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…

 

The Hybrid K Time Machine

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.

Scourge of the High Skies

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.

a steampunk-shrunk modelSo 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?”

His lordship started violently at that.  (You’d have to have read the start of the book to understand.)  That was when he realised there was a firearm aimed directly at his heart.

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.

sky PirateI 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.

 

 

 

The Time-Traveller’s Companion

Well ‘excited’ is putting it mildly.  Henry and Charles have been leaping around Steampunk Towers all day, slapping each other on the back, chortling, yelling and banging their fists triumphantly on the workbench.

Henry and Charles' first bookI really can’t blame them, though.  First, they sold another of their time machines – and to a university lecturer in the United States who teaches time-travel, no less – and secondly, they have published their first book!

It’s a slender volume, comprising just twelve pages of text, but it constitutes an essential guide for any time-travellers who wish to journey through London’s past and future.

a fascinating readOh, there will be those who purchase the book and then complain that its print is too small to read.  So as is our custom, we will reproduce the text here in its entirety.

However we strongly suggest heading to The Steampunk DollsHouse and downloading a copy for yourself.  Not only is it a delightful little item to own, but if you do so, our little authors here will be quite ecstatic.

 

THE TIME- TRAVELLER’S COMPANION
London Edition
Charles and Henry Fortescue

Preface

Having travelled extensively through time from our workshop in the city of London, we humbly offer this volume to fellow temporal voyagers, in the earnest hope that they may avoid some of the pitfalls and experience some of the delights which we ourselves have encountered. We feel that this will quickly become an indispensable aid for all serious time-travellers.  London 1885

Section One: Dangers

Clearly, one of the most useful services we can render to our readers is to provide warning of times to avoid, when calibrating your time machine.

As all serious time travellers will be aware, your geographical location will not change – only your temporal one.

Consequently, this volume will be invaluable, should you be located in London or its environs.

 

A List of Dates to Avoid

AD 43   Moderate risk. Roman military invasion underway.  Pretty ruthless bunch.

AD 61 Extreme danger. Iceni tribe sacking the city.  Slaughtering everyone they see.

1066 Moderate risk. Unsettled times as Normans take control.

1381 High risk.  Gangs of peasants rampaging.  Some chap called Tyler in charge.  Avoid.

1642-9 High risk. Civil war.

1664-6 High risk.  Plague is rife.  People dropping like flies.

1666 Extreme danger.  London is ablaze.  Do not attempt to stop in early September.

1888 Low risk.  A spate of grizzly murders taking place in the capital.

1915 High risk.  War! Airships and futuristic flying machines dropping fire bombs on London.

1940-41 Extreme danger. London ablaze and virtually destroyed by fire bombs from flying craft.  Do not stop.

 

N.B.

Having seen the devastation of 1941, we have chosen not to travel further into the future, since we feel there is a very real possibility that some dreadful post-apocalyptic times lie ahead and that the world will indeed end in the year AD 2012.

Should any readers dare to venture into those uncertain times – and survive – by all means notify us of your findings upon your return and we will incorporate them in a future edition, with due credit to the authors, obviously.

 

Section Two: Highlights

Whilst it is only prudent to take due care, we wish to emphasise the uplifting and informative experiences that can be gained through judicious time-travelling.

In this section, therefore, we will outline some of the most fascinating and instructional journeys which we ourselves have experienced within the historic and fascinating city of London.

c.600,000 BC: We have found this to be a surprisingly warm and pleasant period in our capital’s history.  The astonished traveller can expect to encounter herds or mammoth, hippopotamus, deer, wild horses and much other wildlife strolling around the banks of the Thames.  A remarkable experience.

c.200 AD:  Should you wish to view London’s origins as a city, this would be an excellent time to stop.  A golden age of prosperity exists as London is being laid out by its Roman leaders.  They appear more mellow in this age.

c.884: The chance to see King Alfred the Great setting London up as his capital should not be missed.  The traveller is warned to avoid any encounters with the warlike Danes, but it is most instructive to see the Roman city being expanded and improved upon by a truly enlightened monarch.

