• Category Archives Steampunk
  • Steampunk projects

  • Arduino Flickering Code

    A number of people have asked me for the code for the Flickering LED for my Steampunk Tesla Cane.

    It’s a modified version of the standard “Fade” Arduino example code. The original code I borrowed appears to have disappeared, but this instructable (not mine) has some “flickering” sample code: that is very similar:

    Flickering Arduino Instructable

    Roughly, you make an array of values (the flicker[] below) and cycle through them. Some versions are far more complex, and generate a pseudo-random number for each step instead of a static set of values.

    int ledPin = 10;
    byte flicker[] = {180, 30, 89, 23, 255, 200, 90, 150, 60, 230, 180, 45, 90};

    void setup()
    pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);

    void loop()
    for(int i=0; i,7; i++)
    analogWrite(ledPin, flicker[i]);


  • Project Redo: Black Watch Officer’s Uniform Pith Helmet

    So originally I’d made this Pith Helmet for my Black Watch outfit:

    [singlepic id=15 w=640 h=480]

    On reflection, while it was historically fairly accurate…it didn’t actually fit me well. I’d sort of given up on finding one that fit (I have a big head!) until The Artist Wife ordered one for a project for her cousin. The one she ordered fit me GREAT! So I ordered another from the same supplier…and it fit “ok.” I finally removed the inner liner and restrung the string it used to give me a better fit. I also discovered that the naugahide liner was miscut, and didn’t fit well, so I cut a slot in a couple of places in the liner to have it fit better. Much more comfortable now!

    The Artist Wife also offered to vent the Helmet, so I couldn’t turn that down. So behold, the Vented Pith Helmet! (Click the slideshow to advance)

  • Changing with the times: Tesla Cane electronics rebuild

    It’s been a busy few months without posts, but there is lots of stuff going on, some of it even coming off the back burner!

    Wild Wild West Con 4 is rapidly approaching…and since my Tesla Cane Mk II (with a copy of the Mk I electronics but with the original chip) is in the Sky Harbor Airport Steampunk Exhibition as I mentioned last time, I needed to rebuild the electronics for the Mk I cane itself. I somehow lost (or maybe they were …stolen by an Airship Pirate Gang?!?!) the original code for the flickering, I needed to recreate it. I actually found an earlier version I was fairly happy with in a separate backup, and it made sense to rebuild all the electronics using a Trinket instead of the barebones chip: easier programming (via the built-in mini-USB), battery/voltage management, easy reset, cleaner pinouts, etc.

    The Mk I electronics were very simple (see here): I used a bare Atmel ATTiny chip, a resistor, and LED. In the last few years Adafruit and other companies have come along and make really awesome low-cost ATTiny-based boards (I covered them in this post about what to do when an Arduino is too big for your project), and I’d pickup up a couple of the Trinkets to play with. Since a bare ATTiny chip is $2-4 individually and a Trinket is $8…that seems a decent deal.

    So, out with the old:

    Tesla Cane Mk I Electronics
    Tesla Cane Mk I Electronics

    And in with the new:

    Tesla Cane Mk II Electronics
    Tesla Cane Mk II Electronics

    The Trinket is slightly bigger, but being able to reprogram via USB is a great advantage!

  • Steampunk: The Exquisite Adventure now at Sky Harbor Airport!

    The Steampunk Exhibit from the Scottsdale Library from last year is being reshown at the Sky Harbor Airport’s Art Gallery! Yes, the airport actually has an Art Gallery in Terminal 3.

    My Tesla Cane (actually Mk II of the cane – I made a new version just for such displays, but using the original electronics) and the original prototype Vented Hat by myself and the Artist Wife (along with a pair of our friend Tim’s goggles) are on display!

    Even better, the Vented Hat is featured very prominently on their website AND is the cover of the Announcement Postcard for the Exhibit! Woohoo!

    The Exhibit is located in several display cases located just inside the Parking Garage of Terminal 3, around the Starbucks. It’s easy to park in the garage and go see it (it’s all before TSA Security), please do so!

    The Exhibit runs through May 2015.

    Steampunk Exhibition at Sky Harbor Airport
    Steampunk Exhibition at Sky Harbor Airport
  • Project Completed: Black Watch Pith Helmet!

    With a lot of help from The Artist Wife, the Pith Helmet for the Black Watch outfit is done!

    The tartan is stiffened with medium weight interfacing to give it some body and was then folded over into a double thickness and spray-adhesived together to make a single piece, and glued (using E6000) to the pith helmet. The red feather hackle is also glued into the puggaree (the band running around the hat) with E6000.

    Next, I trimmed the metal pins from the back of the badge and added some scrap foamboard to give enough surface area that the badge (which is convex) could be glued to the tartan fabic.

