The Building of The Aronnax – Many Leagues Under the Sea

Not twenty thousand.  I can’t yet lay claim to that.  Yet who can say?  One day, perhaps.

To build a vessel capable of travelling underwater and exploring the depth of the seas has been an ambition of mine since my youth.  In those days, I was fortunate enough to sit at the table of the great Dr Pierre Aronnax himself, while he regaled us with tales of his voyage on the Nautilus, with the strange and troubled Captain Nemo.

How I loved his stories.  How I longed to follow in his footsteps – or in his wake, perhaps.  That I, Maurice Souslesmers, should be able to travel in this way was but a distant dream, until I joined forces with Mrs S, upcycler and creator of weird and wonderful 1:12 scale creations.

“So you want something like The Nautilus?” she asked.  “Sounds an interesting challenge.  Trouble is, I’m flat broke, so the budget for this project is zero.  Everything will have to come from my junk stash.  Agreed?”

No automatic alt text available.What choice did I have?  We explored the pile of objects together:  a cardboard case, a clear plastic lid from a packaging box, some corrugated foil card from a children’s craft set, a finger light left over from last Hallowe’en, a brass radiator key, a small brass bell and whistle, a broken dolls house dressing table, some bits of polymer clay, a blue plastic bag, an empty shower gel bottle, a few watch parts and a jar of nail art gems.

“That should do nicely,”  she said.

I was less than convinced.

Nevertheless, she set to work with coloured nail polish, a dizzying array of adhesives and some very messy burnishing paste.

“See this broken watch part – how it swivels?” she asked excitedly.  “That will make a turntable for your searchlight.  You need to be able to scan around the ocean, looking for creatures, don’t you?”

Before my eyes, the plastic (a strange and rather ugly synthetic substance alien to my era) finger light became a leather and copper-clad lamp on a turning steel base.

No automatic alt text available.I stacked oxygen tanks in the navigation deck’s storage compartments and set about burnishing the huge boiler.

Mrs S found a way to mount the periscope so that it could be raised and lowered and we tested the construction so far.

True, our vessel lacked the opulence of The Nautilus as described by Aronnax – the library and study, the leather armchairs and so forth.  Nevertheless,  I saw that I would finally be able to make my own voyage of discovery, and I was delighted.

No automatic alt text available.

Eagerly, I named my craft after my great hero, and The Aronnax began its journey.

You will see that I am keeping a careful ship’s log and making sketches of the mysterious creatures of the deep I am encountering on my journey.  As for those apparently man-made arches and columns I have encountered in the murky depths…  Might I, like my predecessors have stumbled upon the famed ruins of Atlantis?

 

Should you wish to see The Aronnax, it will be surfacing at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair at Rivenhall End in Essex on September 9th 2018 and at the Hastings Steampunk Extravaganza on September 16th.

 

A Case in Point

Well there’s always a story.  The Case of the Balloon Journey had one, naturally.  Harvey Cholmondeley, the intrepid and rather dishevelled traveller had been a minor, though pivotal, character in the story of The Vital Chapter.

It was he who flew from somewhere in Africa, at the bidding of his sister-in-law, to rescue his brother Algernon from a bout of depression.  Quite what he did, we never discovered. After his visit, however, Algy became the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and hero of our proud nation.

So what did Harvey do after that mysterious intervention?  Well, to be honest, he trailed around many Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, where he often took pride of place at the centre of the displays.  He drew people in.  They admired his case, complete with clouds, balloon basket, flickering burner, hip flask, map and other necessities.  They often wished they had the funds or the room in their crowded houses for his case, but departed instead with some smaller trinket.

All this changed last weekend, though.  A delightful gentleman, with a twinkle in his eye, gazed at the case for some time, then announced, “I rather think I need to buy that.”
“I rather think you do,” agreed his good lady.

The gentleman had, it transpired, been an aviator in his younger days and it was clear that Harvey was off to an excellent new home.

Imagine our surprise, though, when an illustrated message reached Steampunk Towers a few days later.

additions to the basket

The ladies and gentlemen gathered around eagerly to discover news of their erstwhile companion.  Algy was, understandably, particularly interested.

