Tag: Laboratory

I no longer have a laboratory.

The old house was proving too small for the growing family and after much searching we have a new home. Unfortunately this house does not have the large, unused under area that could be transformed into a steampunk retreat. I had some of my friends help me pack and say goodbye to the lab that was, consigning half built gadgetry and lab doodaddery to boxes marked Fragile and Do Not Stack.

The new house has given me an office again. The last six months of the PC propped up on the bedroom bench top have been less than ideal. Bright side, that gives me a room that I use often, and a large collection of devicery to play with. So, good bye barely used and barely visited laboratory, and hello living workspace. I’ve downsized to the furniture I liked the best, and I’m continuing to declutter (except for artistically pleasing clutter, a mad scientist has to draw the line somewhere) and streamline my science. Minimalism and steampunk can seem at odds, but I’m giving it a try. Well, minimalism may be an unachievable stretch goal – maybe I’ll just aim for “on a shelf or in a donation box” to start with.

Recently the Steampunks of Brisbane were interviewed by Michael Lund of the Courier Mail regarding, well, Steampunk. Entitled “Letting off steam“, the article paints quite a good picture of the Steampunk subculture’s life in the city and has a number of stop-off points to find out more. One of them is this very site, so to further your Steampunkian education I’ve collated as much as I can of my Steampunk-related bookmarks into this post. There may be a test.

Inspiration – blogs

The people who inspire me when I look into steampunk, who are well worth a follow; also individual articles on steampunk that are a good read.

Inspiration – books and comics

Steampunk was coined as a genre around the 1980s, but works that support the steampunk ideal were around well before that. Many of the works by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells can be found for free, legal download from eBook repositories.

  • Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium » IN WHICH A STREET REQUIRES CLEANING: A book that was released a chapter a Monday. Now fully up for download.
  • Steampunk Magazine – free to download!
  • Steampunk tales for your iPhone: Exciting this, the President of Steampulp Publishing contacted us directly to promote this eMagazine for the iPhone. Billed as the “Penny Dreadful for your iPhone”, it’s now up to issue 9 as of Apr 2011.
  • League of Extra-ordinary Gentlemen: A little more adult than most people expect from a comic book (the Invisible Man introduction was quite confronting, as if the acquisition of Quartermain wasn’t enough), regardless of your opinion of the movie this does delve into a distopian vision of steampunk.
  • Gail Carriger: Parasol Protectorate series. Werewolves, vampires, parasols and Victorian England. Gail’s take on a supernatural steampunk includes a new breed of supernatural rather than just co-opting the well known, parascience also makes a grand entrance. Book four is due 2011. Gail also has a specific page on her site with her views on steampunk.
  • H.G. Wells at Project Gutenberg: The First Men in the Moon, The Island of Dr Moreau, The Time Machine. More ubiquitous speculative fiction that has mirrored modern advancements. Well, we haven’t revealed the time machine yet due to patenting issues.
  • The Difference Engine: Written by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, it’s described as a prime example of the steampunk sub-genre. Modern-esque devices wrapped in Industrial Revolution technology, hackers (clackers in this parlance) trying to break into the mass produced difference engines. It is a complete alternate history sparking off from our own but with parallels of events/ technology.
  • Jules Verne at Project Gutenberg: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, Paris in the 20th Century. These books were written before the turn of the 20th century and predicted submarines, rocket ships, air-conditioning – many modern technologies. The overarching technology aesthetic remained Victorian in style, a driving force behind modern Steampunk.
  • Girl Genius Online Comics!: By Phil and Kaja Foglio, the comics follow Agatha Heterodyne through an alternate Europe where “the industrial revolution became an all-out war”. Dirigibles, utterly bonkers science, constructs and clanks. Most of ROSEA swear by their goggles that their store is marvelous – not just because most of ROSEA got their goggles originally from said store.

