Steampunk Iphone Dock With Smoking Boiler

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Introduction: Steampunk Iphone Dock With Smoking Boiler

About: I am a teacher of Design and Technology currently working in secondary education. I started off studying electronics and ended up working as a packaging and POS designer before diving into teaching.


I had been debating creating some kind of dock for my Iphone to sit on for quite some time. This desire coupled with the first week of my summer holidays has led me to create the Steampunk Iphone Dock.

Before we get started I just want to point out that this project can be made from anything, old cans, bottles etc. So have a hunt around your home before you start, grab as  much junk as you can find so that you have an idea of the kind of shapes you need to work with.

Next its a great idea to understand the Steampunk style and that in essence what you will be making needs to look like a steam powered machine. Therefore I began by googling steam engines etc and identified an array of various parts I could use in my design. Typically you will see valves, pipes, gauges, tanks, whistles and governors all wrapped up together with rivets and sometimes even wood (wood was typically used to provide insulation to hot parts like boilers). When you have an idea of the kind of stuff you want on your dock and you have identified all of the materials available to you, you really need to take the time to draw up some ideas and take it from there. I ended up toning down my idea as I thought the paper sketch would look too complex for the docks size.

Step 1: The Base

You need to decide on a suitable base. As all of my junk is pretty much scrap wood I went with that. I would suggest you do the same as it makes cutting and shaping quite easy. Mark out the approximate size (mine was 150mm in length) and cut it down. I then drew around a coin to give myself a radius for each corner and sanded these down on my disc sander. As I want my boiler to smoke the best way I could think of to do this would be to use incense cones making my dock a sneaky incense burner as well :) It would be nice if there were a place to store the cones so Ive marked out a drawer.

Using a scroll saw or coping saw cut the draw out.


Step 2: Making the Draw


We need to hollow out the draw now. Using a large(ish) drill bit to do this then finish with a chisel and/or dremel.

Step 3: The Tanks


You will need tanks for your dock if you want it to look like a genuine Steampunk machine. As I didn't have any cans that were the correct size for what I wanted I thought it would be quicker to just turn some cylinders on my lathe. For the smaller tank I was thinking you could use a kinder surprise case (the thing inside the yummy chocolate with the toy inside of it). If you want your boiler to smoke like mine then make sure the large tank is hollowed out or the bottom cut off.

Step 4: The Basic Parts

Ok Ive now finished turning the two tanks (the smaller one I've left a square block on the bottom so it looks like its sitting on top of a stand).

The large tank has had half of the bottom removed. Use a coping saw or band saw for this.

Ive also cut two small pieces of MDF and attached them to the top and bottom of my base. This finishes off the draw (except for the handle of course). Just for extra decoration Ive also cut two lines in the base to make them look like panels, you could pre-cut these and then space them out on the base or simply use a chisel or band saw to make the marks.

Step 5: Add the Hole for the Cable

The adapter is about 6mm in width on my cable so I selected a 6mm drill bit and drilled out a slot for the cable. A dremel works great for finishing off the hole. I drilled a larger hole from the bottom of the base to allow easy installation of the cable. Test the cable, ensure it is a nice tight fit.

When happy using a drill bit and a file create a channel from the large hole towards the back of the base. Use a similar technique to that of the slot cutting for the cable and finish it off with a file (or dremel)

Step 6: Add Some Rivets

So that the base looks riveted together Ive marked out the base and using small pins hammered them in along the edges to simulate rivets. You may need to drill pilot holes if the pins split your wood.

When you are happy with your rivets, glue all of your tanks into place and allow them to dry.

Step 7: The Crucible

Whilst the base was drying I started hunting around for something to hold the cones safely in my dock. I found some old off cuts of pipe and a 22mm end cap. This would make a great crucible. So i hammered the off cut of pipe flat to form a handle then filed the end so that it would fit snug against the end cap.

I soldered these into place. If you are not too good at soldering use very strong glue (needs to be a little heat resistant).

I added a small wire rod to the handle (using glue) as it was a little unstable without it.

So that the cones get plenty of air i created a simple rack out of an old paper clip. This also reduces the amount of heat transferred to the crucible when burning. Test the rack with a cone to ensure it holds it securely.

Step 8: Other Details

I made a governor, whistle and pressure gauge for my dock. here's how I went about it.

The whistle was simply a piece of dowel that I cut a chunk out of with a dremel. I drilled a small hole in the top and added a pin for extra detail. I mounted it onto a piece of plastic tube. I used hollow tube as I had made a hole in the bottom of the whistle so that the smoke could pass through it. In the same picture you will also see that Ive drilled and fitted a funnel to the boiler using an old piece of conduit (ensure this goes all of the way through the boiler).

