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…
Up in the dizzy heights of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, things were getting somewhat overcrowded. We pride ourselves of being able to upcycle and repurpose just about anything that comes our way, but there are limits.
“We’ve repainted and upholstered all these odd dining chairs,” explained Jeremiah, but to be honest, nobody is going to want to buy them. Everyone wants chairs in sets of four, preferably with a table.”
“I know just what you mean,” replied Charles. “My problem is all these not-quite-working clockwork mechanisms. Take this one, for example. It purrs along beautifully, but the rubber bellows has perished, so there’s no sound. We can’t make a silent songbird automaton, but it’s too good to throw out.”
Young Jasper, Jeremiah’s son, was listening intently. He started to stroll round the clockwork machine.
“Excuse me, Mister Charles, Sir, but don’t you and Mister Henry make time machines?”
“Yes, Jasper, indeed we do,” Charles smiled.
“And what do they need to make them work?”
Charles laughed. “Perhaps a bit technical for a young nipper like yourself, but basically a valve and piston to build up a huge amount of pressure and a temporal modulator to control the time travel.”
“So if you took out the bird whistle and used its piston in a cylinder to build up the pressure, could you maybe use the arm that should move the bird to do the time modulation?” the boy enquired.
Charles’ jaw dropped open and he stared in amazement at the child.
“‘Cos I’m thinking Mrs S has those working watch faces kicking around somewhere – the ones that wouldn’t fit in our grandfather clocks, and we could let you have one of our spare chairs. Oh, and I’ve been working on a camera that’s controlled by a foot pedal. I was going to use it to take what I call ‘selfies’, but I’m sure it could be adapted to fit a time machine, so that the time traveller could provide proof of the places visited… Um…have I said something wrong?”
The boy blushed crimson, as he noticed that quite a crowd had gathered and all were staring at him with the most curious expression.
Charles took a deep breath. “No, Jasper, you have done nothing wrong. Indeed, you have just had the most stupendous idea. What a remarkable boy you are! Would you care to help Henry and I to build the prototype, if your father can spare you, of course?”
Now it was Jeremiah’s turn to blush, as his heart swelled with pride. “I’d be happy to release my son from his work with me for a while, Charles. He’s a remarkable lad and I’m sure he’ll learn a great deal from you.”
“And vice versa,” muttered Henry, Charles’ brother and co-inventor.
And so the work began. Henry tinkered, Charles created the elegant canopy and young Jasper buzzed around making wise suggestions and helping to attach the parts. Even Henry just stood and scratched his head when the boy suggested installing a plasma screen above the motor, so that the traveller could see the view from the back-facing camera.
“Where do you get your ideas from, young Jasper?” he asked. “Are you sure you haven’t been time-travelling yourself and visiting the future?”
“Don’t know, Sir,” the boy shrugged. “They just sort of pop into my head somehow. Shall I fetch you the plasma screen I was working on last week? It should fit nicely inside Mister Charles’ canopy there.”
Eventually the machine was finished. Henry took his place on the velvet-upholstered chair and turned the brass key. The piston began to pump, while the clock swung around on its steel arm. Cams and cogs whirred cheerfully.
“There’s room for a little ‘un by my feet, if you can spare him, Coggleford,” Henry called to Jeremiah.
Jasper looked longingly at his father, but the man shook his head. “Not today, my friend. There are some things even Jasper is too young for yet awhile. One day, though.”
“Soon,” muttered Jasper, hopefully. Then, “Safe journey Mister Henry, Sir. And please take lots of photographs for me.”
“Certainly will, young man,” grinned Henry, as he reached across and started the clock.
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.
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.
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.
By 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. There 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.
Well Mrs S was somewhat displeased when her aged printer finally gave up the ghost.
Charles was delighted, though, and had soon extracted something called a circuit board from the defunct machine.
“Take a look, Henry,” he said. “Spiffing base for another time machine!”
I had to agree, so we have a new model incorporating this futuristic technology with good old steampunk tradition.
Instead of a steering column, there’s something called a control deck. It pulses with multicoloured lights, naturally, and has a clock and time warp repeat button. (Well, someone might understand why…)
I left Charles to fiddle with the pod things that power it, but I insisted on installing a traditional safety valve.
For the comfort of our customers, we added a padded velvet cushion and a steel luggage rack. There is also a handy claxon which sounds automatically to warn anyone in the vicinity when the vessel is due to stop.
