We had a somewhat exciting project day yester...

December 11, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

We had a somewhat exciting project day yesterday, though fortunately I didn't have to do most of the work.

We were without power for the middle of the day. There were some power lines that had to get moved for the balcony remodel. At the same time, they ran power to the shed. The shed itself now has a roof, though it still needs tons of other things, like windows and a door.

On an unrelated note, we got our digital converters for our television sets. It was relatively painless to get the tvs currently on analog hooked up to a little box and switched over. As a bonus, our older televisions now get the higher channels which they couldn't before.

Yeah, kinda looks like a severed robot thumb

October 21, 2008 by Jamie in Adam's Projects

Yeah, kinda looks like a severed robot thumb....kinky ;-)

I had some gold foil left, and a bland lookin...

October 21, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I had some gold foil left, and a bland looking USB key. When I had the kids on Sunday, I decided to work on it while they were drawing and such. It went pretty quickly and Sam helped put the foil on. I did a couple layers of gold, then vinegar to get the patina right. Next it was sprayed-on polyurethane and a thick layer of harder plastic. By this afternoon it was dry enough to reassemble and glue.

I'm pretty happy how it turned out. I occasionally need some portable storage when I forget my big drive, so it's nice to just keep around. Plus it looks cool.

My steampunking continues

October 12, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My steampunking continues.

Yesterday I took off the front of my monitor and applied a layer of gold foil. It's impossible to work with, easily tearing and blowing away at the slightest breath. Somehow I managed to apply a layer everywhere, along with a second round of patching the holes.

I wanted to go with the aged patina look, so instead of the expensive stuff you could buy, I dripped vinegar all over. I figure artists don't know their acid/base chemistry, so I managed to save some bucks. Today I sprayed on multiple coats of polyurethane and reassembled everything.

It looks pretty good, though now I feel like I should do something with my mouse and keyboard. Hmm . . .

Ah, the things I do for my Steampunk office

September 05, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

Ah, the things I do for my Steampunk office. Yesterday I decided to pretty up my old flatbed scanner. I have a bunch of vinyl laying around from the keyboard mod and decided to give the scanner a faux-leather top. I broke out the scissors and a hot glue gun, and went to work.

Well, it turns out the hot glue gun's first word is "hot" for a reason. I ended up giving myself a bad burn when I squeezed out some hot glue on my finger. Soon I was a demonstration for the kids on why you should be careful. Jamie informed me that the really stupid thing was that I'd already given myself several small burns, but kept going anyway.

In any case, it turned out fairly well. I like the fake rivets made from brass-plated paper holders. They're stuck on with glue, so it's purely decorative, but so is most of the stuff around here. I'll eventually do something to the bottom, though I think I'll avoid anything to do with a hot glue gun.

For the last couple months, Sam and I have be...

August 20, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

For the last couple months, Sam and I have been working away at a Steampunk keyboard mod. At this point, it's fully operational, though there are still endless little tweaks we could do. It's a little far to get to the Enter key, and the Shift keys seem to require an extra stretch for my fingers. Still, I can touch type without problem and Sam was able to play Unreal Tournament 3 without any issue.

My office area continues to get that high-tech Victorian look. Sam and I painted and added "rivets" to his computer case. Jamie bought me a neat candle holder for my birthday and promptly forgot about it, bringing it to me last night while I gave Emma a bath (she sang Happy Birthday to me when I opened it).

Fun, fun.

Last week, Jamie headed up to Portland with P...

July 21, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

Last week, Jamie headed up to Portland with Pat and his family. Pat found this pair of WWII pilot's headphones that I told him to buy. They're in great condition with rubber covers over the speakers, cloth-insulated wires, and leather straps keeping it in place. I took apart some of it and discovered the date "Feb 11 1944" inside one speaker.

It took me a long time to figure out how to actually hook it up to the computer. After hours of testing connections and trying different configurations, I ended up going with the least destructive approach. I couldn't convince myself to cut those beautiful wires, so I ended up taking an existing set of headphone wires and hooking them up in parallel.

It works great, other than needing an extender for the headphone wires. The sound quality is actually not too bad. It's stereo, unlike the original setup, and I now have it hooked up to Sam's computer.

