Barnaby Balsover’s Lucifer Device

Barnaby with his devicePermit me to introduce myself – Barnaby Balsover, inventor, creator and tinker at your service.

I am the creator of gadgets and gizmos such as The Oracular Expedient, The Phosphorus Pumping Device, The Equilibrium Enhancer and the much-favoured Ginerator, many of which now grace the homes of Steampunk enthusiasts around the world.

Barnaby Balsover's inventionToday I am delighted to present my Lucifer Device.

If I say so myself, this machine is a wonder.  The casing is copper-coated.  There are a plethora of gears and cogs to drive the engine (although persons from your dimension may prefer to use the on/off battery switch).  When it is powered up, the entire device emits a purple glow and this is projected in a beam from the jewel at its tip.

I have named this light ray ‘extra violet’ and I am still investigating its properties.  No doubt they will be of tremendous value to humankind once I have fully acquainted myself with all of them.

Alas, an inventor’s life is never easy and funds are hard to come by, so I have resorted (Oh the shame!) to selling myself and my device to any discerning collector who will be prepared to part with the derisory sum of £38 stirling at the Steampunk Dolls House.  In this way, I hope to acquire sufficient money to finance my research and creations.

If you, dear reader, know anyone who would be interested in making such a purchase, please ask them to head to my display at the Steampunk Dolls House.

There are many other items, incidentally, which may be of interest to purchasers of miniature steampunk ephemera in this illustrious emporium.

Steaming Away

Milly, the steampunk housekeeper robotFear not, Steampunk-Shrunk enthusiasts.  Normal service will soon be restored.

The trouble is, there have been quite a few sales from the Steampunk Doll’s House recently, and Mrs S has agreed that each order will be turned around within three days.  Not a problem when she is here, busily packaging us up in bubble wrap and boxes to travel off to distant lands.  Now, though, she has her bags packed and is locking the gates of Steampunk Towers for a week or so, while she heads across the country to commune with family and nature.

Inconsiderate, we know, but she has been working hard, and she’s promised to add yet more stunning steampunk stock to the Etsy shop as well as booking various dolls house fairs and steampunk conventions where we can meet with the public once more, upon her return.

Meanwhile, enjoy perusing our many stories and we look forward to being reunited with you very shortly.

Digby’s Brain-Powered Device

mad steampunk professorYou will obviously have heard of harnessing the power of steam, water and even the energy stored in a tightly wound spring to produce power.

Have you, though, considered utilising the power produced by the impulses firing within your brain to power a device?

digby demonstrating his light generatorCertainly you would need to possess a superior brain – one that is filled with constant and highly original thoughts.  I, Professor Digby Charlweston, am fortunate enough to have such an organ.  Working in close collaboration with my dear friend and colleague Nick Tesla, I have engineered a device which transmits energy from my brain into a leather and metal-bound lamp.  With sufficient concentration, I can send enough energy to produce a light brighter than any oil or gas lamp.

True, people snigger at my headgear when I am out and about.  Some have the audacity to call me eccentric – or worse.  Nevertheless, I have succeeded where countless others have failed.

“Thought is free,” The Bard said.  So, then, is my power source: free and inexhaustible!

If you visit the SteampunkDollsHouse, you will find a 1:12 scale model of myself, by energy-transmitting headgear and the light generator, which may be purchased.

 

A Somewhat Vulgar Piece of Self-Promotion

Goodness!  My heart almost fails me in this endeavour and I shrink from such activity, but needs must…

Despite being far happier tinkering away in my studio, creating miniature wonders, the time has come to mention that the Virtual Shop has reopened for business, with a slightly altered appearance and all new stock.

Like Steampunk itself, this enterprise does not have a physical existence.  It is more conceptual in nature.  Nevertheless, the items it sells are real enough, and a small but growing cluster of our Steampunk Dolls House characters and accessories are now available at the Etsy Shop.  Here is the link: www.etsy.com/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse.

Josephine hurrying to greet her brother-in-law

Do pop along to take a look.  You may even consider placing a small token of your affection next to your favourite item, just to let us know we are appreciated.

Kindest regards from all at Steampunk-Shrunk and The Steampunk Dolls House

Discover your fortune

In every job lot of second hand dolls I source, there are treasures and trash.

