Big Daddy Nerf Gun

One of Steampunk’s common costuming components is the modified Nerf gun. I’m rather of the opinion that gadgets and clothes don’t necessarily make the Steampunk, but to each their own. Many of you love your Nerf guns, and I won’t begrudge you for that. I have many a good memory of my college days playing Human vs. Zombies and defending myself with naught but a Nerf gun. It was good times.

There’s all levels of modifications when it comes to Nerf guns, from the mediocre to the magnificent. And this nerf gun is most definitely magnificent:

Unfortunately, this piece has already been sold to some lucky Steampunk out there, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take some inspiration from it. Watch the shop… they’re sure to have other cool things pop up if this is any indication.

And really, if you absolutely must have a Nerf gun to complete your ensemble, one that looks like this will certianly enhance the overall look you’re aiming for.

A Steampunk Telescope for Stromlo

It’s interesting to see where Steampunk pops up as it gains popularity and presence in more people’s minds. While it is hardly surprising that Steampunk should be embraced by a scientific community, it is rather amazing to put their knowledge of the subculture to work in the creation of a modern telescope.

In 1911, a beautiful and at the time, high tech telescope called the Oddie was brought to the brand spanking new Australian Capital Territory and Mount Stromlo Observatory. In 2003, however, a fire destroyed the telescope.

Enter, then, Steampunk and the restoration efforts of Dr. Tim Wetherell, a Steampunk, scientist and sculptor. He decided to craft a modern version of the Oddie with a nod to it’s ancestor’s aesthetics, and this is was the result:

This month, Mount Stromlo Observatory is celebrating its centenary with the installation of Dr. Wetherell’s gorgeous new piece. To read more about it and see additional pictures, check out the original article here.

DIY Parasols

One thing that Steampunks tend to do a lot more than Goths is make our own stuff. That whole DIY culture is really prevalent within many of the different Steampunk persuasions and preferences. There is, however, some considerable cross-over between Steampunk and Goth, so it should come as no surprise that many Goths enjoy making their own things as well, though not as integral to their subculture as it is to ours.

Maker Hexotica recently wrote a wonderful tutorial for DIY parasols. Though geared more towards the Gothic community and aesthetic, a simple reselection of colors and designs can make this piece of interest to Steampunks as well. With a little work, this:

Into a lovely parasol like this:

To learn all how to convert your own boring umbrella into a statement piece for your latest ensemble, visit Hexotica’s website and check out her tutorial.

A Fire Breathing Steampunk Octopus

The same weekend as DragonCon is Burning Man, an event which also attracts a number of Steampunks to the west coast. For one week, the Black Rock Desert turns into Black Rock City and attracts makers from all around the world. This is definitely a different crowd of people than you get at your typical convention… there’s a strong maker presence there and many of the people have interests in radical self-expression, self-reliance and DIY all aspects that so important to the Steampunk lifestyle. If you’ve never been to Burning Man or don’t quite understand what it’s all about, I sincerely recommend you check out this webpage. The FAQ is also really helpful.

The concept that is the foundation of Burning Man attracts some pretty awesome Steampunks and their amazing creations. This year, for example, the highlight was a fire breathing Steampunk octopus. I’m not even kidding. Here it is:

Rawr! It’s awesome!

Steampunk Spice Rack

I’ve said before that I consider cooking to be something of modern alchemy, and in our DIY culture that focuses on the handmade, creating and cooking our own food plays an important role in keeping Steampunks healthy and well-fed. Making cooking even more complex for the cooking challenged is the addition of things like spices to the mix to make a dish that’s flavorful and delicious.

Spices generally come in boring packets, jars or satchels. Nothing terribly exciting or Steampunk about it, they just are what they are. Nothing more or less. But being that we are Steampunks and we see the world as a canvas waiting to modified into a beautiful steam-driven world, it should come as no surprise that someone decided to recreate their spice rack with a steamy flair. And this is what it looks like:

OMG, you say, that looks awesome! If only I could make something that looks that cool.

Well, my dears, you’re in luck because this awesome spice rack is an Instructable on one of my favorite DIY websites. You too can have the most awesome looking spice rack with a little bit of copper pipe, some test tubes, and a flask for oil (just for good measure). I love how simple this project is and with just a little bit of time and effort, you can transform something entirely mundane into something that’s pretty much made of win.