As an aside, you can see the mouse we painted over to the right in this picture. It actually includes a "Brass Zeppelin" logo on the top, instead of the Logitech one.

Probably our next step is to paint Sam's computer and make it match the rest of the stuff. Eventually I want to work on the keyboard as well, which is getting close, but still has some glitches.

The last couple days were very much project days

July 09, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

The last couple days were very much project days. Sam was gung-ho on working on things, plus I got some supplies while in Portland.

First off are recent additions to the Fossil computer. I purchased a wood keyboard and mouse, which look fairly good, if relatively cheap construction. I visited the Fossil Cartel in Portland and added a trilobite to the keyboard and a nautilus for the mouse. I ended up using my Dremil with pretty good results, other than a scratch on the mouse. All that remains is doing something for the monitor and speakers and then the theme should be perfect.

Turning to Sam's computer, we took my old monitor and went with a metallic look. We took off the plastic and spray painted it gold. Visiting a scrap yard, we found some metallic shapes that look like leaves. Those were painted copper and artistically arranged. Everything got an "antiquing" pass where we basically painted in black and grime to give it a used look. For the finishing touch, my "Brass Zeppelin" plaque was glued to the base.

The keyboard is slowly coming together. I did a trial run to see if I could type with it. The back needs lots more support and there are a few keys that have problems, but the proof-of-concept was promising.

It began with a trip to Fred Meyers, as Jamie...

June 30, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

It began with a trip to Fred Meyers, as Jamie need to pick up some miscellaneous things and she left me with the kids. As we wandered the toy section, killing a half an hour, I noticed the Nerf weaponry was on sale. Soon enough, we slyly tossed a Nerf pistol and a couple packages of glow-in-the-dark darts into her basket.

When we arrived home, Sam and Emma ran around playing with it. In particular, he liked the rotating barrel and satisfying cocking mechanism.

Once I pried it out of his hands, I sanded off the identifying marks, spray painted, and did my usual hand painting to make it look properly dirty and aged. It turned out exceptionally well, especially with the glowing darts. Very Steampunk, needless to say.

My family decided there was a special place i...

June 26, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My family decided there was a special place in Hell reserved for people who abuse antiques. Sam wanted to go antique shopping with Jamie. Since I was sick and wanted to "get the stink blown off me", I tagged along. While there, I found an antique slide library made by Bausch and Lomb that looked exactly like a book with a ship on the front. Seeing a price tag of only $15, I bought it on the spot.

Later I ripped out all the slide holders and carefully cut a hole in the back. I disassembled my portable hard drive and it all nicely fit. Now I'm gluing everything over night and come morning it should be ready enough to haul to work. Even better, the power cord fits nicely inside.

I need to secure it better and there's also a glowing light that shows drive activity. I'm sorely tempted to make a strip in the front with clear letters or symbols and have the light show through.

The Audioscope is pretty much done at this point

June 23, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

The Audioscope is pretty much done at this point. I screwed in a leather holder for the MP3 player, hiding the ugly wires. Sam came up with a great idea to make gear-like holders for the speakers. They're made from Sculpey, baked, and painted with assorted gold and black paints. The amplifier part of the component stopped working, but the speakers are great. Sam listened to old radio broadcasts of The Shadow last night in his room.

I did some more work on the keyboard, making holes for the key posts in the vinyl. Drilling holes failed horribly, wrecking the surrounding vinyl. I tried a Dremel to sand off the vinyl stretched over the holes, but that was fairly rough. My best result was with an Exacto knife and small scissors, making a rough square-shaped holes. Fortunately the material stretches so well that it didn't matter. My next step is to paint the white plastic black so it goes well with everything else.

I'll try to post some pictures when I get home tonight.

One of the items that seems to come up regula...

June 22, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

One of the items that seems to come up regularly in Steampunk building projects is that of the orrery. While it would take far too much time to make some elaborate system of gears to turn the planets around a sun, I ended up doing something much simpler with the same concept.

Sam and I were playing with Sculpey and I said, "let's make planets". Pretty soon I had baked and colored planets resting on little brass posts. I took some wood trim, drilled holes, and varnished it for the stand. Towards the end of the day I made a label reading "Royal Astronomical Society - Eridani Expedition 1893", added planet names, and glued them on.

