YuKonstruct and the Yukon Comic Culture Society were invited to make the decorations for the 2016 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Steampunk Ball this past February. As the theme for Rendezvous was "Around the World" we decided to go with a steampunk travel theme for all the decorations.
We wanted to build a feature prop to hang over the dance floor and decided on a glowing steampunk airship.
YuKonstruct is the first makerspace in Canada's north. Our mission is to provide access to shared space, quality tools, available expertise, and a collaborative environment to help makers build anything!
The materials for this project were generously provided by the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society.
Step 1: Materials and Design
We used the following materials for this project:
- ¼" birch plywood
- ⅛" mahogany veneer
- canvas drop cloth
- flexible colour-changing LED strips
- staple guns and staples
- carpenter's glue
- zip ties
- wire, chain and hardware to hang the airship
The airship was designed in SketchUp, a free program for 3D computer modeling. The airship is made up of a balloon, just like a blimp or zeppelin, with an over-sized ship, very reminiscent of a pirate ship, hanging below it.
In the fictional universe in which this airship could get off the ground, steampunk engineers have obviously discovered something with significantly more lifting power than helium.
Step 2: Cutting and Assembling the Balloon Pieces
The pieces that form the structure of the balloon were cut from ¼" birch plywood on YuKonstruct's laser cutter.
The balloon was designed to be built in two halves which are bolted together. To give the structure extra strength, the ribs and rings are all made of 2 layers of birch plywood, with overlapping seams.
All the pieces were put together with glue and clamps until the glue was dried.
Step 3: Skinning the Balloon
The balloon structure was covered with drop cloth canvas.
We worked one section at a time, stapling the canvas in place and then trimming the excess with scissors. One person would pull the canvas tight and a second person would use a staple gun to secure it in place. It is important to make sure the fabric's grain is always straight.
Each section's edges were rolled over and stapled to the inside of the ribs before the next piece of fabric was added, to help prevent fraying.
Step 4: Adding Lights
The flexible LED strips we used for this project had a sticky adhesive backing, but we weren't sure if that would be enough to hold them. To keep the lights in place, we secured them to the rings of the balloon structure with zip ties.
We used one set of strip lights on the inside of each balloon half.
The lights are remote controlled, so we made sure the IR sensors stuck out past the canvas.
We ran the power supply cords out through an opening in the canvas at the top of the balloon.
Once the lights were added, the two balloon halves were bolted together.
Step 5: Building the Ship
The ship is really just a very large, simplified model ship.
We were really rushing to get the ship finished in time for the Steampunk Ball, so we omitted several details from our original plan, including 3D printed lanterns and moving oars and propellers.
The pieces for the ship were all cut from ⅛" mahogany sheets using a laser cutter.
The pieces were all assembled with wood glue and staples. Since we were in a rush, we used duct tape on the inside of the hull to prevent any light from shining through the cracks.
We used eye bolts and wire to suspend the ship under the balloon.
Step 6: Finished Airship!
The finished airship was a huge hit at the Steampunk Ball.
The airship was suspended over the dance floor using chain attached to sturdy bolts on the balloon's frame.
To camouflage the wire that holds up the ship, we used some decorative netting.
The airship now hangs in the makerspace's shop (minus the netting which would just collect sawdust).