At first sight, Daniella fell into the latter category.  Her head was far too large for her body and limbs, her legs and minuscule feet were loose and badly made, her oversized clothes crudely glued on, her hair matted and messy and the face looked sullen.  What sort of transformation could I exact on her?

We stared balefully at one another for a considerable time and eventually I knew.

I have a friend who does psychic card readings in a little booth.  She wears glittering shawls, scarves and jewels in reds and purples with plenty of black eye makeup.  She was my inspiration.

Next I remembered those booths you used to get on seaside piers or in dark corners of amusement parks with a life-sized mannequin head and upper body.  You put your money in the slot, the mannequin jiggled about a bit and stared into a crystal ball, lights shone eerily and a card displaying your fortune emerged from a space below.  That was what Daniella would be!

Off came the clothes and hair.  A delicate paint job transformed the face from sulky to inscrutable and exotic.  A sleek black wig, silver, purple and scarlet shawls and large hooped earrings were added.  The legs and lower torso were glued into a cardboard tube and I set about making her booth.

A domed lantern at the top, concealed at the front with the Fortune Teller sign, holds a Halloween finger light, painted purple to illuminate the booth.  Daniella sits in a curtained section with a crystal ball made from a bead, a window and a slot for one penny to be inserted.

The rest of the box is decorated with diminutive tarot cards and other esoteric images, along with an aperture for the fortune card to be released.

There is even a lever at the back which can be moved, allowing the mannequin to shift about slightly as she considers your future.

My little fortune teller will accompany me to various steampunk conventions and sales throughout the spring and summer, until she’s snapped up and taken to read fortunes for some lucky customer.

She’s already packed and ready to attend the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular on March 24th and 25th in St Marys Church.

 

 

Upping the Date

Greetings to all from the grey, damp and murky land of Avalon, where life, myth and mystery combine curiously amongst the swirling mists (well, actually thundering hail storms at the moment, but that’s a temporary glitch, I’m sure).

We felt the arrival of a new year merited an update on how things are progressing here at Steampunk-Shrunk HQ.  When I say ‘we’ I refer to myself – a slightly eccentric but mostly harmless white-haired writer-and-educator-turned-miniaturist – and the cluster of (far more eccentric) 1/12 scale figures who share this compact and slowly sinking residence.
Yes, it is indeed sinking. It used to be level with the road outside when it was built, a mere three-hundred-and-something years ago. Alas, it has failed to keep pace with the world around it and is now reached by stepping down from the pavement into our semi-subterranean world. It all adds to the general weirdness…

We are currently working alone, since the Steampunk Dolls’ House – our fellow enterprise based in Shropshire – almost sold out over Christmas and its few remaining residents are in the process of moving to new premises.  Nothing daunted, and buoyed up by moderate successes last year, we have decided to take to the road this year and flaunt our wares in far-flung areas of the United Kingdom.

Sadly, we possess only two vehicles between us, and both of those are at 1/12 scale.  Determined not to allow that to dissuade us, however, we have purchased a suitcase of gargantuan proportions and one of those magical devices for taking card payments from customers.  Many hours perusing bus and train timetables and hunting out bargain-priced accommodation means that we are about to commence our Grand Tour.

Messrs Crackington and Balsover are busily creating an emporium filled with a host of cunning contrivances and devious devices, which will be available for purchase at our forthcoming sales.

Some of their wonders, including the mysterious Oracular Device and the dangerous-looking Phosphorus Pump are displayed here.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting more of the delights you can expect to discover on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls which will be appearing around the land.

Our first venue will be the Thame Miniatures Fair (in Oxfordshire) on Saturday 17th February,  followed by a weekend Steampunk Convention on March 24th and 25th in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

We’d be delighted to meet you at one of these events and hope you’ll be able to join us.

 

 

 

 

 

Tobias and The Angel

This is how Tobias looked when he first arrived at Shrunk Towers.  I think his name was probably Paul or Richard.

After a bit of Steampunk-Shrunk magic, he ended up looking like this – fine leather coat, hand-stitched black wool trousers, satin waistcoat, cravat and a serious facial makeover.

As they are transformed, the little people’s personalities change too.  Tobias oozes charisma, but he does like to call the tune.  That’s why I ended up with The Angel.

