Saturday, June 11, 2011

DIY Steampunk Gauges

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!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good On Paper

I mentioned Olly Moss' amazing art show "Paper Cuts" a few weeks ago on FB, and if you haven't seen it yet, you're going to love scrolling through (there's got to be over a hundred) and seeing how many iconic 80s characters, cartoons, and various super heroes' silhouettes you recognize.

For example:

He reminds me of the babe.

This = instant nostalgia.

And how sweet is this one?


(Ok, so they're not all from the 80s.)

Like traditional silhouettes, those are all cut paper, (ergo the show name) which is what makes the tiny details so amazing.

Also amazing is Meghan Stratman's art project "Nerd Love: 52 weeks of paper fandom," which is nothing short of spectacular when you realize her pieces are also made with paper.

Here are a few of my favorites (so far):


Harley Quinn!

And everyone's favorite Big Sister!

Seriously - just look at that detail. Amazing.

Meghan is only up to week 20, so be sure keep track of her progress over on her blog. As a bonus, the original pieces are available for sale, so if you're quick you might score one of your very own! (Although if she does a Ghostbusters one: DIBS.)

And finally, Brittney Lee takes paper cutting art to the next level - by making it 3D:

The snowflakes in her Edward Scissorhands tribute pop off the page like fireworks - gorgeous!

Scroll through Lee's blog, and you'll find that every piece is more breathtaking than the last:

And this is just the close-up. Wait'll you see the whole thing!
Lee's combination of painting and paper cuttings is simply magical - but her 2D art isn't half bad, either:
I love the shades of Mary Blair here - so wonderfully retro! And unlike the 3D pieces, you can buy this one at Lee's Etsy store.

Oh, and I know it's not geeky, but this one never fails to makes me smile:


And how great would it be in 3D? Eh? (Brittney? Eh? Hint hint?)

So, guys, which is your favorite? Any other great and geeky paper artists I should know about?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ask Jen: Convention Etiquette

Between CW and Epbot I get a lot of e-mails, and I've been asked for advice on everything from careers to costumes. Though I can't answer them all, and I'm certainly no advice columnist, I thought Leilani's recent question (and my answer) might be of interest to some of you:

[edited for brevity]

You and your equally-amazing husband seem to be pros at the convention scene, so I would like any advice you can offer. I'm stupidly shy. I have a hard time approaching people, even people that are there for the sole purpose of being approached.

...I'm probably going to go to Comicpalooza and I don't have any idea what's appropriate behavior regarding the actors who sell their autographs and photos. Are we allowed to even approach them at their tables to talk to them if we don't intend to purchase an autograph? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem buying a picture or anything...but my bank account does have its limits.

And my reply:

For what it's worth, I'm an introvert whose MO is hugging the walls and staying in the background, so I'm right there with you on the shy thing! For each con we go to, the first few minutes are tough; I have to break the ice, grit my teeth, and [insert one more cliché here] to approach that first cosplayer for a photograph. It gets easier with every person, though, because con-goers are so nice. That said, I still haven't mastered the art of interrupting a conversation to ask for a photo - I just can't do it!

All that said, the celebrity guests are a whole 'nother ball of wax, and how you can approach them depends on the con itself. For really big and crowded cons, you'll probably never get near them without a paid ticket for an autograph, although you usually *can* tag along with a paying friend. Smaller cons are much more lax and easy to maneuver, so odds are it'll just be the guest and one handler (or sometimes no handler!) at his or her table, and if you see a break in the crowd you're free to go up and say hi. The reception you get will also vary from person to person: some guests are tired and really just there for the $$ (sad, but true) while others are genuinely interested in meeting their fans, paying or otherwise.

So, my advice? Go to the autograph room and just scope it out. You'll be able to tell from a distance if the guest is open to drive-by hellos, and whether they have time for one. And don't be afraid to say, "I can't afford a photo today, but I'm a big fan and just wanted to say hi." From what I've seen, most guests respond really well to this.

Have fun! And be sure to send me any good pictures!

- Jen

PS - And sometimes, if you're lucky (or dressed as characters from their show), you might even score a free photo with a celeb:

Felicia Day with The Guild cosplayers, via Felicia's Flickr account

So tell me, con-goers, does this line up with your own experiences? Anything you would add? Or any fun celebrity run-ins you'd care to share? Dish 'em up in the comments!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Robot Kitchen

I know it's hard to tell, but I kind of have a thing for robots. [smirk] And CUTE robots are, without a doubt, the bee's knees.

So here are a few ways to make your kitchen more robot-awesome:

From perpetual kid, $19.99

Passing the salt just got a million times cooler: wind these guys up, and they deliver themselves!

$10.95 each at Neatoshop
Or how about these wind-up timers? Love the vintage tin toy look.

You can make some pretty cool mini-'bots and winding keys with this "chillbots" ice tray:

From Moxie, $8.95
(Thanks to Rachel H. for the link!)
Fun fact: did you know you can also use silicone ice trays like these as chocolate/candy molds?

(Oooh, the possibilities...)

Hey, does anyone actually use egg cups? I certainly never have. But that wouldn't stop me from buying this adorable robot egg cup (and spoon!):

$8.50 (but out of stock! Nooo!!) at Fun Housewares, found via SuperPunch.


And my other favorite:
Six Euros at General Robots, found by Caroline R.

It's a robot tea infuser!

And, as you can see, he fits beautifully in a Dalek mug:

Now that is definitely my cup of tea.

So, seen any geeky cute robots lately? Share your links in the comments!