Harvey had, it appeared, changed his name to Bertie, hoisted a Union Flag on one of the ropes, acquired an anchor and a travelling companion in the form of a seagull, which had made itself quite at home in a coil of rope.  The hip flask, we noted, was still in the pocket of his greatcoat, but perched on the side of the gondola was an almost certainly alcoholic iced drink, complete with curly straws.

Algernon spoke for us all when he announced, “I see that my brother has found a home with a true British eccentric who shares our taste for the minutely absurd.  How perfectly delightful.”

And it was so very thoughtful of the gentleman to think to share with us the further adventures of one of our own.

 

Forward with Fortitude

You may consider, perhaps, that our expressions today are somewhat serious.  This we cannot deny.figures for sale on Steampunk-shrunk stall  Yet we bear temporary setbacks with fortitude and a grim determination to uphold our standards of excellence.

Certainly we are discomforted by the fact that football is no longer ‘cummy nome’, as the denizens of our temporary area of residence have been claiming in their nocturnal carousings.  We are similarly dismayed to discover that a large and curiously orange inhabitant of another land, who appears to lack acceptable levels of gentlemanly reserve and chivalry, is to begin visiting our shores today.

Most distressing of all, though, is Mrs Steampunkle’s assertion that in order to meet people and sell our excellent gadgets, gizmos and other wonders in the part of the country where we now find ourselves (these spacio-temporal disturbances are a regrettable aspect of living in a retro-futuristic time warp) we need to attend miniatures fairs run by a company known as ‘Dolly’s Daydreams’.

“Perhaps,” suggested Mrs S, “this Dolly, whoever she is, secretly daydreams of becoming as splendidly eccentric and individual as your good selves.  Perhaps she would love to embrace the splendour and general spiffingness of steampunk.  Perhaps you will become inspirational figures to Dolly and enable her to embark on a new adventure.”

Thus it is that we move forward with fortitude and embrace the challenges imposed by the temporary exile we face for these next few months in the East of Albion.

steampunk flower in glass domeWe will present ourselves and our unique steampunk items with pride and decorum at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair at the Ipswich Hotel, Copdock, Suffolk IP8 3JD on July 22nd, between the hours of 10.30am and 4pm.  We sincerely hope and trust that our patrons and well wishers in the area will come along and pay us a visit.

While residing here, we will also be exhibiting at Rivenhall End, nr Witham, Essex and at a Steampunk Spectacular in Hastings, East Sussex during September.

Fondest regards and felicitations from

Leonora, Lars, Alice, William and Bertie

PS Of course the Steampunk Dolls House, being a shop without a physical location, continues to function as normal, and you will be able to find an ever-growing variety of items there to suit all tastes and price ranges.

 

 

 

The Case of the Cases

Here in 21st Century England, it is possible, for a modest outlay, to purchase sets of what are called ‘storage suitcases’ from a well-known chain of stationery shops.  These sturdy little card cases, with metal handles and hinges, come in three sizes ranging from 12 x 8 x 3.5 inches (30 x 20 x 9 cm) down to 8 x 6 x 3 inches (14 x 20 x 8 cm).

It quickly became apparent that these would provide excellent and easily portable little rooms for the steampunk ladies and gentlemen to inhabit.  Decorating and furnishing them has become one of my chief delights and many have headed off to happy homes throughout the country.

The prices vary considerably, depending on the complexity of the contents and whether they are sold with or without figures.

Here are the cases currently available at Steampunk-Shrunk:

The Engine Room
This is housed in a large case.  It is the room in which Henry the tinker (See Diary of a Tinkerer) repaired and powered up his time machine.

It contains a large pile of coal, a Twisted Firestarter (safely caged), a huge steam boiler with furnace beneath (complete with opening door and flickering flame), various pipes and a complex set of gadgets, the purpose of which remains a mystery to me.  It costs £58 and, like the other cases, can be purchased at Steampunk-Shrunk stalls or online. See home page for details.

The Case of the Balloon Journey
This is the only outdoor scene at present.  Harvey Cholmondeley is travelling from Africa to visit his brother Algernon.  (See The Vital Chapter).  Land can just be glimpsed through the clouds below, while Harvey stands in his basket, which has a turning anemometer and a burner with working flame (powered by a battery tea light).  Harvey wears a genuine leather coat and flying helmet and has all the details and gadget you’ve come to expect from steampunk-Shrunk figures.  This case costs £68 (or £48 without figure).

