Steaming off to the Seaside

Well no, sadly we won’t be steaming.  there are some quite splendid steam railways around these parts, but our journey this weekend takes us on a couple of buses instead.

We will be journeying through picturesque hillside villages in the Mendips and ending up on the esplanade of the delightful resort of Weston-super-Mare.  Only Mrs S will be able to enjoy the scenery, of course.  The rest of us will be squashed into that suitcase of hers.  Even more annoyingly, she has decided to bring along Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane and her hovel.  The smell is quite distasteful, to say the least.  It is best not to know what she is brewing in that caudron.

There is quite a little party of us, though.  Mr Coggleford and his remarkable son Jasper are coming along for the first time and little Alice will be putting in an appearance, as well myself, Lady Cristabel, Grace Pendleton and the distinguished inventor Augustus Robottom.  We will endeavour to stay as far from that creature as possible, and hope that she finds a new home to plague enjoy.

Coggleford & Son are bringing along a selection of their beautifully restored furniture and there is a slightly alarming ‘spooky section’, influenced, no doubt, by you-know-who.

 

I have to admit, though, the display is going to look quite striking with all those purple lights shining up through the potion bottles and amulets.  Not to mention the creepy cabinets!

All in all, we should have a very inviting stall at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair being held at the rather impressive Royal Hotel on Sunday 22nd September from 10am – 4pm.

Do hope some of you will be able to visit, and please buy that Fleabane woman  yourselves some delightful miniature treasures.

Kind regards,

Delilah Camshaft

Grimoires

Mrs S is away from home at the moment. Leaving Steampunk-Shrunk Towers in the capable hands of Charles and Henry, she has traversed the country once again and is sojourning in the sweltering East.

To keep her occupied in spare moments, she has taken a sheaf of printed covers and pages to construct a plentiful supply of Grimoires – enough to tide us through the plethora of Steampunk-Shrunk stalls coming up this autumn and to cover the inevitable rise in demand at the SteampunkDollsHouse shop around Halloween.

Cutting and glueing the spell books together is the easy part. Each page then needs to be ‘distressed’ to give the appearance of great age.

This is a time-consuming process involving a variety of substances and techniques. Grimoires, after all, must expect to be exposed to all manner of strange environments and materials over the centuries.

Once suitably ancient in appearance, each little volume will be offered for sale. No two are completely alike.

As for the spells, charms and advice hidden within their pages – customers should take these with a large pinch of salt (along with essence of bat wing, scale of newt and a sprinkling of items digg’d in the dark).

Credit must be given to Betsy at www.etsy.com/shop/chocolaterabbit for the excellent covers and illustrations.

Keeping Close

As regular readers will know, Mrs S has this unfortunate habit of stuffing us all into suitcases from time to time and heading off across the country to run Steampunk-Shrunk stalls in far flung places.  We are jolted on and off trains, up and down escalators and thrown into luggage holds on coaches and it is far from pleasant.

Henry about to set off in the clockwork time machine

“Well,” she says, a trifle testily, “If Henry and Charles would focus their excellent minds on creating space machines instead of time machines, perhaps they would contrive some sort of mechanism to move us smoothly and effortlessly across the land.  Until then, we are all stuck with our present modes of transportation.”

However she has agreed to work locally for a few months, and we are delighted to say that all our forthcoming sales are based within our beautiful county of Somerset.  (Check the home page for dates and venues.)  And of course we still have our delightful outpost at The Crispin Emporium in Street.

A rare shot of Dr Thrustington without his shades.

Last Saturday, we had a gentle, ten minute stroll in the sunshine to the Glastonbury Craft and Vintage Fair.  Such a delight!

We watched with rather mixed feelings as the beautiful Store of Strangeness was carried away to a new home, but imagine our delight when the purchaser returned a while later to collect Doctor Harbottle Thrustington to be the shop’s manager.  He doesn’t give much away behind those reflective glasses, but we could tell he was delighted at the prospect.  He was still more pleased when this charming customer decided to take Molly Forsey along to be his companion.  We think they make the perfect couple and wish them well in their new home.

As for the rest of us, we have a few weeks to breathe before heading for a touch of sea air at a Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair in Weston-super-Mare next month.  We hope to see some of you there.

Meanwhile, there is still the Etsy shop, for those who live further away.

The Clockwork Entomologist

It puzzled me… but I enjoy a good puzzle.

I have this pile of vintage clockwork parts, as many of you will know.  Time hasn’t been kind to them, left as they were to rot in an attic for decades.

for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHouseThe ones I can clean up and get working are either sold as they are to automaton makers or turned into pretty clockwork twittering birds that sell as fast as I can make them.  The ones that have seized up completely are taken to pieces, the parts being upcycled into our miniature gizmos and contraptions.