1588 -1600:  It would be foolish, in our humble opinion, not to visit London at the time of the flowering of the world’s most esteemed playwright – William Shakespeare.  One of us was fortunate to watch a performance of Macbeth at a playhouse, with Mr Shakespeare himself taking the role of Duncan.

1838:  Should you be able to calibrate your machine to arrive in London on a specific date, why not attend the coronation of our beloved Queen Victoria on June 28th?  A stunning occasion.

1920-30:  For those requiring a relatively safe journey into the future, the wonders of this era should not be missed.  You will find locomotives running in tunnels beneath London’s streets, astonishing vehicles travelling at great speed on said streets and wonders which we can barely dream of.

Perhaps, in the far future – should the world survive – there will again be halcyon days of great splendour and achievements.  We earnestly hope that this will be the case.

Let us end this slim volume with a short, and by no means exhaustive list of items it would be wise to take with you on any adventures into other times. 

Reading about time travelUseful items for time-travel 

A supply of candles and lucifers.

A tin of dry biscuits.

A hip flask of brandy.

A supply of fine gold chains to exchange for currency.

Spare breeches and hose.

A firearm for self-protection.

This volume!

We wish you safe journeys.

 

 

Lets do the time warp again…

“It’s been a while,” Henry told me, wistfully, “since I went time travelling.  Any chance you could help me out with a new machine?”

“Fine,” I said.  “As long as you can source all the components from our junk box.”

“My pleasure, Madame,” he beamed, and headed off to rummage through the collection.

Putting components together is never easy.

An hour or so later he was back with a particularly ugly little bamboo chair, a couple of clarinet keys, a light-up Christmas badge, an empty ribbon reel, the inside of a sewing thread spool, a clip from the old shower curtain, a few beads, promisingly-shaped wires and springs and a plastic robot arm.

“Hmm,” I said.  “Interesting.  How are you going to power it?”

” ‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,’ as my dear old friend Nick used to say.  That circuit in the badge is at a perfect frequency and has plenty of energy stored in its batteries.  As for the vibration, just take a look at these springs and the switch on that clarinet key.  Try twanging it!”

I did.  It made a rather pleasant Jew’s harp sound and vibrated beautifully.

Henry's time machine from Steampunk-Shrunk
Henry had it fired up in no time.

“Okay Henry.  You get the circuits sorted and I’ll get to work with some paint and copper tape,” I told him.

Before long the machine was finished.  Certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing of objects, but when he sat in the seat, Henry had foot pedals that could be calibrated to the target date and time, a copper steering column, a strange silvery sphereoid that did goodness-knows-what, but seemed very important, along with a clock and altimeter.

“Dear Madame, if you would be good enough to give the temporal booster rocket a turn and then ping that little lever you liked so much, I’ll give it a spin,” Henry smiled.

Available at Steampunk-Shrunk stalls
Ready to go.

“Don’t forget to put your goggles on, I told him.  And make sure you’re back in time for the trip to Shrewsbury.”

“It’s a TIME machine, Madame!” he chided.  “I can be back at whatever time I choose!”

“Yes, I know that, but – just be careful, Henry.  You know how, um, adventurous you can be.”

Henry waved his cap to me and then, as I started the contraption’s rocket up and watched the blue and red sparks firing away inside it, he focused all his attention on that strange silver ball.

a blank

“Henry, how are you going to start it up by yourself when you want to come back…?” I was asking.

But I was all alone.

He still isn’t back.

I just hope he’ll make it by the time of the Shrewsbury Christmas Steampunk Spectacular,  Knowing Henry, he’ll be there with seconds to spare.

If you’d like to take a look at the machine, or even contemplate buying it, do come and join us at the market in St Mary’s Church on December 1st and 2nd 2018.

