Builds, Custom Modifications, & Related Projects Unveiled Exclusively on the Brass Goggles/Steampunk Design Forum




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Steampunk Personal Accessories (Male or Gender Neutral)http://sites.google.com/site/steampunkretrofuturedesignsmd/steampunk-accessories



Steampunk–ish Transportation (Design Analyses and Vehicle Modifications)




(11) The MagLev-O-Tron Magnetostatic Mossarium (A Levitating Terrarium)



My steampunk office cubicle ( Project #9) needed some plants, but I like kinetic art, a bit of a problem.  Granted plants do move, but unless one has stop-motion photographic vision they just sort of sit there looking pretty.  How to get them off their lazy rhizoids and dance for my amusement, that’s the question. 

The solution, while staying within my turn of the century ‘Torchwood 1899’ cubicle design theme, was a levitating mossarium which is kept afloat by mysterious reverse engineered alien technology (or perhaps a used magnetic levitating toy for $10 USD on Ebay, http://www.opticsale.com/galileo-gravitator-gg1-1250-prd1.html


My prototype design had 4 holes punched in the sides of the globe as well as one in the bottom with a few straggley spider plants and air ferns (non-plants) sticking out of them. 

I wasn't quite certain what was wrong but it looked odd.  After testing it over a 2 month period to make certain the plants would survive the semi-enclosed domed environment my office colleagues commented that the ball looked primarily like one of three things; 

(a) The Star Wars 'Death Star' gone all environmentally friendly;

(b) The 'Phantasm' killer flying sphere re-envisioned as some environmental action group's grass ‘weapon’;

(c) An old guy with unkempt hair plugs.

Bottom line - any way you looked at it, this design was not a pleasing image for many.




For the final device I lopped off the top half of the globe and repositioned/raised the center magnetic steel bar encased in plastic to change how high it 'floated' within the structure – between being only half a sphere and raising the center bar it was lighter and therefore hovered a bit higher than before.  This gave me more wiggle room to put plants into the bottom half of the sphere without it sinking too low and breaking the magnetic field.  There’s nothing quite as annoying as a half a ball of moss rolling around the office floor.


Spider plants do not appear to weigh much but when you add a soil and water it makes quite a difference to the weak magnetic field of the device.  The  ball would frequently either fall down towards the ground or up to the top electromagnet but maintain a state of stasis in the magnetic field it would not (oh oh, starting to speak like Yoda, that can't be good).

The solution was to get less porky plants, or more specifically, ones that did not require a weighty support system of soil and water.

Out went the spideys and in came a few dollars worth of Tillandsia Usneoides (aka fine Spanish moss or air plants) from the local garden shop.  After 3 months of twirling around inside the dome they seem perfectly fine as long as they get regular atomized water sprays with an occasional spritz of dissolved plant food.  And of course if for some reason they go to that big greenhouse in the sky who can tell, they sort of look like dead packaging material when they’re healthy.  A little green touch-up from the office magic marker and they’re kind of good as new (yes, horticulturalists everyone just gasped in disbelief, I know, but if it worked for ‘Weekend At Bernies’ then it ought to fly here).

Under the hovering ball went a 4.7 inch petri culture dish filled with some Sphagnum moss I found on my property.  The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says there are 20 species Sphagnum mosses in the state and the bunch I found looks like 5 or 6 of nearly identical species so I can’t tell which is which but Sphagnum it is.  There are 3 blue LEDs in the base of the device which illuminate the bottom of the petri dish, giving it a bit of a mad science feel. The glass dome is open at the bottom a bit so there is always some airflow, though I do remove the dome and keep it off hours when spraying it 2-3 times per week.


 The moss goes for a ride 8 hrs/day as the toy’s electromagnets randomly spin the globe left for a time then change to the right.  The ride is frictionless, or better said, there’s essentially no mechanical friction on the half dome except for air resistance.

Here’s a couple of quick1e (11 and 12 second) movie clips of the mossarium in motion with different lighting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnQmhUV62AY#lq-lq2-hq]steam - mossarium2 - IMG_0225.MOV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MvFxJqIYLE#lq-lq2-hq]steam - mossarium1 - IMG_0225.MOV

Note: the next generation of these levitation devices is here and will provide much more flexibility with making fun steamy things.  For example, this one from ThinkGeek has no side supports, and you can remove the magnetic disk from inside the globe and place anything you want on top of it as long as it does not exceed 3 oz and you don’t muck up the balance point.  If you use Styrofoam or other lightweight materials you can have large hovering gears, airships, whatever.  Many possibilities for original ideas there.  www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/cubegoodies/c780/


 (10) Thomas A Edison Commemorative Table Lamp


During Xmas 2009  I did a quick brass table lamp makeover.  I had an old lamp with a treasure chest/knick-knack holder mounted on a wood base.  Off went the chest to become a Thomas A Edison Commemorative Lamp. 

I had bought 2 ceramic Jim Beam '100 Yrs of the Light Bulb' commemorative whiskey decanters (empty) from Ebay for $5.00 - cleaned them up, mounted them on the wooden lamp base, added a decorative steam pressure gauge (thanks to Capt Lyerly of the Upper Chesapeake Steam Defence League) as well as a copper connecting spring between the 'light bulbs', and that was that.  A nice steamy effect for a fairly small amount of effort. 