There’s a town I visit when I need to replenish my raw material supplies.  It’s the only town I know that has two large branches of Poundland in one street, with Wilko and a bunch of charity shops in between.  It’s that sort of town.  As all my raw materials are bargain-basement, other-people’s-idea-of-rubbish items, it’s the perfect place.

I’d barely started browsing, when I saw the car in a shop window.
“Buy it!” hissed Tobias.
“That?” I asked. “I mean it’s very lovely, and I can see it’s just your size, but look at the paintwork.  It’s dreadful – needs a load of work.  And I don’t DO cars.  And anyway, it isn’t cheap.”
“So haggle,” he replied calmly and insistently. “You can do it up.  It’ll look great.  Just imagine it as the centrepiece on one of your stalls with a driver in a leather coat and goggles…”

So, just to shut him up, I went in and asked what their best price would be.  They offered ten per cent off and – still doubting the wisdom of this – I bought it.

Gleefully, Tobias sat in the driving seat.  “I’ll call her The Angel,” he smiled.  “You won’t regret this, you know.”

Every spare minute was given over to The Angel during the next three days.  Shiny gold and silver nail varnish covered the blotchy detail paintwork.  Gold cord trim made the upholstery look neater.

No automatic alt text available.

The dashboard (two metal washers, two tiny bolts and a strip of tin) was replaced by an array of dials, ‘lights’ and switches, a clock with cogs and a deep blue leather map pocket, complete with removable map.  The scrap jewellery box was raided to create headlamps (a pair of pearl earrings painted over with more nail varnish) and fog lamps.  My signature copper tape (sold as slug repellent) trimmed the details and was used to fix the clear acrylic windscreen in place.   No automatic alt text available.Tobias declared himself satisfied with the result and, pulling down his goggles, climbed back into the driving seat for a photo-shoot.

 

The Magical Mechanical Bird

a young showmanMy pa made the bird.  He’s Mister William Forsey and when I grow up, I’m going to be just like him – a tinker as well as a showman.  My name is Rufus, by the way.  I’m ten years old and I have a very important job.  I run the Magical Mechanical Bird Show in the little fairground booth my pa built.

only Rufus can fit insideThe ticket office is too small for Ma or Pa to get inside, but I fit just fine.  When I grow too big, one of my brothers or sisters will have to take over and I’ll get on with learning my pa’s craft.  Pa’s proud of me.  He wrote ‘Wm. Forsey & Son’ on the poster, so I’d be part of the company.  Some day we’ll have a whole load of automatons and people will come from all over the world to watch and wonder at them.

preparing the mechanical birdFirst thing I have to do is wind up the machine and check that it’s all working smoothly.  Pa says I’m a natural when it comes to knowing where a lick of oil should go or what bolts to tighten.  You see?  I’ve got tinker’s blood in me veins.  I’ll make wonderful contraptions when I’m older.

hiding the bird from viewNext I pull the curtain across, so the bird’s hidden and go out the front to tout for business.  All the ladies love me and they beg their beaus to buy a ticket.  Ma says it’s on account of my fair hair and big eyes.  I think it’s more likely my witty patter that draws ’em in.
Once a lady said, “Is the poor bird trapped in a cage?”
She thought it was a real bird, even though the sign clearly says ‘Mechanical’.
“Oh no, Ma’am,” I told her. “That bird is as free as I am.”
She was so pleased, she asked her gentleman to give me a farthing, and to show off to her, he gave me three ha’pence!
When I told Pa later what had happened, he said it was a good reply I’d given.  I told him it was true, because both me and the bird are as free as each other – stuck in that booth all day.  That got me a clip round the ear, though, so I need to learn when to keep me mouth shut, I reckon.

selling ticketsAnyhow, once I’ve got a good crowd, I go into the ticket office and sell them all tickets to watch the show.  I have to keep the office locked all day, so no one will steal our takings.  Ma took the chain from Grandpa’s old watch and fixed the office key to it, so I can wear it on me waistcoat, just like a toff!  Real silk, that waistcoat is, and me trousers are pa’s old moleskins cut down.  They’re a bit on the roomy side, but I’ll grow into them.

