Lightsaber Build

So I have to confess, this isn’t really a build right now. I purchased a lightsaber build from Romans Props. Its an exact copy of an original graflex land flashgun. It actually works too. I put a flash bulb in it and test fired it. Its amazing that with the right cables I was able to fire it with my Canon 5DmkIII.

Anyway, I bought it pre-converted into a ESB style. Its not got any lightsaber internals YET. I just got in the blade holder so I’ll be converting that soon.

Stay tuned though. I think I’ll be doing a full crystal reveal, custom making a chassis — machining most of it out of brass and making it look functional.

Steam Era Floor Lamp

So, I finally got an office of my own. After nearly 5 years I now have my own 4 walls. Now, what better way to claim it as my own than decorate it with my stuff.

My first real challenge was the lighting situation.

So I thought, well, why not make another pipe/steam lamp. but, bigger, and LED.

I set off to planning and this is what I came up with:

Theres a lot going on here. Which is fun. I never actually plan these things out, so this was an interesting project.

Well I went out to the store and picked up what I could. This is what I came up with.

Not too far off actually. Well this is after like 2 or 3 hours of wrenching pipe and wiring and soldering. This is where the hard part come in. The base.

I originally wanted a nice piece of wood. Live edge walnut. something you know, beautiful. well that didn’t work out. Walnut was not in the budget. I also needed some weight so it didn’t fall over. I went with 3 pieces of Baltic Birch plywood that I had CNC’d to the shape of some gears. They encapsulate an 8lbs weight too. So a little paint and its ready to go!

That last shot is it in the corner of my office. Complete with my Pith Helmet stand and my steam gun.

Steam Gun

Upon completion of my steam lamp and my Halloween steampunk costume I really set out to stretch my legs.

First stop when I’m getting in the mood to make is the antique store. A bit of mantiquing always gets me pumped to make. I love looking through the rust and dirt to find the mechanics of yester-year. I usually come home with some sort of new idea of how something used to work. Which as a side note I have relied on this knowledge for some time, and it has proven to solve many problems that I face daily at work. It really is surprising how useful playing with old contraptions is!

On this particular day out I found an old radio display. whats more, I found an old radio tube grab bag. Only a few buck and a I got myself a ton of 7 and 9 pin full size through mini tubes.  This is a good start!

 

So where should I start with this gun? Lets tackle the handle. Everybody always starts with a nerf gun. I’d like something that feels functional as much as fictional.

Starting with a design I drew up from my brainporium, with a hint of design element from the tesla guns of warehouse 13. (some day I’ll do a build of one as a replica prop)

Clamp and glue onto a piece of 1/4″ walnut. What a marvelous wood.

rough glue and cut out of both sides sandwiching the walnut.

Nice polished handle in my hand. What a great start.

Ok, now what? What should I put onto the gun?

The Barrel!

So lets custom cut some tubing! but how should we make it even?

Yep you guessed (and dreaded it), I cut the 1 1/4″ pipe I had and opened it up, applied my pattern and cut it out. I used a series of hand files and my belt grinder to shape.

Then its back into a pipe shape. Not surprisingly, this was the most complicated part of it all. I ended up turning a brass insert that was of proper inner diameter. Combine that with a 2oz hammer I got it back round. The fun part is that copper work hardens, like crazy fast. This piece took 3 or 4 heats to get back round without breaking.

The brass inserts were then bored out to accept a mini-tube on one side and a 5mm LED on the other. I’m just getting into electronics on this level. (basic circuitry really…) but I love the look of green LEDs in steampunk gear. If I had done anything different I would have waited and used a slow color changing RGB diode. but theres always the next gun…

So next step was a second photonic plasma transducer. (I just made that up). Blue didn’t look bad for the pair of them.

Well with two barrels built its starting to take shape!

About this time, Christmas was in full swing. I was off of work for several days, amazing time to sit and think in my workshop. I must have made a dozen drawings, and tried 1000 ways to fit these barrels. But I’m not a fabricator in a traditional sense, I don’t have industrial tools or materials either.

So after an intense internal struggle…. Enter the nerf gun.

This is probably the most heavily modified and steampunked nerf out there, the Maverick.