 (9) Steampunk Office Cubicle Makeover


  (* Until Someone Does A Better One, Which Would Not Be Terribly Difficult)

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots - if you are interested in more information, read on.


According too much Googling there are neither images nor articles out there on how to imagine, let alone construct, a steampunk work cubicle, and there’s only a brief note on an individual who made his cubicle into a ‘woody’;

While the most likely reason for this is no one really cares, that’s clearly never stopped anyone before, so it won’t now.  And after all, this is a much nicer environment to spend 9-10 hrs each day than the typical Dilbert-esque gov’t office.


I’ve been hooked on Steampunk/Neo-Victorian themes since I saw the first black & white TV episodes of the “Wild Wild West” as a 10 yr old kid in 1965, a show my father said the NY Times described in a review as ‘historical science fiction’.  Fast forward to today.  After the 12 year old building I worked in was demolished to make way for a parking lot, a 58 yr old gymnasium replaced it and was renovated with new cutting edge (if it was 1980) grey mouse-fur colored office cubicle furniture.  Since my 64 sq ft of new office décor was already obsolete, it seemed a good time to take the next step, backwards an additional century.





The overall design themes I picked for the makeover were, from a hardware perspective, fairly well related – Torchwood 1899/Turn of the Century Fake Science, and, since this is a real government office, Neo-Victorian-ize it into a semi-proper British Whitehall office of the period.

The Dr Who spin-off Torchwood had a small number of episodes which took place from the late 1800s through the WWI timeframe period, and as they represented a British gov’t office using advanced technology it seemed like it had the correct look for this exercise.

Some pix echoing the BBC vision of ‘Victorian Men In Black’ (to quote BG member JRingling from a quarterly meeting of the Upper Chesapeake Steam Defence League) are below;




For the cubicle makeover, mixing Victorian era office design cues with 1899 Torchwood-y ‘high tech’ devices would make for both an interesting and coherent theme.  Note there are not many full props in this project, essentially all are functional in one way or another - (*) means it was a mod or build;

Items Making Up The ‘Torchwood 1899’/Fake Science Theme

> PDA/Automata *  (functional mechanical hand that moves & plays music, a ‘Personnel Digital Assistant’)
> Boiling tube lamp *  (functional, both as a tube lamp and a closed system 2 stage liquid boiler)
> 50 gear clock *  (functional, all display gears move simultaneously)
> Fowler Phrenology Head (holds Atomik Fabrik goggles)
> Retro telephone headset *  (functional – a 1930s hands-free unit used with the PBX land line phone)
> Corona Typewriter (c 1907 & functional) resting on/hiding a Dell PC laptop
> Flat screen monitor with brass horn speakers *  (functional brass horn speakers for the Dell laptop)
> Candlestick telephone, 1970s era (functional, used for office calls)
> Telegraph key (works as a functional stapler)
> Vacuum tube multi-band wood radio (functional AM/FM radio, white display LED ‘vacuum tubes’ light up)
> Vacuum tube radio amplifier for the brass PC speaker horns  (functional radio, red display LED ‘vacuum tubes’ light up)
> Necronomicon sketchbook (thankfully the Necronomicon is not functional)
> Mousepad / Ouija board (also thankfully non-functional or spirits would be confused by all the messages to them from the mouse movements)

Items Making Up The Turn Of The Century ‘Victorian Government Office’ Theme
> Bare brick walls *
> Wood & brass desk *
> Brass inkwell holder
> Victorian writing blotter
> Victorian date/date/month perpetual calendar replica
> Restored circa 1900 Knights Templar long coat ‘wall covering’ *
> PC wire routing hole doubles as stand Sherlock Holmes umbrella
> Victorian portable writing desk replica (holds PBX-ish landline work telephone)




The desk covering in particular turned out MUCH better than expected, and the costs were surprisingly small.




The 3D Victorian brick wall effect came via high school prom stores which sell large quantities of what is essentially gift wrapping paper, which they sell very cheaply.

The paper, which is an enlarged photo of an old brick wall, came in a 4 ft wide x 50 ft long roll for $15.00 USD.  All these stores seem to have regular sales on their wares, so keep an eye out for reduced prices.  I bought this paper roll from Stumps, which currently lists for $20.39,  25% than their spring sale price
.  http://www.stumpsprom.com/prom/Dark-Brown-Brick-Flat-Paper.cfm?caid=664866



I reinforced the upper edge of the brick paper with wide brown tape to simulate ‘molding’, then positioned Velcro bits on the brick paper and on the cubicle walls.  

Now on ‘dress down Fridays’ not only do I look retro rustic but so does my work area - I can erect the brick wallpaper panels in 5-6 minutes by lining up the Velcro dots on the back of the brown  tape with their opposite numbers permanently attached on the cubicle wall.  Breaking it down at the end of the day takes < 2 minutes.  

I only used about ½ the roll, so many Xmas presents will get wrapped in bricks for years to come.


Nothing says Victoriana like stained glass, and it can be done with a minimum of fuss and cost.


