Introduction: Steampunk / Cyberpunk Time Device on the Cheap

About: 12v Electronics, Motorcycles, Neon and Dirt

The reasons for building a time device (an all-in-one phase generator, time and space warp device, teleport, compass, etc...) are many. Perhaps you plan to party in 1929, or you need a great accessory for your Time Agent outfit. Or maybe you gotta get back to your real time in the future. Anyways, here's how to make a rather decent looking hand held device made almost entirely out of recycled junk.

Step 1: Materials

There's a number of items you'll need, I've split the list into must haves, and optional. All of this stuff I either purloined from the trash recycled, or had lying around.

Must Haves:

~A powder compact, this is the mainframe of the device. Sizes vary, build up a collection and choose the best (biggest, coolest) one. Clear, domed springy covers are preferable, thankfully they are the majority. If such an item doesn't turn up regularly in your garbage either a. court a female (recommended), or b. ask a friend, be sure to explain why you need her old makeup container

~Aluminum foil

~Floral foam, or Styrofoam, floral best (can be bought really cheap if unattainable)

~White glue and Krazy glue (gel is best, doesn't run)


Recommended junk (stuff you will decorate the device with):

~scrap wire

~gears (from a broken clock)

~flat marble

~odd bits of electronic junk, LED's

~an assortment of lenses pinched from a disposable camera


~Xacto knife


~wire cutters/needle-nose pliers

Step 2: Step 1: Compact Prep

Chances are, there's a metal tray in your powder compact. This needs removed. I convinced mine out with a Xacto and brute force. Keep the tray, as it is a handy reference to the inside dimension of your compact.

Trace on cardstock and cut out two circles from the tray you removed. Chances are, the bottom of the compact is smaller than the top. Trim down one circle so that it sits flat in the bottom.

Cut a slice of foam. This should be about as thick as half the depth of your compact. All the little bits of stuff will be stuck into it, so it should be as thick as possible while allowing room for the bits and pieces for on the face. Floral foam is best because it yields to pressure (larger bits can be sunk into it), and it holds onto inserted objects well (it better, it's designed to). Using your circles as a guide, cut into the right size to fit just shy of snugly into the compact. It must touch the bottom.

If there are holes in the bottom of your compact, and you don't want white cardstock showing through, use white glue to adhere some foil onto the small disc, removing any excess foil(in this case I cut a hole in the center). This way it will glue to the compact a bit more securely.

Step 3: Step 2: the Foam

Cut a piece of aluminum larger than the large cardstock circle, and use white glue to glue it to the foam disc on the side that would face up. This is the face of your device, so use a nice piece, and pick between matte or shiny side. I used the matte. Flip over and glue the cardstock & foil disc onto the other side. Let the glue dry. Dry fit the foam into the compact, make sure all is as it should. Glue in the foam with Krazy glue, being sure that you only glue to either the cardstock or aluminum, since Krazy glue will melt/degrade foam. It should now look like the final picture.

Step 4: Step 3: the Guts

On a scrap piece of foam, race out the size and shape of the inside of your compact. Get a general idea how everything will lay out. To stick to the foam, you can A, stick the object into it, by mounting with wire, or B glue to the face with Krazy. A combination of the two works well. The gears will probably have some sort of axis, this will work perfectly, but you may need to cut it to size so that it will lay flat. Take into consideration how much depth you have to work with as well. Objects can be "sunk" into the foam with a little persuasion. My compact had a domed lid, which allowed me to use more three dimensional items. Once you've got it the way you want it, start sticking it into the face of your device, Krazy gluing as you go. For some objects, it may be necessary to cut away the foil directly underneath so that it won't get wrinkled/distorted when you press the item into the foam.


Items should be checked for size compatibility before getting glued in, make sure the top will close.

Krazy glue is your friend in small quantities.

Try to pick items that you can come up with a purpose for.

Clock gears and bits give a nice steampunk appearance.

Lenses from a disposable camera glued onto the clear cover make nice, well, lenses. IT gives a definite navigational instrument feel.

Flat marbles / crystals, etc make nice "power" crystals

Coils or copper wire, fuses, LED's etc... all lend to the sci-fi appearance. Electronic bits can be stuck into the face and glued down like on a bread board.

Cool rocks can always stand in for rare radioactive elements and whatnot.

Step 5: Finished!

After being "finished" for a few hours, check to make sure nothing is loose, if anything is, a dot of Krazy will quickly fix the problem. This project cost me a total of $0 USD, everything was something I either had lying around, or scrounged from the dustbin, and about 2 hours start to finish. Goodwill and other thrift stores are great places to look for things such a broken clocks. All of my copper and most of my electronic bits were from a broken computer power supply.
Further Ideas and suggestions:
A mercury switch would be really, really cool IMO.
Making it light up.
Substituting broken clock with working, stripped down watch.
A compass rose.
Spray painting it gold, or using a gold compact.
A hidden laser pointer or LED light

Put on a leather jacket, tight pants, nice shirt, and a beret with a peacock feather in it. Flip open the top of your Time Device (I dubbed mine Dawn 7) with a flick of your wrist, scrutinize (if the fuse things turns purple, there's a dinosaur behind you!), smile satisfactorily, slip into pocket and dash away with a knowledgeable and adventurous air...

If you liked mah Ible, a rating and a vote never hurts :)

Live Long and Prosper,

A Word on the Responsibilities of a Time Traveller:
If by any chance you succeed in getting it to work, you will be weighed down by these responsibilities:
  • Let me know.
  • Don't prevent someone who died from dying.
  • Don't kill your mother, or try any other weird paradox stuff like that.
  • Don't try to change the past to suit you better, unless it's to save the universe or something>
  • Observe, don't obstruct.
  • Don't introduce new technology to the native-time inhabitants.
  • Blend in with the native-time inhabitants, don't be obvious
  • Be safe
  • Have fun!

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