Next is my favourite part.  I come out of the office, draw back the curtain and you should hear the ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ when they see the machine.  The gilded bird sits on a gold tablecloth and Pa has left all the mechanical parts showing, so people can see how amazing an automaton is.  There’s gleaming brass and steel cogs and cams and levers, a little set of bellows that work a Swanee whistle, so the bird can sing, and the cam is fixed up so that as the bird twists and turns, the notes of its warbling change.

I call out, very loud, “And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your delight and delectation, the Magical Mechanical Bird will come to life before your very eyes and ears.”
That’s Pa’s cue to pull the knob at the back of the booth to release the crank wheel, and the bird begins to sing and twirl.

All the punters gasp and cheer and clap and I feel so proud of Pa and Ma and meself, for entertaining folks so royally.

 

The Case of the Magical Mechanical Bird will be on display at All Things Miniature in Haddenham, Bucks on Saturday September 23rd. 

A video of the mechanical bird in action can be seen here, on the Steampunk – Shrunk Facebook page.

A New Chapter

Well no, nobody took up the challenge of writing that missing chapter, So I suppose it will be forever lost.

Moving on, though… The library which inspired the whole story in the first place is about to undergo a complete transformation.

For some weeks now, it has been in the possession of its new custodian.  She loves it, but announced that it needed some figures.  What good is a library, after all, without any readers?  Consequently I was commissioned to create two new characters, from the late Victorian or Edwardian era.  As we chatted through the sort of people she’d like, a story began to emerge.  No surprise there; this lady is a consummate storyteller.

Planning  to attend a demonstration for women's rights

I was asked to make one a female academic.  That suited me perfectly.  I’d been longing to create Olivia Libris, the renowned author.

 

“And the second one?” I asked.  “Male or female?”

“Female,” she decided.  “She’s a suffragette.  Let’s make the library a celebration of women’s education and emancipation.  Could you make a suffragist newspaper to put on one of the chairs?”

So here they are – Olivia and her young friend Philippa, who is based on one of my heroines, the educational pioneer Philippa Fawcett.  (I did my teacher training at the college named after her in London.)

preparing to visit the library

Both are gloriously free of corsets and have removable ‘Votes for Women’ sashes.  The newspaper and a reprinted poster from the time complete the set. 

Tomorrow they will be off to take up residence in the library, unless they have a demonstration planned, of course.

I so enjoyed recreating a couple of these courageous women.  We have so much to thank them for.

Still Probably the Smallest Competition – Update

Olivia Libris here, author of ‘The Vital Chapter’.

Dear Readers,

I understand that some of you are busily engaged in the task of recreating the missing chapter of my book, in order to enter our diminutive contest.  I await your entries with eager anticipation, having completely forgotten my own version of events and having foolishly failed to save a copy.  May this be a lesson to us all.

One of Steampunk - Shrunk's intriguing room cases, at 1/12 scale.I’m delighted to inform you that The Case of the Missing Chapter itself (a one twelfth scale room in a carrying case) has now been transferred to its new owner – a story-teller par excellence, who took delivery of it yesterday.  

The competition, however, continues apace and you have only a few remaining weeks to enter.  See full details by clicking here.

One final note:  The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that a few more words were missing from the version of the story printed in last week’s post.  In Chapter 3, Harvey’s response to Algy when discussing a possible move to Africa was erroneously omitted.  This fault has now been rectified and the correct version of the conversation is reprinted below for your edification.

Algernon's younger brother, after a long balloon ride“Oh such adventures are just fine for a young fellow like yourself, my dear Harvey.  Nothing to hold you here, no family or obligations to consider.  I’m delighted for you, old boy.  Wouldn’t do for me, though.  There’s this old pile to keep up, the staff to consider, all the horses… and I couldn’t ask Josephine to up sticks and adjust to such a difficult climate.”

“Pah!  Loads of lovely ladies over there!” returned Harvey.  “They have a whale of a time.  As for this old place – sell it up and start afresh.  You’ll make your fortune.  Nothing to lose.”

“Well I’ll give it some thought,” Algernon replied, and promptly left the room and headed back to his study.

 

I look forward very much to reading your competition entries.  Please continue writing and sharing the information among your like-minded acquaintances.

Sincerely yours,

O Libris

P.S. Might I be vulgar enough to insert a brief mention of the splendid Steampunk Dolls House Etsy shop which can be found at this link, where many of Steampunk – Shrunk’s extraordinary one-off creations are available for purchase worldwide?