The Case of the Withdrawing Room
This small case shows her ladyship’s personal space.  There is a whatnot filled with her treasures, a bird in a cage, a chair, mirror and table complete with a flickering steampunk lamp.  Her journal, pen and inkpot lie on the table.  There is no figure sold with this room, which costs £48.

 

The Case of the Tinker’s Time Machine
Yet another time traveller! Here you find George Entwhistle hard at work on a partially completed temporal transporter.  You can find the full story here.  The room is crammed with detail and his machine flashes with different colours (from an upcycled Christmas badge!) in the most dramatic way you can imagine.  George wears a battered leather apron and specially adapted goggles.  The furnished room costs £58, or £78 with George included.

The Case of the Tea Duel
The room is set up for the most genteel of duels, but the intent is deadly serious.  There is real china crockery and ‘cows’ (a plate of malted milk biscuits) are the weapons of choice.  The tiny room is cleverly back-lit, so that light shines through the window.  The cupboard conceals the lighting for the scene.  This case can be purchased for £58. 

However for a further £27 (£85 in all), the immaculately attired duellists – Leticia and Prudence – can be added.  An absolute bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree, since Steampunk-Shrunk figures normally sell for £25 each.

 

The Alarming Clock

I, Ebenezer Crackington, am by trade a clockmaker.  I have worked at this trade since I completed my apprenticeship in the beautiful city of Paris, France, many years ago, at the age of twenty-two.

For eighteen years I made a reasonable living producing table and mantle clocks of the finest quality, encased in glass domes so that the mechanism could be viewed by the owners.

One memorable day, however, my shop was visited by none other than Lord Horatio Backgammon.

Imagine my amazement as this great gentleman entered the door and removed his hat, just as any lesser person might do.

I bowed to his lordship and offered him a chair, wishing that I had some upholstered seating, rather than the plain wooden variety.

Nevertheless, his lordship deigned to sit upon this humble piece of furniture with no complaint and addressed me in the following manner: 
“Crackington,” he said, “You have been recommended to 
me by certain gentlemen at my club as being a first rate craftsman.  Would you say they are correct?”

No doubt my face reddened rather at this most unexpected compliment, but I kept my head and replied, “Why I certainly believe it to be the case, Your Lordship, judging by the testimonials I have received from satisfied customers.”

“Good show,” Lord Backgammon responded.  “In that case, I have a most particular commission for you.”

I promptly availed myself of a pen and my order book, hoping that my exterior appearance remained calm, despite my inner excitement.

Lord Horatio Backgammon informed me that, for reasons he was unable to disclose, he needed to wake and rise at a various times during the night in order to attend meetings of an extremely significant nature.  His prompt arrival at these rendezvous was of the utmost importance. 

Unfortunately, his lordship was a very heavy sleeper and was having great difficulty waking on time.

He asked whether I had any experience in constructing adjustable mechanical alarm clocks.  I assured him that I had served as apprentice under M. Antoine Redier, the inventor and patent holder of such devices.

“Well they are useless!” his lordship informed me.  “I require a device at least ten times louder than such paltry machines and one which involves a further element of surprise.  Can you do it?”

I assured him that I could, and would start work on it that very day.

Lord Backgammon left his card and a generous down payment and departed.

I commenced by using a double bell for the alarm mechanism, with a strong beater which alternated between the two.  I then constructed a large claxon, which I fashioned from a trombone horn, which moved about in a haphazard and suitably alarming fashion when activated.

Since I was concerned that the ensuing noise might perforate his lordship’s eardrums, I installed a decibel gauge, which would shut down the alarm if dangerous sound levels were reached. 

Lord Backgammon was delighted with his device and pronounced it satisfactory in every respect.

 

Thus I find myself the inventor of the Ebenezer Crackington Alarming Clock.

A miniature DIY book containing this text can be purchased as a downloadable file from our Etsy shop here.  The file contains mini pages, an illustrated cover and full instructions for putting the book together.  All this for just £2.64.

Tinkering with Time

George Entwhistle, a patents clerk by day, had always enjoyed tinkering.  The trouble was, tinkering could be a somewhat noisy activity.  Living as he did in a terraced property, he had to contend with frequent complaints from neighbours and visits from members of the constabulary.