The tops of the cubicle walls are ‘frosted’ translucent plastic panes.  I bought a 6 ft roll of ‘stained glass’ window static cling material (similar to the link below) for $11 on Ebay, then cut into 3 strips of 8 inches wide x 6 ft each, creating a period Victorian window borderhttp://www.glassdecorandmore.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?item=26

One translucent stained glass panel was an indulgence – I had a cling made (Starfish Girl on Ebay) with the year ‘1899’ to stop people from walking by and asking me what timeframe the cubicle was supposed to represent.  A bit pricey at $20, but far and away the best twenty bucks spent on this project to date.  To paraphrase Prince, ‘Party Like Its 1899’.




The short answer – contact paper.  The long answer is there are some very thick, durable papers out there replicating all sorts of wood types – teak, maple, oak, and another half a dozen I found at various websites, and many of them were described as ‘repositionable’ (ie, non-permanent, a key to this exercise since it is a gov’t office).   But there are also metal contact papers, and that was the primary reason I decided to change the cubicle desk surface from lowest cost contract bid dingy white fiberboard to wood & brass.

I ultimately selected an oak (cheaper compared to other wood contact papers) with a brass trim combination - ‘Ultra Honey Oak’ and ‘Metal FX Brushed Brass Contact Paper’, 2 rolls of wood contact paper (though there’s a large bunch left over) and one of brass, which was cut into strips for the desk edging.

I takes a bit of time to lay it down properly, spreading it out with an 18 inch office ruler to minimize trapped air bubbles.  The entire job took about an hour during the course of a week, and the process was basically trouble & bubble-free even though I had never put contact paper down over such a large area before.  And what a great shine the brass metal contact paper shows!


The holes at the desk in each corner for the PC wires to route through were sprayed metallic copper, and one of them is used as a holder for my Sherlock Holmes umbrella/walking stick (photo note – pictures often lie, but not in this case. While the wood and brass really pop in the photos, in real life it looks far  better).


50 Gear Clock (mod)


This Homeloo commercial product (www.homeloo.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=348 ) uses 4 ‘D’ batteries supposedly good for 6 months but are still going strong at this writing (11 months during Nov 09)). Two batteries drive the hands and two move the decorative gears, each of which turns twice per minute and are not linked to the clock hands, which are nearly silent in an office setting.

Since I enjoy kinetic desk toys this keeps me amused quite nicely.  A few minor retro mods were added to it in order to reduce the modern appearance;

> The clock hands with older styled ones, which were themselves given a rusty appearance by spraying and rubbing with steel wool.

> A rusty decorative spring was added at approx the 3PM position.
> Brass washers were adhesived to each of the 50 gears’ central rotating shafts, and the whole clock itself was mounted like a photograph or drawing on a Victorian photo/drawing/silhouette easel type of holder.



A 2009-09 commercial product ($15 USD) from ‘What On Earth’ (no longer sold), very turn of the century automata even without any mods.  

The multi-joint/geared fingers move and play ‘air piano’ tunes – 5 classical music snippets, such as Beethoven’s 5th,  of approx 20-30 seconds each.  Considering it only has a couple of very small holes near the heel of the hand to vent the sound and is powered by 2 AA batteries, it is actually quite loud.  

The hand is attached to the end of my unused PC monitor arm, and usually it has a hypodermic needle/ink pen between its fingers ready to take notes on the portable Victorian writing desk.   Since it is located in a US gov’t Human Resources office, it is dubbed a ‘Personnel Digital Assistant’.  

The decorative mods were;

> Installing a brass sleeve with a leather ‘wrist’ band over part of the brass which serves to hide hiding the attachment point to the PC monitor stand

> Brass washers (leftovers from the 50 Gear Clock) glued on each ‘knuckle’

> Brass straight & coiled copper wires attached along outside of hand from wrist to fingertips look like mechanical ‘tendons’



Toning down the modern appearance of my work PC was a high priority.  The mods involved were easy but fairly time consuming;


> Used brass trumpet bookends ($5.00 Ebay) were turned into functional PC speakers by removing the innards of a set of earbud headphones from their casing.  They were placed into the hole drilled into the base of each horn, then the hole was sealed and the wires run underneath the horn base.

> The speaker wires were plugged into the laptop and they worked extremely well from day one – much louder than simply maxing out the earbuds sound level if the horns were not used.  Since the horn mouthpieces turn upwards and run underneath the flat screen monitor,

> Between the 2 horns a used ‘Radio City Valve Radio’ ($7 Ebay), an AM/FM radio with red glowing LEDs mounted in the 3 ‘vacuum tubes’.  It gives the appearance of a tube amplifier on a breadboard powering the brass horns.



Nothing adds to the ambience of turn of the century fake science/mad science Victorian setting like a tube lamp for writing.  This unique variation on the common ‘Yet Another Tube Lamp’ theme doubles as a piece of kinetic art as it boils when the tube lamps are lit.

 > Home Depot parts: Two socket electrical box, copper decorated rheostat, plastic pipe segments, gold automotive pinstriping roll, & two Sylvania 25T10 bulbs

> Decorative springs and a ‘love meter’ toy (two connecting / closed vessels filled with a low boiling point liquid).  

Even at the lowest rheostat setting providing a dim but visible red filament, the liquid continually boils, emptying the lower container and bubbling into the upper one.



The build was described on Spare Goggles when BG was off the air,

BG member M Wells customized this 1930s telephone operator’s headset, first rate work with nicely faded copper and brass.  The Brit equivalent of our RJ11 phone plug was too wide for USA phones, and even after whittling it down to size there was considerable background humming.  Splicing off the old plug with a new RJ11 did not fix it, not surprising as mating old electrics to modern electronics is dicey.  