I want my gun to look and feel like I did a thorough facelift. So Bondo!

This was actually my first experience with Bondo. I stupidly bought the wrong one too. I went to the home center. and bought the blue can, all purpose filler. It seems to feel and act like Bondo but it takes WAY longer to set up. (well at least in my shop’s environmental settings) I found it wouldn’t grab the plastic, even though I had heavily sanded rough. Do notice I also cut the frame of the gun too. Opening the trigger guard made it feel more rounded and whimsical to me.

So after I sanded and scraped and sanded and sanded and sanded and the applied more Bondo, and then sanded. I was finally ready for some paint.

I first did about 3 coats of a flat gray filler primer. Then after it dried for not nearly long enough I did a coat of a bronze/antiqued copper primer. I could have probably started here. I’m still not in love with this color.

While that was drying I took out my spare Maverick, because if you can get two of everything it speeds up recovery of your mistakes….

I started fitting and drilling up the barrel ports. I already had a hole from the original barrel, but I needed to add one for the longer tube. not easy to do without measuring many times. I totally butchered the spare. lesson learned I guess.

With the holes properly drilled for the barrel I placed and epoxied in the copper fitting that I had bought for a totally different part. This acted as a great base. It also finally bonded the nerf plastic together. so I closed the open holes with some more Bondo. finished and painted. At this point I went all in with model paints in brass, copper, rust, silver, black. I am real happy with this look. Its the first model painting that I’ve ever done… fumbled through it but it turned out nice.

 Here’s the barrel placed with the painted gun next to the original.

And, shit. The gun is Bondo’d shut. where the hell am I putting the electronics?

Ok the second barrel is now a battery pack. Or, a plasma compression chamber…

I fished the green LED from its holder all the way down and out one of the holes in the copper fitting. I’m using Cat5E UTP wire here. So 24AWG copper strand. Its probably not heavy enough, but I figure its powering a single 1/4w LED so I figure its like less than single milliamp at 3.4V. I don’t really know the maths side of this yet. but why not live a little!

I capped of the battery tube and put an inline switch to turn it on and off. similar to the cane built. No, actually identical….

Once again, I used some 4-40 screws, and drilled and tapped my fittings. It looks more industrial I think. It also comes back apart if I need it to.

Additionally, I added some 1/4″ copper pipe that I heated and bent to contour the gun frame. I think it really adds to have a plasma charging port on one side and a photonic chamber pressure gauge readout.

At this point I could have stopped. But, in the words of Sherlock’s Moriarty, ‘I’m so changeable’.

I have been also playing a ton of Fallout 4, which probably has fueled my steampunkery as well. (unhealthily most likely) I’ve fallen in love with the Gauss Rifle’s design. I love the exposed field windings on the side. So I set out to steampunk them and add them. The biggest hurtle of all of this was finding solid core copper wire.

I want to scrimp and save where I can. I have a bad, bad, habit of blowing money on builds. At this point I’ve gotten 2 nerf guns, 10ft of 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 copper, about 10 various fittings, a pressure gauge, switches, LEDs, 3 spray paints, 9 colors of model paints, brushes, some acrylic paints… Yes, a ton of this will get used in future builds. but this gun probably has about $75 in it already. So I started looking for copper. literally impossible to find. It could also be from me not willing to drive around the neighborhood on trash night and try and scrap it out of other people’s old TVs and such.

Well I broke down, I bought 25ft of solid 18AWG copper and went to town on a transformer casing.

Its a walnut box re-enforced with brass plating.  There are 2 field windings. I had not anticipated it getting crowded so quickly so it is what it is.  I made some brass L brackets and attached them to the bottom rail of the gun.

I think it really turned out nice, and totally unique. I’m very happy with my first steamgun, and my first model paint job. It was a crazy hard build. I should start planning these more!

And the final reveal, with the stand that I built for it to display in my office:

 

Steam Lamp

I recently was given an office at work. Super stoked to have an environment that I can call my own. It also allows me to bring in my own flavor of desk trinkets.

Well, with a window behind my back it makes seeing my computer a bit of a challenge. So I’ve been closing the blinds. My boss thought it was dark in my office then….