Not our most aesthetically pleasing craft, perhaps, but an intriguing machine, nonetheless.
Well if you’re thinking my face looks familiar – drat!
You have probably seen this very unflattering mug shot on those tiresome WANTED posters the Admiralty keeps sticking up around the public houses of Bristol. Where’s a man supposed to go for a quiet tot of gin these days?
And as for honour among thieves – don’t you believe it! There’s only too many as would be more than willing to turn me over to the authorities for that paltry two hundred guineas.
So yes, I’ll admit my way of earning a living might not be honest, in the strictest sense of the word, but it is certainly not easy. My boys and I are out in all weathers, way above the streets where you land-lubbers lurk, lightening the loads of the airships and other sky-faring vessels up there. Out in all weathers, we are, procuring booty and capturing ships, captains and passengers for ransom. There’s always someone willing to pay a handsome price.
Let me tell you (very quickly, now – I don’t want to spend too long in these parts with those posters a-flapping in the wind. There must still be some I haven’t managed to tear down) about my most notorious crime. And this one took place on low land!
There I was, keeping myself to myself in a quiet little inn beside the Floating Harbour one evening, when in he walked. Oh, he didn’t have his fine hat or any of those weapons he’s always bragging about, but I recognised him well enough – Algernon Cholmondeley, the Admiral of the High Skies. Now it just so happens (don’t think I’m illiterate – there are some highly educated sky pirates around, you know) that I’d read Olivia Libris’ book The Vital Chapter, which told his story, so I primed my weapon and sauntered across to his table, just as he was about to begin his meal.
“That looks a fine bird you’re planning to eat, good Sir,” I says, standing right behind him and pressing the plasma gun very lightly against his back. “Not peacock, by any chance, is it?”
He sighed deeply. “Montmorency Fairweather, if I’m not mistaken,” he said. “So is this your revenge? You’re going to blow me to the four winds in this pleasant little hostelry? How very ungentlemanly.”
“Not at all, Sir,” I replied, somewhat affronted that he should expect such coarse behaviour from a refined personage such as myself. “You are worth far more to me alive than dead. If you would do me the honour of accompanying me to my vessel, we will do the necessary and prepare hostage notes for your employers and that lovely wife of yours.”
Rather reluctantly, his Lordship pushed aside the roast pheasant and walked slowly with me from the inn.
We came to know one another quite well, during the time of his confinement on various vessels in my fleet. He took a keen interest in my ships, often asking the men most specific questions about the steering and engines.
In time, the Admiralty paid up and his Lordship was released quite unharmed, to return to his adoring family. He shook me by the hand and expressed a wish that we might meet again, but in quite different circumstances.
I have to admit, I rather took to the chap.
I certainly find myself substantially better off, thanks to that chance encounter beside Bristol’s fine Floating Harbour.
Monty Fairweather can be purchased – every man has his price – at 12th scale from this link.
Further adventures of Algernon Cholmondeley (now in a private collection) can be found on this blog in the Vital Chapter series of posts and here.
Something a little different this week: Jan Miller, who purchased both Algernon and Josephine Cholmondeley from our Etsy shop, has added a further chapter to the story of their impending visit to Brasston, The Most Cosmopolitan City Award winner in 1850. Delighted to know that the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and his wife are in such excellent hands.
We hope you will enjoy reading both chapters here:
It was, not surprisingly, young Molly who found the book first. She’d read her way through everything in the Steampunk-Shrunk library – even the Suffragette newspapers – and had been on the lookout for something new.
“Excuse me, Lady Cholmondeley,” she said, dropping a pretty curtsy to Josephine, “But do you think your husband, seeing as how he’s the Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, could take me on one of his sky ship machines to Brasston? They’ve got a perfectly splendid aerodrome and I’m sure they’d allow him to dock there. Let me show you the pictures. They’re in colour!”
“Why I’ve never heard of the place, my dear. Are you sure you’ve got the name correct?” smiled Josephine.
“Oh yes, Your Ladyship, Ma’am. I think it must be very famous. It won the ‘Most Cosmopolitan City Award’ in 1850.”
Josephine started to look through the book – a most difficult process since, unlike the inhabitants of Shrunk Towers, this book had not been shrunk to one twelfth of its original size. She had to obtain assistance from several other members of the community and they in turn became mesmerised by the splendours of Brasston.
