Introduction: Steampunk Picaxe Protected Sketchbook

Picture of Steampunk Picaxe Protected Sketchbook
A new artifact has left the Steampunk Design workshop and got a new place on my desk.

Everyone knows that Steampunker have countless ideas and projects which must be stored safely until all the parts are available or the last problems are solved.
From my experience, some ideas needs a few months of planning until they are really ready to be implemented.
In order to work in this time the ideas are not forgotten or are even get stolen from curious colleagues, they must be drawn and written carefully down and kept highly secured.

For this purpose, I have developed this sketchbook.

It has a two-way protection.
The first is a combination of four switches, each with 4 steps, thereby resulting 265 possible switch positions. If the right one is found, only the circuit is closed and the PICAXE starts to work.

Now the second security system comes to bear.
It must be entered the right knock code!
If this code entered incorrectly a fitting melody played and a cooldown time of 80sek starts. Only after this cooldown time a new attempt permitted.

When the right combination is found you will hear a different tune, and the book will open.
If you want to close the book you must push a small hidden pushbutton.

But look for yourself: In HD mode you can recognize all the small details.


- Paper Blanks book Grolier Grande 35€
- Picaxe 08M Modul (AXE230) 20€
- Piezo 1€
- Switch 4x 4-positions10€
- Servo micro 10€
- Nokia BL-5C battery 8€
- Brass pipe 4mm 6€
- Brass pipe 2mm 4€
- Brass pipe 1.5mm 2€

Step 1: Modify the Clip

Picture of Modify the Clip

First of all i buy one of this really great looking Paperblanks books from the Grolier edition.
The main reason is that they already have a metal buckle to close it.
With only two small modifications I was able to prepare it for my project.

First of all I remove the small magnet inside the buckle with a sharp knife.
Then I solder a brass pipe which I cut in a little bit over the half diameter instead of the magnet.

Then I push the old splint 1.5mm out of the buckle adapter.
This hole I drilled up to 2.1mm.
Make sure your 2mm brass pipe moves very smooth through both holes.
If you lift up the buckle and stick the 2mm brass pipe inside the book is locked.

Step 2: Build the Locking System

Picture of Build the Locking System

To make sure that the lever arms find the right way into the buckle and stabilise the complete arm you need a guide tube.

I placed the servo in the middle of the book with double side tape.
I used something a brass part from an old wall clock as a guide tube.
I also drilled it up to a little over 2.0mm and make sure that the 2mm pipe moves smooth through but is not too lose.
I file a small groove into the guide tube get a better connection with the book cover.
Then I glued it with second glue on the cover.

Then I build the level arms.
This was a really hard job because of the joint which I build myself. Maybe it is easier to buy in a model store a small knuckle joint for an engine and use the two single joints.

I cut a 3mm long 2.5mm wide slot into a 1cm long  4mm brass pipe.
Then I drill a 1mm hole in a 90 degree angel to the slot.
I stick a 1mm brass nail through both holes.
Make sure that you can turn the nail inside the slot without any resistant.
Then solder the 2mm Brass pipe on the 1mm Brass nail.
That is the most complicated work on this project!!!
Only get solder on the connection between nail and 2mm brass pipe if some solder stick into your 1mm hole and nail you failed. And the joint don’t move in any direction.

I need 6 to 8 times until I only solder the brass pipe it will help a little if you put some acrylic paint in the connection between nail and hole. It’s like a cover on the brass and prevent that you solder flow into the hole.

If you built this joint nearly all your work is done.
The last step is to stick a short 1mm brass bar into the 2mm brass pipe and figure out the right length to the servo adjust it in a position that the lock is completely open but don’t move out of the buckle adapter! I also use my solder iron to fix my bar into the right position.

Step 3: First Protection: the Switch Row

Picture of First Protection: the Switch Row

I get these switches in a German shop but I think you will find a similar one in USA and UK.
It’s a switch with four positions and a design to fit it directly on a circuit board
I glue the 4 switches to one big block.
Then I push it with the pins on my book and wait a few seconds. When I removed it I see the small dents. I mark them with a pen.
Later I drilled there holes with a 0.6mm drill.
Now I glued the switch row on my book.
I solder the connections with enamelled copper wire to a nice code.
Only with the right switch combination the power can flow from right to left side of the switch row…
Then I cut all pins as short as possible.
Later I cover the switch row with brown buckskin.

Step 4: Second Protection: Picaxe Knocking Code and Final Wiring

Picture of Second Protection: Picaxe Knocking Code and Final Wiring

For  the first test with the servo I take the Picaxe 08M prototype board.
I only figure out the open and close position of my level arms for the servo.
I also check if all parts running smooth and don’t stick anywhere in the movement.

Then I solder the two resistors, servo wires, LED and switch on the module (AXE230) and fit it to the cover in the same way like the switch row, just behind the servo.

The circuit is nearly the same as I used with my Poltergeist also the code is very similar.

You will find the code here between the pictures I will draw the circuit the next days but if you look on the original Poltergeist project from AndyGadget you must only supersede the engine with the servo on pin4.

