Introduction: Steampunk Airship Navigator Map Case

My husband and I got involved in Steampunk about 5 years ago. What is Steampunk? (I heard you ask!) Well, think of it as a moderate amount of Victorian style, a whole lotta steam powered sci-fi, a bit of drama and most of all.... FUN! Steampunk is a maker, writer and actor's dream all rolled into one. You can be anyone, any time, anywhere. (Or, several someones.) Your steampunk universe is all your own. Make it whatever you want it to be. Where it really becomes interesting, though, is when your personal universe spins right along side the millions of other steampunk enthusiasts' universes at cosplay/steampunk conventions, meet-ups and private group events.

One of my Steampunk personas is an airship navigator. To be honest, it came out of necessity. My captain husband couldn't navigate us out of a paper bag much less a wild and crazy universe of our own making. Just ask him.... he'll be the first to admit it. So, I took on the vitally important position of navigator aboard the Patagonia Explorer.

Being a navigator, I'm in charge of keeping a myriad of maps and charts well ordered and safe. What a massive amount of maps there are! Terra Maps, Star Charts and Ocean Routes... just to name a few. For such a task as this, it was clear that I was going to need a very special case in which to carry them.

Come along with me as I show you how I crafted my very own Steampunk Airship Navigator Map Case.


  • A tube - I found an Alvin Ice Tube at Goodwill but you could use a mailing tube or even PVC pipe with caps
  • Leather scraps or fabric of your choice
  • Leather lacing - again, I found mine at Goodwill for cheap
  • Liquid Nails or E6000
  • Old leather belts
  • Leather Punch
  • Pliers
  • Waxed thread
  • D-rings or O-rings
  • Bits and Pieces - (aka Junk Drawer goodies) - buttons, feathers, shells, brass bits, old jewelry, bells, ???
  • Metallic Craft Paint - Copper, Brown and Gold - Walmart, Amazon, Michael's, Ben Franklin, etc.
  • Black Craft Paint
  • Pencil and Craft Paint Brushes
  • Carbon Paper
  • Printed Script - I used this Fancy Text Generator to create the script for my map case
  • Old Maps - If you don't have these you probably don't need a map case, right?

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

It's easiest if you just gather all of your supplies in one spot for this project before you begin. For my own map case, I gathered far more than I knew I'd use. Since I didn't really know what I wanted my map case to look like, I just wanted to have anything and everything available. That way I'd be able to try things out as I went along. I challenged myself to craft my map case out of the stuff I already had on hand.

Step 2: It Starts With a Tube

To begin, make a straight horizontal cut across one side of your leather or fabric. Now, take your tube and lay it horizontally on the under side (wrong side) leather scrap or fabric. You want your leather to fit in between the handle bands. If you're using an Ice Tube, it's helpful to mark a line around the inside line of the handle bands for reference and then slide the handle bands out toward the ends of the tube. Position your fabric so that you have it pretty much in a straight line along the length of the tube and cut it even with the marked lines on each end. The goal is to be able to slide the handle bands back to their original position after the glued leather or fabric has dried. Lay down a line of glue on the straight cut underside of your leather and carefully begin rolling the leather around the tube. Add glue to the edges as you smooth and roll the leather around the tube. Don't be afraid to make cuts and adjustments at this point. You want your leather to lay as smoothly as possible. My leather buckled at one point so I just made a long slit and laid one side of it over the other and glued it down. You can always glue some of your bits and pieces over the place where it joins later on.

My leather piece had a wavy edge and I knew that it wouldn't meet in the middle of the tube. I decided to use a contrasting piece of snake skin and glued it in place before finishing rolling up the leather around the tube. Make certain that all of your edges have glue on them and press into place. Let dry.

Step 3: Paint the End Caps and Handle Bands

After your leather has dried and before you slide the handle bands back down into position, this is a good time to paint the "metal" parts of the map case. I chose three metallic paints that I had on hand. Chocolate Brown, Copper and Gold - all Metallic craft paint.

Start by giving the entire end caps and handle bands a coat of gold paint. When dry, dry brush on streaks of copper (rust) and brown to add an aged patina. It's helpful to brush darker paint into the crevices and a bit of rust on the areas that would naturally rust on real metal. I finished up by using a very small amount of black paint and just dabbing it here and there to add to the effect.

You can see the painted parts in the next step when we add the lacing.

Step 4: Adding Leather Lacing

After your paint has dried, slide your handle bands back down as close to the leather as you can. There will probably be a gap in spots between the leather and the bands. That's where the leather lacing comes in.

Take the end of the spool of lacing and begin to wind around the tube, catching in the beginning piece of lacing in the first pass. Pull the lacing taught to hold it in place and continue to wind around the tube and over the leather until you're happy with the look of it. I wound about 1" width on the inside of the handle bands. Now, either glue the end of the lacing in place or using a large craft needle, pull the tail end under and through the wrappings.The tension of the wrap will hold the lacing in place. Clip the excess off.

At this point, take a sharpie marker and mark a line around the tube just where the end cap ends on the tube. This will be your reference point for winding your outside lacing.

For the outside edge of each handle band, repeat winding from the handle band to the line that you marked around the tube. Finish off the tail end of the lacing as before.

Step 5: Finishing the End Caps

The bottom end cap of the Ice Tube has a lovely little tip about Opening the Other End,and I just didn't think it was probably necessary on our airship. So.... I took the end caps and my sharpie marker and traced around them on my piece of leather. Now, I needed the leather to fit inside the end cap outer circle, so using my scissor, I simply began to cut about 1/8" away from the outside edge all the way round. This made the leather circle just about perfect to fit over Open Other End and I glued it in place with my Liquid Nails. I did the same for the top end cap, but stitched and glued on a steampunk Cthulhu and pearl. If you'd like to add one of these to your map case, you can find them here.

Step 6: Add Your Strap

My map case strap is extra long as I wanted to be able to cross it over my chest and carry the map case behind me, bandoleer style. If you just want a short strap, you can make one to only hook to the top of the case. This is your case and you can customize it any way you want. The photos show how I took a couple of old belts and made them into a long strap that can be adjusted to either myself or my husband.

Step 7: The Addition of Script

I knew that I wanted to add some script to my map case and I wanted it to look Old World. And I wanted it in Spanish. Don't ask me why, I don't know. I guess, to me it just looks more official and really cool if it's in Spanish! Like Pirates of the Caribbean cool...

First, I decided what I wanted my script to say.

Terra Maps, Star Charts and Ocean Routes. Not bad, but not as cool as Spanish!

Mapas De la Tierra, Cartas Estelares and Rutas Oceanicas - That's better!

Since I don't really know Spanish, I started by having Google translate what I wanted to say and then copied and pasted the Spanish script into this Fancy Text Generator. It generated several different fonts, I picked the one I liked and then all I had to do was print out the text in the size I wanted.
After printing, I cut the lines of text apart, placed the first one on a piece of carbon paper on top of the leather and taped the paper down where I wanted it. After that, it was simple to trace the letters with a pencil and the carbon paper transferred the lettering to the leather. I carefully removed the paper and with a very fine brush and some black craft paint, painted the letters onto the leather. Repeat with other two pieces of text and Voila! Script is finished.

Step 8: Finishing Your Map Case

Your map case is now finished EXCEPT for your customization. This is where you can really let go and have fun with it. Add on shiny bits, feathers, buttons, bells, glitter, stars, shells, or whatever! Make it your own and be proud of what you've created.

I look forward to seeing your creation at the next Steampunk convention!

Maps Challenge

Participated in the
Maps Challenge