In consequence, he’d been banned from hammering, sawing, welding or producing anything with a tendency to explode between the hours of 8pm and 10am, and all day on Sundays.  This, given the long hours he worked at the patents office, made it difficult for him to achieve anything of note.  George felt cheated by life.

All this changed, though, the day he realised that the blocked up door in the sitting room did not, as he’d always imagined, lead to the parlour.  Careful measuring and still more careful (and virtually silent) plan drawing showed that there was a two and a half foot gap between the blocked door and the parlour wall.

Working only between the hours of 7.30 and 8 in the evening, George carefully prised open the mysterious door and discovered, to his great amazement, a staircase leading down.  Eagerly, he availed himself of an oil lamp and the poker from the fireplace, and cautiously descended.

Cellar Outlet, Gang, Dark, CreepyImagine George’s surprise and delight as he discovered a further door at the base, which opened quite easily, revealing a large cellar!

Certainly it was cold and uninviting, but the walls were thick.  George raced upstairs, grabbed his noisiest intruder alarm – one of his most unpopular inventions amongst the neighbours during the testing stage – and took it down to his newly discovered domain.  Here he set it off and left it in the cellar, shutting the door behind him and returning to the sitting room.  Despite the deafening clang of bells and shriek of whistles echoing around the empty space below, there was virtually no sound to be heard from either the sitting room or parlour.  Despite it being 8.30, not a single neighbour banged on the wall or hammered on his front door.
“Eureka!” exclaimed George.
“Quiet in there or I’ll summon a constable!” came an angry shout from the occupant of number 28.

From that day onward, George worked to transform the cellar into a tinker’s workshop.  He extended the heating pipes downwards to power a boiler, which not only heated the workshop, but allowed him to brew a much-needed cup of tea from time to time.  He constructed a doorbell with a wire connecting it to the front of his house, so that callers could be heard.  He made himself a shelf and workbench and even installed a clock and mirror.  The result was a commodious and most agreeable work space.  George was a happy man.

He is currently busying himself with constructing a clockwork time machine.  He’d long had a plan, gleaned from a combination of the failed ideas of several other tinkers.  Working in a patents office did have certain advantages.

As you can see, his contraption is well underway, and he’s able to fire it up for short periods.

“Only a matter of time,” George mutters to himself, smiling slightly at his own wit, “Now that I no longer have to suffer time restraints, soon I shall be the master of time!”

Time will tell…

 

Should you wish to inspect George’s cellar workshop and the items he is creating there, do come to any of the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls at various events over the coming months.

The details of venues, dates and times can be found on the home page of this website.  

Oh, and if you come along, do ask George to demonstrate the time machine.  He loves to show off his workmanship.

 

 

A Visit to Brasston

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.

the group are becoming excited

“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.

A touching moment for the valiant couple

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.

 

Should you wish to discover this remarkable location for yourself, dear reader, I suggest visiting Mr Miller’s Facebook page, where you will find all the details you need.

 

 

Final Call for the Vital Chapter Competition

Win, Word, Scrabble, Letters, WoodenWIN     WIN     WIN     WIN     WIN     WIN     WIN

Probably the Smallest Competition in the World!

Just a few days left to enter this competition and win a one-off 1/12 scale book…which YOU helped to write.  Head here for details.  Entries to be in by 21st August 2017.

Good luck, everyone.

You are in with a chance…!

The pages have been carefully removedI told you the competition would be small – in every sense of the word.  Let’s just say I’ve yet to be inundated with entries, so you stand a very good chance of winning.

For those who have not yet discovered it, or need to refresh their memories, the details are here: probably-the-smallest-competition-in-the-world.

All you have to do is to write the missing chapter of the book you will find there in less than 1000 words (even the book is small).  It’s open to anyone and you could win a unique copy of the book with your chapter inserted.  True, you’ll struggle to read it, since the book is only 2cm (3/4 inch) tall but the winning chapter will also appear on this site, along with the author’s name and any biographical details they wish to add.

A touching moment for the valiant coupleThe closing date for entries is Monday 21st August, so do get writing.

We are longing to discover how Algernon changed from being a dull, downcast gentleman whose only interest was in horse riding, to become Admiral of the High Skies, a national hero responsible for ridding the airways of troublesome Airship Pirates.

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?