But there was this one.  It defied all reason.  The spring had snapped, the rubber bellows had perished, the little band that turned a few cogs in the middle had disintegrated, and yet, when I turned the key, it whirred into life.  I had no idea how parts of it were still working.

It most certainly couldn’t be sold or turned into a singing bird.  I removed the broken bellows and whistle.   Stubbornly, the part that was left continued to function.  Admittedly it was rather primitive, but each time I gave the key a few turns, the brass bit in the middle zoomed around at a rate of knots and the arm which should have moved the bird waved up and down unevenly, controlled by the blue steel cam.  I presume one of the broken parts had once regulated the speed.  The other mechanisms move relatively sedately.  This one, though, buzzed like an insect as it spun around…

…and that gave me an idea.

I hunted in an old box of bracelet charms and found a few dragonflies, a butterfly and a bee.  These were painted in jewel colours and most were stuck to the casing.  Another was threaded on to a length of copper wire and fixed to the wheel in the centre.

Next I turned my attention to the arm.

Arm!  That was when the idea of the Clockwork Entomologist came to mind.  Somewhere I had…  yes… in one of those boxes of junk-I’ll-find-a-use-for-one-day…

There it was – a 12th scale butterfly net!

Constructing a pair of arms and hands from epoxy putty was relatively easy.  One held the net and was molded to the flailing metal arm.  The other held a diminutive magnifying glass, cobbled together with a few bits from the stash.  It fitted neatly into the now empty housing from the bird whistle.  A pair of small black sleeves and cuffs dressed the arms in a suitably formal fashion.  My entomologist might lack all other body parts, but those he had were at least well attired.

The mechanism was housed in a small cardboard box, decorated with an assemblage of suitable images.  A few coffee stirrers were sawn up to make a cover for the spring, so that the sharp, snapped steel edges would be safely covered.

So there it is – my rather inept clockwork bug collecting automaton, swiping ineffectually with his net at the buzzing insect each time the little brass key is turned.

The vintage clockwork mechanisms (in full working order) can be bought from this link at the SteampunkDollsHouse, in case you’d like to try your hand at making an automaton.

The magical mechanical birds are available on Steampunk-Shrunk stalls (see home page for dates and venues) or from this link.

As for The Clockwork Entomologist – I’m not sure that I can part with him at the moment, unless someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse…

 

Covering All Bases – and Consequently Confused

What are we, exactly – we strange inhabitants of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers?

To be honest, we fall between many cracks.  Miniaturists?  Dollshouse suppliers?  Craftspeople?  Artists?  Steampunk?  Perhaps all of these, and a little more.

This mild existential crisis was brought about when we were invited to sell our wares at a Halloween Spooktacular (sic).

“But we don’t do spooky stuff,” Mrs S protested, having just returned from a highly successful steampunk rally where the retro-futuristic gizmos, gadgets, clockwork devices and watch cog jewellery had gone down splendidly.

“Ahem, miniatures jars of vampire repellent, banshee bane, undead eradicator and other such poisons and potions; carved skull holders with tiny red wax candles; scrying mirrors; grimoires; a selection of black and silver tables and cabinets, crammed with all manner of weird devices and artefacts…  You even have a fortune teller’s table,”  she was reminded.

“Oh, well yes.  When you put it like that, I suppose we are, um, slightly dark in places,”  she admitted.  “Fine.  We’ll do the Hallowe’en sale.

Before that, though, we have a dollshouse and miniatures fair to do in Weston-super-Mare, where we will mingle with purveyors of shabby chic 12th scale bedroom suites, impossibly tiny polymer clay foodstuffs and little pots of artificial flowers.  Bemused ladies of a certain age will politely enquire as to what, exactly, steampunk is, while long-suffering husbands will pause and stare in wonder into our turbine room or at our little time machines, and perhaps contemplate collecting a few miniatures themselves.

Next spring, we’ll be showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry involved in creating miniature wonders at the Best of Somerset Show in the appropriately diminutive city of Wells.

No wonder we – and many of our customers – are slightly confused at times.  Only that very rare and precious breed of steampunk dollshouse enthusiasts truly ‘get’ us, but that doesn’t stop the wider public from coming along to take a look and discovering utterly useless little treasures that they suddenly find they simply can’t live without.

If you pop across to the HOME page you’ll find details of the upcoming Steampunk-Shrunk stalls.

If you find yourself in the lovely county of Somerset, you can pop along to the wonderful Crispin Emporium in the town of Street, where you can view a selection of our wares from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.30-4.

And finally, if you live further afield, a selection of our wares can be bought from our online Etsy shop and shipped worldwide.

 

 

Professor Erazmus’s Patented Holographic Mirrors

Good day to you.  Apologies for the long absence.  I’ve been holed up in my garret at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and rather engrossed in watching over my many wards, who are spread around the world these days, by means of my clockwork powered holographic global viewing lens.