“Good lord!” Barnaby Balsover exclaimed, “There’s a chap there having his shoes polished by a clockwork automaton! Quite remarkable!”
“Certainly,” agreed Ava Brassfeather, “And it says they do tours of the clock factory and provide cake and tea.”
“I believe it says you have to pay extra for cups and saucers, though, Ma’am,” Molly whispered, jumping in alarm when Ava made a loud tutting sound.
Molly wasn’t sure whether this was aimed at herself or the facilities available at the works, but she didn’t venture to speak again.
When Algernon returned from a successful raid on a troublesome bunch of sky pirates who had been terrorising the airways above Penge, he was met by a mass of pleading faces.
His wife took his arm, gazed alluringly into his eyes and purred, “My dearest…”
“Hmm,” he said finally, once he’d had a strong cup of gunpowder tea and an opportunity to peruse the book. “I strongly suspect that this is a work of fiction, created by this rather splendid gentleman on the back cover, Mr Ashley G.K. Miller. I’m not convinced that the city exists.”
“Well if anyone can find it, it’s you, Old Boy,” announced Lord Horatio Backgammon, and the others joined in a chorus of agreement with his Lordship’s sentiment.
And so, as I write, the entire group is busy packing and preparing for an epic journey in one of the fleet’s most capacious dirigibles, while Algy is earnestly poring over his charts, in search of the city of Brasston. Unfortunately the trip was delayed – but that is another story!
Should you wish to discover this remarkable locationfor yourself, dear reader, I suggest visiting Mr Miller’s Facebook page, where you will find all the details you need.
After several months, Algernon Cholmondeley, Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, was finally re-united with his dear wife Josephine. He had been captured by Sky Pirates before he could take his friends on the planned trip to Brasston. Josephine was so relieved to see him again. But they had been communicating by means of the steam telegraph while he was captive.
It seems the Sky Pirates extracted a large ransom from the Admiralty before releasing Algy unharmed. He, meanwhile, had secretly been inspecting the Sky Pirates remarkable Airships and learning as much as he could about their design. Of course Algernon was used to high powered airships in his normal day job, but the Sky Pirates had adapted some new ideas from other countries they had plundered. Algy was now determined to make a new airship of his own. It would have all the latest technology for the 1850s, including a pigeon-guided location finder.
As his wife and friends were so interested in visiting this Brasston, he could use that trip as an experimental run.
Lady Cholmondely had also been in contact with Mr Ashley G. K. Miller, the author of the esteemed volume; ‘A Traveller’s Guide to Brasston’ which had started the whole thing, and he had sent pictures of himself on one of his recent Hot Air Balloon Flights.
He said he would be delighted to help them make the Airship and take them to Brasston.
Lady Cholmondeley soon got the local enthusiasts together to collect all the bits and pieces they could find to make the new Airship. Having Algy’s colleagues in the Admiralty look through the old sheds, and with Mr. Miller’s collection of past pieces they had quite a good start.
Josephine and her friend Penelope set to work right away to make a comfortable day-bed for the passengers inside the Airship, while Young Algy played with his own model one. ‘Oh these feathers are going up my nose!’ exclaimed Josephine.
They were happily employed in this activity while Lord Algernon thought about his new Airship design. More about how he is getting on with it another time!
Jan Miller is a writer and publisher on the conservation of native plants. She also has an interest in miniature plants and crafts.
Lord and Lady Cholmondeley and the Steampunk artifacts were upcycled and made by Jan Stone at Steampunk-Shrunk. Victorian dolls’ house and conservatory with real plants by Jan Miller.
A new year dawns, marked here at Steampunk Towers by Charles’ jubilant arrival on January 1st in his velvet-seated time machine. Considering the adventures he’s had, neither he nor the machine are looking in bad shape at all. True, he’s been slightly pompous since someone commented that he looked ‘very timelordish’, but we can forgive him for that.
Anyhow, for those new to our site, or confused by recent changes, here are some notes on what exactly Steampunk-Shrunk is and how it trades.
Unique and Upcycled
Everything produced by Steampunk-Shrunk is a hand-made and one-of-a-kind (OOAK) creation. Upcycling is very much part of our ethos. It is a point of honour here to find novel new uses for plastic packaging, broken jewellery or watches and the kind of junk that lies about most homes and charity shops in forgotten boxes and shelves. This tinkering and repurposing lies, after all, at the very heart of steampunk.