Then I connect inside the cover the chip with the Battery + directly and took  – over the switch row.
Then I glue the piezo sounder in the middle and connect it too.

Done \o/


mastermind007 (author)2015-10-01

Beautifully done sir. May I just ask what alternatives to picaxe 08 can I use? Seems like picaxe is hard to find in my country and I am reluctant purchasing it online. Thanks in advance.

thehbird (author)2014-01-20

Beautiful now if only I had the skill to make one

rosaesposito (author)2013-08-05

Hi where could I get one of these or one similar

eage (author)2013-01-18

This makes me want to play Myst.

nerd7473 (author)eage2013-04-10

what is myst about?

nerd7473 (author)2013-04-10

where can I get that notebook, or one similar?

from amazon search for Paper Blanks Grolier Grande


batonas (author)2013-01-24

now thats impressive! I have an idea that would make your project even more steampunk, and that would be changing the wires with conductive paint, that way you could save some space make secret switches in your graphic painting on the cover of your sketchbook, good think would be to hide all the electronic components, the servo locking system looks really neat, but it have flaws, like you said you can turn it by hand or with pliers, and its kind of exposed to much, I would change it with two relay lock they would lock be locked in place by spring and unlock when the current is flowing, I would hide them in in large metal lock mechanism similar to old suitcases, I'm not criticizing your project at all, its great, you put a lot of effort and creativity making it and I admire that, its just my way of making it, I have lots of ideas for projects and stuff but I'm just too lazy to make it, hope you use my ideas in your new sketch book when you fill this one. keep up the good work, and good luck.

einstein6 (author)2013-01-21

This is one of the most awesome idea I have seen.. Very creative indeed..

Cuitlahuac (author)2013-01-18

WOW, this is a great great idea, although I don´t use notebook very often I love this stuff. Thank´s!

Carlos Marmo (author)2013-01-17


criggie (author)2013-01-17

Loverly idea - could you put either some brass paint or some brass nipple covers on the four plastic switches? Obvious plastic is bad in steampunk.

Another idea would be to have a way to replace the bound paper once you've filled it with your writings.

Can you turn the servo by hand without the correct code set?

If you take a look on the youtube video you will see that i take brass paint on the switch until i found some usefull brass knobs or balls.

I think it need some years until the book is full then i built a new one :-) i an other style.

Yes you can turn the servo by hand but it is not so easy that you make it in seconds without any effort. And if you turn it the gears inside make a scary noise. It is faster to take a pliers :-)

filtercages (author)2013-01-17

Just great!
I love the old book style especially - I' going to see if my grandson aged 10 will make this with me.

BrittLiv (author)2013-01-17

This is very smart. I'm for sure going to use the mechanism for something and you are a fellow German!

throbscottle (author)2013-01-17

Awesome and gorgeous! I must make one of these - heck make several - the grandkids would love them!

Let me see some picures if you have it in your hands...

mgrundvig (author)2013-01-17

Very nice! Beautiful work and a fun piece! I love it!

lootsvele (author)2013-01-17

This is wonderful! I love the details! <3

Thetis (author)2013-01-17

I'm not sure your knuckle joint needs to be soldered in the awkward way you describe. I am a watchmaker and regularly fix broken metal straps which are also effectively a series of knuckle joints. I would drill a hole through both the 4mm and 2mm brass tubes. Then you find or make a slightly tapered pin and drive it through the holes until it will go no further, then file it flush. Taper pins can be bought, or made fairly easily with no more than a pin vice and a file.

Thetis (author)Thetis2013-01-17

PS - I should have said.... cool project!

BrefelanDesigns (author)2013-01-16

Congrats on making Hack-a-Day with this project!
(and sorry I didn't comment on this sooner!)

Here's the link to the Article:

Patrik (author)2013-01-16

Very nice!

Now we just need someone to take up the challenge to hide streamline of that hardware so it's flush with the covers. Maybe if you pick a set of covers that juts out beyond the pages somewhat, one could put all the locking mechanism there...

Junophor (author)2013-01-15

Dear Sir Admiral Aaron von Ravensdsale
Ho can I tell you in how deep impressed I am?
It is so awsome, unbelievable great!!!

Take a bow!!!!
Ten Stars worth if that would have been possible
Yours Aeon Junophor

build52 (author)2013-01-14

That is AWESOME!!!

build52 (author)2013-01-14

That is AWESOME!!!

Thergox (author)2013-01-14

Oh my. . . That is gorgeous. I really wish I knew a place with those materials >_< This is an amazing Instructable. Thanks for sharing!

oldmicah (author)2013-01-14

Awesome! I love a lot of steampunk projects but functional ones are incredible.. Thanks for sharing!

GorillazMiko (author)2013-01-14

Well documented, great photos, great project.

Teach me your ways.


About This Instructable




Bio: Steampunk-Design builds and developed the most modern technical equipment, fine jewelry and futuristic devices implemented with funds and materials of the Victorian era.
More by Admiral Aaron Ravensdale:Steampunk Picaxe protected SketchbookWaving Key Flower a Steampunk versionSteampunk Laptop
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