Introduction: Steampunk Amplifier
Steampunk has a great aesthetic quality, breaking away from the flat plastic boxes that plague today's modern electronics. To that end, I decided to build a nice steampunk audio amplifier to go along with the steampunk speakers for my home office. Here's how I did it.
A word of warning, though: I'm not an electrical wiring genius, so I'm putting a disclaimer here that if you build this and it catches on fire and burns down your neighborhood, I'm not responsible. Only build this if you feel you're qualified. If you feel that I'm doing something wrong... well, then, don't do that.
Oh, and I cheated. The amplifier itself is store bought. Honestly, this is more of a how to build a steampunk housing for an amplifier with some bonus features on the side.
Step 1: Stuff You'll Need
Here's what you'll need for this project. Please note that I've not listed every screw and bolt that I used, as most of these were simply scrounged from my own supplies. Also, any hyperlinks below might become invalid at any time, as most are links to 3rd party vendors on Amazon.
- Lepai LP-168HA 2.1 2x40-Watt AmplifierLepai LP-168HA 2.1 2x40-Watt Amplifier
- 12V 6 amp DC Adapter (5.5mm)
- Unfinished wood box with lid (approx. 3.4 inches by 12 inches by 9.2 inches, or bigger)
- Small brass hinges for the box
- Small brass locking clasp for the box
- Electrical toggle switch
- Short 2-prong extension cord (optional)
- 40mm molex-powered cooling fan
- 40mm fan cover grill
- 3-pin ATX fan to 4-pin molex power adapter cable
- 4 speaker banana plug wall plate
- DC 0-20V analog voltmeter 44mmx44mm panel
- VU meter driver circuit board
- Two (2) VU meters 35mmx35mm (LED backlit)
- Single 3.5mm stereo audio cable (for attaching to the VU meter)
- 5.5mm DC female to 2 male Y-splitter
- 9 inch 3.5mm stereo audio cable female to 2 females Y-splitter
- 6-inch 3.5mm stereo audio cable male right angle to 3.5mm male
- Molex male to 2 female Y-splitter (this is starting to sound uncomfortable now)
- Two (2) molex 4-pin male ends (12V, yellow and black wires)
- 4-pin molex to micro USB 5V adapter (5V, red and black wires)
- Two (2) molex powered 3mm LED wires, blue (each one has 2 LED lights)
- 1/4-inch aluminum tubing (at least 12 inches worth)
- Three (3) small radio knobs
- Two (2) pressure gauges for decorative purposes (up to you)
- Various copper pipes for decorative purposes (up to you)
- Various gears for decorative purposes (up to you)
- Small brass push pins for decorative purposes (up to you)
- Decorative copper plaque, 6-inch x 3-inch (up to you)
- Retro steampunk brass gauge faceplate (from timolney on eBay)
- Three (3) light-up core steampunk tube (from Evil Toad Studios on Etsy)
- Some stain—probably dark cherry, but really whatever you like.
- Soldering iron
- Screwdriver, Philips
- Power drill with various sized drill bits
- Woodworking vice
- A set of "hole saw" attachments for the drill, or something else to drill large holes
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire stripper and wire cutter
- Electrical tape
- Goggles. You can't do steampunk projects without goggles. And there's the safety aspect, too.
Step 2: The Housing Box
The first thing to understand about this project is that your mileage may vary, especially if you use different components. The box I chose may not be to your liking, and if you choose a different amplifier, you may need an entirely different box with different dimensions. In any case, you should make sure to measure relative to your components to make sure they fit in whatever box you get.
The box that I am using I bought off Amazon. It was a very basic unfinished wood box of exactly the correct size I needed for the amplifier and other components. Having said that, this box turned out to be a bit on the flimsy side. The description said it was basswood, but it was more like plywood or pressboard. I nearly tore the thing up trying to cut holes in it. It had no latch, and the hinges that it came with were terrible, which was just as well because I had to remove them anyway to apply the stain and finish. I just bought some better hinges and a small latch to attach during a later step. You will also see in some of the pictures that the wood split in several places. So please feel free to find a better box, or build your own if you have those skills.