    All that nice evenness and well-trimmed edges? That’s the Artist Wife. 🙂

    Lastly, I replaced the pleather band with nice laredo strapping that ties into the inside of the helmet’s supports.


  • New Project: Black Watch Officer’s Uniform Pith Helmet

    I’m working on a new Steampunk outfit, but I’m not going to reveal the Steampunk elements yet!

    The outfit is a Victorian Black Watch Officer’s Uniform, the desert (Africa) version:

    British Victorian Era South Africa campaign Scottish Regiment Uniform

    The image is a Argyll & Sutherland Regiment and I’m doing Black Watch, but it’s mostly the same. There are a number of cool parts of this uniform: the khaki colors were originally issued white, that was either mud or tea dyed by the troops. Apparently the Boer guerrillas in Africa had a great time picking off the British Officer’s in their nice white uniforms, so the troops used “field expedient” methods to make themselves less of a target.

    My first step has been creating the pith helmet. I started with an “Imperial” style British Pith Helmet. These are the taller ones that were more common earlier in the 19th Century. Later on the flatter wider “Wolseley” Pith Helmets became more common. The Black Watch had a couple of special uniform elements that were unique (or semi-unique) to their uniforms: first was they wore a Black Watch tartan patch under the badge on the side of the helmet, and second they had the right to wear a red feather “hackle” on their helmets. This is a period example from the Canadian precursor to the Black Watch, of the later part of the 19th Century:

    Wolseley-style 5th Royal Canadian Highlanders

    I later found a recreation of the exact helmet I wanted: the 42nd Black Watch Pith Helmet, with tartan patch, helmet badge, and red hackle:

    Reproduction Black Watch Pith Helmet

    I got the Pith Helmet from Gentleman’s Emporium and the badge and hackle from ebay. A friend had some extra Black Watch fabric from when they were in the SCA, so that became the patch. So here is my version, ready to be attached!

     photo 1970702_10202831911737356_755132670_n_zps46d2e52d.jpg

    An interesting note is that this is before the commonplace pin-and-clamp on the back of pins and badges now…they used a seperate cotter pin to hold the badge on, through holes in the puggaree (the wrapping around the helmet). I may use those if the Artist Wife helps with the cutting/pinning, or I may just glue the whole setup on.

  • The TARDIS chocker is done!

    After a few fits and starts (finding a case I was happy with was really hard!) I’ve finally finished the TARDIS lantern necklace for my friend!

    It consists of a small Tim Holtz Lantern that had an incandescent bulb powered by 2 AA batteries, which I retrofitted, removing the cheapo flashlight bulb and replacing itwith a white LED. The wires run through black necklace chain to a battery pack that my friend will wear tucked in her corset.

    The battery pack is a cool little case from New Age Electronics (via Mouser) that combines space for 2 AAA batteries (more than enough juice for this) and space for a small circuit board on the opposite side:

    AAA Project Box Blowout
    AAA Project Box Blowout

    Note that if you’re going to use the same box (which I really like) the battery “plates” are seperate, just make sure you order those on Mouser, too. The circuit board is a stripboard I got from ebay, cut and drilled to size. The wires are heatshrinked and come in through a hole in the side:

    Sideview of completed box
    Sideview of completed box, wires visible. The side opposite the batteries holds the circuit board.
    The circuitboard
    The circuitboard showing the ATTiny and resistor

    The circuit is basically the same thing as the Tesla Cane ATTiny, except running a “fade” program I tinkered with to get a more Doctor Who-like effect. Here is it in action (I love this thing in the dark!):


    Completed Choker
    Completed Choker

  • Steampunk Top Hat weight reduction

    One of the things I learned wearing my vented Steampunk Top Hat for 3 days at Wild Wild West Con was that it was darned heavy! 

    The hat weighed just over 15 ounces (426g) and I had a sore spot on my forehead after wearing it all weekend. Brass is darned heavy!

    To reduce the weight, I removed all the brass nuts and aluminum washers from the inside (where no one sees) with nylon nuts (foregoing the washers, I don’t think it needs them):

    Brass nuts and aluminum washers removed from the hat
    Brass nuts and aluminum washers removed from the hat

    This reduced the weight by over 1.8 ounces (53g to be precise)…more than 13% less! Already it feels dramatically lighter…if I still have issues I may reduce the weight of or remove the goggles entirely…

  • Wild Wild West Con II post event recap

    The Artist Wife and I just returned from our first Steampunk Convention, Wild Wild West Con II (WWWC2). We had a fantastic time!

    The Artist Wife had a vendor booth, and her Vented Hats were a big hit, and generated a lot of buzz. We both learned a lot about what was available for sale and what people wanted, so next year will be even better!