Now it looks like part of a secret history expedition to the stars. It seems quiet appropriate next to my framed advertisement for rayguns.

The new Audioscope is almost finished. I've taken out the light, as something went horribly wrong with the amplifying portion of the electronics. Fortunately the new speakers work great with the mp3 player alone. The only task left to do is to tack down a leather cradle to hold the player and hide the speaker wires.

I did a little more work on the Audioscope ye...

June 18, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I did a little more work on the Audioscope yesterday, drilling bigger holes for the speakers, putting in holes for wires, soldering wires, and generally trying to get everything to fit properly. I'm thinking I'll end up disassembling a lot of the work I've already done. I suppose that if it's in the name of art, everything's fair.

Sam and I made some huge progress with the St...

June 16, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

Sam and I made some huge progress with the Steampunk keyboard. It was a day filled with sorrow and jubilation, as we had some great successes and a few catastrophic failures.

First off, we cut out all the letters, glued them into the buttons, and put on a thick layer of lacquer. Unfortunately when we saw the final result this morning, the black ink had bled into lacquer and the letters were virtually unreadable. Sobbing at the hours of work, we ripped out the letters and started again with plain buttons.

This time we tested a single button with a spray of polyurethane, which turned out much better. We ended up cutting out every button, inking the edges, and using the spray for all of them. It took hours, but the results were great.

The next step was to glue them on the pegs the keys rested on. I decided on gluing them in-place, just to make sure we didn't miss any key and we got them on straight. It was a good idea in some regards, as we found we missed a keys and had to reprint one. Later when removing the keys so we could get the base looking good, I discovered several keys had become superglued to the base.

It was very frustrating, but I was able to remove most of them with careful use of brute force. Unfortunately the L was permanently affixed. I ripped off the key and drilled out the base, swapping with a good base for a key I never press. Eventually every key but one was finished, though there was definitely suffering along the way. Now I'm thinking of how to handle the space bar. Currently I'm slowly cutting one out of brass with a Dremel, but it's slow going.

In other Steampunk news, I ordered a tiny pair of speakers for use with a Creative mp3 player. The evil marketing people had carefully made it so it can only plug into the speaker jack of their products. Fortunately fifteen minutes with a Dremel fixed that. I haven't put it into the Audoscope yet in any pretty way, but I hooked it up to the mp3 player and the sound is great. The current underpowered headphones should be nicely amplified, making it actually practical.

I continue to do a little steampunk work ever...

June 12, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I continue to do a little steampunk work every day, it seems. Last week I made a fun little "Brass Zeppelin" plaque out of Sculpey and spraypaint. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but I was thinking I should come up with an imaginary company name. I decided that the Brass Zeppelin Trading Company summed up the key steampunk elements nicely.

The buttons arrived yesterday and I cheerfully discovered that they should work great for the keyboard project. If you look at the screenshot, you'll see the letters and symbols I printed out to go inside the buttons. I started cutting them out with scissors, but quickly realized that I probably need to make a 3/8" hole punch if I want to get it done this century.

The vinyl also showed up. It's an unusual material, though I think it'll work for my project. It's surprisingly stretchy, and I'm trying to figure out how to best use it. Sam wants to make a vest with the left over parts. We'll see how that turns out.

I can tell that I'm going to need my dad's help soon. I'm running into limits that require a full machine shop.

The crazy steampunk keyboard project continues

June 06, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

The crazy steampunk keyboard project continues.

Yesterday Sam and I finished up the rest of the keys. I had some free time after dinner, so I cut the tops off with a Dremel and made a big pile for Sam and I to clean up before his bedtime. He'd pop the tops off that were still dangling by a few threads and then I'd clean up the rough parts of the plastic. Pretty soon we had a pile of garbage and a pile of key bases.

I noticed there were slight differences between the key bases. We'll probably have to sort them out before we stick buttons on. Speaking of which, I ordered 110 brass buttons that I hope will work along with a bunch of vinyl. I'm nervous about the button sizes, though theoretically the dimensions will work.

After falling in love with the steampunk keyb...

