Steampunk Lamp
Steampunk Lamp - Mobile


What's Steampunk?

I have always been a Science Fiction fan. From comics to books and movies, I took it all in. I grew up watching great Sci-Fi movie classics such as "The Time Machine" and "First Men in the Moon" both based on books by H.G. Wells. I also enjoyed Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea based on Jules Vern novels. What I didn't know all these years is that there was a common thread. The film versions were all set in the late 1800's Victorian period and they used 1800's technology to create their vision of the future. They created machines and gadgets not possible at that time, using what they had for technology. Electricity was in its infancy so it was used sparingly, but when they had a light or indicator lamp, it was big and bold. There were pipes and steam valves everywhere. Large gauges were a necessity to keep watch on the steam pressure.

Where today we would have chrome, they had brass. Switches and panels were made of brass giving them the Victorian "look". Light bulbs were protected from damage with wire cages providing them with an 1800's industrial lighting feel. The British setting of these movies also added to the look and feel. There were ornate patterns on the machines panels or supports.

steampunk keyboard A few years back I came across a picture of a computer keyboard that had been created to look as if it was made during this 1800's Victorian period. I loved it. The creator went on to build a steampunk laptop as well. They were works of art. What I didn't know at the time, but found out shortly after, was that the style had been dubbed "Steampunk". More recently "Industrial" style furniture has also become popular. Think of it as Modern Steampunk.

Read more: What's Steampunk?

A Great Steampunk Resource

I'm repainting the inside walls of my garage. It's a slow process because of all the shelves and stuff that line the walls. I expect it will take all summer to work my way around the inside. I also replaced the light outside the kitchen door with an industrial looking light I got at Amazon. It was actually a birthday present for my wife as she had requested an industrial style light.

At the same time I wanted to replace the doorbell button. I wanted something different, something with a Steampunk look that would fit in nicely with the new light.

While perusing the internet for an idea, I came across Vintage Wire and Supply. What a great selection they have of Steampunk parts and accessories.

I found just what I needed in their Universal Housing. It's just the right size, comes in three different finishes (Antique Copper, Brass and Nickle) and is meant to house switches (but has other great possibilities). Vintage Wire and Supply also has matching acorn nuts available to complete the look. I just need to find the right push button. I'm sure I have one around here somewhere that will fit the bill.

By the time I was finished on their site, I had filled my cart with several other style switch covers and a very cool Steampunk Steam Gauge in Antique Copper. If you are tired of searching eBay for steam gauges, just to be outbid, these will fit the bill nicely. They sell just the cast metal steam gauge, good for mounting on a flat panel or you can get the gauge with a metal housing kit. Included are 6 different gauge faces, each with a different marking and scales. The nice folks at Vintage Wire and Supply even threw in some samples of their cloth covered wires, perfect for those steampunk lamp projects. I'm sure I'll be back there filling my cart again sometime soon.

If you order anything from these great folks, be sure to tell them that Dan from sent you!

NEW - Vintage Wire and Supply just released a working steampunk style voltage gauge. It's very cool looking and comes in three finishes Antique Brass, Antique Copper and Antique Nickel. Now you can have the needle on the gauge in your next project move when it's turned on. I wonder if I could fit a small bulb in side to light up the dial?

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1

Steampunk Lamp Assembled

steampunk lamp 3 smAfter seeing several cool looking Steampunk style lamps on ebay, I decided that "I could do that". That statement can gets me in trouble sometimes, but none-the-less, usually works out. I scoured ebay looking for various "steampunky" looking items like steam pressure gauges, water control valves and the like. I was able to identify several of the exact parts used in the original ebay auction lamps.

For items I couldn't find on ebay I searched the rest of the web for ideas. To the left is my final creation sitting atop the dry sink we have that hides all of our network paraphernalia such as the cable modem, Wi-Fi Router, network storage and printer paper.

Steampunk Pressure GaugeThe art of making a Steampunk style lamp is quite simple. Think Victorian Industrial Lighting. The first thing I noticed about old pressure gauges is that some have very plain pointers while others had very ornate ones. The arrow on the end of the pointer could be just a point or it could have some flourish to it, like the head of an actual arrow. The designs of the tail were ever more extreme. The older the gauge, the more fancy the pointers seemed. The old saying "They don't make them like the used to" came to mind.

Read more: Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 2

Steampunk Lamp PartsNext, I headed over to the Lamp section where they have an assortment of lamp parts. I realized at this point, I was learning Spanish as I walked around the store. All of the aisle signs had recently been replaced with bi-lingual ones. So off to the "Lámpara" section I went. I purchased a package of 1/4 inch steel threaded lamp nipples. It had two 6 inch long pieces, that you can cut to size. It is used to connect the lamp socket to the black pipe. You don't need to purchase the more expensive brass nipples, as they will be hidden, or painted black in my case. (OK, I giggled a little when I typed that last sentence). I've created a "Bill of Material" as we say in the business, to list the parts you will need.