Fortunately, most of them seem to be settling down now, and require a little less attention than was the case a year or so back.  That means I’ve been able to turn my mind to other things.

Several of my steampunk colleagues here have expressed interest in my holographic viewing technology (although a few are uncivil enough to call it ‘spying’).  They have asked whether I can provide them with a version of my viewing lens that does not involve such a cumbersome system of levers, pulleys and cogs as my own device.

I’m pleased to say, I have been able to oblige.  As I’m sure you are aware, we inhabit a holographic universe, and once an initial connection has been made, we are free to visit any part of it that interests us.  My device is the master machine and it has been a relatively simple task to clone the technology to handheld devices.  These are very attractive hand mirrors (available in our Etsy shop – The SteampunkDollsHouse) and wall mounted mirrors which will soon be available on our stalls at upcoming events.

Now anyone who purchases one will be able to use my technology to connect with any location – past, present or future, through staring into the holographic mirror with sufficient concentration and focus.

I, of course, will be able to follow all their observations from my master machine, but that is a small price for any customer to pay.  Their data will, of course, be quite safe with me…

The Clock Case Begins…

“Pa!” yelled young Jasper Coggleford, racing into the workshop and almost tripping on his apron in his haste.  “You have to come and see our new project.  It’s huge!”
Jeremiah, the senior partner of Coggleford & Son, Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry, smiled.  “Not another dresser, is it?  If so, we need to build up your muscles if you’re to help me move it.”
“No, Pa, much bigger than that.  Just come and see.”

Jasper led his father to the largest room in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers.

I should explain here that all but one of the inhabitants of this residence are at one twelfth the size of you or I.  This is due to a space-time anomaly caused by a time machine malfunction which I don’t have the energy to go into right now.

Only Mrs S, the owner of said residence, is what we would consider normal sized.  It was she who had acquired the object that had so excited Jasper’s imagination.

“Gracious heavens!” cried Jeremiah, as he surveyed the edifice that stood before them.
It was a vintage clock case, now empty except for some curious markings on the back wall and a small spring protruding from one side. The internal space was more than a foot tall, although quite narrow.

“Told you it was big, Pa,” Jasper declared, quite unnecessarily. “Mrs S says we can make what we like with it, once we’ve cleaned it up and restored it. She says her son and his partner found it for a fiver in an antique shop. They thought it would interest us.”

Jeremiah scratched his head. “We’re furniture restorers, lad, not house builders. Don’t you think it’s rather a lot for us to take on?”
“‘Course not, Pa,” grinned the boy. “If we put in a new ceiling and a ladder, we can have a room with an attic above it. I’m sure Mister Charles and Mister Henry will lend a hand.”

“Well, I suppose they would,” Coggleford Senior agreed slowly.

He continued with his careful inspection of the clock case.
“The structure is sound, and the woodwork will come up lovely with a bit of attention. Just look at those pillars – real beauties.”
“I knew you’d love it Pa,” laughed the boy. “Shall we get started?”
“I think we’d better, son. This is going to be a long job.”

And so the clock case restoration begins.

Jeremiah Coggleford & Son – Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry

“You’re somewhat younger than I expected, Mr Coggleford, if you don’t mind me saying,” announced Mrs S when we finally met.  “Are you father or son?”
I assured her that I was Coggleford senior.
“Then what age is your son?” she asked.
I smiled. “Jasper is still a boy, Madam, but he’s a hard little worker and a quick learner. I’m training him up and he’s so set on following in my footsteps that I decided to make him my business partner when he was eight.”
She was quiet for a moment.  “And so now he is…?”
I took a breath.  “He’s ten, Ma’am.”

I could understand her concern.  She’d told me she had a large consignment of furniture, all of which needed renovation.  She’d clearly been expecting a two-man team.

“Very well,” she said at length.  “I’ll give you a chance.  There’s a broken cabinet amongst the pieces I have.  If you and your child can make a good job of that within the week, I’ll take you on as my furniture restorers.  I’m giving you carte blanche.  Do with it as you will, but I need an interesting and inspiring result.”

The following morning, it arrived at our workshop.  The glass was missing, as was the base drawer and part of a door frame.  It was badly finished with uneven orange varnish.

“Right then Jasper,” I said.  “What needs doing?”

“Sand the whole thing down. Cut and shape a piece of wood to repair that door frame.  If we’ve only got a week, leave the drawer and use the opening as a shelf,” he said quickly.
“Good man,” I said. “But that’s just the start.”
“I know. The finish is what matters. I’ve got an idea, Pa.”

Well, I set about the sanding and joinery, while Jasper rumaged around the store room.  I could hear the clanking of metal and the clunking of paint pots, but I left him to it.  You see I’m a good enough workman, but the boy is just brimming over with ideas.  He’s original, the way I’ll never be.