Inspiration – movies and television

  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Almost nothing like the comic, but that’s why these are movie adaptions rather than direct clones. The Nautilus is tres steamy. And you cannot go wrong with dirigibles. Well, not without trying hard.
  • The Time Machine: Say what you will about movies not following plots, but that is one delicious looking time machine. Watch the DVD extras for more shots of it.
  • Baron Munchausen: While quite a bit earlier than the generally accepted steampunk era (being the reign of Queen Victoria), the clockwork bird, hot air balloon and musical instrument of the Grand Turk have airs of the technology. And I’m quite taken by the whole tall tales factor.
  • Doctor Who, “The Next Doctor” 2008 Christmas Special: The Doctor has generally had an aura of steampunk – fixing his own technology (occasionally using the ancient technique of percussive maintenance) – but this time the Cybermen get involved. Steam will out, after all.
  • Doctor Who, “The Girl in the Fireplace”: Clockwork bad guys, Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor rides a horse. Delightful.

Inspiration – devicery

This section presents a number of sites with steampunk examples, advice, and items for purchase.

Inspiration – fashion & cosplay

Inspiration – art and writing

Inspiration – games and applications

Most of the games and applications will be based on my own experience and platforms (OS X, PS3, Wii, Win), but I’m always open to suggestions.

Inspiration – music

  • Mr B. – Gentleman Rhymer: For those who like diction with their rap addiction.
  • Professor Elemental: He even has a song called “Steam Powered” specifically about steampunk. His “Cup of Brown Joy” song all about tea was the first truly steampunk song I heard.
  • Abney Park: I lose my license if I don’t mention these guys. We’ve submitted some videos to their “Help make our music video” thing; wish us luck!
  • Clockwork Quartet: Not only are their topics Victorian steampunkian, but they have Steampunk characters and their first two songs are about clockwork and science – with the talent to include clock-ticks and scientific note-taking as musical instruments.
  • Sunday Driver: World music, with Indian overtones but steampunk sentiments.
  • The Clockwork Dolls: Instrumental music with feeling. As they say, great soundtrack to happenings.

Inspiration – shops

Places to buy the Steampunked, the Steampunkable and the Steampunking

Participation – groups and events

There cannot be a laboratory without a workbench for the Professor to plan his science. Placing this desk in the corner means there’s two walls to work with as well as blocking off a lot of the desk making it easier to fit in with the rest of the laboratory.

Equipment

  • Desk: The desk is a desk I’ve had for about 12 years, one of the quick-fabricate-it-yourselfs; like IKEA but with less Alen keys and more particle-board.  Really doesn’t fit the era.  So, the drawers section has been removed and all the visible white panels have had pine wood cut to cover, stained red mahogony.  Darkens the entire desk and actually makes it fit in with the era moderately well.
  • Shelf: The shelf was an IKEA find, a metal shelf without anyone to claim it.  Mounted on three electrical pole insulators it definitely looks shelfy.  Plus it provides a conductive surface across the board (to be explained shortly).
  • Cabinet: Originally, my neighbour helped me build a cabinet to the exact size to fit into the alcove next to the desk.  I bought a bunch of wood, he cut it to size on his massive sawbench, I stained the wood red mahogony, Scott and I put a red velvet sheet on the backboard and we glued and screwed the whole thing together.  It looked fantastic.  The only problem is that the brickwork is so uneven that in a couple of places the unit didn’t fit, even though it was perfectly sized top, middle and bottom.  Curses.  Still, turned on its side it work fabulously as a display area on the desk itself.  The velvet background is inset a bit from the actual back of the board, so in the future there will be powered ‘thingies’ that will be mounted.  The current mounts include a lot of the samples that were formerly in the Wunderkammer, mounted using Bunnings tool-mounting devicery.
  • Books: From the library at work, when they were throwing out some of the outdated collection, I snaffled a bunch of Chemistry books – including a German->English chemistry translation.  Opened books make the place look used.  As long as I remember to dust them.  The leatherbound book from Italy looks good there too.
  • SCIENCE THINGS: Over the years, I’ve collected sciency looking things – from the weird letter holder (with two test tubes, I assume for flowers?), to some brass forceps from Industrie, to a replica 1400s syringe from Austria.  This is the perfect place for displays
  • Light: As the area was dark and there were no overhead lights in that part of the lab, I added a touch lamp.  Surprise, the touch lamp responds to any touch along the entire metal shelf.  $20AUD, awesome.
  • Mist: One of the vodka shotglass containers, plus a mister from a pet store donated by Nel (thanks!) results in misty science occupying one side of the desk
  • Plasma ball: Always wanted one of these growing up, now I have an excuse!
The left side of the Professor's desk

