Steampunk culture is very closely aligned to the Maker and DIY Movements. Because let’s face it: we’re recreating a past that never existed. We have to make our own artifacts. More importantly, steampunks love to talk about their creations and I’ve found them almost universally very generous in giving advise and help to newcomers trying to make their own steampunk gear.
In that spirit, let me share two of my early steampunk creations which happen to both be eyewear–a tricked out pair of jeweler’s loupes and a pair of goggles.
First, the loupe. Because I wear glasses, goggles, at least functional goggles are problematical. So, based on seeing other steampunks wearing jeweler’s loupes (often on their goggles which doesn’t make a lick of sense, but looks cool), I set out to make my own pair–that’s right, a loupe for each eye.
So, I started with two of these. Harbor Freight, for readers not in the US, is an inexpensive tool store. At $4.49 each, they were a bargain and a great base on which to build. Note that the loupe is meant to fit onto the right eye. In order to make one oriented correctly for the left eye, it’s a simple matter of unscrewing the front nut, and turning the lenses upside down. Clip them to the temple of your glasses and voila, a pair of loupes.
However, I wanted something a little more special. Once upon a time, I worked in a laser lab, so I was thinking optical filters. It just so happens that the diameter of the lenses is identical to a standard filter size (1 inch), so I ordered a set of colored filters from Edmund Optical, replaced one of the lenses on each side with the filter, and you have what you see below.
Now I would like to be able to claim that I purposefully oriented the red and green filters so that they’d work to view red-cyan anaglyph 3D pictures, but that was just happenstance, as I found out when I wore them to Maker Faire one year. I also had a number of people ask me if I could see a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence with them.
Total cost for the project was $24, but most of that was the colored filters. I’m sure you could find cheaper filters (or carefully cut colored plastic to fit), or think of some other interesting thing to put into the lens holders.
The second project is a pair of goggles. Now goggles are the stereotypical steampunk accessory. (Well, goggles and corsets, but I’m not sure how I’d look in a corset…) They are so ubiquitous that I hesitated making a pair for a while. But I bought a top hat, and it looked kind of bare, so I made a pair. And again, because I wear glasses, I was relieved of the requirement that they be functional, so decorative it is!
I started with the cheapest pair of welding goggles I could find. This brand is often used as the starting point to make Steampunk goggles. First, I unscrewed the lenses and removed the black glass. I decided to make the lenses each be different. On the right lens, I laser etched a drawing of an iris. Even though I used a laser etcher, the design is nothing that someone with a better hand than I couldn’t draw, or I’d bet you could find an appropriate image on-line (Like this one. See, I told you it’d be easy!) For the left lens, I used a piece of cardboard that I had kept because it had a diffraction-grating effect, making rainbow-like reflections that move with the light.
Replacing the screw caps around the lenses, I then drilled six holes around each screw cap and inserted a short bolt with a brass crown nut (also called an acorn nut). The nose piece was a piece of black plastic tubing which I replaced with a length of square brass stock. On each of the ventilation holes (barely visible in my photo below), I glued a small gear. (Because if you glue a gear on it, you can call it steampunk!) Finally, I replaced the elastic strap with a leather strap. Total cost was probably around $20. I wouldn’t be surprised if the brass nuts cost more than the goggles. The goggles now perch majestically on my top hat, signalling proudly that I am a steampunk, and not just a wayward Victorian gentleman.
The welding goggles I used are great, because they are really a blank slate upon which you can do all sorts of things. I left the body of the goggles black; there’s all sorts of possibilities there. I had an idea of somehow giving them tortoise-shell accents, but never could figure out how to do it.
I hope my modest creations give you some inspiration for fabricating your own!