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 also made of brass giving them the "Victorian" look. Vintage Edison 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 About 10 years ago 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" Pipe Furniture has also become popular. I just think of it as Modern Steampunk. Now I understand where the "Steam" in Steampunk comes from, but I'm not so sure where the "Punk" comes from.


Read more: What's Steampunk?

Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1

steampunk lamp 3 sm Steampunk Lamp Assembled

Welcome to my How-To article for building a Steampunk Lamp. This was my first lamp and it taught me many things. Give it a read and see if it’s something that you think you might want to give a try. If you have any questions, send me an email using the link above.
I'm a hands-on guy and like making things. After seeing several cool looking Steampunk style lamps on eBay, I decided "I could do that". That statement can get 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 could identify several of the exact parts used in the original eBay auction lamps.

For items that I couldn't find on eBay, I searched the rest of the web. To my surprise, many parts were available on Amazon including the Metal Cage Bulb Guards. To the left is my final creation. On the right, you'll find a detailed diagram showing you all the parts needed to complete this great Steampunk Lamp Project. you can click on it for a much larger picture. One more note. You'd think making a lamp from readily available black pipe would be cheap. It is not. You'll be surprised at how quickly the 90-deg. elbow, nipples and straight sections add up. Just buy more than you think you'll need and take back what's left over.

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.

I placed bids on several and won an auction for an old pressure gauge made by the "Nash Engineering Company" It was about 5 inches across and the point had a circle incorporated into it. The tail was a crescent moon. Very cool looking. What was even neater was the water stain across the front. The brass bezel was worn and pitted, but that just added to the look and feel I was going for.

Gears used to buil my Steampunk lampNext I needed gears. If I could find a few gears big enough, they would make up the base of the lamp. Now here's the problem with making a Steampunk anything. People are catching on to the style and everything old on ebay is being labeled Steampunk.

That of course increases the perceived value and drives the bidding up, great for the seller, but not so great for us makers. So finding gears large enough to use as a base, but still cost effective (including shipping) turned into a challenge.

I settled for a box of 8 assorted gears that I believe came off of a tractor, as one was painted John Deere green. They were a little smaller than I wanted but I had other ideas for the base. After all, this lamp was going to be heavy and will be needing extra support. One of the gears was taller than the rest and would make a great transition from the bottom gears to the black upper parts of the lamp.

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

Making my 2nd Steampunk Lamp

Steampunk Lamp number 2 Steam Pressure Gauge for my second Steampunk Lamp Before I had even finished making my first Steampunk Lamp, I was already planning a second one. I had realized what fun and how simple it was. Part of the fun was looking on eBay for old looking parts that would go well with the steam punk theme. I found a great pressure gauge, which was all brass, including the dial face. Next, I wanted something with buttons or switches on it. I was looking for something old but still in good shape. I looked at elevator buttons but they were all flat and wall mounted and I didn't want to have to build a new old-looking box. I'm just not good with wood. Then I started looking at intercoms and telephone switching equipment from the 1930's and 40's.

Phone Switch Box for my second Steampunk Lamp Parts for my 2nd Steampunk LampI finally came across an old small telephone switchboard made of wood with an aged metal (brass?) front panel and old-timey looking switches. It may have been part of a building or business intercom or phone system as it only had 6 switches. It had all the right things, old time looking switches, brass trim and a dark stained wood case that had some art-deco looking elements. There were two rows of lights, red and green, to indicate the status of each line. The different positions of the switches were labeled Busy & Hold.

Read more: Making my 2nd Steampunk Lamp

A Steampunk Wall Lamp from an old Cabbage Shredder

Steampunk Lamp Number 3For Christmas, I had gotten my wife a box of miscellaneous lamp parts. It was time for a change in our living room as the three lamps in there (two floor lamps and one table lamp) had been there for 20+ years (maybe longer). My wife started liking the "industrial" look and that's pretty darn close to steampunk in my opinion. I guess you could call it modern steampunk. The box of parts contained an old green/white porcelain coated lamp shade I found at an antique co-op store. The shade is the type you would find in an old store or factor. I also purchased some 3 inch pulleys, a nickel-plated lamp base and some reproduction antique cloth wrapped electrical cord with an old-style plug on the end. I told her that she had to design a lamp using these parts. I'd build it, but she would have to design it.

Steam Punk Pulleys Well, about two months after Christmas, the box of parts was still sitting there so I suggested that she check out Vintage Wire and Supply and look at some of the many project photos they had there to give her an idea of the type of lamp she wanted. The pictures are a little tricky to find but they are there peppered amongst the different parts. If you see a part you like, be sure to click on it and look at the different pictures associated with the part below the main picture. Many of the pictures show how they can be used in a lamp or lighting fixture.

cabbage shredderShe decided on a wall mounted lamp, one that she could place near the corner of the room. It would replace the floor lamp that so desperately needed replacing. She came across several different styles of wall lamps pictures and then spotted one that incorporated an old cabbage shredder board, just like one that our daughter had given her a while back.

Read more: A Steampunk Wall Lamp from an old Cabbage Shredder