Measure Twice, Then Twice More
You need to measure as though everything is already assembled, which is difficult since you haven't drilled any holes yet. You should start by placing the amplifier where you want it to go in the box, then mark where the screws should hold it in place. The amplifier should sit back about an inch and a half from the front of the box: enough to give clearance for the power gauge, but not so far back that it interferes with the banana plug wall plate. Also, leave room for the fan on the left side. Once you have placed the amplifier, mark its location. Then mark where the amplifier's three dials are located, as you will need to drill holes in the correct spots to allow access for the extender dials in Step 7.
Here's what you'll need to measure, mark, and cut.
- Remove the lid and its flimsy hinges. Throw away the flimsy hinges.
- Mark where the amplifier will go. Put the amplifier on the left side, but leave room for the fan on the left and the power gauge in the front.
- Mark the location of the holes to drill for the extender dials, lined up exactly to match the amplifier's dials (just the three main dials for treble, bass, and volume).
- Mark the hole to cut for the power gauge on the far left side (mine needed a 2" diameter hole).
- Mark two holes next to each other for the VU meters on the far right side (mine needed two 1 1/2" diameter holes).
- Mark a 3/8" hole on the right side about 2 1/2 inches back for the power toggle switch.
- Mark a 1 1/2" hole on the left side about 3 1/2 inches back for the 40mm fan.
- Mark off the square area where you will place the banana plug wall plate in the back. This will also be on the left side so as to be directly behind the amplifier.
- Make a hole for the 3.5mm audio jack wherever you would like. I put mine in the back just below and to the side of the wall plate cut out, but this is entirely up to you.
- Mark a notch in the back to slip the extension cord cable through.
- You may also want to mark and drill the holes on the lid for the 3 LED light tubes and for securing the decorative pipes if you want those. See Step 8: The Lid and Light Tubes for details before drilling those holes.
In one of the pictures, you will see that I marked out the location for adding RCA jacks, and you can also see the RCA jacks themselves in a few pictures. I ended up not using RCA jacks because this was only going to be used for my PC's speakers and my PC only outputs to 3.5mm. There is no reason that you could not use the RCA jacks, but if you do, you'll need an RCA Y-splitter and RCA to 3.5mm adapter to interface with the VU meter.
My wiring for the power brick is a bit unconventional (see Step 3 for the reason why). If you do something different (and you probably should), then the sort of hole you need to cut for the power cable will probably be entirely different. Read the section on wiring for more details.
Cut Some Holes, Drill Some Other Holes
Once you have everything marked, drill the holes. Unfortunately, only the holes for the toggle switch, the 3.5 mm jack, and the three holes for the dials were of a size that my drill bits could handle. For the larger holes, I had to buy a "hole saw" attachment for the drill. It was horrible. Whatever you do, don't buy cheap, off-brand hole saw attachments made in China. There are probably better special-purpose tools for cutting these kinds of holes, but I since don't run a woodworking shop, so I don't have one (and I certainly can't afford to go buy one for this one project). So I just made do with the hole saw attachment.
When using the hole saw, or whatever you use to drill large holes, be sure to firmly secure the box with a woodworking vice... Or perhaps two. Or three. The hole saw really wanted to the throw the box across the room rather than actually drilling a hole into it, and after a while, so did I. And please wear those goggles. And perhaps chain mail gloves. Or a whole suit of chain mail. Or better yet, just use a bomb-squad robot drone to do the drilling with those horrible hole saw attachments. It will be much safer that way.
The really tricky part was cutting out the square hole for the rear banana plug panel. Let's be clear—you don't have to re-purpose a banana plug wall panel just to get the speaker plugs installed. You may want to do something entirely different, and if so, please do. I did it this way because it gave me all eight speaker outlets in a nice, clean package (the top row is for the two main speakers and the bottom row is for the subwoofer). I had no tool to cut a hole this way, so I used my drill to drill a bunch of small holes, then popped out the cutout. I then smoothed and sanded the considerably rough edges as best I could. The banana plug panel covered up most of the remaining ugly spots.