 

Alice Alone – Almost

There were only four of us at the start of the latest Steampunk Convention, unless you count the two ladies engaged in the tea duel, who speak to no one, but fix each other with steely stares over their cow biscuits and cups of tea, or the Samurai warrior who stands transfixed in some Zen-like meditative state.  Just four – myself and the three gentlemen.

I am Alice.  I was Mrs S’s first ever makeover.  I permit myself to believe that I will always hold a special place in her heart for that reason alone.  Then there was Bertie, the military gent who made maps of uncharted lands for the Ordnance Survey, Lars, the mysterious inventor who never removed those dark glasses and William, the rather aloof and dapper man with the dart-launcher chained to his arm.

We stood in a casual group on the stall, all secretly wishing that a new owner would arrive and transport us to a permanent home, ending our nomadic existence.

Bertie was the first to leave.  Just imagine his delight when he discovered that his new guardian was to be the very same lady who had, on a previous occasion, purchased Leonora.  A match made in heaven, we all agreed.  We could imagine those two intrepid explorers heading off to discover new lands and treasures together.  How could we be anything but delighted?

Lars was the next to depart.  His new guardian was also a returning customer.  The young man had bought that very worrying time machine with the flashing lights.  I was glad to see that go.  It made me nervous.  Now here he was again, eyeing each of us intently and trying to decide which of us would be the machine’s inventor.  Well clearly it had to be Lars.  William would never get his hands grubby with oil or grease and – well – do I look like the kind of person who would go galivanting around in a time machine?  Obviously not.

So by the end of the day, only William and I remained.
“Just you and myself, then Madam, it would seem,” he said, in a slightly strained voice.
“Indeed,” I replied, permitting myself to look into his eyes and notice that there was a certain softness in his expression which I hadn’t noticed before.

“Charming about Bertie and Leonora,” he said.
“It is,” I agreed, and found myself wondering, fleetingly, how it would feel to end up in the same home as William. Not too disagreeable, I felt.

“I never really got to know Lars,” I told him.
“Hmmph,” he snorted. “Very odd chap. Brilliant inventor, of course, but not – you know – someone I warmed to.  We had, er, business dealings, but that was all.”

I nodded. I’d never before thought of William warming to anyone.  But who can say?

On the road again

How very inconvenient it is to be bundled into a wheelie suitcase and carted off to different venues with such frequency.  True, Mrs S is always careful to cushion us well and give us as much personal space as possible, but it is not a pleasant way to travel.

No sooner are we back from a spate of ‘Dolly’s Daydream’ sales, than we are once again off on a new adventure.

Ah, but this one is a steampunk gathering, and we do love those!  All the wonderfully attired people who actually understand what a tea duel is and why we have Racing Teapots and Octopuses’ Gardens.

So on September 16th, we and our gizmos, gadgets and other wonders will be on display at The Steampunk Essextraordinaire VI in the splendidly named Museum of Power.

Do come and join us if you are in that part of the world.Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

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.

 

 

 

Peony Pinkerton’s Racing Teapots

Not everyone’s – er – cup of tea, perhaps, but I adore teapot racing.

Never seen a steampunk teapot race?  Well you do need to head off to your nearest Steampunk Convention/ Extravaganza/ Spectacular and experience the thrill of it for yourself.

Steampunk ladyOh goodness, how ill-mannered of me!  I forgot to introduce myself: Miss Peony Pinkerton.  Delighted to make your acquaintance.

So yes, teapot racing.  I have two pots of my own at the moment.  The most decorative is the steam-powered contraption, but I also own a very servicable clockwork machine.  Both have won numerous prizes, naturally.

Which is faster?  It depends on the surface they are racing on, to be honest, but there’s not a great deal to choose between them.

Let me show them to you.

 

for sale at SteampunkDollsHouse
The Steam Powered Teapot
for sale at SteampunkDollsHouse
The Clockwork Teapot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the items featured here, do head over to The Steampunk DollsHouse