Introduction: SteamTorch (a Steampunk Flashlight)

About: I am a recent recipient of a BS in Computer Science. Currently working for an eDiscovery company as a web repository technician (hosting, searching and helping attorneys to process their electronic data) but w…

"The velvety darkness pressed in around them and soft, muffled, and yet mysteriously menacing sounds crept towards their ears. The captain reached into his rucksack and took hold of his torch, with a slight whir and then a click, it blazed into life and the creatures shuffled off"

Having been a while since my Steampunk USB Flash Drive, my fingers grew restless and took hold of the plastic, and rather plain, flashlight sitting on my desk. An idea formed just in time of for the Flashlight Contest! If you Enjoy this instructable please rate and when the time comes vote!

Here are a few pictures of the completed project. If you would like to know how to build this relatively easy project read on!

Step 1: Gather Tools and Supplies

"With a carefully controlled chaos the men and women of the airship rushed about packing and moving the crates onto the Albatross. Amid the hustle and bustle the steam vents screeched out their chorus while the orders barked out by the officers provided the rhythm. Preparations were nearly complete now and soon they would embark on the voyage of the century."

As with any project like this, the actual materials and tools needed will vary depending on your taste. If you want to make it exactly like the pictures, however, you'll need the following tools and materials:
  • Soldering Iron
  • Pliers
  • Pipe cutter (small) or a jeweler's saw
  • Torch (the flame kind)
  • Drill and bits
  • Handy Hands (or something else to hold your work steady)
  • Plumber's Epoxy Putty
  • Wire
  • Solder
  • Brass Tubing
  • Centerpunch
  • Rub 'n buff or other gilding material
  • Bonsai Wire (or other darkly colored very soft wire)
  • Gears of some kind, I used lego gears
  • Black Paint (depending)
  • Precision Files
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • A cheapo plastic LED flashlight
Again you may not need all of this and may need more depending on how you go about this. I had all of this laying around and so, for me, this project was free. You should expect to spend about 15-30 USD on it if you use a cheapo flashlight (dollar store) if you don't have anything. The tools will cost you more but thankfully they're all very useful and common. Read on to begin Modding your flashlight!

Step 2: Disassemble the Flashlight and Mod the Circuitboard

"The rumble of the conveyor belts thrummed in their ears and the workers on the line repeatedly performed their respective tasks. The assembled pieces went through the process and came out the other side as useful parts."

The first part of this is easy and most likely you've done this before to flashlights, pens, anything that screws apart . . .I know I have. Basically simply unscrew everything but make sure you remember how to put it all back! In the light end the circuit board with the LED's will be screwed in with tiny little (usually phillips) screws. These are really easy to lose so put them into a jar or a bowl or something.

Now you have the circuit board take the time to admire it's intricacy (or not . . .as you wish) and clip it into your handy hands. Choose one of the LED's that won't interfere with anything major if it's removed and replaced with a wire. I chose one from the edge so that I wouldn't have to worry about wires crossing in and around other LED's.

Carefully unsolder the chosen led and save it for later. Make sure you mark positive and negative on it now since the leads will have been clipped and one won't be longer than the other. I used a sharpie since it wipes off easily later. In the LED's place solder your wires. Clip the other end of the wire leaving plenty of slack to trim up later once you're done running it. At this point it's wise to test out the circuit board via multimeter or by supplying power and then touching the loose wire to the led to see if it lights up (i.e. the poor/lazy man's way). Once you've got it working proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Drill LED Hole and Reassemble the Flashlight

"The metallic sounds of clicking and sliding permeated the room. The weapon, once stripped down to its bare parts quickly regained its original shape . . .but this time something was decidedly different. Yes they would be unpleasantly surprised."

Here's where the artistic side comes in. At this point you choose how you want it to work. For me, it was cool to have an LED split off and illuminating a tube with holes amidst the gadgetry so I drilled a hole in the handle of the light (being sure to use a center punch to keep the drill bit from wandering) and ran the wires through some brass tubing. I soldiered the LED to the exposed wires and inserted it into a length of brass tubing that I had flared out with a torch and filed slots into. I capped the ends of the tube with Plumber's epoxy putty which is great since it is malleable like clay and rock hard once cured. At this point I tested everything again. If everything works out then proceed to the next step!

Step 4: Add the Steampunk Gadgetry and Gilding

"The polisher looked at the new shipment of parts and groaned. There was always so much work to be done! He mused on the idea of hiring an apprentice (that boy would never leave him alone) but decided again that the peace and quiet was worth the extra labor. He pried off the wooden crate lid and saw the greasy engine parts staining the inside of the box and grinned . . . it wasn't so bad really."

This is perhaps the most fun and most challenging part. Sometimes I feel that I've done well and sometimes it just looks bad to me. I'm getting better at it but arranging the parts in such a way that they look semi-functional and aesthetically pleasing is quite a trick to be sure.
Take the gears, wires, springs, and other machine parts and arrange them on your piece carefully and try a few different arrangements to see what appeals to you. I try to have some semblance of order (i.e. gears teeth interlocking etc.) rather than slapping stuff on whilly nilly  . . . but whatever suits you and pleases YOUR eyes is right.

This time I used the plumber's epoxy to affix everything since I'd be handling it a lot and needed something very sturdy. This requires you to paint a bit but I felt it was worth the extra effort to know the pieces wouldn't simply fall off.

Once you've got the bits added and painted, it's time to gild the flashlight. Mine had a rough texture which was great as you'll see soon. Take a TINY amount of the rub n buff onto your finger and dab most of it away on a paper towel. Carefully and lightly brush your finger on any raised areas of the piece and some will get left behind kind of like dry brushing if you're a painter. The idea here is that since this thing is really old grime will have accumulated in any recesses and be rubbed off on raised areas leaving a silver/metallic shine to show through. So we'll be mimicking that by adding the silver instead of the grime. Less is more here . . .if you use too much you'll spoil the effect. If your finger runs out then get a bit more from what you dabbed on the paper towel and resume. This stuff is awesome but takes a bit of getting used to (I'm still getting better at applying it) so practice on something else first to get the idea then move onto your piece. If you mess it up horribly, no worries! Just paint anywhere you messed up with black and try again.

Step 5: Finished

"The light blazed forth and the darkness retreated. It gave us peace of mind to know that light shall always be stronger than darkness. We knew that if we followed the captain and kept our lights with us the caves would not overpower us and in the backs of our minds we hoped we were right."

At this point you should step back and enjoy the work of your hands . . .and post pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I really am interested in others' work! If you like this rate it and vote for it when the time comes. If you do not please give me constructive criticism . . . I always try to live by these words: "Seek improvement in perfection".

Thank you for reading!

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