The innards of the antique's electrics were replaced by Radio Shack (model # HS-149) bits.  The 4 photos show the ‘before through using it at work’ sequence of results.  The pix at the bottom left shows a nearly completed product, with the plastic cord sprayed copper and the as yet unblackened boom mike sticking out of the bottom of the (formerly hollow) speaker horn.  

Odds & Ends


- Wood & brass portable Victorian writing desk replica ($6 USD Ebay) holds the office land line phone and coiled cords.

- The PC cable routing hole in the corner of the desk was painted copper and perfectly fits my Sherlock Holmes umbrella / walking stick

- Fowler Phrenolgy head ($9 USD Ebay) holds my Atomik Fabrik prescription brass goggles and the 1930s era telephone operator headset with new Radio Shack mechanicals.





Steam Office Closeup 15a by you.


 Steam Office Closeup 16a by you.



Brass inkwell/PDA phone stand, retro wood radio with LED vacuum tubes, Ted Arnold telegraph key/stapler.  

Still to be worked: PC stuff (monitor surround, mouse, keyboard) and some sort of period-ish chair covering. 


(8) Air Kraken Bioluminescence Augment-o-tron (build)


Habitat Encroachment ...

                                                   Air Pollution ...

                                                                                        Climate Change ...  


Are The Mythical Air Kraken Endangered?


Do We Need to Help Stabilize a Breeding Population of the Magical Kraken? Hmmmm....  


The Pledge


I believe there are fewer reports of Kraken sightings on the web this year compared to last.  Perhaps there are fewer steampunk members?  Not so, quite the contrary.  Perhaps today’s members are too inexperienced to spot a Kraken?  Impossible, they are as easy to recognize as the beak on your face.  Then perhaps our membership does not go outside very much anymore?  Perish the thought, and just look at all the gatherings there are.  No, we are definitely out in the world more than ever.  Then why the apparent reduced number of sightings?  Perhaps Kraken truly are endangered.  Half a year ago the idea was poo-pooed on the Steampunk Forum, but now the evidence mounts. 


The Turn


The ‘common’ giant squid Architeuthis is basically an eating and breeding machine. Inside its main body, the mantle, is an oversized stomach, eyes, and beak, and both spiral and digestive caeca.  In females there is a substantial investment in reproductive tissues, ovary, oviducts and related glands. There's not a whole lot else in any squid.  


For those pelagic squid species where it has been documented, their life cycle appears associated with some major ocean current systems. In lesser squid (there are 650 species of Cephalopods) globular-shaped egg masses of up to I meter in diameter, containing 100,000 eggs of I mm in diameter each, are laid.  It seems probable that spawning is followed by passive down-current dispersal of the egg mass; larvae then would hatch, after which they would continue to be passively transported in the current away from the spawning grounds. At some critical juncture larvae would attain sufficient size & mobility to actively move through the water column.


Despite our current level of technology, definitive taxonomic, dissective, and genome studies are sadly lacking for the Air Kraken.  If we substitute ‘air’ for ‘ocean’ in the above life cycle description, we can at least make educated guesses on how to help repopulate this depleted species. With the poor Air Kraken having to dodge airships of all types - whalers, pirates, merchant traders, etc – and commercial/military/civilian air craft, No-Fly zones over aggressor nations, finding a mate could prove challenging.  Worse still, when we throw in atmospheric changes due to huge increases in particulate matter in the troposphere, significant increases in ozone, CO2, and other air constituent imbalances in the stratosphere, the ‘dirty’ and crowded air may severely limit the Kraken’s ability to visually identify a mate of the correct species.  This comes down to two basic problems caused by mankind in the 20th century: their oversize eyes become irritated and, compounding the problem, are additional limitations on visual cue identification due to ever declining ability to see through polluted skies.


 Am I suggesting trying to get the Air Kraken to wear goggles?  Of course not, there is an easier way.  ( http://img504.imageshack.us/img504/7291/greenoctopustv1.jpg )



We can assist the Kraken in making a comeback by simply boosting its ability to recognize others of its own species through the ever increasing murky media of the air.  It is well known that the tiniest of ‘baby’ Air Kraken do not live in the free air, but rather exist in a nutrient filled egg sack which blows in the wind, sometimes settling on the highest mountains and sometimes remaining aloft until it is time to emerge from their ‘cocoon’.  Only at this early stage of life we can place them in a water-filled nutrient media and transform their species self-recognition ability.  While it is extremely difficult to find an atmospheric egg sac, even finding a single one would results in tens of thousands of potential reinvigorated offspring.  From its time in the egg case though the very fast progressing hatchling/larval/sub-juvenile stages of life  we will briefly intervene to promote the population of the species.(http://www.shim.bc.ca/species/Images/OPLSQUID.GIF ).


The Prestige.

 The device in question is called the Air Kraken Bioluminescence Augment-o-tron, and it is simplicity itself. 



By placing the youngest of the Kraken into this life-sustaining aquaculture hatchery we keep them well fed and imbue them with Telluric rays from the dual Tesla Coils. 



