Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Steampunk Phonograph (pt.3)

It's only a week until Origins, and I've been working furiously to finish my props for the steampunk LARP I'm running, "Æthernauts". I haven't had much time to post, and won't have until I get back. But until then, here's an update on the Steampunk Phonograph.

In part 1, I showed you the faux wax cylinders I made from toilet paper tubes. I also made some cardboard boxes for them, but had not yet printed out the labels. Finally I have finished them. Here is the final product in all its glory.

I modeled the packaging after the old player piano rolls we used to have in my house when I was young. I'm not sure how old they were, but I imagine they were probably from the 30's and 40's.

Then, in part 2, I showed you the phonograph horn I made from cardboard and a plastic cone. I puzzled and puzzled over how I was going to attach the horn to the body of the phonograph. I wanted to preserve the opening at the base of the cone, so that it looked like the sound really was traveling up the pipework into the horn (and to a small degree it actually would). But I just couldn't figure out a way to do that with a strong enough joint. So, I finally decided that I would have to secure it by closing off the end of the horn with a custom fitted washer assembly and a screw. I will then embed the nut for the screw into a plug in the connecting pipe, so that the horn will screw into place and the shaft of the screw will bear its weight.

With this new design, if you were to look down the barrel of the horn, you would see that the end is closed off (and has a big screw in it), which will kind of kill the illusion. So I needed some way to obfuscate the small end of the horn. I got the idea to install a piece of wire mesh, like a speaker grill, into the neck of the horn. I had recently cut up a piece of chromed wire mesh for a vent cover on the Steampunk Diving Helmet I'm working on. I had it sitting nearby and it looked appropriate for the job.

I cut out a paper template the size of the opening at the large end of the plastic cone. Using that for a size reference, I cut the wire mesh in a circle and bent in the edges. I thought that it would look a little nicer if it were slightly domed rather than flat, so I bent it with my hands using a decorative stone sphere as a form.

Here is what it looks like in the neck of the horn. Of course, real phonographs never had any such grill, but they never had lasers to read the cylinders either. Since this is a fantasy steampunk phonograph, and not a period reproduction, I can do what I want with it. Besides, real period cylinder players, that I have seen pictures of, had much smaller horns anyway. The big flower-like horns seemed to come about more with the later model disc playing phonographs.

The next order of business is paint. It took me a little while to decide on a paint scheme. I originally wanted a mahogany finish, but since neither the horn nor the box have wood grain, I had not real way to pull that off convincingly. Finally I decided to go with gloss black panels with gold accents, simulating black lacquer and brass trim. First, I painted the outside edges gold.

Then I masked the edges off with a thin strip of masking tape before painting the whole outside with gloss black spray paint. After removing the masking tape, I got a nice lacquer and brass effect.

For the inside, I did the same thing, but this time, I painted the panels gold too. I wanted the inside to have more style to it. Some baroque gold inlay would set off the black lacquer very nicely. I drew out a a scroll pattern on a piece of paper, then traced it with a wide tipped marker. I stacked several sheets of paper together and cut the design out with an xacto knife. Then I gave the cut out template a light shot of spray adhesive. Just enough to let it stick, but not enough to make it adhere permanently. Then I laid the paper masks in place.

Then I painted over the masking tape and paper masks with gloss black.

Here is the final result. Pretty snazzy!

 Now I'm not sure if I want to use the wire grill. I probably will though. Once the screw assembly is in place, I won't like seeing it.

Now I'm working on the body of the phonograph. Since I'm using a pre-fab box, most of what is left is arranging the bits of copper and pvc pipe that I'm using as the armature and horn base. I originally wanted to have several working parts on this thing. I wanted the hand crank to really crank and also I wanted you to be able to feel it winding a spring. I also wanted the spindle that holds the cylinder to spin, either by the action of the crank, or by a motor. Sadly, I don't have the time to make these things function the way I had envisioned. Plus, for the type of prop that it is, it isn't really necessary. I have to start making concessions for the sake of time if I want everything done by next week.

So here is the hand crank assembly. Pretty simple. It does turn, but it isn't connected to anything. It just spins in its socket. The tubing is a piece of automotive brake line. It is soft enough that it can be bent by hand, but firm enough to hold its shape well. I chose it mostly because the connecting ferrel had the right size and thread pattern to screw into the finial that I found. The finial was just a piece of junk that someone gave me a while back.

Coming out of the opposite side of the box, will be copper and pvc pipe (painted of course) that will hold the spindle, laser and horn. Here is a quick mock up of the pieces (though they are not all cut to size, and some are incomplete).

This mess of pipes needs to be anchored very securely to the box due to all the weight and torque. The bottom pipe fits into a snug hole in the side of the box, and ends in a flange that will be epoxied and screwed to the inside wall of the box. I made the flange by cutting the pipe lengthwise into quarters about an inch down and bending down the tabs and flattening them out.

That's about as far as I have gotten, so that's where I'll have to leave it for now. Like I said, I probably won't have time to post anything else until I get back from Origins, but rest assured I am taking lots of pics as I work on these props. The Steampunk Diving Helmet is almost finished and is looking pretty darn good. I can't wait to show it to you!

See also:

Steampunk Phonograph (pt.1)
Steampunk Phonograph (pt.2)
Steampunk Phonograph (pt.4)
Phonograph Prop Redux