The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Kumasi Suame Magazine

Location: Kumasi, Ghana

If I were forced to pin myself down within the wide world of victorian anachronistic retrofuturism, I would fall in the pith-helmet set by birthright, as much I wish I was from blue-blooded Royal Society stock or New England Bell Labs old money.  Since the early 1800s my family has hacked its way into the jungle to install telephone networks, canals, and railroads for the United Fruit Company.  Now the Great White Fleet is long gone and I have taken up the family pith helmet (and gin-and-tonic) to work in the field of, basically, undoing the effects of colonization by my ancestors.

This puts me in the tropics with a need to weld.  Now, forge welding has been around for centuries but the electric arc wasn't discovered until 1800.  If the development of arc welding in the late 1800s does not convince you that this is steampunk, I hope you will consider that there is nothing to it but scrap steel and electricity, so I provide it not as a look-at-this-nifty-craft post but more of a look-what-you'll-be-making-after-the-apocalypse post.

Strips of scrap steel are woven into a square, which is clamped with angle iron.  The square is wrapped with varying lengths of rag-wrapped copper wire- three "in" taps and five "out" taps.  The whole thing is dropped in oil and away you weld.

Incidentally, these are made at Kumasi Suame Magazine, an amazing five-square-mile neighborhood/junkyard in which anything imaginable is cut up, chopped, reconfigured, or made from scratch.  Neighborhoods like this exist in most third-world cities.  The thin, twisty alleyways run between large piles of inhabited scrap metal, courtyards are walled by stacks of junk buses, and giant bulldozer engine blocks sit like boulders among guys making drums or mills or screws (!) while kids pump the bellows.

Check out the wall of trucks defining this relatively wide-open courtyard (can you see the VW beetle?), in the second picture it appears an ambulance is being used for a bedroom.

Don't forget that the Victorian era was one of rampant colonization, exploitation, and imperialism.  This is the other side of MY steampunk life.

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