Lastly, I went to the plumbing section where they have the assortment of brass fittings, reducers and couplings. I needed a couple reducers to connect the pressure gauge and the lamp socket to the 1/.2 inch black pipe. I found a brass 1/2 in to 1/4 inch coupling. They are not cheap ($5 ea.) but it's what I needed. This part is the one I get the most questions about. because it is not located in the black pipe section, they are not easy to find. There are also other versions available on line made of stainless and galvanized steel. I would shy away form the galvanized ones since you will be screwing in a brass lamp nipple which is a much softer material and it may be chewed up by the galvanized coating.

Steampunk Lamp SocketsI am an Amazon Prime member, so it's one of the first places I go to when I need something. I'm still amazed at what I can find on Amazon and can have in 2 days.
I was able to located the lamp bulb sockets on Amazon with the appropriate 1/4 inch threaded hole. Perfect for what I needed. I purchased 4 of these, thinking ahead on my next lamp, which I know will have 2 separate lights with cages.

Steampunk Lamp CageI also found on Amazon, the black wire bulb cage that gives the lamp the old-tyme industrial looks that all Steampunk designs strive for. I purchased 4 of these as well.

At this point you do a test fit of all your parts. Prepare to get your hand dirty as the black on the "black pipe" does not seem to stay on the pipe.

There may be a trick to getting the pipe fitting tight and in the correct orientation, I just haven't figured it out yet. I'm sure if I had welding equipment I could apply a small weld at the appropriate place and be done with it. Instead you have to plan each elbow carefully. When it starts getting a little tight you have to decide if you can make one more entire full revolution or should you settle with what you have. What I did was hand tighten each part until they were about as tight as I could get it. Then I would use a wrench to tighten it to the angle I wanted. Sometimes you had to give it almost an entire revolution, sometimes you were almost to the right spot. A vise helps hold some of the parts in place as you crank on the elbow.

Continued in Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 3.

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 3

Steampunk Lamp Switch Final assembly of my Steampunk Lamp. I rummaged through my stash of electrical switches looking for one that would fit my Steampunk Lamp style. I came up with an old fashion toggle switch with a collar long enough to stick through the thickness of the rear casing of the water meter. I then drilled a hole in the casing slightly larger than the switch collar. I was surprised at how easy the the rear case casting material drilled.

Steampunk Lamp Base My base consisted of a 13 in. x 13 in. x 2 in. thick chunk of wood. One I had sitting around for about 15 years, not knowing what to do with. Actually it's half of the original chunk. The other half will be used for my second Steampunk lamp project. I drilled a hole dead center to run the power cord through. I also routed a channel to hide the cord in and run it to the back of the chunk of wood.

Please, please use a 3 wire power cord with a green safety ground wire and affix it to the metal inside somewhere. In this lamp I attached it to a large ring terminal which I put around the neck of the power switch before putting it through the rear cover. Since the rear cover is screwed onto the water meter with 4 rather large metal screws, it is electrically connected to all of the metal pipes. A ground fault inside the lamp will trip your 15 A house breaker and not electrocute someone. Be sure to scrape any paint off of the cover where the switch makes contact as well as under the 4 cover screws as you want good contact.

Steampunk Lamp Safety GroundMy background is in product safety and being that these lamps are mostly exposed metal, you risk the chance of an electrical shock if any of the live internal wires are nicked and contact any of the metal pipes. Using a three wire cord will allow you to ground all of the metal. In the event of a short, a circuit breaker will trip and all is well. Also please pay attention when pulling your wires through the metal pipes and make sure to follow the color coded wires on the lamp socekts. White is neutral and should be connected to the aluminum colored screw of the socekt. If you choose to use a two wire cord, the neutral wire should connect to the wide blade side of a two wire power cord.

Steampunk Lamp Base Feet Not wanting my lamp to mar my table top I screwed on these 4 rubber feet. They also helped level the lamp as the wood had a slight bow to the middle. I think I've had the rubber feet laying around for some time as well. I can't seem to throw anything out without stripping it of anything I see could be reused.
I love the screw on and adhesive rubber feet as they come in so handy for many projects. I use smaller ones on my Twilight Zone Mystic Seer replicas to give them a nice base that won't move around on a table. You certainly don't want to scratch a table with your cool looking steampunk lamp.

Steampunk Lamp Assembled steampunklamp2sm Here's the finished product. Simple, yet functional. Clicking on the picture will get you an annotated diagram of all the parts I used and their placement. let me know if you have any questions. Be sure to check out the "Steampunk" Lamp parts list.

I have added some Steampunk parts and other neat items to my Amazon Store. Click on my Amazon Store link and select the Steampunk Category.

To the right is my second Steam Punk lamp where I add a second light and a few added twists. I think you'll like it. Check it out.

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