Go forth ye crafters and create! And when you’re done, cook something tasty to celebrate. 🙂

Oh My! Ornithopters!

In Steampunk fiction, there’s no aerial vehicle that is more adored than the airship. Coming in at a close second, however, may be all those various crafts that fall under the term of an ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. The concept of achieving flight through the flapping of wings has probably enchanted humanity from the first time we gazed up at birds and watched them sailing, seemingly effortlessly, through the sky. Ancients dreamed of it. Leonardo da Vinci even drafted up a concept ornithopter, posted below:

Attempts at building an ornithopter that actually succeeds in flying like a bird have been largely hit or miss throughout the centuries, but we may have gotten just one step closer. A recent TED talk features Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. Watch the video clip here!

And if you happen to be unfamiliar with TED, today’s post is doubly full of win. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. On, they make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free.  If you’ve got some free time on the interwebs and want to feel enlightened by how amazing our world is and the research being done within it, TED is an awesome place to check out. It’s definitely time well spent.

Steampunk Plasma Speaker

Steampunk does some pretty amazing things when it blends the Victorian aesthetic with the technology of today. Some might argue that doing so is quintessentially Steampunk. But what about combining the aesthetic of the Victorians with technology from the future?

Sorry folks, we still haven’t figured out time travel, but Polish artist Conscious Flesh has combined the Steampunk look with a speaker that creates sound not by the vibrations of a speaker cone but by plasma. See it in action right here!

If you’re one of my many maker readers, do be sure to visit his page for the speaker. He goes into detail about how he made it and how it works as well. It might just inspire you to create something new yourself! And don’t fret, it’s all in English.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s all kinds of cool projects by Conscious Flesh on his website. You should definitely check it out if you were impressed with the speaker.


Mac and Typewriter Desktop Rig

Take an old Mac and a typewriter, and with creativity, time, and care, you might come out with an awesome invention that looks something like this:

Built from a 1991 Mac and a 114-year old Remington typewriter, artist Steve La Riccia combines two different perspectives of retro in one fully functional computing rig dubbed Wosniak’s Conundrum. Aside from the typewriter, the mod also has a mouse with a repurposed Morse code telegraph key, and a 56K modem made up of old telephone parts. And it has a floppy drive. What an antique!

The computer runs Mac OS 7.5 and features a word processor, calculator, spreadsheet program and even a flight simulator and Tetris. You can read more about it here. Check out the video below if you’d like a better look at it!

At present, you can view Wosniak’s Conundrum at the Apple Store in Eugene, Oregon.

Steampunk Bicycles

Seattle is a city of bicyclists, which still kind of surprises me, because it’s also a city of hills. Big hills. No seriously. BIG hills. Which is why when cyclists go whizzing by me as we make our respective ways downtown, I can’t help but wonder if they’re planning to bike all the way back up, or just cheat and take the bus (I would totally cheat).

Bicycles have been around since the Victorian times in their various incarnations, which makes Steampunking them a particular challenge. There isn’t much room to speculate on how a Victorian bicycle would have looked because, well, the exist. Steampunk and bicycles, therefore, more often than not intersect at fiction, and most of the mods are heavy with the what-ifs and limitless possibilities of Steampunk as a branch of speculative fiction.

An article by 1-800-Recycling features ten Steampunk bicycles from a time that never was. Check out the full article here, and when your done, think about dragging that old bike out of the shed and getting to work!

The Buccaneer Keyboard

I’ve posted a respectable amount of computer keyboard mods here on Trial By Steam. There’s something about a keyboard and its connection between the old typewriters and the way we communicate through them via the internet that begs for them to be modded. So much of Steampunk is online, so it makes sense that keyboards, mice, and computers are modded in that retrofuturistic look that we all love with some frequency.

The Buccaneer Keyboard is the latest addition to the various appearances for your keyboard created by Rampkins, a handcrafted art site in Shropshire, England. The execution of this keyboard is fantastically Steampunk, and there’s not a single superfluous gear in the entire creation.

I love how they admit in the build log that they were inspired by my friend Jake Von Slatt, who also makes a slew of positively gorgeous things too. Steampunk has a way of inspiring people go get out and create something of their own, and this a beautiful example of how contagious creativity can be.

Be sure to check out the build log for lots more information on how this keyboard was made. Click here for more photos of the finished product.