulous clothing and sumptuous household goods, there is an amazing gallery of just samples of ironwork.

There are still lots of examples of wrought and cast all over London (which will get their own post soon), but these items have often been painted and repainted so many times that the delicacy and detail that can be achieved when working in metal has been totally obliterated. This is not so at the museum, where everything from window grates to railings to candlesticks have been preserved for posterity. If you are a fan of metal, you should definitely make sure you stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum if you are visiting or living in London.

Here is sampling of what I saw when I visited.


The Concept Art for Adventures of Victoria Clarke Will Definitely Get Your Gears Going

My blogger buddy Bia Helvetti just pointed out this amazing movie-in-the-making and I couldn’t wait to share. According to the website for Adventures of Victoria Clarke:

“Stylistically, “Victoria Clarke” borrows heavily from the world of Steampunk, and its sub-culture sometimes referred to as Dieselpunk. Unlike traditional steampunk, which is Victorian-based, we are rooted in the pre-WWII world of Hollywood, and so borrow technology from World War I and Art Deco design influences. However, because Victoria’s family is solidly rooted in Victorian London, fanciful technologies, the designs of Edison and Tesla, and the writings of HG Wells and Jules Verne heavily influence both the design aesthetic and story elements.

The story is based in history, yet features fantastical machines, characters and events that only exist in the alternative reality of our created world. The tone is fun, retro and sexy, and punctuated with periods of intense comic book style action.”

The film was partially funded through a crowdsource website called Indiegogo, but they were short of their goal so proceeding has been slow. The website was last updated in June though and reports progress on the screenplay as well as the amazing images above. The plan is to make not only the movie, but a graphic novel series as well. I really hope to see more progress on this enterprise, it looks amazing and the character of Victoria sounds really interesting. Here is another blurb from the site about how she is more than just a pretty face:

Victoria Elizabeth Clarke was born to British industrialists Byron & Meredith Clarke, in London England, on June 26, 1897. As a young woman she was sharp-minded and strong-willed, preferring her father’s factory floor over the private tutors and boarding schools of London society.Despite her proclivity to skipping classes, she grew up with a fine formal education, learned to play piano, cello, and to speak several foreign languages fluently. She also discovered that she had a talent for learning the inner workings of complex machinery, and loved to spend late evenings in her father’s workshops creating mechanical toys from the various spare parts she found.The Great War was a formative and prosperous time for the Clarke family. With war comes opportunity, and the family’s privileged status protected them from the dangers and hardships of life as their industrial empire moved into the design and manufacturing of highly secret and experimental weapons technologies for the British government. At the end of hostilities, Clarke’s Amalgamated Industries had been so instrumental in the war effort that King George V awarded Byron a knighthood.
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Only months later, Clarke would become embroiled in an incident that would rock British society and destroy the family’s empire. In August of 1919, after World War I comes to a close, Byron Clarke announced that he would turn his company’s focus away from weapons development and towards technologies that would revolutionize the Western world. His decision was not popular with the British government, some in parliament calling him a traitor and suggested seizing his company’s assets, which contained technologies coveted by the military.
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But Clarke pressed forward, and at a special event to demonstrate a device capable of transferring power wirelessly across vast distances, the device malfunctioned, resulting in the tragic death of Sir Byron and his wife, and inflicting a near-fatal injury to his daughter Victoria. Evidence suggested in-fact, that a saboteur had caused the disaster. It appeared that Clarke had made powerful enemies, perhaps even within the British government itself.Devastated and heartbroken, the injured Victoria retreated from British society, liquidated her family’s entire assets, and closed Clarke Industries. It is said that she ordered the destruction of all military related patents and vowed to never again use technology to develop weapons of death. Victoria would recover at the family estate in Switzerland with the aid of longtime family friend and the company’s chief engineer, Aldo Erstfelda.By the winter of 1919, the recovering Victoria disappeared from England society entirely; many believe having remained at their private estate in Switzerland to live out her life in peace and anonymity.The truth of the matter is quite different.”
Check out more at the website, http://www.victoriaclarkeadventures.com/