Finish the Box
Once you've cut the holes, double check that all your components fit as expected, and that the holes for the knobs line up with the knobs on the amplifier. If not, you'll need to buy a new box and start over. But if you did make a mistake, it is far better to start over now rather than at Step 7. And that crummy box was, thankfully, cheap.
Be sure to thoroughly sand any rough spots made by cutting and then lightly sand the rest of the box to prepare it for applying the stain and finish. If any of the drilling and hole cutting happened to tear or splinter the wood (and it will), you can cover most of those blemishes with wood putty. Once stained, they are hardly noticeable. Honest... But unless the wood splintering is severe, do not throw the box away and start over. This cheap wood, or whatever it is, will splinter some no matter what you do.
As you can see in the pictures, I used spray on-stain. I chose a dark cherry stain, but you can choose whatever you like. If you want to do a really good job, do not use spray-on stain (think of it like you would a spray-on tan). You don't have to stain and finish the inside or bottom of the box, but I did simply because it does add some additional layer of protection between the electronics and the raw, unfinished wood. Maybe that's important, maybe not.
Step 3: The Wiring
Understand this: I'm not all that proficient in wiring electrical components. A lot of DIYers would strip the housings from all the electronic components and then arrange them in a much more compact and tidy fashion. If that's you, then great! You'll be able to wire all this up much better than I have. Please do so. If you are a beginner or if you do not want to mess with "raw wiring" then read on. With these instructions, the amount of soldering you'll need to do is minimal, and some of it is even optional.
First, make a 12V molex adapter for the power gauge. To do that, cut and strip about 1-inch of the wires on one of the female molex cables (yellow and black wires) and expose the wires. Then, take the 5.5mm DC female to 2 male Y-splitter and cut off one male end. Strip the wires and expose the red and black wires. Solder the red wire to the yellow wire, and black wire to black wire. Be sure to wrap it with electrical tape when done. You now have a 12V molex connector for the power gauge coming off the 5.5mm DC Y-splitter.
To get power to the lighting, which will be installed in Step 8, we need to either buy or make a 5V micro-USB to 4-pin molex adapter. I bought mine, but if you do not have one or cannot find one, they should be fairly easy to make. You will just need to solder the red and black wires from the micro-USB to the red and black wires (the 5V wires) on the molex connector.
Just a note about all these molex connectors, since I seem to be using a lot of them in this project. The truth is, I wanted the components to be attachable and detachable without having to re-solder the connections. That is why I soldered molex connectors to the VU driver board and the power gauge. Since the fan and the lights both used molex connectors, I decided that all the other components (apart from the amplifier itself) should also use molex connectors, making everything standard. It seemed pragmatic.
You also need to wire up the toggle switch. I originally thought I would need additional AC plugs for the lighting (it turned out I did not), so I decided to use an extension cord to break out a few outlets for use by the power brick and anything else need that needed an outlet. I cut the wire on the extension cord near the end with the outlets and then attached and soldered in the toggle switch. I then secured the toggle switch to the hole on the right side of the box. Now anything plugged into the outlets on the extension cord, which remains hidden inside the housing box, can be turned on and off with a single switch.
I later discovered that I was able to run the lights off the 5V USB out the back of the amplifier, and I did not need to use a separate power brick for the lighting. In retrospect, I did not need this extension cord at all, and neither do you. What I should have done was get a much longer AC plug for the power brick (the one that came with it was very, very short) and then attach the toggle switch to the AC plug and run it out the back of the box, just as I did with the extension cord. I may one day do this, but since I have not yet done so, I have no pictures to show how.
Power For Lighting
The reason I thought I would need another power brick for the lighting was that the lights required 5V not 12V, and the power from the power brick is only 12V with no obvious 5V output. I know it is possible to downstep 12V to 5V, but again, I'm no expert on this. However, the amplifier itself has a micro-USB out, and that means 5V is available. To get power from the micro-USB plug on the back of the amplifier to the lights, you will need a 5V micro-USB to 4-pin molex adapter, described earlier.