The effect has been impressive in prototype testing – the natural bioluminescence inherent in all Kraken was enhanced by a factor of not less than 9X.  When placed in a darkened laboratory the increased luminosity of the pre-juvenile Kraken allowed them to be readily viewed from more than 20 meters distant, up greatly from less than 2 meters prior to the engineered enhancement.  One can only imagine the magnitude of this effect in the adults. 



Fortunately Kraken can control their levels of luminosity from zero through maximum to avoid predation, and effect of one or more enhanced (in the luminosity sense) males ‘courting’ females would be a spectacular light show in the evening sky.  Perhaps one way we could test the validity and effectiveness of a post-prototype, full-scale working Augment-o-tron would be if there was a significant increase in UFO reporting in the post-treatment juvenile release sector.  Operation of the device is very straightforward. The newborn are sex-typed by chromosome count and are placed in either an all-male or all-female water column to minimize cannibalizing predation. The dual Tesla Coils are tuned to ‘electrify’ the bioluminescence photoreceptors on the Kraken’s body with telluric energy, and after a 4-5 day treatment period the effect becomes permanent. See their 'zero setting' of no luminescense here (http://www.gombergkites.com/update/338-50.JPG 



This is a totally natural way to enhance the survival chances of the species, as the twin Tesla Coils ‘terrestrial currents’ amplify an ability that the Kraken already possess.  Long term testing to confirm the ability of the Kraken to pass this new ability through chromosome modifications must wait until a larger control population exists.  The only major negative to this process, besides the obvious monetary costs and commitments of supporting resources, is a significant increase in the Krakens’ appetites - they must eat much more to offset the large energy expenditures caused by their increased luminosities.  This will likely increase the number of, to date anyway, relatively rare daylight attacks at ground level. 



The other negative of this process is a possible danger to the workers tending to the juveniles, but these warning signs on the Augment-o-meter towers will clearly convey the message of possible danger or death.



Although this work has been done in the Colonies, surely there must be a Ministry which considers this work environmentally sound and worthy of expansion?  (and yes, I know, they do important work, so don’t call them Shirley).  

The Reveal

 I’m not a prop guy but I do like kinetic art, so this one was fun.  This is the parts roster; 

 (a) On the tops of the water columns are glass globes to a lamp fixtures, on the special clearance table at Home Depot, new, $6 each.

 (b) Leftover strings of LED Xmas lights, cut down to a dozen lights each and battery powered.  They are LEDs, so essentially no heat is produced, they’ll last forever, so the class globes could be spot-glued (with Goop) to the top of the water column cap and the whole piece is removable to add or replace the water.  The tiny on/off switch and AAA battery are mounted outside and behind the glass globe. 

 (c) Combination decorative water column and CD holder with external air compressor, a very odd combination.  Too odd apparently, as there were a tons of them on Ebay this Spring for $10 USD each.  The CD holder was removed, sprayed copper, and returned to the water inverted to give it a look of high tension elements in an electrical substation. The base was sprayed in brass.  The paints were Krylon Premium "Copper Brilliance" and "Gilded Brass".

 (d) Between the water columns was a plasma plate ‘lightening’ generator.  It can display continuous or ambient sound-activated.  Used, $12 Ebay.

 (e) The 3 inch baby squid in the water columns came from a bait shop selling life-like squid lures, "Holographic Squids" from Tsunami.


(f) The Warning Signs were created by using this Warning Sign Generator and a couple of Google Image thumbnails.  ( http://www.warningsigngenerator.com).




 (7) All-In-One Pocket Watch Device: Cell Phone / Camera / MP3 / MP4 / Voice Recorder / Games / Email / SMS / MS Outook Mobile / etc (mod)


Prologue: There have been many posts over the last 3 years on various websites about all-in-one pocket devices  so I know there’s a certain level of interest in this sort of thing, but based on comments from some of those older posts the subject can be a bit polarizing to strict Victoriana steampunk design aficionados.  With that in mind, here’s a tiny bit of pre-emptive vitriol;

 > It has no gears! Yup.

> It is battery powered! Yip (that’s a Prez Bush impression).

> The case is plastic – you are going to steam hell!  Yes siree bob, but least it won’t be as cold as my office.

> My God man - it has LEDs! Not as gawd-awful as you might think, as LEDs were a Victorian invention.

> It is not mechanical at all!  Nearly but not just short of 100% true, technically it is an electro-mechanical device since there is a mechanical/electronic interface for the keyboard, although the rest of the unit is solid state.  Perhaps the next generation will be completely voice controlled, then it will be all electronic.

> Where’s the brass & copper?  Concur, but that’s a future mod-in-waiting.

> This would look like alien technology during Victorian times!  Uh huh, so feel free to ring up Capt Jack & his Torchwood team, one never knows what sorts of junk falls thru the rift these days.

> You’ve been a steampunk forum member for a long time – blasphemer!  Copy that, how about if I call it a mad scientist’s pocket watch instead?

> This is worse than that new Casio G-Chock ‘steampunk wristwatch’!  Ouch, now that’s a low blow.

