During the year, at various Steampunk Festivals and ComicCons, it’s always been the Steam, Smoke & Mirrors plan to pitch up with a new Steampunk prop - something to freshen the look of our stand. The set up is ‘designed’ (well, more cobbled together) to give the appearance of a Victorian era/Steampunk office. I’ve always been mindful that even with the best will in the world a bookstand promoting a few books can look fairly dull. Especially with me standing behind the counter.
Which is why we have the Steampunk Spectrascopic Babbage Computer on display, scrolling through a slideshow of relevant images, and the wired-up Garrideb skull flashing his eyes at passers-by and the copper pipes spelling out ‘Steam, Smoke & Mirrors’ emblazoned on the board across the front.
All of which I’ve made, in traditional Steampunk-style, from discarded off-cuts, scraps and recycled bits and bobs.
The latest addition to our display was a Steampunk Telescope; inspired by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, the setting of the baffling murders Michael and Phoebe investigate in ‘The Nostradamus Curiosity’.
The starting point was a beautifully made but totally unused plastic telescope we bought SteamMark 1 years ago when he was at school.
On that first evening I helped him set up the precision instrument outside so we could sit and study the stars. Unfortunately, it was a particularly chilly night. We stayed out there for 15 minutes, decided astronomy was more a warm weather hobby and came back inside. The telescope was then slipped back in its box.
And never came out again.
Until I had an idea…
A Steampunk Telescope.
Now, rather than simply spray paint it brass or bronze or whatever, I figured the ‘scope needed a whole bunch of features of interest. Following the advice of legendary Steampunk droid builder Chris Osborne, I thought I’d try using Crafting Foam to give the barrels a bit of relief and detail. But Crafting Foam is a bugger to use because no matter how accurately you measure a length to shape and size, it will always shrink and come out too short. Or stretch and make itself too long, or too wide. It has a cunning, mind-of-its-own nature does Crafting Foam. To make matters even more annoying, in addition to regular sheet Foam, I threw in a bit of webbing design Foam, which Chris gave me, and a few obligatory cogs and rivets.
I glued a few strips of regular Foam to the lens shield and the finding scope.
I then gingered up the Foam by patiently (!!) supergluing half-bead shapes to give the impression of rivets. The webbing Foam I wrapped around the top and bottom ends of the main tube.
I also offered up the chain as a little extra detail to see if it added much visually.
Next job was to work on the black plastic legs which formed the ‘scope’s tripod. I wanted to give the locking mechanisms and support brackets a brassy metallic look, and the leg struts a mahogany-wood finish. A matt gold spray and dipping into a half-used tin of Dulux ‘Conker’ coloured gloss paint kind of worked.
The various smaller parts of the ‘scope, the altazimuth clamp, the finderscope clamp, the eyepiece, focussing knobs and the accessory tripod, took a spray coat of matt black primer before the final full-bling matt gold colours were applied.
Because I wanted to retain the integrity of ‘scope as a practical instrument, in the unlikely event we ever got the urge to going stargazing again, I masked all the lenses before priming and spraying a coat of rose gold. Hence the not very professional but nevertheless effective method of shoving a rag down the ends.
Here’s the lens shield and lens cap detail before priming, along with the finished result.
And once the instrument was put together it looked like this…
I know. It still needs extra detail work for interest and to industrialise it further, but here’s the Smoke & Mirrors Steampunk Telescope making its debut at the National Space Centre in Leicester during the magnificent event: ‘Steampunks in Space 2019’!