Disclaimer: The following has been edited to preserve the delicate flower sensibilities held by potential readers. Where the narrative seems disjointed please mentally insert your most depraved and disgusting epithet. It's not quite the same thing, but it's as close as you'll get.
So I wanted to build a steampunk hand. Every Steampunk maker, at one time or another, gets it into his head that he needs to make a steampunk hand. Go google 'Steampunk Hand' or 'Steampunk Arm"; I'll wait.
I'm not going to pick apart the workmanship of everyone else who has attempted this project in earnest. But, broadly speaking they are all ~sherbet~. Yes that's a matter of personal opinion; mine. If the goal is to represent a Pseudo-Victorian Era mechanical limb as might be employed to replace a hand that has been blown to pieces, then all of the results I have seen so far suffer from one fatal flaw. Some of them suffer from two. Most are made out of trash materials (plastic, leather in a structural role, etc...) and all of them have a living hand tucked up in there somewhere. By necessity then, the hand built will not look anything like a hand built to replace a lost hand. It just can't. It might be grossly over-sized, or it might simply be a decoration for the living hand with bits and pieces of the real hand or a glove showing through.
I solved the first problem by using only appropriate materials; for metalwork, this means I use metal.
The second problem is even easier to fix. I just found an amputee.
In the second photo is myself (wearing the apron) and Kyle Earl. Kyle is a retired Marine who lost his hand to an IED in Iraq. He was featured on Yahoo! News' 'Remake America' video program. I noticed that it had been about 2 years since his hand was removed but he went about his daily routine without one.
This got me wondering why? Maybe the basic prosthesis didn't offer enough utility to justify the hassle. Maybe.
Maybe he's a ~firetrucking~ Marine. When a Marine loses a hand do you pour some jelly into a mold and let it set up into his new one? Not on my watch.
So I offered to build him a golden mechanical hand. Not to replace the hand he lost so much as to replace the empty air that occupied that space now. The VA has already hooked Kyle up with the Darth Vader robot hand but even while that will help in his everyday activities, it's not a golden hand.
Kyle does a lot of outreach work and plays on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team, so we got together and worked through my plan to build him an exhibition hand. Something to get people's attention. The first stage is winding down and it's really turning out well.
What follows is some of the process I used to build this hand.
Step 1: Making the Bones
I'm building this thing from the inside out, which means ... bones.
I'll let the Great Artificer take credit for the rudiments of this part of the design; it was inspired by nature.
But I added a creative element that I am quite proud of. All of the brass used in this project began as military surplus spent ammunition casings. The bulk of it is cartridge brass from .223 Remington (5.56 NATO). The knuckles, that we will see later, are the bases of 50 BMG Machinegun shells. The skin of the palm is actually the casing of a 90mm artillery shell.
Like Kyle, these things began their lives as weapons, they were used, and when empty they were returned home to be remade into something constructive.
One picture below shows one of the methods I used to melt and pour the bar ingots of brass. It is a basic clay pot charcoal foundry. It was under powered but quite exciting. After that I found my old melting torch.
The ingot mold I used is an inexpensive cast iron mold with 2 cavities on one side for 1/4" X 3/8"X8" bars and a single cavity on the opposite side to cast 5/8"X3/8"X8" bars.
Once the bars were cast I hammered them flatter to give me pretty uniform 1/2"X3/16"X8" bars. Some variation of course but I allow it because it adds a nice organic imprecision to the final result.