The THEATRUM MAGICUS - a Steampunk Media Player for Music, Photos and Movies

Introduction: The THEATRUM MAGICUS - a Steampunk Media Player for Music, Photos and Movies

Dear Steampunkers, dear Friends

I few months ago I was cleaning up my Steampunk Lab and I discovered a lot of old stuff and remains from other projects. There was a beautiful wooden body housing from an old SABA radio, a lot of brass fittings, screws and so on.
A few days later I was called from a good friend which is the owner of a photo store: "Hey man, I found an old SONY sales display with a small TFT screen... do you want to pick it up?" A few minutes later I was in his store...

So today I would like to present you the THEATRUM MAGICUS. It's a Steampunk media player which supports MP3 music files, photos and movies. For me it was a very special project, because all the used parts I found in my lab, so I invested not one cent!!!

Step 1: The TFT From a SONY Shop Display

The SONY shop display was made for a digital camera and was given to the bigger sales stores free of charge to support the sales.
Because I didn't find the technical data or a manual for the TFT I had to try by myself which button had which function. The micro buttons were equiped with two pins, so it was easy to solder fine copper wire to this pins. The plan was to place the operation panel with the buttons to the top of the machine. More about that in a later step.
The TFT is running with 9V and has a slot for a CF card and a connector for an USB device. For the sound there is a stereo jack which I used to connect the small amplifier for the speaker.

Step 2: Installation of the TFT Into the Vintage Radio Body Housing

The vintage body housing I still had in my garage was a left over from my project "Steampunk Wildbad 7".
It was from a SABA radio from 1957. The size was perfect to use it for the TFT media player. To have enough space to mount the screen I had to cut out the front a little bit larger. The TFT is screwed in with four small strips of wood. On the picture you can see the CF card, the fine copper wires for the control panel and the stereo jack with cable to the small amplifier located on the right wall. The speaker I used was not the original one, because it was too large for the small amplifier I used.
To cover the metal frame of the TFT I used copper profiles which I cutted to the right length and screwed them to the wooden body. The three holes under the screen were the openings for the buttons of the original SABA radio. I didn't need them anymore, so I used some old brass fittings to close them in a decorative manner.

Step 3: The Audio Amplifier

Because the media player was not powerful enough to produce good sound quality I decided to add an old amplifier from a small stereo speaker set. It's powered with 5V from an USB power source. I didn't need stereo, because I used only one speaker - so I combined the two channels to one powerful mono channel.

Step 4: The Operation Panel With the Feather of a Pheasant

First I had no idea how to control the media player from the outside of the radio body housing. I didn't had the remote and the small micro buttons were hidden under a metal cover. After I found them and I realised that each button had two simple pins, a new idea appeared in my brain...
I soldered to each positive pin a thin copper wire. The negative pins were grouped to one base with only one wire. So I ended up with a total of eight pieces of copper wires.
Then I drilled the holes for the seven brass screws into the top of the body and mounted the screws. To each one I connected one of the copper wires for the corresponding function. The base wire (negative) is connected to a textil covered cable and then soldered to a thicker piece of copper wire. This copper wire I bent in shape and connected it with the feather of a pheasant, which was a present from a nice friend of mine.
If you touch now with the feather one of the brass pins you activate the desired function. I was impressed how simple that works!
To park the feather on the device I used an old brass fitting with a nice gear.

Step 5: The Finish of the THEATRUM MAGICUS

To give the whole device a nice Steampunk look and feel I worked with different brass fittings, old vacuum tubes, an oil filter, a door handle, a steal mesh guard and the crank from the coffee mill I used for the Steampunk lamp "The Eye of Ra".

More details about this and other Steampunk projects you will find on my website

I hope I could give you some ideas for your next Steampunk gadget! Feel free to ask if you have some questions. I'm glad to help and to hear from you.

Sincerely yours

The Chocolatist


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    6 years ago

    I don't understand, what exactly was used for the actual media player part? Did I miss something? I'm actually looking into trying to build a handheld portable music player type of device, and would really love to know if there's a special type of board you used, or if you used something that was already a media player or something. Thanks :)


    Reply 6 years ago

    Hi. I used an old media player from a SONY POS sales display. That's something very similar to a TFT picture frame. The board with implemented TFT can play sounds, videos and photos. May you can use for your project something like that here:

    Sincerely yours Dan


    9 years ago

    Any chance of a video? It would be good to see it in action.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a lot for your feedback. May in the video (see comments) you can see more details about the feather and it's function...


    9 years ago

    Another great design, I love it and a very innovative use is an old radio.