Alternatively, you could wire up a 12V to 5V power converter to another molex Y-splitter, supplying the needed 5V power to the LED wires.
Audio Input Jack
As you can see from the pictures, I also attached the 3.5mm audio female to 2 females Y-splitter. The single female end sticks through the hole in the back, supplying the plug for the audio-in jack to be attached. As for the two splitter outputs, one will be connected to the amplifier and the other to the 3.5mm cable that we will splice to the VU driver board.
Step 4: The Fan and Power Gauge
Now let's wire up and attach the fan and power gauge, as we won't have room to do so once the amplifier is in place.
Install the Fan
A fan should be installed because the amplifier will be left inside a sealed wooden box with no circulation and it can get hot after a long period of use. Plus, it's kind of neat. I chose a 40mm PC fan from a company called Noctua because the fan was a nice tan color that basically matched the color of the stain. It also had good reviews. You can use whatever 40mm PC fan you want—perhaps even one with some additional LED lighting. I also got a 40mm fan grill.
Using four screws, simply attach the fan behind the 1 1/2" hole that you cut for it on the left side, along with the fan grill on the outer side of the box. Be sure the fan is attached so that it blows air out of the box, not pulling air in. Usually that means label facing out, but sometimes there are nice arrows drawn on the side of the fan to indicate the air flow direction. The fan has a 3-pin molex wire for plugging into a PC motherboard, which is why you need the 3-pin to 4-pin adapter.
Install the Power Gauge
Next, disassemble the 20V analog voltmeter. Basically, that just means taking off the plastic case and throwing the plastic case away. As you can see in the pictures, I also had to clip the corners due to some space constraints with the hole that I had made for it. You might not need to do that.
Take a 12V molex cable (4-pin male molex with just the yellow and black wires) and cut the wires to about two or three inches. Strip the ends of the wires and solder them to the leads on the back of the voltmeter—yellow to positive and black to negative. Be sure to wrap the solder points in electrical tape. You can now connect the male molex on the voltmeter to the female molex on the molex Y-splitter that will be used to power all the 12V molex powered components.
Once that is done, you can secure the voltmeter inside the 2-inch hole on the left side (I ended up thoroughly taping it in place, as I could find no workable screw points). Then insert a cutout of a steam gauge in place of the voltmeter's boring gauge plate and attach the brass gauge faceplate overtop. I got the gauge faceplate off eBay, from a seller named timolney who makes them himself. The gauge he sold me came with several nice faceplate cutouts, of which this was one.
When you are done, the voltmeter should look like some kind of steam pressure gauge. When powered up, the arrow should point to the 12V mark (a little past halfway on a 20V gauge), which on the steam gauge cutout I used is around 28, and when powered down it should point to 0. You could use a different voltmeter, such as a 15V voltmeter or even a 12V voltmeter if you want the indicator to be in a different position (remember, the power going to it is 12V). I did not want to use a 12V gauge because I did not want the arrow swinging all the way to the opposite end, but that's a matter of personal preference. Unlike the VU meters, the steam power gauge will not fluctuate while the amplifier is powered on—at least, it better not fluctuate. If it does, it might mean you have a serious electrical problem.
Step 5: Install the Amplifier
For this step, simply put the amplifier in the case. You're done! No... not quite. There's still more to go.
About the Amplifier
Your choice of amplifier may be completely different from mine, and if so, you'll need to assess exactly what you'll need to build this steampunk audio amplifier box. I chose the Lepai LP-168HA for a number of reasons: low cost, good reviews, very compact, it had the inputs I wanted, and both main speaker and subwoofer outputs. It is only 2.1 surround and does not have digital audio inputs, but that is fine for me because I will be using this amplifier for my PC sound system. There are other Lepai amplifiers, of course, as well as entirely different brands. Honestly, you'll probably want to search for just an amplifier board or amplifier kit if you are truly interested in building this "from scratch." I wanted this particular amplifier in its compact, self-contained case because I did not want to solder connections to it, and I wanted it in its housing to give it additional protection from anything that might fall onto the exposed board.
