How to make steampunk items

Written by darren bonaparte
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How to make steampunk items
This Victorian lady may look normal---until you see her flame-thrower. (Woman in Victorian dress image by Steve Thompson from

"Steampunk" is both a literary genre and a clothing style. Steampunk Tales, a website devoted to all things steampunk, says that "'steampunk' is the science-fiction of the Steam Age; the Industrial Revolution re-imagined with the advantage of modern hindsight." Whether you're entering a costume contest, heading to a science fiction convention or are simply a fan of creative anachronism, easily modifying a few trinkets found around the house will complete your steampunk look. Learn how to build a steampunk-inspired gun, an analogue tech-bag and steampunk goggles.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Metallic acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Water gun (water pistol)
  • Old broken speaker or stereo
  • Painter's tape
  • Yard of heavy fabric
  • Extra fabric
  • Needles and thread (or sewing machine)
  • Various tubing (PVC, plastic, silly straws)
  • Large lunch box or plastic case
  • Old broken electronics
  • Swimming goggles
  • Hot glue gun
  • Various wires
  • Small LED light

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    Modifying the Gun

  1. 1

    Take your water pistol (or Nerf gun) and locate all the removable parts, such as the water chamber. Remove these parts. Use painter's tape to cover the parts you don't want painted. This will be the frame for your steampunk-inspired gun.

    How to make steampunk items
    Remember, the more ridiculous the gun, the better the final product. (water pistol image by Christopher Meder from
  2. 2

    Paint the water pistol with a single coat of the metallic paint. Let the first coat dry. Apply a second coat of paint if necessary. The metallic paint will make the gun appear "analog" and less modern.

  3. 3

    Remove the painter's tape. Tape the painted section and paint the exposed sections a different colour. Colour and placement are subjective, but generally gold and bronze look the most "steampunk." Try to avoid bright pigments, as they appear futuristic and modern. Sepia tones, while a bit unoriginal, translate the best.

  4. 4

    Break open the old stereo or speaker and locate the smallest speaker. It should be able to rest on the top or side of the gun without feeling remarkably bulky or awkward. Leave a few inches of the wiring connected to the speaker.

  5. 5

    Hot-glue the speaker to the side or top of the gun (the optimal placement depends on the shape of the gun you're modifying). Manoeuvre the wires out of sight and glue them in. Paint the metal if desired. Remember, the goal isn't to make a realistic-looking gun---it's to make a retro-styled robotic-looking gun. Steampunk isn't extremely realistic in design. Your gun should be bulky and mechanical-looking. If it is, you're done.

    Creating the Pack

  1. 1

    Paint the large, square lunch box (or square plastic container) in whatever metallic colour you choose. Neutral earth tones work best. Avoid blues and greens.

    How to make steampunk items
    Any box will work for a steampunk pack, as long as it fits the style. (box image by Alex from
  2. 2

    Hot-glue straps on the side of the lunch box that will rest against your back (similar to a backpack's straps). Adjust the straps to find the best height and mark the fabric. Glue those straps at the bottom of the box to create your backpack.

  3. 3

    Connect the tubing so that the piping can go from one side of the lunch box to another. Hot-glue the pieces in place. Paint the pieces a different colour from the box (copper or burnt sienna will work well).

  4. 4

    Break open the old electronics and look for wires, small display screens, large industrial-looking batteries or anything else that appears robotic and interesting.

  5. 5

    Glue all of the scavenged pieces onto the box in whatever orientation looks good to you. You can apply paint to make some of the pieces appear more natural. Remember, there really is no wrong way to glue the pieces on. They won't be functional, so remember to go for aesthetics.

    Creating the Goggles

  1. 1

    Cut off the goggles' elastic headband and discard it. Paint the frames, being careful not to paint the lenses. Apply a second coat of paint if the first coat is too thin.

    How to make steampunk items
    These goggles are the perfect base for a steampunk goggle project, but even inexpensive plastic swim googles can work in a pinch. (google image by Valentin Mosichev from
  2. 2

    Cut a thin strip of fabric and tie it through the goggles' elastic holder. If this doesn't fit, find two long strips of fabric and glue them to the sides of the frames and tie them together in the middle like a bandanna.

  3. 3

    Glue wires to the goggle frames (not the lenses) and twist them around. For a different look, you can twist the wire into your hair, creating a robotic look. One of the first registered steampunk photos came from a man with wire twisted into robotic-looking hair clips.

  4. 4

    Place and glue the small LED light in one lens of the goggles. If it doesn't fit, place it on the outside. If your LED requires a battery connected by wires, trying hiding the battery in your collar.

  5. 5

    Wear some Victorian fashions (see Resources) and add your items. Your outfit is now complete.

Tips and warnings

  • Your outfit is what you make it, so if you don't like the way something looks, modify it. The steampunk aesthetic is all about innovation.

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