 Ok, back ‘on message’… 

 All in One Electronic Device Using the Form Factor of a Traditional Pocket Watch

 1. There have been a number of comments from past posts about how hell and eternal damnation awaits those who use battery powered pocket watches, and/or, god forbid, quartz-based/all electronic watches.  For anyone with only a passing interest in this subject, here’s the BLUF (army-speak for ‘bottom line up front’, aka, a summary): It performs all of the functions (and more) below and well given its very small size.  The phone speakers for talking & hearing replies are built into the watch, so there is no need to carry any accessories although a hands-free Bluetooth earphone any other accessories are included.  For this type of device, it is about as good as it gets (for the 1st half of 2008 anyway).  Here are the before and post-modded pix;


Cell Phone (GSM quad band) with System Ring, Vibrate, or ringtones from any MP3

Still/Video Camera & Player,

Voice Recorder with on-watch Playback or recording for storage download to e-files on micro SD card,



Micro SD cards with a 1 GB card (can use as USB thumb drive),

Built-In Video Games,

Stop Watch,

World Time Clock,

Multiple Alarms, Audio & Vibrate

Calendar / Organizer / Scheduler

Self-Illuminated 37mm diagonal screen and keyboard for night use,

And yes, it tells time too.   


2. For anyone on the geek wedding registry (hmmm ... is that an oxymoron?), here’s more information so you can request it as a newlywed present.


 a. The Mods


> I made some quickie mods to bring the overall design more in line with the form factor of a pocket watch while I decide what the final design will look like.  The mods of the moment are additions of (a) WW I style nickel-plated watch shrapnel (crystal) guards for the front of the watch; (b) an upper ‘decorative’ assembly (crown / sleeve / bow / stem) from my box of old watch parts, (c) blacked-out the front case mirror finish and (d) since I rarely wear 3 piece suits, a stainless steel 18 inch pocket watch chain with belt clip and a waistband clip for pants without belt loops. The crown assembly was attached to the pocket watch case through the rear of the watch’s lanyard hole with aluminum wire and is a very strong hold, and the shrapnel guard was attached with Goop adhesive.


> I am not quite certain what to do in the future with the design to bring it more in line with traditional steampunk design themes.  Certainly options are to paint / coat / etch it in a different color/texture or find a sufficiently large and sufficiently deep/thick pocket watch case or similar (and difficult to find – I’ve been trying for months - perhaps a brass compass case?)  to house the watch, likely using the cell/watch’s hinge for the opening hinge mechanism.  Having said that I like the design and black & nickel look of the current mods, which for me has a certain mad scientist pocket watch flavor to it.   


b. Instruction Manual:


> The manual is not useful because there are 2 main problems – (a) while all the words are English, the grammar & syntax are iffy so the paragraphs make little sense, and (b) this is the worst part – not even a single diagram.


> Here’s an example of the manual’s grammar & syntax difficulties for the subject of File Management: “Makes the arrangement operation to on the memory document, arranges the after way demonstration.  May choose for the way to depend on the name, according to the type, and does not have according to size”.  Oy!


> But from here on the news is all good because the on-screen instructions are very clear and written with precision.


c. Cell Phone


> Adequate for low usage consumers like me who only make a few short calls a week on it.  I’ve got an HTC Apache/XV6700 PDA-cell for my email & data needs on the road for work but quite frankly I don’t need to carry a brick for non-work, and for those majority of times of light talking using the pocket watch/phone works just fine.


> Call quality is a bit tinny but not too shabby considering the speaker openings are about the size of a malnourished ladybug (ok, sorry to all Brit entomologists and fans of Coccinellids, I should have said a ladybird beetle) but more than adequate.  Shockingly the watch’s AT&T signal strength is much better than Verizon’s with the XV6700 or my wife’s RAZR.  I use a pay-as-you–go AT&T plan which for me works out to the minimum, approx $8 USD/month. 


> I added the quick disconnect to the pocket watch chain because of the phone function.  My 18 inch chain is pretty long, and more than adequate to read the watch or work the keyboard, but holding the phone up to my ear – that was a different story. Probably because I’m pretty tall (6’2”) the chain only got the phone up to the bottom of my neck, so I’d have to curl into a ball to use the phone or get a much longer chain.  It was easier to add a quick disconnect key ring, and after replacing the large rings of the disconnect key ring with small links from a different chain, if the phone rings I just detach it from the chain to answer the call.  I’m too old school to use the Bluetooth earpiece for only occasional phone usage, and I don’t care for the juxtaposed look of my usual old style safari-ish work clothes, steampunkified eyeglasses, cog & gear belt buckle, and now a pocket watch with a Bluetooth device sticking out my ear.  


> The phone uses a SIM card and is a GSM quad band, with 850/1900 MHz for the USA and 900/1800 for the rest of the world. AT&T likes 1900, & T-Mobile has unfortunate infatuation issues with the less available 850.  Anyone with a USA carrier which does not use SIM cards (like Verizon) in their cell can’t use this watch/phone regardless of whether it is locked or unlocked.  Perhaps surprisingly the ringing or vibrating phone is easy to access by whipping out the pocket watch, thus avoiding the need to answer the age old question ‘Is that a watch in your pocket or are you just happy to meet a steampunk damoiselle’.


d. Camera

 > You are not going to be photographing or videoing your sister’s wedding with it, but it provides a reasonable level of usability. Most e-cameras of this near micro size don’t have lenses worth mentioning because they don’t use lenses at all.  These devices typically are of the lensless pinhole variety, and if that’s the case (and who can tell from reading the instruction manual) then the image quality is more than reasonable for snapshots or quickie videos.  As expected, there is no flash but there are many other controls, such as e-zoom (pointless really) and image adjustment prior to taking the photo (making the image lighter, florescent / incandescent correction, etc). 