    I also, for the first time ever, have an “art” commission, which is pretty amazing considering I’m not anything resembling a crafty person…I do much better with electrons than anything else. But I do have an order for some of my steampunk shotgun shells, and rest assured they’ve be on display here once I’m done with them!

    We also got to see various artists perform, including Professor Elemental, the Hip-Hop Steampunk rapper, Steam Powered Giraffe (the most awesome live band you’ve ever seen!), The League of S.T.E.A.M., and Abney Park!

    I was quite stunned and pleased to be asked for my picture quite often (20+ times) — the outfit I was wearing (black dress slacks, white Victorian-style shirt, red canvas vest, gold silk cravat with squid stickpin, and a canvas duster) is quite striking!

    Chris and Susan at WWWC2

    My “rose colored glasses” were also a hit! They are prescription lenses in pink tint (80%) from Zenni Optical, and they cost $25, shipped!

    The biggest thing I need to change on my outfit is the weight of my vented top hat…It was the prototype for The Artist Wife’s vented hats (you can see a vented bowler in our pic above), and I used brass bolts and nuts, and its heavy! I just ordered (from ebay, of course) some nylon nuts to replace the brass ones on the inside of the hat that nobody sees…that should significantly lower the weight as there are 42 nuts(5 vents times 8 nuts) each of brass with nylon. Once they arrived, I’ll calculate the weight difference and post it just for informational purposes.

    Lastly, the Tesla Cane was a huge hit! I got comments like “awesome” and “epic” and one guy declared it the coolest thing he’d seen, and with some of the mechanical arms, wings, guns, and other fabulous stuff out there I was beside myself!

    I’ve already got ideas for Version 2 running around in my head, as well as some ideas for a “Tesla Sword” out of a basket-hilted broadsword I’ve had for years.

    Wow…I’ve got a ton of projects to do! I’d better get to work!

  • Project One: The Steampunk Tesla Cane lives!

    It’s alive!

    At long last, Version 1 of my Steampunk Tesla cane is done, just in time for the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention!

    Steampunk Tesla Cane!
    Steampunk Tesla Cane!

    The original idea of using a Plasma Ball never really went anywhere, and when I saw another cane made by Der Geis while googling around, I decided to change directions a bit…

    For my cane, the upper cane body is made of Delrin, a plastic that is easily machined, made by a friend of mine who is an expect machinist and uses a lathe and Delrin for making many parts. The stuff is very easy to work with, but doesn’t accept paint well, so its still black, but it does look a bit rubbery, so that fits with the electrical theme. A future redo may use wood or some other material, but Delrin was an easy and fast prototype material. The entire section is held together by hex key screws so I could disassemble and change things around. Oddly enough, the hex key (Allen key) isn’t widely outside of “period” for Steampunk, having been developed around 1910! Future versions won’t need this flexibility, so I may redo the head in wood, or maybe not… The tubes are held in place by grease fittings called “zerks” that are used for greasing some engines, and I borrowed the idea from Der Geis’s cane. My friend also custom made the brass insert from round stock, as well as the aluminum end cap. The interior of the handle is hollow, houses the electronics and batteries, and is wrapped in leather cord for a grip and a sword-like appearance.

    Cane top
    Cane top
    Chamber closeup
    Chamber closeup

    The shaft of the cane is a wood dowel from another project, wrapped with twisted brass wire, and secured to the chamber of the cane with two more grease zerks, one for each wire. The twisting was done using a pair of safety wire twisting pliers. These are special pliers that are designed to twist wire together for safety links or jewelry. I love the look! Just google around for the “safety wire twisting pliers” and you’ll find them.

    Now to the insides! The light tube is the body of a “lightsaber” keychain, just like the one cane I’m pseduo-copying, but I didn’t just use the whole thing like he did. I removed everything but the plastic light tube, supplying my own blue LED. I built a custom circuit using an ATTiny85 (I describe that here) and googled around for interesting affects I could make. That boiled down to two: I could pulse the LED on/off or I could use a “flickering candle” style. I posted a poll (here) and the overwhelming result was the flickering…I agree, it looks like its working, but just barely…very Steampunk!

    Here is the entire circuit: the ATTiny85 in a socket for easy programming, the battery pack (3 AAA batteries in a round holder stolen from a $2 flashlight), a resistor, and the LED, heatshrinked into the end of the lighttube. The LED uses about 20mw of power and I get 1000mw from the batteries at around 4.5v…I left it running for 24 hours as a burn in and the batteries are still pretty full! I did not put in an on/off switch, as I didn’t have one that fit well, that’s for a future version.

    The guts photo
    The guts photo

    I don’t have a great video of the cane running in the completed form, but the effect is clear in this prototype video I made for my friend who worked the Delrin for me: