Friday, June 26, 2009

Notes from the Armoury

Notes from the Armoury of the Independent Airship, Reluctant...

A weapon guaranteed to stop Airship Pirates, Charging Rhinostrahorses, Hungry Venusian Swamp Rats, Wild Bantha's or the occasional run away Steam Train!

I've always been a big fan of the rayguns as portrayed in the pulp magazines of the 20's and 30's, so when I got a chance, I made one. At least I made my version of one. To that end, I give you my latest creation, The Barsoomian Blaster!

This started out as a collection of various sizes of brass bar and a frame from a Crossman Model 130 air pistol that I found in a pile of junk parts at a garage sale. All that was left of the air pistol was the frame, black plastic grips and compression tube. The barrel and all associated parts were on the missing list.

I made a new set of grips from Purpleheart and then started turning brass. There are twelve turned pieces including the scope mount which I dovetailed to fit a set of scope rings I found in my "possibles" box. Everything else is hand made by me from solid brass.

Now any raygun isn't worth it's salt unless it actually "does" something so I added a "Carolinium" power cell. (Now anybody who recognizes where the term "Carolinium" comes from gets 500 imaginary Interwebz bucks and the label of "complete science fiction geek.")

It might be a bit hard to see in this photo but the "Power Cell" is on in the picture above, and glows with a wicked red glow even in daytime. In the dark, the effect is more dramatic obviously. I'm not quite ready to disclose my "Sooper Seekrit" power source but I'll give you a hint. Go to Pet Smart and look for laser cat toys. Now, how I made it glow is my secret for the nonce. In the dark it looks more like this. The power cell is controlled by twisting the knurled knob at the rear of the barrel.

I think it's pretty cool, but then I may be a bit prejudiced. All in all it took me about 50 hours of shop time to make this thing.

It's not a small gun, as it's over twelve inches long and weighs about as much as a .45 automatic.

I want to have this on my hip for Steam Con in Seattle this October, so I guess I'll have to start making a holster for it. That should just be a ton of fun!

A woman's work is never done I guess.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sometimes You Need Tools....

As much as I'd like to be able to, there are times when I just can't go out and buy every tool that I want even though, Gods know, I've tried. I recently found that I really needed a height gauge. Now, I can buy one for about fifty bucks but they look all metal and modern, but I'm developing a rather Victorian esthetic. (One of the downsides from following in Steampunk I'm sure.)

So being the cheap person I am trying to be, when I found a sale on digital calipers at Harbor Freight recently, I picked up several sets with the intention of using one set for a height gauge. So how do you make something with modern technology and digital readouts look "Victorian"? Simple, use lots of wood and brass.

The design for this gauge is not mine. It's been on the web for years and was originally published in Live Steam magazine in 1978 in an article by the late Frank McLean. Rather than go through the construction details you can find the original article here.

This is a piece of rosewood I plucked from the "lumber by the pound" bin at MacBeath Hardwood in Berkeley, California recently. It is hard. It is very hard. It is a carbide-cutter-sharp-edge eraser. This stuff does not make sawdust it makes saw powder. If you run any size drill into this stuff over 400 rpm, you will let all of the smoke out of the wood. If I make another, it will be easier to chew out a base of black walnut with my teeth. Hard! Trust me on this. But damn, it is beautiful!

The major changes I made were in using wood instead of iron for the base and turning the whole thing 180 degrees so I can hold the gauge with my left hand while scribing. The brass strip running down the middle was notched for holding the base of the caliper after I Dremel tooled off all of the caliper bits I didn't want. The round brass plugs I turned on my Mini-Lathe and are simply there to add mass to the base, and to make it look cool, but mostly for the mass. To make the whole thing slide nicely on my cheap ass surface plate (actually a scrap bit of marble counter top I got from a local cabinet shop), I added a brass shoe to the bottom of the rosewood base. Gorilla glue is wonderful stuff for bonding metal and wood. The only finish I used on that rosewood was a good quality wood wax. And it glows!

So there it is then, my attempt at a "Victorian/Steampunk/modern" height gauge. Could I have taken more time and made it without flaws? Sure. Could I have put a mirror polish on the brass bits and pieces? Sure. But I need the tool more than I need to spend more time making it "perfect." In my world, a tool only needs to be as perfect as it needs to be to perform it's assigned job. I'm sure that, in my little shop, this poor thing will get it's share of bumps and bruises and perhaps in time, and with enough spare time, I'll go back and make it all polished and shiny. However, it's either do that now or get back to work on the four "ray" gun projects I am currently working on. More about those in posts to follow I'm sure.

If you have any questions about how I did something (or how I didn't do something) just
leave a comment or email me.
If you really like this and have a need and can't make one for yourself, talk to me. I'm sure I can find enough spare time to help you out for not much money. After all, sleep is overrated!

Preamble and a Word of Warning...

I am not now, nor have I ever been a professional machinist. I have however, spent the better part of my life designing things for real machinists to make. Does this give me machining talents? No! However, after this number of years messing around in machine shops I do have more than a rudimentary knowledge of good machining practices...and I still possess all of my fingers and thumbs. This means I win.

Take what you will from this blog, but I must warn you that I bear no responsibility if you mess up and lose something precious while attempting anything you see and read here. You mess up=your bad, not mine.

Why the "Reluctant Machinist"?

It's like this. I've been known to cosplay in the world of Steampunk. My character is named Miss Genevieve E. Mugglethorpe. Genevieve is a rather pathological woman who loves things that go bang and boom. She is the armourer aboard the Independent Airship, Reluctant. In point of fact, she is the Captain and entire crew as well having misplaced her dear Father and beloved crew during a jump between Realities. Her ongoing mission, to recover her Father and crew, and while doing so, design and build weapons of Dubious Nature and Deadly Intent.

In short, she's batty as a bedbug.

There. You have been warned.