Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gauge Faces

I found a site a few days ago that talked about printing your very own custom gauge faces for your car or truck's instrument panel.  This would help one to know that whether they were obeying the letter of the traffic law or sticking it to the man by endangering themselves and others they could do it in their very own style.  But this also signaled (get it?) to me that I could custom design my own steampunk gauges for various instrumentation.  You can pick up a pack of printable transparencies at an office supply store that allow you to print on one side and make your own gauges.  The first design I found was this fairly basic speedometer face:

By taking a little time in Photoshop I was able to remove several of the original features of this gauge and start cleaning things up to try to get more into the realm of a general instrument to measure whatever might be needed in supra-Victorian science.

I removed the main indicator hand because presumably when I print this new face out I will place it into a gauge that will have a real arrow to replace the pictured one.  The numbers indicated here are also a little too much like something on a dashboard so I took them out too.

I then copied the small empty box on the left hand side of the original gauge and put another one on the right side.  Then I filled it with a little bit of red to indicate that this would be the dangerous end of the spectrum for our measurements.

Changing the background color of the faceplate allowed me to make this one looks a little less clean than the original pic and I also came up with a name for this instrument.  This aetherometer would obviously be used to monitor the amount of pressure of particulate interaction within the aether itself.  Very useful when manning a personal airship.  I will probably try to also find some sort of gradient pattern to superimpose over the face to try to give a more aged appearance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Steampunk Flight Dock

"This is a view of an airship leaving the local flight dock used for all medium sized skycraft in the area. The cityscape was never the same once the flight docks started becoming a regular feature and cropped up everywhere. Personal airships opened up the skies for exploration such as mankind had never seen before and the intrepid adventurers who braved the winds became both heroes and villains. Much like humanity in any other situation."


I was able to find a few places around my neighborhood that are very industrial and helped to supply me with the raw photo materials I needed to put this scene together. The different elements were treated to a few filters in Photoshop and then arranged to make the final picture.

Loupes Update

It turns out that I ended up running across a set of jewler's loupes being sold at a local harware store today.  The Harbor Freight carries these as well as other styles of magnifying loupes and the prices are similar to what I paid online.  Just like the silicone for making molds and resin to make gears I can now get loupes for my goggles locally whenever I need them.  This same store also had several items that might work to steampunk a gun like bubble levels and bullseye levels so I think I'll be going back again soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Steampunk Contest

The good folks at WeLoveFine Shop are putting on a contest to see who can come up with the best piece of steampunk art for them to use on a new t-shirt design.  I just found out about the contest myself today on DeviantArt and it is only open until October 3rd.  But the grand prize is $2000 so that seems like pretty good motivation to try to come up with something.  Click over and check it out.

P.S.:  Thanks for the 100 views on my blog.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Power of the Loupes

The eBay gods have seen fit to smile upon my project by bringing me one of the essential items needed to make a really nice set of aviator goggles.  I found a pair of clip-on magnifying double loupes to add to my goggles and they were incredibly reasonably priced.  The loupes arrived today so I had to share a picture of what they look like.  These are normally used by jewlers or anyone doing very fine work that might be hard to see otherwise.  The two lenses have different magnification values and so you use them individually or combined to see things really close up.  The clip built onto the back of the extension makes it easy to add to my goggles plus I could move them around and not have them be permanently in any one spot.  I'm so excited to have gotten these through the mail because I haven't seen them for sale anywhere around here.  Of course, I have been through that before too.  Check out the pic and see what you think.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fun With Mold Making

This just goes to show that when you ask a question at a retail store you can most definitely expect to get the right answer every time because customer service is job one. And to that end I was very surprised to see at the local Michaels that they not only carry several different brands of mold making materials but they also carry several kinds of resin to make parts out of too. So, even though I had asked the store clerks while visiting this location a couple of weeks ago and was clearly told that they did not have anything like this, here were the exact products I had been looking for. My only conclusion is that these must have been stocked immediately after I left the store the last time and the poor clerks were none the wiser.