So. I built a new lamp.

lrm_export_20161103_215502I found some killer Edison style 40w bulbs at the antique mall for about 3.50 a piece new. Lovely spiral filament and amber glass. I went to the home improvement store and spent about 20 minutes “planning” the build.  From there, I went home with some T joints, a couple of nipples, and some keyless sockets. I mounted it all to some live edge walnut that I had laying around. and it became a bookend.

Here it is in place in my office

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Really stoked out how well it came out, and how easy it was to put together.

Steampunk Cane

Once again, a super cool steam project for Halloween 2016.

I needed a steam-weapon, something understated with a cool story. Steampunk is all about that story.

My character that I’ve been working is a 33rd century explorer who makes trips to the past. So, what does a gentleman do for a weapon? yep. a plasma cane.

First up was the plasma-core.

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I went into the hardware store. This time, an independently owned ACE hardware that has always been really, really well stocked with odd parts. A few brass fittings acted as my vacuum tube base. My light source, which was a much cooler build that I stupidly didn’t photograph, was a flashlight from harbor freight. You know, the free ones that they basically give out every week. I ripped it apart and de-soldered the white LEDs from the board and put in my own 9-LEDs that were green. Instant plasma-power!

I then decided that I needed to show off the tube more. Its such a cool antique future part. I cut the shroud down and then built a cage for it out of some 1/4 inch brass rod.

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The hard part was getting the brass rod bent at the same points 6 times over, then drilling and epoxying them into place. I used some T-66 structural epoxy and it is STRONG! very impressed with system3’s epoxy.

Now with the plasma generator built, it was time to fashion the rest of the cane. This was pretty quick. some more copper and a rubber furniture foot and boom the bottom is done.

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The handle — That was the hard part. First it was lets solder all the pipe, then it was how do I get to the batteries for the light? So I decided that once again, screws would save the day.

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The wiring, while extremely simple was a real bear to get fit into the pipe and working. I ended up not trying to use the body of the copper handle to conduct as I was losing too much power and I didn’t want to kill my batteries too fast. So I wired it up to a switch on an end-cap and it really came together.

Overall a super easy, super challenging project. Once again, lots of little problems to solve. Lots of fun to build. Lots of fun to build a story around too!

Electrified Tubes

I’m a nerd at heart, I’m sure that’s apparent to everyone here.  So I’ve always loved the steampunk aesthetics – Brass, Leather, Wood, SciFi – whats not to love?

I went ahead and ordered some LEDs from amazon. I’ve never worked with them before and don’t have any electrical training. Really, its experiment time!

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That’s the LED pack that I got. Its 150 LEDs in 3mm and 150 in 6mm, in 5 colors. The pack also came with 300 resistors. For like $12.00 its a pretty good deal really.

So that when I started looking around the shop for something ‘steampunk’ to light up.

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I found the box of old tubes. PERFECT! So damn scifi!

Turns out if you carefully cut open the bottom of the tube you can insert a 6mm LED in the tube stem. Now, be careful, the first tube exploded when I sawed into it-through it-and into my thumb…

So with a little playing you get something like:

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Gorgeous right? I love the way green LEDs come through!

So I got it lit, I got it working, I got it looking cool! Now, how the hell do I put it on my desk, safely?

Well– steampunk it a bit more. who doesn’t love turned brass (scrap from my spinning tops) and some beautiful off cuts of Bacote? (left over from my file handles)

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So I used a smaller tube, fitted it to the brass. The brass had a central hole. The LED and resistor were sunk into that and fitted into the Bacote block. Hot glue was my friend here. I then thought about it for a second. If a battery, a AAA in the instance was running this LED at 1.5V DC with say at best 1.2A then I, in theory, could use a similar constant power supply right? So a quick trip to the thrift store and I got an old cell phone charger for 25 cents. Its output was 2.3V DC at .5A. My green LEDs were rated to take 2.5V max. Ok, so It seems safe. plug it in, LIGHT! Its not at bright running at .5A but if I wanted to I guess I could replace the resistor for one of less resistance. But why? I know how to light an LED now!

Overall it was a quick afternoon project and a fun little distraction!