I will say this about the Lepai LP-168HA, however (and it may go for all their amplifiers): the 12V DC power brick that came with it was very underpowered. Judging from the reviews, everyone agrees, and they all recommend getting a 12V 6-amp power brick, which I did (that's why it's in the list of components). I probably did not need to, as I do not blast my speakers and subwoofer to the max, but since I'm powering other things off the power brick besides the amp itself, it was probably a good idea.
Wiring up the Amp
Assuming you measured correctly, you should have no difficulty installing the amplifier as shown in the picture. Again, be very sure the three dials line up with the holes you drilled for the dial extenders. Once you have it in the right position, simply screw it in place with four short screws. The fan on the left should provide adequate air flow, pulling air over the amplifier's case which appears to double as a kind of heatsink. Then plug the 6-inch 3.5mm right angle audio cable into the audio jack in the front, and connect the other end to the female Y-splitter coming in from the back of the box.
Next, cut four short pieces of stereo wire and strip and twist each end. Connect the + and - wires of one end to each speaker connector in the back of the amplifier and the other ends to the corresponding banana plug on the back speaker jack panel, as shown in the pictures. Finally, screw the speaker jack panel securely in place.
The Power Brick
I then put the power brick in place in the back of the box. You'll note two vertical poles in the pictures, wrapped in electrical tape. Those are actually very long screws screwed in from the bottom, and are there to hold the power brick in place. They are wrapped in electrical tape simply to protect them from touching anything carrying a charge. Obviously, I wasn't going to go drilling holes or driving screws through the power brick, but I still needed a good way to keep it from moving about inside.
I fixed the AC line leading out of the power brick through the notch I made in the back right side (you might see it in some of the pictures). Finally, I connected the 5.5mm DC female to 2 male Y-splitter to the power brick's 5.5mm 12V power connector. This splitter is uncommon, but I did find it on Amazon. This is what allowed me to power both the amplifier and the various molex components all from one power brick. In Step 3, you should have modified this splitter so that one of the male ends is now a 12V female molex connector. Now the remaining 5.5mm DC connectors will go to the amplifier, while the modified molex connector can be connected to additional molex Y-splitters and then connected to the power gauge, the fan, and the VU driver board, which you will install in the next step.
Step 6: The VU Meters
Next up are the VU meters and the VU meter circuit board. The circuit board came with no instructions, so I had to figure it out on my own, but there's really not that much to it. The board is labeled in English, and it is fairly easy to get working. I recommend you experiment with it before you install it.
Wiring the VU Board and Meters
To begin with, take a 12V male molex connector and cut the wires, just as you did for the power gauge (again, you only need the yellow and black wire). The power goes into the two connectors on the far left side, labeled AC/DC 12V (so I guess it can handle AC, too). I connected the black wire to the far left AC connector and the yellow wire to the next connector, but the wires could probably go either way since the board apparently has a DC rectifier. The remaining five connectors are labeled HIGH, LOW, GND, LOW, HIGH. That is where you will connect either wire from a stripped 3.5mm audio wire. I'll come back to that in a moment. On the front of the board are two 4-prong connectors that look a bit like motherboard fan connectors. The board should have come with a cable fitting those connectors. Oddly, the board only came with one such ribbon cable with a connector at each end (see picture). Don't be confused. Just cut the cable in the middle and strip about 3/4 of an inch from the exposed wires. You'll solder those exposed wires to the VU meters.
I must apologize at this point as I did not take pictures of wiring the VU driver board to the VU meters. However, I have included a reference picture I found that shows how those wires should be connected (it is a slightly different board, but the connections are identical). Basically, two of the wires are for the meter pointer and the other two wires are for powering the light. Connect them and solder them in place as the diagram shows, then cover them with electrical tape to prevent any shorts.
