Steampunk Decision Making Machine




Introduction: Steampunk Decision Making Machine

About: I like to read all about the creative ideas everyone has here. I love to make "one of" projects, learn something about doing it and then move on to something new. Hope you like my ideas. email me...

Remember as a kid when you had a tough decision to make so you consulted a "Magic 8 Ball?"  Well, here is a steampunk version of that... Just as a question that can be answered either with a "Yes or No" about your future and the machine will help guide you on your way.  You can ask a question about your potential for "Success" meaning financial, career, fame, etc. or about Love & Romance / relationships, etc., or questions just about self, meaning simple questions like should I take a bath or a shower today.

On this machine you turn on the power, select the type of question you want the machine to answer and the light changes to match - Blue is a "self" question, Green for "Success", and red for "Love."

Let's get started...

Early 20th Century telephone ringer box - $15 on eBay.
Clear glass power pole insulator = $3 at antique store
3 - position selector switch - $3 eBay
2 - Momentary pushbuttons - Radio Shack - $3 each
12 VDC power supply - Free from surplus cordless phone
Togge switch 120vac  - RadioShack $3
120 VAC power ON light indicator
12 vdc motor-  $8 eBay
Terminal strip - $3 Menards
(2) - 12 vdc Pull type solenoids - $4 & $8 each  ebay
RGB - 3 color Hi Intensity LEDs - $10 for 10
Copper plate - surplus flashing
Telephone plug - Male & female connectors - $5

Step 1:

Ok, so start by gutting out all the components in your ringer box.  Then clean up the box with some light thinner, and refinish.  I used a tung oil followed by a coat of canuba wax.

Save the internals, you never know what you might use them for on a later project.

Step 2:

Making the copper work:
I used heavy gauge copper flashing for the parts shown below.

The decision wheel was laid out to fit the box as large as possible and drawn on AutoCAD software and then printed on a clear decal that was applied to the disk.  I wanted a very fne look to the lettering, something that etching doesn't do well enough for my liking for the fine font I wanted.  I did etch the external parts however for durability.  The holes in the disk are used as "stops" where a solenoid pin pops up to stop the wheel.

How the circuit works is like this...
1.  Press and hold the "Ask" push button.  This puts 12 VDC on the motor that spins the disk.  The same button energizes a 12 vdc Pull solenoid that pulls the stop pin down to let the disk turn.  The disk starts spinning. Recite your question aloud while holding down the "Ask" button. 
2.  Releasing the "Ask" button causes the motor to lose power and coast, and the solenoid plunger springs up and rides underneath the disk.  This makes a slight ringing / grinding sound and it eventually catches a hole and stops the disk.  The sounds make the machine a bit novel and interesting to the user!
3.  Press the "Reveal" button and a different pull solenoid pulls on a wire that goes to the rear outside of the box, and uses a lever arm to pull the trap door up.  A light inside the lid illuminates the disk to read it.

I etched the copper plates by the muriatic acid & hydrogen peroxide method.  There are plenty of instructables on this method and on the internet.  I used the laser printer / heat transfer method for creating a mask for the etch.

A little stained glass work for the window and some simple soldering for the lamp stand completes the copper work.

Step 3:

Ok time to wire things up a bit.  Glue the three LEDs together for the main lamp light.  Sand the LEDs on a disk sander at 120 degree angles then epoxy the 3 together.  The LEDs need resistors to not blow out so figure on 0.020mA current max at 3 volts.  V= I*R so r= 150 ohms if you need to drop the volts to 9 vdc, so wire them in series (3 + 3 = 6 volts at LEDS).  See my other instructable (Star Wars Maquette stand in step 2) for a better explanation on this subject.

With the LEDS to the 3 way selector switch to correspond to the type of question as indicated on the name plate.  Wire the lid LED to a phone connector and watch the wiring carefully to get the lights to match up all around the box. 

I also added a light to where the ringer was located to reflect off the bells.  I thought about ringing the bells when there was an answer but not enough room in the box.

I can't stress enough to use terminal strips and prewire and plan your work.  A tight space project like this really benefitted from these methods.

Step 4:

Now start try to cram everthing into the box, and make it all fit.  Several challenges presented themselves here.

Use ribbon wire to keep wires tight and together.  I also hot melted them to the box sides and floor to keep them anchored.

Note I had misaligned the power switch holes because I had to relocated the cover srew to the opposite side of the box.

The reveal solenoid set up with the cable wire took about three times to set the lengths correcctly to open up all the way.  Be sure to by a solenoid with plenty of stroke and pull power.  The teeter totter acts as a multiplier for pull distance as well as a direcctional change of the pull.

That's it!  I hope you like it.  Thanks for looking.

Any questions just contact me!

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    14 Discussions


    6 years ago

    Great look, I gotta learn how to do quality metal etching.
    I looked through your stuff and thought why aren't I following this guy

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great looking build! But how could you possibly have decided to make such a thing without already having a Steampunk Decision Making Machine? Did you use a Time Machine or just consult with a Magic 8 Ball first?;-)


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I dropped the Magic 8 ball and got the ink all over the floor when it shattered. The answer then became obvious - I needed another!

    Nice! I LOVE collecting those glass telephone insulators! My grandma got me started last year! :D
    Love the idea of not needing to decide if you're going to shower or not!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    No - you didn't read that right... it say to shower OR take a bath. Not to go dirty! LOL


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I get these ideas in my head and they just have to come out!


    6 years ago

    Cool. Good job. I like the Steampunk look. Thanks for posting.


    6 years ago

    this is wonderful.

    Excellent instructable! It'd be good if you put in the link to your other instructable explaining about LEDs and voltage drop.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Ok thanks, I just did. I explain it better on my Star Wars Maquette stand project and I added the link. Thanks!