He didn’t disappoint.  First a coat of matt black paint.  Then we had to lay the cabinet on its side and lift some rusty old cogs he’d found on to it.
“Are these to be attached, son?” I asked.
“No, Pa. Just leave them there for a bit.”

He sprayed silver paint across the cabinet.  Not too much.  Just a dusting, and when we removed the cogs, the design looked splendid.

I replaced the glass panels and Jasper – such a perfectionist – decided to fill the cabinet with bits and pieces, ‘So that the lady can see it as a working piece.’

I hardly need to tell you that Mrs S was mightily impressed.  She hired us on the spot and we now work for her full time, restoring what she calls her ‘Oxfam bag of dollshouse junk’ and creating beautiful pieces of furniture for the discerning customer.

You can find various pieces for sale here or by clicking on the photos.

Monty admiring the map chest.large cabinet and chair

Jasper with the small cabinet

Icabod Cogbottle’s Inventing Room

Forgive me if I appear to complain.  My wife Dorothea is the most charming of women and exceptionally skilled, not only at running a household and entertaining our guests, but also as a highly accomplished parasol duellist.  However I do not feel that she fully understands the struggles of an inventor.

Why, she has just entered my workspace once again and remarked – quite harshly, I felt – on the quantity of litter strewn across the floor.  Does she expect that every design will result in a successful invention?  Applying for patents is a most costly and time-consuming process, so I restrict it to only the most promising designs.

If (as I have explained to her on many occasions) she would permit me to create my prototypes in this room, I could adjust them as I go along and the drawings would be far more productive.  Alas, she insists that any tinkering must be restricted to the cellar!   She complains that the smells, dust and general mess involved are unacceptable within the main body of the house.

So why, I can imagine you asking, do I not do my drawings down there as well?  The answer, dear reader, is that the cellar of this house is particularly damp and cold.  That hardly matters when I am actively sawing, soldering or otherwise constructing my machines and gadgets, but it is not an atmosphere conducive to long hours sitting at a desk engaged in meticulous draughtsmanship.

Thus it comes to pass that many of my designs, so painstakingly drawn, end their days screwed up on the floor, from whence (as I explained to Dorothea) it is but a moment or two’s travail for the maid to sweep up and dispose of them.

Nonetheless, I feel I am making great progress, notwithstanding my perplexing situation.  The Swanopede (patents pending) which I am currently working on is of such ingenuity and obvious charm that it will almost certainly bring me the fame and fortune I so earnestly seek.

In the meantime, my first book (Gadgets for Life by Icabod Cogbottle – available at all good booksellers) is bringing in modest royalties and allowing me to continue to pursue my life’s work.

 

A Flock of Clockwork Songbirds

This is a true story:

Many decades ago, a gentleman in England took the opportunity of purchasing the entire remaining stock of sets of clockwork parts for making automatons.  They had been manufactured back in the 1950s or 60s by a company in West Germany, for hobbyists to install into novelty cigar boxes.  As you opened the drawer to offer your guest a cigar, the bird on top would begin to trill merrily and to twist and twirl around.

One of the many boxes of clockwork parts

Such hobbycraft (and indeed cigar boxes generally) had lost their popularity by the time our gentleman procured the parts, in the early 1980s.  He had grand plans to sell them on for other purposes, such as creating novelty Easter eggs, Christmas decorations and the like.

Alas, his grand plans came to nothing.  The boxes of shiny brass and steel mechanisms, with their complicated cams, tiny brass swanee whistles and miniscule rubber bellows were relegated to his attic, where they lay forgotten for many more years until, after his demise, his widow decided she wanted a clear-out.

for bird automatonsBy now rust and verdigris coated the machines, many of the fragile plastic birds were chipped and the cardboard boxes they were kept in had been nibbled by many generations of mice.  It fell to the departed gentleman’s son to dispose of them, which he did by placing a small advert on a local noticeboard, where it was spotted by the eagle-eyed Mrs S.

Many were beyond repair, but others had stood the test of time.  Much cleaning and polishing ensued, along with long hours of experimentation to find ways of fitting the components together and allowing the birds to move and sing again.

Finally, some of the vintage automatons are working once more.  The birds (previously with rather grubby and unappealing red, white and blue painted plumage) have been given a steampunk makeover and fixed to some little boxes which rather neatly enclose the clockwork motors.  for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHousein steampunk plumageThere are still pieces of rust and  the contraptions need to be handled with care, but a precious few have been tested and are for sale in the Steampunk Dolls House, on Etsy, while others will be available on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls this coming spring and summer, such as the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular. (See home page for dates and details).

Do come and buy one of these fascinating little automatons and you will own a small piece of history.