Test the VU Board and Meters
When you plug the 12V molex connector, which you should now have wired to the VU driver board, into the molex end of the modified 5.5mm DC splitter cable and connect that to the 12V power brick, the VU meter lights should light up. If they do not, they may be wired wrong or some other wiring might not be correct. If they do light up, take the stripped 3.5mm audio cable and connect the jack to something playing music. Then take the wires on the stripped end and test them in each of the HIGH, LOW, GND, LOW, HIGH connectors, observing how the VU meters behave. If the signal seems weak on LOW, test them on HIGH; likewise, if HIGH seems too powerful try LOW. I believe I ended up with the 3.5 audio wires plugged into the two LOW connectors, one for the right and one for the left channel stereo sound. Those connectors do not need to be soldered, as they use a screw-type mechanism to hold the wires in place.
You will note two square blocks on the VU driver board with what looks like Philips screw heads on top, labeled W1 and W2. If you use a tiny Philips screwdriver, you can twist those screws to make slight adjustments to the signals going to each of the VU meters. You will probably need to make some slight adjustments to make the meters behave the way you want. Obviously, you'll need sound playing through the audio cable to the VU driver board and power going to the board while you do that.
Install the VU Board and Meters
Once you are sure the VU driver board and VU meters are working, you can install them. I found it easiest to install the VU meters first into the two holes cut for them in the right side, simply siding them into place and then securing them with screws. You can mount them either on the outside, like I did, or from the inside if you want them to appear more recessed (that's a matter of preference). The board should be mounted just behind the meters, secured to the bottom of the box by its two screw holes. I put a bit of foam underneath for additional protection. Once everything is in place and tightened down, you should probably check to make sure the board and meters are still working.
Step 7: The Control Knobs
The control knobs for treble, bass, and volume are easy to attach, assuming that the holes you drilled do, indeed, line up with the dials on the amplifier. If you look at the pictures, you will see I have three knobs and three short lengths of metal tubing cut and crimped at one end. The knobs themselves are the common radio knobs available at RadioShacks everywhere, at least, until they went belly up. I have included pictures of the back and side of one of the knobs so you can see how the small metal tube is to be pushed inside the hole on the back and secured in place with the small screw on the side of the knob. You may find better knobs or knobs that are more steampunk in appearance, but I was unable to find any better knobs that fit the exact size I needed and which could be attached the way I needed to attach.
The tubing was a 1/4 inch, 12 inch long aluminum tube. I cut the tube into three pieces, then shortened each piece as needed to get them the correct length, which was about 3 inches. This will not be the same for you; it will depend on how far back you mounted the amplifier. Just measure to make sure the tubing reaches well into the notch on the amplifier knobs, and also leaves about 2/5 of an inch to attach the outside knobs.
As you can see in the pictures, the small knobs on the amplifier have a notch in them. I do not know what that notch is really for, but I found that by crimping the aluminum pipe, I could wedge it in and use the length of aluminum pipe as an extender to turn the knobs (see picture). This was very handy, since it was not possible for me to get the receiver flush up against the face of the box. Without this, I would not have had any way to access the bass, treble, and volume controls. You'll see two other knobs on this amplifier which I did not extend in this way. Those are for subwoofer volume and crossover, which rarely need to be adjusted. Also, they lacked the handy notch, so I just left them alone. I also did not do anything about the power switch on the amplifier, since I'm controlling the power from the toggle switch.
Once the knobs are in place, you are pretty close to being finished. All that remains is to spruce up the lid and add some decorations.
Step 8: The Lid and Light Tubes
From this point on, many of the choices are purely aesthetic and entirely optional. I had far bigger plans than what I was ultimately able to accomplish, and you may have some even bigger and bolder ideas in mind, so I will just briefly go over what I ended up doing.
Add the Light Tubes
I started with three steampunk light tubes that I bought off Etsy from Evil Toad Studios. The tubes were not themselves lit, but came with holes in the bottom for pushing through whatever lighting I wanted to supply. For that, I bought two molex-powered blue LED wires, each with two lights (see pictures), for a total of four lights (I pulled the left-over one to the left side to light up the power meter). I drilled three small holes for the LED lights and attached the light tubes over the top of the holes. I wanted to screw them in place but was not able to do so, so I superglued them down. Not the best solution, but I had no other way to secure them.
