Steam Punk Projects


My cousin turned me on to Steam Punk a while ago, but it was a Christmas present he sent to me that really turned me over to the brass side.  I have always loved gadgets, but while the functionality and quality of phones, lights, computers, TVs, and such have been increasing their appearance has lost a lot of substance.  By substance I am not only talking about physical toughness, but romantic substance.  There is no reason why gadgets shouldn’t have both level of substance.  

I remember taking apart old radios as a kid and just marveled at the craftsmanship.  Not only was there lots of beautiful extras, but each part of the radio was made to last.  Sure there is no real need to put intricate carvings and small brass features on a lamp, but why not?  It improves the look and gives one a romantic feeling of permanence.  

Anyway, I found that I really like the whole concept of Steam Punk.  So I decided to start making some Steam Punk themed devices.  It turns out that I really enjoy it.   So here are some photos of what I have built so far.  

            Here are some ideas for future projects.  

  • Coffee maker.
  • Tea machine.
  • Clock with Malachite marbles.
  • Automatic liquor dispenser.
  • Photo frame with secret door to conceal a black powder period firearm.

Any other ideas are welcome.




This is my first project.  It is a simple desk lamp with a few interesting elements.  It includes an industrial motor control contactor, neon indicator light and all brass wiring.  


I reciently completed a wall mount stand for the above project.  Here is a photo.  The three class rods are actually thermomitors that I bought at the Dollar Store.  Total investment $3.00. Cool. 


            This is just what it looks like, a Steam Punk firearm.  You can use your imagination as to its functionality.  I will give you a hint:  I believe that all gadgets should do something.  However, I also love the quote from an unknown person that goes something like this:  “Just because something doesn’t do what you expect it to do doesn’t mean it is not valuable”


            This project is not complete but is probably the most fun project I have started.  It is a four pole three phase AC synchronous generator.  Should be an interesting demonstration project and cool to hang on the wall.


Here is a little timer that my wife needed for her work. 

SP count down timer

30 seconds until doomsday

It counts down from 30, then starts a visual and audible reminder of impending doom at 10 seconds.  When the time is up is displays the word DoNE and plays a little song.  “Shave and a haircut”  Anytime during the timing sequence you can press the big red button and it stops the time and displays “HOLD” until the button is pressed again.

Steam-punk egg timer?

Oak and brass 50 RGB LED matrix

The project is simply a 50 LED matrix display.  Of course this could have been easily done by purchasing a 2” square plastic LED matrix and running amok.  But I had different ideas.  I wanted a LED matrix to be done larger for beauty not so much for displaying text and animation. I also wanted a much larger display.

My design criteria went something like this:

5X10 LED matrix (50 total)

Widely spaced, maybe 3” apart.

Use RGB LEDs.  That way I have the ability to produce any color. But that also triples the wiring and I/O.

Make the frame out of oak and the wires bare copper.  No visible wiring, just LEDs floating in a copper grid of very thin wire.


The oak frame was easy in theory, but probably the most difficult part of the build.  It is very difficult to tension each copper wire exactly the same, and wood flexes.  So I decided to build a frame inside of a frame.  Then stress each floating frame with bolts like you would piano strings.

300 solder joints

400 solder joints

The inside frame also had to hide all the wires, so a little routing was in order.  The vertical pieces have 30 connections on each end.  Ten high, three deep, one for each color.  The horizontal sections only had 5 connections on each end.  Oh, and none of the stressed wires could touch each other.

Electrically, I used the vertical wires attached to the horizontal sections as the ground wire. Of course they would be controlled by a micro-controller to be either ground or floating open depending on the column that needed to be activated. So they were not tied together.

The horizontal wires connected to the vertical sections were much more difficult as there were ten groups of three.  To manage the wiring I did fifteen wires on one vertical section and fifteen on the other.

This was a challenge because I had to have access to the back side of the inner frame to solder and run the wires.  So I build a stand to hold it together while I wired everything together and hid the wires.  Then bolted the inner frame into the outer frame.  After carefully tensioning the wires I then removed the stand and let the inner frame “float” inside the outer frame

All the wires were brought through holes and brass tubes into the outer frame where I made room for the micro controller, ground transistors, and multiplexing shield.

All in all I had 35 wires to land on the micro-controller and multiplexer.  But first I needed to solder on each of the LEDs!  Each LED has four connections.  Ground/Red/Green/Blue.  Each LED was placed at the intersection of vertical / horizontal wires.  Consistency was the trick to making this look good.  Each LED would need to be soldered on in exactly the same way so each row and each column would work and look good.   For those not counting, that is 200 connections soldered on by hand.

After losing one LED and accidentally stepping on another I had to place another order with Sparkfun and wait a week to complete this project.   Of course I tested each light as it was soldered on and labeled each wire.  This was tedious but absolutely necessary.  Lastly I mounted the micro controller and multiplexer to the inside of the frame.  Next was a little programming to check the function and make sure I landed all the wires in the right place.

Parts:  RGB LEDs (50), Arduino UnoMUX shield, Proto boards, Ribbon cable, some oak boards, 200’ of copper wire (Ace hardware), and some resistors, transistors, and capacitors.

Anyway, here is a short video of the end product.

I will fool around with the programming when I get more time on my hands.  BTW, it is powered off my USB port on my iMac.  The same cable also enables me to program effects and eventually to be able to control the thing over the internet.


Steampunk Minion Machine.

One of my favorite animated movies is Despicable Me and Despicable Me II.  My favorite characters were of course the minions. They remind me so much of the Danes I worked with in Denmark.  The are both good natured, mischievous, coverall wearing, and energetic.  Also they both possessed a distinct lack of any evidence of being exposed to sunlight.  Anyway, my wife and kids know my love of the Minions from the movie and so I received quite a few little minions in my stocking.  I loved my little minions, but didn’t have any idea what to do with them.  I often wondered where minions came from.  Then one day the idea occurred to me that minions were created in a tiny form and enlarged whenever needed.  So I began to draw ideas on what the enlarging process might look like.   Once my idea was crystalized in my my mind and jotted down on paper I built this:

How minions are made

How minions are made


Of course I couldn’t just have a static display that didn’t do anything.  It is not in my nature.  So I installed an Arduino controller and attached several LED lights and an Infrared range finder, a battery holder, and a tiny switch.  When on the Test tubes pulse slowly in a spooky blue light.  When someone passes within about two feet of the front, a ring of red LEDs cycle under the flask.

That’s it.  That’s all it does, but it keeps me amused.



One thought on “Steam Punk Projects

  1. S. Le says:

    V cool stuff! I’m showing Art Major! He loves Steam Punk.

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