Our favourite way of selling is through the Steampunk-Shrunk trading stalls. These can be found at various steampunk fairs and conventions throughout the UK, at selected dollshouse and miniatures fairs and sometimes at craft and vintage fairs. We love to be able to chat to customers, to allow them to pick up and examine our wares and see if they can read our tiny books.
The next fair we have booked is in Shrewsbury in March 2019, but all venues will be listed on the home page of this website and promoted on our Facebook page.
The Steampunk Dolls’ House
This is the international trading arm of our micro-business. At the time of writing, we have around 35 lines for sale in this Etsy shop, which can be shipped around the world. We try to provide plenty of photos and detailed descriptions, so that customers know what they are getting, and it’s very easy for them to ask questions or chat about items we are selling. All our reviews so far have had five stars, which is hugely encouraging. The link to the Etsy shop is here.
The Crispin Emporium
Our latest sales venture is hiring a glass cabinet in a beautiful craft emporium in the Somerset town of Street.
Street is best known as the home of Clarks Shoes and the massive Clarks Shopping Village.
The emporium, upstairs in the newly refurbished Crispin Centre, supports and showcases local artists and craftspeople and provides a welcome change from the chain store outlets. The building also houses a gorgeous florist shop, a very lovely cafe (Street Food!) and various meeting and event rooms. It gets its name, incidentally, from St Crispin who – along with his brother St Crispian – is the patron saint of shoemaking.
If you are visiting Street this year, or nearby Wells or Glastonbury, do call in and take a look. Here is a link to the emporium’s Facebook page, so you can check opening times etc. The address is: 83 High Street, Street, Somerset, BA16 0EZ.
There is also a contact form on the home page of this website, if there are items you would like to know more about.
The ingenuity and range of adornments to bowlers and toppers at any steampunk gathering is stunning.
Mine tend to be diminutive.
However customers often arrive at my stall searching for items to add to their own headgear. Imagine my delight when I recently met a lady and gentleman whose top hats were decorated with some Steampunk-Shrunk gizmos!
I was happier still when they purchased more. Perhaps at a future venue, I’ll see those in place on the Inventors’ Hats they are creating.
We may have met before, but permit me to introduce myself anew.
I am George Entwistle, tinker and general handyman to the gentry. Yes, I have resigned from my post as patents clerk and become a full time tinker. Indeed, I would venture to say that my time machines are very much sought after by ladies and gentlemen of discernment with an adventurous temperament.
I like to consider myself something of an adventurer, too. Very recently I travelled in a railway carriage to a steampunk spectacular in the delightful town of Shrewsbury. What an experience it was!
The purveyors of our products were the most splendidly attired persons I had ever encountered. Even Mrs S, who is quite used to these affairs, was impressed and kept taking photographs of them, a few of which I will reproduce here.
We had scarcely opened before Alice announced that she was changing her name to Olga and heading off to become an opera singer with her new patron. I think Sir William was sad to see her go, but he soon began to chat in a very friendly manner to Miss Delilah.
I confess I was quite delighted when a charming lady and gentleman agreed to purchase my latest time machine. I often wonder where my customers will end up when they head off on their temporal journeys.
My greated delight, though, came when a distinguished looking gentleman stopped to admire our wares. There was something familiar about him and I was quite taken by his military bearing and immaculate appearance. He chatted for a while about our room cases to his good lady, and it was only after he left that Mrs Steampunkle told us it was none other than the great Icabod Steam!
How I regretted not having removed my stained and grubby leather apron or straightening my tie! I even had the honour to view his trailer at close quarters, although Mrs S wouldn’t permit me to leave the stall to watch one of his performances. I noticed that she was mysteriously absent at that time, however…
Upon our return to Steampunk Towers (and mainly, I suspect, to quieten the complaints about the journey from Lady Christabel) Mrs Steampunkle announced that some of us would be heading to a new residence. I was fortunate enough to be chosen, along with Lady Christabel, Sir William and the lovely Miss Delilah, to inhabit a glass display cabinet at a quite charming Emporium in the Somerset town of Street. We have five of my friend Mr Robottom’s robots with us, as well as several cabinets of curiosities and the Looking Glass rooms Mrs Steampunkle quite recently completed.
It feels quite strange to be away from Steampunk Towers, but our creator visits us regularly and has promised to pop in and check that we are all happy in our new surroundings.
Do come along to pass the time of day, should you be in the vicinity.