The left side of the Professor's desk

The right side of the Professor's desk

The right side of the Professor's desk

Various samples collected by the Professor's friends

Various samples collected by the Professor's friends

The mister's light is a nice touch, it really mists well when left running for a while

The mister's light is a nice touch, it really mists well when left running for a while

The plasma ball is a must for any laboratory

The plasma ball is a must for any laboratory

So, in the new house we’ve established there’s a large, concrete floored room with three walls (2 sides brick, one side fibrous cement) and panelled ceiling under the house. What’s the first thing that should be done in such an area?

Fill it with stuff, naturally.

Yes, I started doing the laboratory almost completely backwards, getting very excited and buying lots of steam-punk looking items and furniture. When I brought some friends over they were quite impressed with the space, but then asked what I was going to do about the floor, walls and ceiling. Whoops. Thankfully I wasn’t too ridiculous — time to rethink the plans. Obviously step one had to be tackling the basic structure of the room to make it look more Victorian era. Time to hit the internet and design books.

Resources

  • Hardware stores (1): Floor. Lots of it, and it was concrete. Enthusiastic I may be, but carpet is expensive and — in an area that was until recently susceptible to flood waters — not practical. Especially for a laboratory look. Timber flooring them is out due to expense. So we went the logical step, seal the concrete to prevent overly dust and leave it like that. Rugs were acquired later to lend a bit of a warmth to the area.
  • Hardware stores (2): They have the paint, and they have the books. Rummaging through books enough and we found colour swatches specifically targeting the Victorian era. Funnily enough, they mentioned colours that were actually for sale at the shop we were at! How’s that for convenience with a complete lack of ulterior motivation? Three colours were selected, cottage cream, some sort of green, and an indian red.
  • Hardware stores (3): Given that most of the room was brick, I was looking at a fair amount of trouble turning those into paintable walls. Or so I thought; first experiment – grab some MDF, paint them white, paint them the wall colours and liquid nail them to the brickwork. Surprise surprise, it actually works really well.
  • The Internet: There was some verification about the colours, but then there was looking into ratios and scientific principles, there needed to be method in my paint. The Indian red was for the ceiling, so I had green and yellow for the walls. The split between the two colours was quickly determined to be the golden ratio. Very science, and very appealing for splitting. Looks good.
  • Good friends: Dame Virago and Baron Cyrus von Borg (Amy and Scott) were above-and-beyond helpful with painting the MDF, affixing the MDF, sealing the floors, painting the roof. Much gratitude towards them

NOW that the area is completed, we can start looking into the furniture and accoutrements. You will note in the right picture part of the ceiling that’s exposed beams?  Yeah, a few months into living in the house that part of the ceiling collapsed.  We fixed that up in the emergency pressure stage of building (covered in a later entry).

First coat of red ceiling paint

First coat of red ceiling paint

Second coat on the ceiling, looks a richer red

Second coat on the ceiling, looks a richer red

When my wife and I were going house hunting, I had a simple requirement for any house we were looking at.  There had to be a room that could be come my ‘laboratory’.  Or, rather, the laboratory of Professor von Explaino.  We looked at a number of houses that had spare rooms where I could have a combined study/ laboratory but we eventually found one place that was great.  It was a raised 1960’s house.  Fibro on the top, but bricked in underneath.  One side held the garage and laundry, the other had a bathroom but a large, concrete floored area that was below legal height so couldn’t be classified as a room.  Brick walls, concrete floor, exposed beam ceiling.  Enough room that we could split it between my wife and myself so we both have some areas to indulge our hobbies.

We’ve been in the house just over five years now, and the laboratory has had work performed on it in a very sparodic basis.  With the continual help of very close — and similarly mad — friends, it’s getting closer to being a true, fake laboratory.  Laboratory-tagged posts in this journal will be looking at the unfortunately very gradual transformation of this area from unused space to the laboratory demanded by Professor von Explaino.

The unused under-house that would be the laboratory

The unused under-house that would be the laboratory

Eastern wall of the proto-laboratory, plus minion

Eastern wall of the proto-laboratory, plus minion