June 03, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

After falling in love with the steampunk keyboards, I took the first baby steps to making my own. Emma helped me disassemble an ancient HP keyboard. All that remains are the electronics, keys, and the big piece of plastic the keys go into. Emma helpfully gathered up all the keys in a big container as I popped them out.

Later that evening, Sam donned the safety goggles Sadie bought and I taught him how to cut the keys apart with a Dremel. All we want is the post so that later we can glue new keys on. I think we managed to get eight done, with a little under a hundred to go.

My little Steampunk hobby continues

May 28, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My little Steampunk hobby continues. I decided to do something a bit more practical, buying some nice glass jars for my bathroom, painting the tops, and putting fun labels on them.

For the less scientific among you, "Follicle Restraining Gelatine" is hair gel and "Photonic Resistance Cream" is sunscreen. They're way more cool with the new names, though.

Jamie did the calligraphy, which I'm hoping is a sign of acceptance, if not actual enthusiasm. She hardly complained about my paper aging via soaking in tea bags.

I'm going to declare the Audioscope finished

May 26, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I'm going to declare the Audioscope finished. As with most of my hardware projects, there's a comedy of errors that resulted in me having to redo things again. I'd fix one issue, only to have another pop up. The most recent was that one of the speakers stopped working due to a broken connection when I bent the headphone wire to make the mp3 player fit. I also lost one of my fake rivets from the front part.

Still, a bit of soldering and glue later, everything seems to work and it looks appropriately Steampunkish. The speakers aren't as loud as I want, but I'm quite happy with the paint job on the mp3 player. That went fast and worked the best of all my experiments.

It might be fun to do another Steampunk project, but I think I'd stick to something simpler and practical. On the plus side, my office got cleaned up and looks very nice. I really like the dark wood and bare metal look. Plus it helped that I made Sam move all his Legos and other stuff.

My little Steampunk MP3 player continues to c...

May 18, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My little Steampunk MP3 player continues to come along nicely. I discovered some great gold/brass spray paint that we had. I love the way it looks and it was pretty easy to apply. The hard part was carefully disassembling the plastic case so I didn't break anything horribly. After that I masked off the plastic screen and sprayed away.

I took some black paint, diluted it, and smeared it around to give it the "aged metal" look. Later I took some tinfoil to make the faceplate, sprayed it, and glued it on. To complete the look, I cut the tops off tiny brass nails and glued them on as rivets.

I'd like to add some lettering to the buttons to the right. If I can find some good stamps, I'll probably write on them with a Sharpie and then apply it that way. There's some crazier techniques that involve printing from a computer onto plastic, and then applying that before the ink dries. I'll probably try that as a last resort.

I'm getting a little obsessive about my Audio...

May 15, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I'm getting a little obsessive about my Audioscope thingie. I had forgotten about how much time hardware takes and what a big mess it makes.

The speakers are glued in and work fine. If you close the box, it looks and works great. Yesterday I added a light that turns on when you open it. I had it working and looking great, and then this morning it mysteriously stopped working. Now I've got to go through and trace the connections to figure out which is bad.

Sam keeps giving me high praise for my contraption, though, which helps me carry on.

For those of you who don't follow every obscu...

May 12, 2008 by Adam in Adam's Projects

For those of you who don't follow every obscure subculture, you might want to familiarize yourself with steampunk. It's basically a romantic combination of Victorian style with modern technology, or at least what high technology might have been like. It goes nicely with my obsessions about antiques and period furniture. Without even thinking about it, I suppose my brass and wood computer is an early version of steampunk.

I woke up at four this morning, with an unsleeping Emma. I wasn't able to get back to bed as I lay next to her, so I dreamed up this wacky device called an Audioscope. It's basically a modern music box, with tiny speakers hooked up to an mp3 player in its heart.

It works, in the sense that it plays music, but it still needs a bit more fiddling. The speakers have to be screwed in. I have a cool light that causes a tube full of fluorescent dye to glow, but it's not hooked in. I'd like to make the mp3 player itself less plastic looking, perhaps covering it in leather.

Sam thinks it's immensely cool and even Jamie hasn't made her usual level of fun of my little obsession. Hopefully it'll work out and be a vaguely practical art object.

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