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DIY Steampunk Gauges

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If you're building steampunk props for cosplay, gauges are a must-have. Unfortunately, vintage gauges (which look the most authentic) can be both hard to find and pretty darn expensive once you do track them down.

So, John and I decided to make our own.


Here's the secret:

These cup slider handles for closet doors are perfect for DIY gauges. Plus, a pack of two handles only costs two or three dollars - sweet!

Once we found those, I went hunting online for photos of vintage pressure gauges. I found one I liked, downloaded it, and then cleaned it up and cropped it (badly) in Photoshop:

Next I needed a temperature gauge, which was much harder to track down. Eventually I found a style I loved...


...but the photo had too much glare and shadow to use. So, using that photo as a reference, John and I made one from scratch in PS - with a few fun variations, of course.




For the most realistic look, you could use clock hands or spinner arrows like these for the gauge needles. We were impatient, though, and just printed ours on.

To give the faces some age and character, John rubbed brown glaze on the paper after printing them out. (Tip: make the edges darker for a nice vignette effect.)

Next it was a simple matter of cutting them out:

John: Don't show my thumb! My nail looks awful!

Me: [rolling eyes]

And popping them inside the frames.

For the glass, we considered cutting plastic or thin plexiglass - both options that I think would work, but they would have to be cut exactly right to fit in place, and then sealed with a tiny bead of clear caulk or glue.

So instead, we opted for the easy way out and just filled them with clear epoxy:

If you go this route too, be sure to use metal duct tape to cover the two small holes in the back of the handles before filling them. Epoxy will melt through regular tape - a lesson we learned the hard way with our first set - so be sure it's the hardy metallic stuff.

The epoxy we used was crystal clear, so you can only see it from an angle when the light hits it. It's so clear, in fact, that I may go back and add a circle of thin plastic on top of the epoxy, just to make it more visible.

And finally, here are our two finished gauges, setting in place on a scale drawing of the prop we're building:


And, ok - since you insist - here's a sneak peek of the prop a little further along:

Our gauges managed to fool a friend from only two feet away, so overall I call that a success!

The only change I might make for future gauges is to bring the faces forward a bit, so they're not recessed quite so far in the handles. I've noticed with modern gauges that the needle and face are almost right against the glass, so that might help ours look even more realistic.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this "snapshot of what John & Jen have been up to." Heh. Feel free to use the graphics in this post for your own gauges, fellow steampunkers, and please send me photos if you do!

Posted by Jen at 2:23 PM Labels: , ,

37 comments:

  1. I consider myself to be a little crafty, but you blow me out of the water! I always enjoy seeing what you two come up with. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Those turned out so great!! Can't wait to see how the rest of the project turns out!

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  3. Awesome! Can't wait to see the finished product :)

    Instead of epoxy, you should try doming resin. I use it in my "Firefly" charms. It domes up and looks shiny, which is what I think you want.

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/nalaserenity

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  4. This is so cool! I really want to try and create a steampunk costume, so any advice or tutorials you can give would never go unappreciated! You always find the most creative ways of making something simple into something extraordinary.

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  5. Instead of the epoxy, what about trying Mod Podge Dimensional Magic instead? Might stop the "heat" issues you were mentioning. Then again, I'm not sure how much you can get at a time, so it may be less monetarily viable an option.

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  6. Jen, I saw this tshirt at teefury.com and thought of you. It isn't available at that particular site for purchase but you can see the artwork is a mashup of Ghostbusters and Steampunk and I thought you'd like it.
    http://www.teefury.com/archive/1239/Spectral_Smashers/

    Often, you can search the illustrator and buy it on another site,

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  7. pretty cool! Thanks for the tutorial!

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  8. Older gauges tend to be thicker - in particular the space from inner side of glass to gauge face. Given that the bezel ring is primarily there to hold the glass in place, I think you could approximate this effect by using more epoxy until the surface is 1-2mm below the bezel edge.

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  9. Cool! The ideas you come up with just blow my mind!
    -Sarah E.

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  10. Those are FABULOUS! Can you tell me where you got your epoxy? I have a friend who saw your blog and now wants me to make some stuff for her.

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  11. I really admire your creativeness, and that is such a great tutorial! Thanks for posting--and whatever it is you're building, I'm excited to see it!

