Introduction: How to Steampunk Decorate an Electrical Wall Plate

About: Life 2.95 achieved! Former teacher and college instructor currently enjoying my workshop, outdoor cooking, traveling and camping, woodworking, rebuilding small vintage campers, steampunk crafts and mods, and f…


This Instructable will show you how to decorate a stock plate cover for a light switch or electrical receptacle. Using some tiny gears, solder and and a few tools, you can create a decorator plate cover with a steampunk theme in 30 minutes. The inspiration and idea for the method came entirely from the website. Although the pictures posted there were sufficient for creating the plate, the site lacked any written instructions or steps. I post this instructable so that others can create their own variation on plate covers.

Suggested Materials

  • Brass cover plate (switch or receptacle)
  • Brass gears (from an old clock)
  • solder and resin
  • propane torch
  • hammer, snips
  • ammonia
  • clear spray lacquer

Step 1: Layout and Prep the Gears

Begin by doing a trial layout of some gears, clock hands, wire and any other adornments you choose to use. I decided to use 5 gears and one clock hand on a brass receptacle cover.

Some of the gears may have a peg that needs to be removed. Knock it out using a centre punch. If you have a pair of metal snips, you can trim a gear to fit around a hole, or just let it overhang the edge of the plate.

Next prep the plate surface by roughing up just the surface that will be directly under the gear. The solder may not adhere if you skip this step.

Step 2: Attach the Gears

I decided to solder the gears to the plate. I liked the idea of making it an 'industrial' attachment. Alternatively you could use an epoxy that binds metal.

Cut small pieces of solder (about a half centimetre) and bang the pieces flat using a hammer. If you are using resin free solder you will need to put a dab of the solder paste on the back of the gear and then position the gear on top of the little piece of solder. Align the gears as in your original plan, light the the torch and heat the gear / plate combination until you see the gear drop or the solder flows out from beneath.

Allow to cool as it will be very hot.

Step 3: Clean and Polish

Once the new plate is cool you may find that there are oxidation 'scars' on the surface of the plate near some of the gears. This was caused by the intense heat. Most of these scars can be removed, if you want to, by placing the receptacle in ammonia. If the gears were heavily oxidized (will be greyish black in appearance), much of this can be removed by next placing the plate in a vinegar and salt solution for 4 or 5 minutes.

Rinse the plate and allow it to thoroughly dry before applying a coat of clear spray lacquer. This should slow any further oxidation and keep the plate bright in appearance.

Step 4: Install

Reattach the plate with brass screws. I added a clock hand behind the screw to complete the transition.

My next plate will have a mechanical component to it to activate the switch. Both plates are going to be installed in the steampunked teardrop camper.

Feel free to let me know what you think and share your own creations.