Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 1
- Written by Daniel Livingston
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.
The 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.
Next 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.
Many of the lamps on eBay incorporated a big brass water meter, the kind you find connected between the water mains and the pipes inside a building or house. These are still made of brass and the design has not seemed to change in years. If you open the lid, the meter is obviously newer, but the lid will remain closed when installed upright on the lamp, thanks to gravity. I scored one on eBay for $40. It will need some shinin' but it's just what I needed. For a little more $ you could even get older more vintage looking meters. Again, the damn "Steampunk" tag has been added to many of the older meters, hiking the prices.
I purchased an assortment of 1/2-inch steel "Black Pipe" at Home Depot or Lowes. I got several different lengths, including 2, 4, 6 and 8 inches pieces. I also purchased a few 1/2 inch threaded "T" joints and half a dozen 1/2 inch 90 deg. elbows.I never really knew how expensive Black Pipe was. It seems that iron prices must have gone through the roof since the last time I bought any as I don't remember paying so much. Now, I always buy more than I need, as you can just take the extras back. That and I was already thinking about making a second lamp.
While in the Black Pipe section, I picked up a Threaded Floor Flange that will be used to mount the lamp to the wooden base. Since this part will be hidden from view by my gears, it was not important that it is not black like the other pipes.
I must have stood there, staring at the black pipe selection for 15 minutes, trying to figure out what I needed. I had to fend off the guys in their orange kitchen aprons several times. I'm not one to ask for help, especially when I am using common objects to make uncommon things. I just want to avoid the uncomfortable conversations like I've had in the past.
Clerk: "Sir, may I help you?"
Me: "Why yes, I'm looking for foam water pipe insulation."
Clerk: "OK, we have that. What size water pipe will you be installing it on?"
Me: "Oh, it's not for a water pipe. I'm using it to make the leg section of my Lost in Space Robot"
Me: "Uh, never mind."
So, I usually resort to buying more than I should as I never really know what I will need. They make it so easy to return what you don't use. I have some receipts where I've returned different items on the same receipt, at different times.
Continued in Build a "Steampunk" Lamp - Part 2.