Thursday, April 5, 2012

Steampunked Power Chair at the Nightmare Machine!

I recently met some very interesting Steampunk Inventors while on the "Ghost Tour" (a tour of haunted buildings-real ones) in Jefferson Texas at the Nightmare Machine Steampunk and Paranormal Convention sponsored by the Steampunk Illumination Society.  I was fascinated by the powered steampunk wheelchair they had constructed and were using on the tour.  I asked if they could give me a bit of background on that project and some description of how they put it together.  Here is their description of how this Functional Steampunk Art Project came together:

Well, the chair project started last Fall, as our B&B was to be featured yet again on the Christmas Home Tours. I hadn't been on tour since before the stroke, and wanted some way to blend in with our home better. My husband Michael utilized a 100 year old Golden Oak platform rocker and managed to mount it securely to the power chassis. Now, I had admired Steampunk art for years, and in January began collecting more antique cool stuff to add to the chair. 

The first pieces we found were the old spring loaded brass candle lanterns. Michael found them on Ebay for not a lot, but the glass shades were missing. This was actually ok, as the glass would not have been road worthy with the bumps and vibration one encounters outdoors. We discovered that clear plastic baby bottles were the exact diameter needed, and sawed them off and installed. Voila! 

Next, we went through many ideas on how to mount old large gauges, and what on earth to do about the controller. I greatly admired Daniel Valdez's Dr. X chair, but wow, was that ever out of our league! So I opted to do a Tesla chair instead of steam. 

Michael assembled the black pressure tanks out of PVC, onto long pieces of allthread post, and covered the parts that showed in copper pipe. He embellished the caps with brass upholstery tacks to look like rivets. Atop the tanks, there is an antique brass altimeter mounted between a pair of star shaped lightning rod tips in bronze. The heat shield is an embossed copper plate from one of our homes old gas fireplaces, (even the house had a gift for us!) At the bottom, is an old nickel name plate that says Silver Oak, from a wood burning stove. The umbrella is a necessity in TX weather, and Michael simply made a brass coil to hold it and fastened it to the side. The controller was painted to math the old oak, and then carefully carved out to fit on one of the arms. As the finishing touch, a small plasma flatscreen was added to the top black tube, and remote switched. 

I am very pleased with how it all turned out, and we are grateful for the friendly and enthusiastic reception we got at the festival. I would love to find a way to go to the Difference Engine somehow, but travelling distances can be challenging, as we have no way to carry the chair other than manhandling its 300+ pounds into the back of our aging pickup truck. The cool VW just has ne way to carry it yet. But we might find a way. 

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