> The ‘lens’ is on the front of the camera, and flipping up the pocket watch case and clicking the camera setting on the main menu activates the system.  This photo shows how it works, in this example taking a video of a work of kinetic art (made of wood, springs, brass, & string by artist David C Roy) as well as a brass blowtorch converted to a flicker lamp and a battery-powered Wimshurst generator under glass.    


 > The camera is theoretically a 1.3 meg, and photos can be stored to the SD card.  There are 4 different levels of pixel capture – 640x480 down to 128x128.  There are also on-screen settings for white balance, scene mode, and a photo editor, but given the hardware and screen size this is a bit of overkill.   Here’s a sample photo under awful conditions – a cubicle with florescent office lights at my desk using some of the screen settings to correct for the green lighting cast, @ 91k. 


 . Misc Stats & Functionalities

 > Overall length of watchband = 122mm, the removable watch portion is 50mm wide, 57mm high, & 19 mm thick.  Weight is negligible (80 gm w/o battery, still less than 4 oz/100 gm with battery).   The vaguely retro-ish looking circular silver keyboard lights up blue while the keys are clearly marked and easy to press with a distinctive click.  Their stated stats are stand-by = 120 hrs and talk time = 2.5 hrs.  I’ve found I can get 3+ days of stand-by w/o recharging, and shutting off the power overnight extends the battery life to a week.  I’ve never made enough calls on the phone long enough to test the limits of talk time. 



> There is a small and not particularly useful single line blue LED display on the front mirrored cover for displaying a few seconds of time, signal strength, battery charge when you press a side button or close the cover. Side note: before anyone decries ‘Too Modern!’ regarding this display, you may not know that LEDs (yes, good old Light Emitting Diodes, not Lupus Erythematosus Disseminatus) were invented by a Victorian, Henry J. Round (b 1881) from Staffordshire, England.  He went to work for the Marconi Company in 1902 and published the world’s first working LED experiments in 1907.  No Victorian mad scientist worth her or his salt would think of LEDs on pocket watches as unacceptable.


> Want to listen to music?  It could not be easier either through the pocket watches speakers/ speaker phone or via the included hard-wire stereo ear buds (which plug into the watch’s mini-USB port. You could use the Bluetooth earpiece but your other ear will be lonesome.



> Downloading is equally easy – just plug the included ‘mini-USB to standard USB’ cord into the pocket watch and then into your PC and you get standard Windows folders to play with.  Load or transfer songs, pix, videos, contacts, appointments, etc.  The pocket watch is also an audio voice recorder, and audio files can be recorded on the pocket watch, saved and filed, then downloaded to your PC just like transferring a photo or an MP3





> I bought the watch through an Asian company with a US office called Gizmo Grabber, and it was shipped to my house directly from China.  The first one I bought would not recognize any SIM card, and it was later discovered to be a GSM dual band rather than the quad band I ordered.  I shipped it back to China and waited over 3 months for a replacement (quads were back ordered), but at least both the customer service reps in China and the USA regularly emailed me with updates on manufacturing status.  The cost was $170 USD, which is not too bad considering (a) how handset companies are now selling their pricey phones sans accessories these days, and (b) all the accessories this unit includes - included 2 phone batteries, 1 GB micro SD card, a mini-USB plug-in ear bud stereo headset, a min-to-standard USB 2.0 data cable for charging and data transfer, a Bluetooth 2.0 wireless earphone with its own battery and charger, a stylus, and oh boy, the aforementioned ‘Users Manual’.


> This is the link to it and it can be also purchased through by other companies as well as on Ebay.  Expanded functionalities of the watch are also at the link, and I have not written about them since I have not tried using many of them yet, including Language Support (Chinese, English, French, German, Arabic, Russian, Spanish), Data Transfer (GPRS, WAP), Ringtones (MP3,MIDI,WAV), Message capability (SMS / EMS / MMS / SMS group send), Mobile (Microsoft Outlook Mobile / inbox /  contacts / calendar / tasks enabled for MS Exchange Server 2003 & 2007), Phonebook (300 entries), Display (260K colors/OLED touch screen plus handwriting input) at resolution 128x128.  

 ( http://www.gizmograbber.com/ProductDetail.asp?ID=155&ClassID=191 )




(6) Manly Mad Scientist Light / Girly Gazebo Desk Lamp' tube lamp (build)


A number of folks on the Steampuk Forum posted 'how to's about building tube lights like these, and the imaginative works of Nik Willmore were an inspiration for many of us.  Consequently I raided Home Depot for parts to try my hand at making one of these tube lamps.  Not certain if my spouse would have been happy with a purely 'Mad Scientist' light, I accidentally found a broken copper-plated bird feeder (what the store describes as a 'Lantern Style' bird feeder on a Home Depot sale table for $4 and thought using part of it would soften the design a bit.  In the end this became a twofer - a his & her tube lamp.  Thanks to everyone on this & other posts who provided design ideas and execution tips.  (see 'Willmore's Works' at http://www.e-dot-com )





(5) One Year Later: Using 3M Double-Sided Automotive Foam Tape (mod)

