The STEAMPUNK Biosphere Model 1876





Introduction: The STEAMPUNK Biosphere Model 1876

About: Dan Aetherman, Steampunker, Inventor and Adventurer - Creator of fantastic victorian machines, gadgets and movieprops - Visit me on and on Facebook:

Dear Makers out there

Here is the proof, that Steampunkers are not only happy with copper and brass! We have a "Green Thumb" too - but some brass, glass, wood and steel has to be in for sure!

The "Biosphere Model 1876" is a unique wonder of nature and hosts a living small beech tree. This small oeko system needs 10ml of water per month and is a real eyecatcher in the living room.

Step 1: The Giant Bulb

By chance I found on a flea market a realy giant light bulb. It was broken, but the size was breath taking and I had to get it for a few bucks.

At home I cutted the metal socket carefully with a metal saw. Then I packed the glass bulb into a towel and carefully broke out the filament and took it out of the bulb from below. Work carefully and slow, it would be sad to brake the bulb. Wear gloves to protect your fingers from the glass!!

As a base I used a black steel ring and an old gear from the yunk yard. The hole in the gear fitted by chance exactly to the socket of the cutted light bulb.

Step 2: The Vintage Coffee Mill

For the housing I used a vintage coffee mill from a good friend. He allowed me to take it apart for this unique Steampunk creation.

On the pictures you can see very detailed how I stripped the mill. All the metal parts from the grinder I removed and kept only the wooden housing. The drawer I glued to the bottom, so that you can open the mill now by just lifting up the top case.

Now I screwed on the steel base with the gear by using huge brass screws. The glossy metal dome from the coffee mill I placed at the side now as a nice decoration, together with a copper wire which goes to the top.

With an old vacuum tube I created a eyecatching device, which I screwed to the wooden body. Now it looks that there is some electronic device in the "Biosphere" to keep it breathing...

Step 3: Planting the Beech Tree

The small beech tree I got from our garden. My laboratory is located in a very nice river valley in the Swiss mountains. I cleaned the roots carefully from all the dirt and washed them with water.

The I planted the tree into a small glass pot which fits exactly into the wooden coffee mill. As ideal substrat I used SERAMIS, that is a fine clay granulate which can store a lot of water in it. Then I added 10ml of water, so that the water level in the glass pot measured approx. 10mm. Later I found out that the "Biosphere" needs exactly 10ml of water per month.

At the final I carefully wrapped the leaves from the tree into a small paper roll and putted over the bulb. Just after I tied out the paper and the leaves were placed perfectly into the old light bulb.

As you can see my "Biosphere Model 1876" is not completely sealed. At the socket of the bulb some air can circulate and if you lift the bulb a little bit you can add the 10ml of water with a pipette.

Thats it!! I hope I could give you some inspiration to build your own "Biosphere" out from an old light bulb.

Sincerely yours

The Chocolatist

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    43 Discussions


    See here:

    As you can see my "Biosphere Model 1876" is not completely sealed. At the socket of the bulb some air can circulate and if you lift the bulb a little bit you can add the 10ml of water with a pipette.

    Sincerely yours Dan

    Love the device. And this question may sound stupid but... is the plant alive after 4 days without fresh air renovation? Don't seems a long future for this plant.

    1 reply

    Thanks for your feedback. The bulb is not sealed at the bottom. There is a lot of space in the socket for air circulation, especially during night and day. The tree is now since a longer time in the Biosphere and looks pretty good - it didn't grow much, but that's ok.

    I have to say, this has got to be one of my absolute favorite steampunk contraptions I ever seen on here! Beautiful work.

    1 reply

    Awesome project. Did you add any LED light inside that vacuum tube? That would add some nice ambiance when it's getting dark in the room. Beech tree (had to google that translation as I am no native English) is quite slow growing I believe. However, that bulb has enough space for many years. But what I am wondering, is there any grow of damp (German: beschlagen) inside of the bulb?

    2 replies

    Thanks for your feedback. You know, I'm an old Steampunker and I prefer real light bulbs ;-), so I do not much with LED's. But you are right, it would look nice!

    Yes, Beech trees grow very very slow. That's why I choosed one.

    Yes, during the night the glass is covered with condensed water, because the glass cools down. During the day the drops disappear and some water is rinning back thrue the socket of the bulb into the plant pot.

    Sure, got it :-) But a small bulb as we used for our model trains a couple of decades ago would do the trick as well.

    I believe that these lamps were used in lighthouses and are extremely rare. However it is possible to get hold of very large round bottomed flasks from laboratory suppliers so someone might have one.

    1 reply

    I searched the internet for this bulbs and found out, that they were used for huge industry halls and for theater lights....

    Wow! This is so awesome! I don't think I have seen a light bulb that big before.