My father-in-law recently finished renovating the barbeque area (churrasqueira) of our Brazilian beach house, and the plain plastic switchplates just didn't fit with his amazing brick and woodwork. I decided to take a few pieces of scrap wood leftover from one of his other projects, and turn them into custom made steampunk switchplates.
Since my father-in-law and I started exploring the world of steampunk together last year, I thought he would appreciate seeing one of his projects get a slight steampunk makeover. Plus I hate seeing good wood go to waste;-)
These wood switchplates really add a wonderful rustic flare to our outdoor area that was otherwise marred by ostentatious and out-of-place plastic.
Note: I know these switchplates lack the usual cogs and gears and bells and whistles associated with "steampunk," but I think the wood and brass should qualify them for consideration in the genre. And ceratinly the repurposing of old scrapwood and the DIY nature of this project adds to the steampunk street cred;-) This is also one of the first steampunk projects on Instructables (if not the first) posted from Brazil!;-)
- scrap wood
- brass screws
- gold metallic paint
- Gorilla Glue (if necessary)
- sandpaper (if necessary)
- wood stain (optional)
- saw (power or hand saw, depending on type of wood)
- hacksaw blade
- grinder (optional)
- clamp (optional)
- screw driver
- paint brush
Step 1: Select Wood
I had a few pieces of a beautiful Brazilian hardwood, which was leftover from another project, which I decided to use. Brazilians call this wood is "Angelim Pedra," pedra being the Portuguese word for rock or stone. I don't think this wood has a name in English, but the botanical name is "Hymenolobium petraeum." It's qualities make it a popular wood for flooring, and door and window frames, as it's about ten times harder than oak. I also chose this wood because the width was already cut to almost the exact width of a standard switchplate.
Step 2: Grind (or Sand) Wood
The wood I chose to use is so hard, I decided to use a grinder, rather than sanding it, to give it a worn, rustic look. I imagine you could do something similar with a sander, but I didn't have one available, and the grinder gave the desired weathered effect. It also gives it a nice sheen.
Step 3: Mark Wood
I made the mistake of marking the wood before I grinded it, so I repeated this process. Lay the original switchplate over your wood, and mark where you need to make holes, depending on what type of switch you're covering.
Step 4: Cut to Size
Depending on what type of wood you use, you'll need to decide what type of saw will best do the job. Since the wood I used is particularly hard, I decided to use a power saw for cutting.
Step 5: Make Switch Hole
I'm sure there are many ways to do this. I tried two. First I drilled a few holes, and than chiseled out the remainder. This worked fine when I was chiseling against the grain, because this wood is so hard, but when I tried the same technique chiseling with the grain, it split the wood. This is where the Gorilla Glue came in handy;-) Once the wood split, it actually made it easier to file the hole with a rasp and hacksaw blade. I'm sure this could also be done with a small rotary tool, but I didn't have one available.
Step 6: Glue and Clamp Split Wood
If you managed to make your hole without spliting the wood, congratualtions, and skip this step. If you did end-up splitting the wood like I did, no worries. You'll just need a clamp and some glue. I happened to have Gorilla Glue available, and this did the trick.
Note: The Gorilla Glue I used produces copious amounts of foam, that hardens. I chose to scrape this off as it seeped out of the crack, and sprinkled a bit of sawdust to make the split less obvious. But since I was going for a rustic, slightly beaten, steampunk look, this actually added a bit of a weathered look.
Step 7: Paint Switch
I decided to paint my switches with a gold metallic paint, which contrasts nicely with the dark wood, and adds to the steampunk look of the finished product. Make sure the paint is dry before you add the wood switchplate.
Step 8: Drill Screw Holes
Carefully line up the old switchplate, and mark where the screw holes need to go, and then drill. I decided to add an additional counter sink, so the screws will flush with the plate. My switchboxes have two screws that hold the switch in place. These protrude slightly, so I also drilled partial holes in the back, to accomodate these screws, so that the switchplate will lie flush against the box.
Since I started with a nice dark piece of wood, and the grinder gave me the desired rustic effect, I decided not to use stain. But if you want a different color than the wood you started with, now is a good time to break out the wood stain, or maybe varnish.
Step 9: Install Switchplate
Once your paint is dry, and if you cracked the wood, your glue is dry, mount the plate with a pair of brass screws. These are available at most hardware stores, but if you're lucky, maybe you can salvage some from a discarded piece of furniture. And the brass screws certainly add a touch of class that plain aluminium screws just don't have!
Step 10: Update: Steampunk Socket
I decided to wait until I had the right tool to drill the socket plates, and was able to purchase a hole saw bit for my power drill. This worked like a charm on a piece of softer wood (Cendrinho), and I was able to cut a hole through one piece of the much harder Angelim Pedra, but on the second piece, the saw snapped, proving that my Brazilian hardwood was just a bit tougher than my Chinese saw. I guess the remaining sockets will have to wait...