I looked at four kinds of silicone mold making kits and eventually went with Sculpey Moldmaker which states on the box that the mold is soft and pliable to shape around the most intricate details. Then when the material is cooked in a conventional oven it makes an Elasticlay mold that is permanent and flexible. This was around $10 for two 4 oz bars of the clay-like material.

The instructions say to use a small amount of the mold maker to make a copy of the part you want to duplicate. You are supposed to cover the part in corn starch so it can be released from the mold maker easily then you just bake the mold in the oven at 275 for 20 minutes. It turns out that all of this is easier said than done. The pliability and softness of the mold maker also goes along with making for a very sticky and very easily deformed consistency. It’s all well and good getting the part down in this stuff but the real trick is removing it again afterwards without warping the whole mold while extracting the original part. I think that what the instructions should tell you to do it what I eventually figured out on my own.

1. Get a small aluminum pan that can be placed in the oven

2. Cut off a section of the mold maker and then use corn starch on your fingers so you can work the material without it sticking to you

3. Once you have shaped the mold material into a small disc place it into the pan

4. Keep as much of the corn starch out of the pan as possible and that way the disc of mold maker will stay in place when you remove the original part

5. Put corn starch on the original part and press evenly into the mold blank. The original will be a lot easier to press in and then remove if it has something sticking off its back or if you attach a temporary handle maybe using a hot glue gun. (I ended up gluing one gear down onto a piece of cardboard to make one mold by pressing the material over it. This would have been simpler if I had just glued the gear to wax paper, but you know hindsight and all that.)

6. If you have succeeded in removing the part and have not changed the shape of the mold in the process you can then place the pan in the oven and cook it for 20 minutes.

I ended up making six different molds tonight and interestingly enough they all turned out to have the feel of erasers once they had been cooked.  This is supposed to give them the ability to hold their shape when you pour liquid resin into the impressions and then enough flexibility to stretch to allow the hardened resin to be released.  The next step now is going to be to get one of the resin mixes and pour some into the molds to see how good these took.  Hopefully soon I will be able to start making my own resin gears for steampunk modifications and I will not have to worry about running out of any particular style of gears.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sketched Gears

Just playing around with some filters on some of my gear photos.  View it full size, it has some interesting textures that way.

Monday, September 5, 2011

More Fun With Goggles

I started a few nights ago with the different sheets of plastic to try to cut these into shapes that would serve as metal plating on the goggles being steampunked.  I used some of my drafting tools to do things like draw rounded off corners and add some interesting angles then cut out the shapes for gluing.  These are some of the things I used:

I found out that the type of plastic that I had picked out is really very thin and I didn't feel like it would make much of an impression on the over all look of the goggles themselves.  Ultimately I am going to put that part on hold and just try to go with some of the other items that I've already collected.  I have several 6/32 wingnuts and cap screws that can both add a sort of a mechanical feel to the project.  I chose to place these around the section of the lense housing that flips up and I tried not to add anything that would interfere with its ability to open.  I used an epoxy that I picked up from Michael's that is specifically designed to adhere plastic and metal.  The cap screw and wingnuts themselves were purchased at an Ace Hardware store for less than $1 per packet of 6 pieces. 

The epoxy was a little tricky at first because I was not used to the how easily the fluids come out of their respective tubes and I ended up putting way too much out on the cardboard mixing surface.  You also have only a couple of minutes to spread the epoxy onto the parts you want to glue down so it is really best to only put out very little when you are attaching a part.  This is what they looked like after I had glued them down:

I had also found a pack of small metal gears at Michaels that were being sold in the scrapbooking section.  These were beside packs of metal clock faces and what were supposed to be tiny clock hands.  None of these were actually functional but the gears were really nice for this project and $6 bought 12 gears that were roughly 1/2" in diameter and some slightly smaller.  Instead of building a large mechanism on the side of the goggles I simply opted for adding two separate gears to give that essential steampunk look.  I know that not everyone is convinced that gears are the key to real steampunk but I like their look and they are pretty important to me.  The epoxy made sticking these on the side really easy:

I've got some larger pieces that I am debating whether or not they need to go on this set of goggles or if I need to save them for the gun or maybe a future set of airship tactical ocular shields.  I think I will take a little break from the construction for right now and pick it up again later.