The steampunk community is pretty open to all creative types, but for those who are looking for any basic how-to books in order to get those artistic juices flowing, they are of a limited sort. A few craft books exist for jewelry and sewing projects, and there are online resources popping out everyday too. Yet for an efficient all-in-one resource for basic prop-making, one book I’d recommend to inspire a steampunk-in-the-making is Thomas Willeford’s Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos: A Maker’s Guide to Crafting Modern Artifacts. This book has already garnered some attention in sci-fi circles, and I had the opportunity to attain a copy myself for some project inspiration.
Willeford has been involved in steampunk since the 1980s (yes, it’s been around for that long), and his company Brute Force Studios is one of the most well-known steampunk props and clothier stores on the scene. So it makes sense for this experienced maker to offer up some “trade secrets” to help inspire the newbie in the community to build their own trappings.
What I appreciate most about this book is that it encompasses a lot of the values that are seen in the community itself: upcycling, DIY, and flexibility for all crafting abilities. Many of the base materials you can find at flea markets, yard sales, or junk yards as opposed to buying them new (and he gives the sound advice to research your secondhand finds to be sure you don’t unknowingly destroy something rare and valuable for the sake of your steamwear). You don’t have to have your own workshop to complete any of the projects, and Willeford encourages the reader to make their own personalized adjustments to the projects he’s assembled here. Moreover, there is even a chapter on one of the most common questions new steampunk craftspeople ask: where can we get those gears? The book shows one way by teaching the reader how to disassemble an old cuckoo clock (Willeford advises that these usually have the best types of authentic gears to use in projects if you don’t want to go scrounging for old watch parts). Steampunk Gear outlines a variety of fun projects that, altogether or separately, would be ideal for any steamsona: from the heavy-duty Gating gun arm attachment to a cute “Steampunk Hard Drive” ( aka a hard drive case using an old book). There are full-color illustrations throughout with detailed step-by-step instructions and little sidebar tips, which are especially helpful for the novice wood-shop worker.
Another aspect of Steampunk Gear that adds to its quirkiness are the fiction excerpts included throughout the text, based on the misadventures of Willeford’s steamsona Lord Featherstone and his companions. These adventurous snippets certainly give the how-to guide as a distinctive flavor that is appropriate for a subgenre that cherishes its literary roots. Kaja Foglio of Girl Genius also makes a cameo appearance by writing the introduction.
For those who enjoy Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos, you can also visit the book’s website for additional photos and bonus instructions on how to make your own monogoggle.
Ay-leen the Peacemaker is always looking for interesting ways to build things in her tiny apartment. In the meantime, she runs Beyond Victoriana, a blog on multicultural steampunk. You can follow her academic work on Academia.edu and everything else in her life via Twitter.