So how strong is 3M # 03614 "Super Strength Molding Tape" (ie, double-sided foam automotive grade exterior tape)?  Very strong indeed. http://www.superiorpaneltechnology.com/product_p/mmm03614.htm 

I wanted to attach a small nickel plated compass & thermometer to the side of my leather watch band of a "Nautica Vintage Cover" wrist worn pocket watch which I lightly modified with a WW1 replica shrapnel guard and part of its included pocket watch chain.  I took 2 small squares (11-12 mm) of the 3M, pressed it to the bottom of the 2 instruments, then pressed it to the leather watch band.  I placed a book on top of the whole thing overnight to assure sufficient initial pressure.  I assumed  they might stick for a day or two, but at the end of a month it was still solidly sticking so I removed it from the watch band and confirmed there was no damage to the leather.  So I then redid the experiment to see how long it would last.

At the 1 yr anniversary of the experiment the compass & thermometer still attached to the band as strong as ever. I've worn the watch every day for a year, through car washes, shoveling snow, feeding the livestock (8 horses + 1 Kramer the llama), and there's never been a hint of looseness at the attachment points.  I was, and am, completely surprised. 

 The bottom line is this double-sided tape may be a robust tool for attaching metals and plastics to softer materials, such as leather/rubber/etc, without the use of damaging glues or similar adhesives.  And of course if you use it to attach metal-to-metal you will find it extremely difficult to break the bond under normal conditions.   




(4) 'Removable Swing-Arm Monocular' for 1915 Wilson Motorcycle Goggles (build); 


Sunglasses with removable Swing-Arm Monocular: Circa 1915 Wilson's motorcycle glasses with mesh side shields and a mesh nose bridge shield.  The build:

 > "Third Eye" rear-viewing bicycle mirror that attaches to eyeglass frames (http://www.3rd-eye.com),

> 5 coats of Krylon Premium Gilded Brass spray paint. 

> Microwave the 3d Eye mirror assembly in a paper bag for 40 sec to loosen the glue holding the mirror.  Remove the mirror.

> Drill a hole in the plastic mirror mount 2mm less than the diameter of the monocular. 

> The monocular, commonly available on Ebay for $5 USD,  is a Russian 2.5x, 17.5 mm diameter.  It was  also sprayed with the Krylon.

> The monocular disassembles, so after the front monocular assembly is pushed through the drilled out hole the rear monocular assembly can be re-screwed together so the scope stays in place without adhesives. 

 The monocular can be focused and it works very well - I can see traffic cops ahead very clearly through the prescription lenses on the Wilsons if I ever felt inclined to speed and blow up the motor on my beater MG-TD.  





(3) 1915 Wilson Mesh-Sided Motorcycle Prescription Goggles (mods)


Circa 1915 Wilson motorcycle glasses/goggles with mesh side shields and a mesh nose bridge shield.  The frames were taken to the optician chain store to have prescription lenses made to fit the frames.

 The steampunk modifications were simple but give a unique look - stainless steel springs were added on the nose bridge and temple bars.  The spring sizes - 1.75 inch x 3/16 in for the nose bridge, and 4 in x 5/16 in for the temple bars.  



(2) Rodenstock Prescription Eyeglass Frame / Pince Nez Spring Bridge Design (mods)


These minor steampunk modifications took very little time but produced a very good result if you are looking to wear an older style Pince Nez eyeglass design.  This variety of Pince Nez is called a "Spring Bridge" since this style of true PN glasses used a spring in the nose bridge to maintain rigidity while allowing ease of removal by bending the spring.  While using true PN prescription eyewear can be a bit intimidating, this design accomodates the PN design while using full frames.


The frames are from Rodenstock in Germany, new on Ebay for $12.00 USD. They were sprayed with 7 coats of DupliColor Green Metal Flake automotive spray paint which gives the effect of oxidized green copper.  One brass spring was screwed into the across the nose bridge and one on each temple bar at the hinge.  The photos don’t show the oxidized green color very well but it is distinct, in a subdued way.





(1) Post World War I Adventurer's Wrist-Worn (Dive) Pocket Watch With Shrapnel Guard, Compass, and Thermometer (mods)


This is, surprisingly, a true Dive Pocket Watch, water-resistant to 30 meters.  The compass and thermometer are liquid filled and also functional, as they work under well water. 


During the end of World War 1 the wrist-worn pocket watches became a military officer’s accessory – it was easier and quicker to look at a wrist during battle than to use a chain and watch pocket, and this style later caught on in the greater general population.  Since pocket watches are larger and heavier than modern wristwatches, the first application of wrist-worn pocket watches was to encase the entire watch in a leather surround and then attach the band to the surround.  Only later would lugs be added directly to the metal pocket watch case and then leather bands would be attached to the lugs, making a device that more closely resembles a modern wristwatch. 


This particular modification duplicates that earliest of the barely post-Victorian wrist-worn pocket watches.  It would also seem at home if worn by crew members of the mythical submarine Nautilus of Jules Verne fame, and could easily be remaned "Nautilus Crew Epipelagic Marine Chronometer Wrost-Worn Dive Pocket Watch''.  But unlike the fictional Nautilus, this is a fully functional dive pocket watch worn on the wrist with a nickel shrapnel guard to prevent scratches to the watch crystal.  The modification instructions are below.