The governor way created by firstly using polymorph to mold the balls (beads would work great I just didn't have any) onto small wires. I then drilled two holes in a piece of dowel and glued them in place. When dry i added a polymorph top cap.

The pressure gauge was an old wooden button. I cut a slot in the bottom so that it would sit on a steam pipe and filled in the holes with multipurpose filler.

Step 9: Painting

To give my dock the look of a dirty steam powered machine I firstly painted everything black. At this point I decided to add the pipes to my tanks using some old brazing rods (anything will do as long as you can shape it easily). I found it easier to bend the rods using a pair of pliers first then drill the holes to match the pipes. Notice the pipe handle for the drawer. When happy I removed the pipes to continue painting.

I use a syringe to measure my paints as it is a simple and accurate way to do so (and not that messy). I measured equal amounts of gold and silver paint (ignore the yellow in the pic.......big mistake to use yellow) to give me the dirty pewter like finish. Using a stencil brush dab on the paint over the black. Do not be too careful about this allow the black to show through. Start off on the back......by the time you get to the front of your dock you will have the hang of it.

I used gold paint (unmixed) for the little details like the whistle, governor and pressure gauge. Notice How Ive also left a few things black as I felt this added extra depth to the design.

Step 10: Rubbish Pressure Gauge Made Better

I originally tried painting on the detail for the pressure gauge but it failed. Soooooooo badly I almost didn't tell anyone, but for your enjoyment Ive added a pic.

When I realised the mistake. I printed off a pressure gauge pic off the internet and stuck it on. Using black paint I blended it in to look like part of the design.

I also glued all of the pipes into place

Step 11: Fit the Cable


So that I could easily change the cable if needed I added the large hole underneath. I would suggest using a glue gun to hold the cable in place and only glue to the back of the cable as shown so that you can pull if off with pliers to remove the cable. Stick the cable into the grove ensuring that the glue and cable do not protrude above the surface.

NOTE: make sure you fit the cable the correct way. Mine has a symbol on it which indicates the front side, this is the side that needs to face the front of the dock.

Step 12: Get That Boiler Going!!!

Fill your drawer with cones, plug in your dock and give everything a whirl!!!!!

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    38 Comments

    Hollow out the "draw"? What the heck is a "draw"?

    I could make a BIG one and put a 200 watt amp and speakers in it!! But how to make the speaker system look Steampunk is the question... I have had previous ideas about doing something with lights and objects that move/b.ink to the beat of the music. Perhaps I could do the incense thing and it a stopper that opens with each bass boom, and a little bit of smoke comes out, that was it would look like the machine is powering the speaker. Basically a steam powered music box... or so it would appear. It will take a LONG time, but I will post a video on YouTube and put the link here ;)

    1 reply

    blink* put* way* :$

    Simple insence cones. The kind you get from alternative/ ethnic shops :)

    Using incense for the steam is a brilliant idea, well done!

    4 replies

    thanks I had been researching all sorts of ways to make the smoke but buying bespoke stuff defeated the object of my design. I literally had it pop into my head.

    I like the "cold mist" generators... there is another instructable in how to make them.... but can't quickly find it.

    Here's a source for what I'm talking about
    http://www.oceanmistmaker.com/humidifierwholesales.html

    PS LOVE This gonna make me one!!!!

    Ah, the gayroller....good times....good times...

    Fabulous, teacher! I'm an assemblage artist using found objects, and I'm always looking for ideas that produce both interesting and useful art pieces. You got it going on.

    Good luck with the contest.

    3 replies

    Thanks :) that sounds interesting Do you have any pics?

    I do! Being evicted from home (New Orleans) by a wicked woman named Hurricane Katrina, I tend to use reclaimed bits and pieces and themes from there. (Putting it back together again, I guess.) Live in Pensacola, Florida, travel back to N.O. every chance we get and see what we can beg, borrow, buy (cheap) and salvage.

    This is not fine art, but a folk art style which I purposely try to make look as if it was something mysterious salvaged as shown. (It's a lot of work to make somethings look old!) Hope you enjoy pics!

    Lulu Redshoes

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    Love it!!!! I try to encourage my students to use old bits and bobs to make products, as you have proved the results can be awesome.

    ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!

    Thanks again guys for all the comments really means a lot. Please post some pics if you make one would love to see different spins of my design :)

    What a terrific project!

    I'm sure you meant brazing rods (braising is a cooking term).

    I'll bet 1/8" brass tubing from a hobby store would work, but it's tricky to bend.

    1 reply

    Doh!!! Yup. I great at using the wrong words. Which is is why I don't teach English hehe. Yeah anything like that will do it's just that's what I had access to and it was free :)