The LED lights were powered by molex connectors, but were rated for 5V, not 12V, which is what the VU driver board and power gauge used; the power brick only supplied 12V. 12V to 5V converters are common, just search Amazon for those keywords, and I probably could have wired one up easily. However, the amplifier itself supplied a 5V out from a micro-USB port, so all I had to do was get a micro-USB to 5V molex adapter and another molex Y-splitter to connect the LED light wires. If the amplifier had not had a micro-USB port, I would had to have bought the 12V to 5V converter and wired it up instead.
Add Some Fancy Brassy Bits
Since the light tubes looked lonely by themselves, I decided to add some brass pipes and decorative gauges. The pipes were assembled from various parts, mostly 1/8" NPT schedule 40 pipes and same sized fittings (1/8" NPT refers to the threads, not the pipe diameter, which I discovered the expensive way. See this page to learn more). You can arrange any decorative pipe work however you like, but I kept mine fairly simple. I secured the two "legs" of the pipes through two holes and screwed nuts on either side to hold the pipework in place. The final touch was to add two pressure gauges on either arm of the pipework, but these gauges are non-functional. You can see from the pictures that I also added a copper plaque. I had wanted to get it engraved with some gear designs, but decided it was not worth the cost. Since I can unscrew it from the lid, I can still take it off and get it engraved later on if I decide to do so.
Finally, secure the lid with brass hinges on the back and a small brass clasp on the front. As I mentioned before, the hinges that came with the box were horrible, and it did not even come with a locking clasp. However, I needed to remove the hinges anyway to work on the box, so I simply decide to buy some new brass hinges and a clasp from the local hardware store. The clasp was almost too big, and nearly touched one of the knobs, but I could not find a smaller clasp that was adequately functional.
Step 9: Glue Some Gears on It
We will end this tutorial by adding some decorations to the box. Again, these are entirely subjective and the steampunk amplifier box already looks pretty good even without these additional touches. Some might argue these final touches are a bit too much, and perhaps rightly so.
I started by adding a series of brass press pins around the rim of the lid and around the copper plaque on top of the lid. The wood was too hard to actually push the pins through, so I cut off the pins and superglued the tops in place, making them look like large brass rivets.
In addition, I attached several small pipe fittings on the sides, as well as some decorative clock faces and corner pieces.
I probably could have done without gluing the decorative gears on. As the joke goes, "just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk." Well, that's what I did. At the time I felt that the front of the amplifier looked too plain. My original vision had been to have holes or windows above the knobs that were covered in plexiglass, behind which could be seen a complex arrangement of intricate clockwork gears. Well, that was certainly beyond my skill level, so I settled for this second-rate version of the idea. In retrospect I should have just left it as it was.
If you do not like the look of the faux-gears, then don't add them. Perhaps you can find a better way to decorate the front, or maybe you feel the front is perfectly fine without any additional decoration.
Step 10: Finished
Now you're done. Overall, I'm pleased with the build, although there are some things I would do differently if I did it again. I've already noted most of those issues, but essentially I would do a better job with the wiring, discarding my idea of using an extension cord for power and using a longer AC cord going to the power brick (with the toggle switch on the AC cord), and I would not apply those faux-gears to the front.
The most challenging part of the project was cutting the holes in the housing box. The box I used was not of sufficient quality for all this heavy cutting, and the tools I had were not adequate either. I do not have a dedicated workshop for this sort of thing, so I have to make do as best I can. If you find yourself in a similar situation, know that you can push through even without the proper tools.
For those who are curious about the collection of pipe organ pipes in a few of the pictures, those are just PVC pips with the tops cut at an angle and then coated in a copper-colored paint.
If you want a superior sound system and not simply a 2.1 channel amplifier for a desktop PC, you should look for a 5.1 or 7.1 digital amplifier board, or just buy the amplifier of your choice and disassemble it to get the board out. You also might want to consider vacuum tube amp kits. These look very retro, and you can have actual functional vacuum tubes instead of these fake light tubes, backlit with colored LEDs for a real over-the-top steampunk look. Some people even build tube amps from scratch. Awesome—but I'm not quite there yet.
Be sure to check out my steampunk speakers, as this amplifier was made to go along with the speakers.