EL Wire Steam Burton Bonsai (steampunk)




About: I'm a french craftmanship enthousiast, Former graphic designer, i've graduated in a woodworking school in Canada in 2015. Since my first projects years ago, i've been using recycled materials and objects t...

Hi everyone,
My project is a dead bonsaï recycled as a El lamp. I'm sorry but i've lost my datas recently and most of my making off pictures have been deleted :( I'l try to explain this design as close to the original as possible. Feel free to rate it and If you have any questions, just ask!

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Step 1: Tools and Stuff

Well for that project, you'll need :

-a lot of watch gears
-copper wire
-thin copper layer (not in the picture)
-a dead bonsaï (not in the picture)
-a bonsai pot (not in the picture) Try one with holes in the bottom, 4 will be perfect
-some line tape (pinstriping line tape for exemple. i've got 3 size, 3, 5. 7 mm)
-a cuter
-a lot of patience (not in the picture)
-some bigger gears
-spray paint, color of you choice
-different pliers
-marquetry  wood (not in the picture)
-a thin chisel
-el wire of course (not in the picture)
-a vintage photo frame (not in the picture)
and that's it, or maybe a lot of patience again

Step 2: Begining

I've started mine by the bonsaï itself, but i'm gonna explain the flowerpot first.
You need to choose it, no matter how it looks like, if you like it i'm pretty sure it's the good one. Reverse it on a piece of paper and draw the inner flowerpot shape. It's a bit tricky because now the flowerpot is closed...or you can print the shape in a soft material and draw on your paper from this.
Anyway, now you'll have to take your vintage photo frame and center it to your drawing, and make a line around it, following the outlines, where it's going to feet. Sorry once more for the lack of pictures. Cut off that hole
Now, based on this drawing, you'll have to cut a piece of thin wood, or glue cardboards pieces togather, and make it fit in the pot, it'll be the floor. Try to cut it as your draw, then try, cut it a bit more, try...until it fit horizontaly. Keep that next to you.
You can paint your flowerpot now if you want, or keep it for the very end. For mine, i've painted it in white, then using 7mm line tape i've preserved stripes, and painted it black. Remove the line tape once dry et voilà.

Step 3: The Machine

Now you've to deal with the mechanism at the center, under the photo frame (vintage of course).
Cut a piece of wood at a bigger size than your photo frame, but not too big, 1cm larger. Cut a piece of copper sheet the same size and glue it, it'll make your gears axis fit stronger in the whole thing. Now take a piece of soft stuff, like foam, draw the shape of your base, save space in the middle for your bonsaï trunk, drill holes (2 or 3) in your trunk and in the base, it must be aligned, try to drill both at the same time. Attache temporary the trunk on the foam and design your mechanism patern. Make a line representing your iner photoframe, and dont put gears over that line or you wont be able to attache everything together. Place your gears as you want, if the move it's a great combo. You can had details with copper nails, drill tiny holes...
When your design is ready, take a picture of it, dismantle, report foam holes on the copper sheet, drill your holes at the good gears axis diameter, and reproduce your mechanism on it, based on your picture. Keep warm.

Step 4: The Bonsai

You need a dead bonsaï, some sand paper, a tiny chisel and that's it for now. I dont have pictures of this step at all, but you have to sand your bonsaï, be carefull not to break branches. Once this step is good, take your chisel and engrave your bonsai as you want, creepy or not, all of it or just some parts. Paint it black (lalaalaaaalaaalaaalaaa...), or as you want, and the fun part is coming.
Take a watch gear, some copper wire, bend the wire in half, put the wire and gear together, and twist the wire while olding the gear. Keep some untwisted wire to attache it on the branch; make different wire size, to had randomness to the foliage. Make this a lot, depending on your foliage, and fill your branche with that. That's pretty much it, this is the patience part but it worth it. Had details if you want, gears or tiny screws

Step 5: The Machine 2

With your flowerpot painted, your floor done, your photo frame polished, your bonsai full of copper and gears, mechanism done and gears well attached, with the bonsai on it, it's time to finish the job. Make a sandwich like shown on the sketch. I've made a mystake so invert B and C, as the floor is between frame and mechanism. Dont glue anything yet, you'll need to put your elwirre while making the sandwitch ^^.
Take your el wire, follow the inner photo frame, and attache it with some hot glue, as straight as possible. Once you've made a complete ring, make a notch on your mechanism in order for the el wire to "dive" in the flowerpot. Make sure everything fit well for now, and glue the photo frame to the floor. You can also attache the mechanism under the floor with hot glue spots, and renforce that with pieces of steel screwed to the floor and the machine.
The tricky part is for the last elwire "ring". At this step you must deal with your steel  pieces that will attache floor to flowerpot. Once it's done (exemple in the third picture), use a corner or angle of your pot, take the el wire out, make the outline of your floor,  and put the extra el wire inside the flower pot by the same angle hole. (pardon my english, but i need more vocabulary :) Once it's done glue the wire or find a way to make it fit perfectly.
Screw your floor under your pot, put the wire in the remaining hole, make a tiny wood box to hold the 12v jack and you're done! I wich i could have all my making of pictures, it's way better to see what i mean in that creepy english, but hope you'll found fun in this project. The next step is a gallery.

Step 6: Shazam

Here is my final result, after a lot, and i mean A F-ING LOT of time :). Hope you like it and good luck!

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Runner Up in the
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    56 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great! You can also use wide EL-TAPE for this. I've found theme here www.el-w.com and
    here www.etsy.com/shop/lightkraft They were the best prices I've
    found in the US.

    purple tape.jpg

    6 years ago on Step 4

    How does one come about so many watch gears,Ive been wanting to do a beetle project I saw on here a while back.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic! I've been considering something like this!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    this is one of the most beautiful peices of steampunk art i have seen. favorited. Amazing.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Coolest thing I've ever seen. Make a Giant one. er life size, you'd win a lot of money in art contests.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    Haha thanks a lot dude, actually i'm doing a second one, double size and a bit different, but i'm really looking forward to do it life size, with a beautifull dead tree ;)

    I've winned the second place for a contest on instructable, but never get my prices, so hope i'll be luckier next time !


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

    I think i will but i don't know when. I'm working on another one, but it's a pretty long job ^^.

    ?how? Cyberpunk is much more like what we (optimistically) envision today's future to be(the cyberpunk derives from cybernetics and punk, cybernetics being, in very simple terms, study of how things are controlled. Cyborg is also derived for it refers a borg or robot helping to control and regulate human functions). Steampunk, on the other hand, is what we envision yesterday's future to be, and by yesterday, I of course mean the 1800s industrial revolution- filled with gear boxes and based on steam, as opposed to our modern world, filled with CPUs and based on voltage.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like it just wish people wouldn't call everything steam punk. This isnt steampunk in any understanding of the word. It could be called futuristic or even retrofuturistic though.

    5 replies

    I'm sorry, I thought retrofuturistic was a pretty damn big part of steampunk. You know, the whole "if the Victorians designed the future and modern/future technology" thing. Sorry, my mistake.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I agrre but when you've got a weird tree full of watches gears and copper stuff, it's definitly not Impressionism...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    sorry for that :(. To me, it's steampunk, but i don't want to hurt someone feelings, call it a dead bonsai :)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Ahh don't worry its a cool project. I think im just tired from seeing Boing Boing use the word steampunk in every other word of their articles.