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  12. This is awesome! Gauges are so trick to find, especially in a flea market/junk poor environment like I have. Another option for the "glass" is embossing powder for scrapbooking. I've used it on jewelery, and this is a bit big; but with enough of it you could get a slightly domed effect.

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  13. Instead of those closet thingies, try using round aluminum part storage tins like these: http://is.gd/wSH9pc. They come with clear lids, so you don't have to mess with epoxy.

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  14. Wow! Your ideas are so exciting! I suddenly want to head to my craft store and go bananas shopping for DIY steampunk items. :D

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  15. Watchmaker cases such as http://www.axminster.co.uk/axminster-aluminium-watchmakers-cases-prod366112/ come with clear plastic lids edged with metal and might be exactly right for this kind of project. They are useful for all sorts of things :)

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  16. Just an epoxying tip: If people do not want to deal with duct tape residue clear packing tape works great for covering up holes as does kids modeling clay (the kind of clay that never sets). The epoxy does not effect (or melt) either. Although the kids clay is harder to clean up. I cast cores in epoxy regularly and the core holders have all sorts of holes (which can be quite large) that have to be covered, hence the discoveries.

    I love all of your DIY projects! They are very inspiring!!!

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  17. That is incredible. you are my new hero (I say this as if it wasnt true before) :)

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  18. Came across this on Stumble...thought you two would enjoy this the most: http://craftyminimeg.blogspot.com/2011/05/tea-cup-ring.html

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  19. Those look awesome---you guys are so nifty. :D

    And, btw, completely off topic but in case you haven't seen these go look because they're awesome...

    Kingdom Hearts II set

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  20. Holy cow, those are gorgeous! o.o
    And the device you've put them on... I want more.
    You guys are just amazing.

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  21. If you didn't want to recoat the epoxy with something else, another way to draw attention to it might be to add a few minute scratches to the surface, as if the prop had truly taken a pounding before display. Just a random thought that popped into my head.

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  22. Anon and Nephster - thanks for the links. For someone like me who is less crafty and more accident prone (especially with sticky stuff...) those look like a great solution!

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  23. I had a really weird dream about these things last night... I don't remember the context, I only remember they were there. So hey, your blogs are making their way into your readers' subconscious! Progress, I say!!

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  24. Instead of using glass or epoxy, I've used large pieces of mica cut to size. You can also use epoxy underneath this too. Mica has that patina of age to it, and is pretty easy to cut exactly with scissors, so I really liked the way it looked on my project. This looks completely bad-ass, btw!

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  25. If you needed a larger gauge would a frozen juice can lid work?

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  26. Thank you for sharing this! I'm working on my steampunk costume for DragonCon (widow with a mechanical arm), and while I can sew, I'm not so good at the crafty stuff. This will really help with construction of my arm: I wanted a gauge but wasn't sure how to approach it.

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  27. Really creative! Very impressed.

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  28. instead of epoxy, Diamond glaze is an option. I buy it at the bead store. Very cool idea. Will use for next years mad scientist costume.

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  29. Your gauges kind of reminded me of these slightly steampunk mice. I bet you two could make a really awesome one, and for much less than $180.

    I can't wait to see the prop once it's done!

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  30. I must say, I'm a bit envious here, not only is your man Jack-Bauer-hot, he's also all talented and creative and helpful. Hmpf! :P
    Great job, they really do look authentic in the pictures. Can't wait to see the rest!

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  31. Brilliant! The only changes I might make - for my own personal tastes - is to add a small amount of epoxy dye to produce an amber effect. I might also 'age' the brass to give the gauges an antique look. Thanks for sharing, exceptional job!

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  32. To make the epoxy more evident, you can pour it in two stages. First fill halfway and allow to set, then use some of that brown glaze to schmaltz up the edges as you did on the paper inserts. I'd throw in a few mica flecks too so they'd give odd reflections like old glass tends to do. Then fill them the rest of the way with epoxy.

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I'm totally going to make some!

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  33. Those are amazing! Thanks for the tutorial...this is exactly what I need for the upcoming Steampunk con!

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  34. This is awesome! I found some gauges at Harbor freight and Menards, but they looked to new and this way I can customize them how I want, thanks so much!

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  35. stumbled onto your site, love all the projects! thanks for letting me have the images to use....I might be making some stuff with these..(insert evil chuckle here).

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  36. This is so beautifully crafted...I love it.

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