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!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.
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.
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:
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!