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.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Great Handcar Regatta

Location: Santa Rosa, CA


I have to say, what a lovely way to spend a summer Sunday. That day was exactly what folks would do if I ran the world.

Dr. Kitty seems to have gotten in good with the city, who would be fools to do anything but roll out the red carpet for this highly successful, low-risk event. It's in a little antique district called Railroad Square, there are vintage railcars parked there, and for one afternoon you could get away from the McDonalds and the Payday Loan joints and pretend the world was as it should be.

Racing rail-velocipedes is a fine, hearty pasttime for the young and the insane elderly, as it is approachable as a task (get something to run on train rails) and yet endlessly varied in its possibilities. Personally I was cheering on the team of teenagers. Most teenagers do nothing but mope.

Meanwhile there was plenty to do in the side-show and the overall spirit was one of doing and living steampunk (steampunks usually seem so dressed up with no place to go). Everyone was in their finest (even the toddlers), the muggles took the effort to toss on a top hat and goggles (all it takes to make you a steampunk, dontcha know)... even the yahoos looked nice! The police on the scene looked bemused... compared to a foot-ball game it must have been a cake-walk. While there are many of us who would defend ourselves quite fiercely from a mugger, steampunks do not fight each other, it's just so rude. Take it to the rails I say!

And take it to the rails they did. I did not notice or care who won. In fact, speed is the last thing I want from a railbike, seeing as they can be quite leisurely to ride. I was more interested in the bizarre modes of locomotion, and the artfully crafted vehicles. The guy with the rail-skis: Now here's a fellow who stuck to an awful idea all the way to its cumbersome conclusion. Three cheers!

Here's a lil' tip from uncle Payphone for the young fellows out there dressing steampunk: You can't give 98%. Just doesn't work. You've got your top hat, goggles, vest, white shirt, slacks, interesting pin or accessory... you can't wear Crocs. Or Tevas. No matter how hot it is. In fact, my sweetie asked, "Aren't all these people hot?" and I had to explain (being from the Antebellum myself) "Sweltering is a sign of good breeding."

See endless pictures at the flickr photo search.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Allpower Labs

Location: Berkeley, CA

I've begun to build gasifiers for a company called Allpower Labs. More on gasification later- this is a cool place to work in. They used to be off the grid, running on solar, until the city of Berkeley shut them down (go figure?) The Neverwas Haul lives here, so I can take tea in it every day if I want.

Coming from a family of machinists I have a love of beautiful old shop tools. Allpower Labs has a wonderful collection of machines from the San Francisco Navy Shipyard. No milling or lathing is necessary for you to assemble your own GEK (in order to keep it more accessible to the DIY builder), however, we sometimes use these tools when prototyping or altering GEK parts.

A 1968 Cincinnati dial mill, Cincinnati Ohio. Look at the beautiful badge!

A Burgmaster turret tap and bore, Gardenia California. This one has a Navy and an Air Force badge. The turrets allow you to run bulk jobs, making multiple cuts using up to six different bits, without having to change each time.

A 1955 Monarch lathe, Sidney Ohio. I love the tachometer:

This "Do-All" bandsaw (Des Plaines, IL) has a setting for cutting meteorites!

Finally, the big boy, a 1967 Jones & Lamson turret lathe:

I feel that machines like these are part of America's manufacturing heritage, and it's our duty to keep them loved and in use.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A Steampunk Summer in Oakland

I've moved to Oakland, CA, for the summer and the place is a-bustle with steampunk activity! I think San Francisco is the one place where the steampunks are just thick enough that we can have events that are well attended and get on with the real point of being a steampunk- living life in the setting we imagine to be ideal.


Neverwas is up to something! There are several steam-related projects going on at the Shipyard. One appears to be a steam generator. Another is some three-wheeled contraption with wheels from a 1920s Model T. Recently they hosted a High Tea on the Haul, a lovely afternoon affair that was attended by many folks in splendid regalia. I looked pretty greasy in my coveralls and dirty googles, but hey, I was working. Pewtersmithhas taken lovelier photos than I ever could so I'll let them do the justice:

Raygun Gothic Rocketship

The folks who built the Steampunk Treehouse are tinkering away again, this time on the Raygun Gothic Rocketship

They really are building a big giant rocket. Just like we all did when we were kids, except less duct tape.

Kinetic Steamworks

I wish I had more time to get over to this shop. Pappy was running and newly painted for Maker Faire (which was dominated by steampunks this year); then they suspended the sternwheeler from a crane for the Sand by the Ton party:

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

San Francisco

Location: California, USA

It is time once again for me to don the family pith helmet and go out into the wilds of the world in the name of discovery.  I traveled west from Chicago to the port city of San Francisco, planning to catch a steamer to Sydney and points antipodallycontinental.

One of my first stops was at  Paxton Gate is the steampunk's one-stop materiel-shop.  From taxidermied kraken to brass compassi, this place had everything for the lab and garden.  Unfortunately they wouldn't allow photographs due to the somewhat unnerving aspect of the various dead animals dressed up like the cutest little sad goth angels.  And other crimes against nature.  From odd medical glass to the skulls of class insectivora, don't miss this shop.

note- these pictures are really just the tip of the mad science iceberg.

Bootleg Jewelry:

Various rings and necklaces made from watch components and vacuum tubes.  And fingerbones.  Between this and the pirate store I'm beginning to be surprised by how well The Mission caters to my lifestyle.

Also, having a particular interest in paroxysm as a cure for hysteria and wandering womb, I stopped by the Good Vibrations store to view their collection of vintage vibrators extending to the Victorian era:

Follow my flickr stream here:

Cavorting around on what we thought were abandoned diesel locomotives got the attention of the old fellas who, it turned out, were about to start them up and use them.

"You know how to start one of these things?" he said, and then showed us.

Then we checked out the Musee Mechanique (and the nearby Electric Streetcar Museum).  The Musee Mechanique was a collection of Hurdy-Gurdies, Orchestria, and such coin-operated amusements:

Imagine my surprise to find a steam motorcycle there!

Indulged a bit in my love of moving bridges:

Checked out the cable car museum...

Then it was off to a taping of "Chode Warrior", a remake of Road Warrior with only bikes.

Check out my flickr stream for more pictures:

Visited NIMBY, a big warehouse for- like the name says- any project that nobody else wants to house.  It's divided up with containers, some of them shops, some of them houses.  See the flickr stream for rocket scooters and V8 blenders.

I thought this residence had the most lovely wrought-iron staircase:

Wednesday night is the Kinetic Steamworks work night.  They're working on Pops, their second traction engine.

Another steamball?

Why no, it's just a lantern!

This is the life of a steampunk- not a fantasy world of comic books, but a living breathing world filled with traces of the past mixed into hopes for the future.  See my flickr stream for more:

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