The SteamPad - the Tablet Computer of a Past Future




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

Welcome Steampunkers, dear friends and followers

Finally I finishes it! It was a lot of work, but the finished Steampunk Tablet was worth the dirty hands!

Let's have a look back to the beginning of this project. You all know the small simple plastic thing which people call the "iPad". It's a great little gadget and even I like the functionality of this flat "apple"...
But as a Steampunker, there are too many iPads out there - and they all are looking exactly same... I had a dream of a unique tablet, made with real materials like brass, copper and wood. I tried to imagine how a tablet computer was looking like by the end of the 19th century.
As I found a broken DELL Latitude D600 in the electronic junk yard it was very clear what I have to create now!!

The SteamPad - The Tablet Computer of a past Future

Step 1: The Parts and Materials, and the DELL Latitude D600

The Steampad was created mainly with parts and materials from the junk yard and from the recycling place. The wood I used is from an old furnishure, the brass rings and fittings are from the scrap metal.
I used a budget of less than 20$ for the whole creation. The money I used for brass screws and for the varnish.

The DELL Latitude D600 was completely broken, the whole power system with the connectors and the battery was trash. The screen was hanging at the cables and the keyboard had a huge crack.

So the first thing was to strip the whole laptop. It's interesting to know, but even you removed the keyboard, the CD-Rom and all the unnececary parts the computer was still running. Because the battery system was broken I have to power the Steampad with 19V.
At the end of the stripping the laptop became very small...

Then I installed the new software and the Steampunk Theme with Rocketdock and Rainmeter. I did that first because I wanted to be sure, that this old laptop really works before I start to build the other parts...

Step 2: The Wooden Parts

I decided to create the SteamPad in the way of a "Sandwich". I planned to use a wooden back, between the chassis of the DELL and a wooden front with the TFT. This way is easy to build and there is always a way to extend the system later. Further you keep access to all the connectors... and the whole system keeps cool during hot summer days...:-)

So I cutted out the two wooden parts from an old back of an armoire and painted them with varnish.

Step 3: The Screen

After inserting the TFT into the wooden front I used some old brass material to hide the gaps between the screen and the wood. The screen and the wood had a thickness of 5mm, so it was easy to insert the TFT.

Step 4: Assembling of the Hardware

After I finished the wooden back I started to mount the chassis to the board. Because I used wood for the back it was very easy to assemble the parts with small brass screws. For the battery I created a pocket, so the battery is protected with wooden stringers.
On the last picture you see the power converter, which generates the 19V from the 11,1V from the used LIPO battery.

Step 5: The Power Switch

This switch was first a reason for headache! But finally I could solve the problem very easy - by "just doing"! I soldered the cables for the external switch directly to the very small switch on the mainboard. Be sure not to heat too much when you do that...

Step 6: The Final Assembly

After installing all the components to the wooden back I mounted the heavier brass screws to connect the front with the back. Now you can see and understand the meaning of the "Sandwich System". The thickness of the whole tablet was with 25mm acceptable and there is enough space for a speaker and the battery.
Some places were looking not so nice, when you took a look between the sandwich. This places I clodes with black wooden profiles, which I decorated with small brass screws.
On the left side I installed an old brass valve with a metall tube cable. So the SteamPad looks more "steamy".

Step 7: The Easel - to Use the SteamPad As a Desktop PC

As you see on the pictures of the finished SteamPad I used an old easel with some nice brass and copper decorations. So you can use the SteamPad also as a desktop computer. This way the SteamPad is an eyecatcher even during exhibitions and Steampunk Cons.

At the moment I use a normal mouse and a virtual keyboard in the same look as the iPad.
But I'm working on something very unique for the SteamPad: a leather glove with an integrated mouse laser....

It will be presented soon here at Instructable!

I know, this Instructable can't show all the steps I passed during the build. But I hope I could give you some inspiration to build something like that.

I send you greeting from my laboratory in the Swiss mountains

The Chocolatist



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    29 Discussions

    Hi. Thanks for your comment and for the nice pic of your work. Looks awesome!! Very nice. As you may now, I only work with stuff from the junk yard, so I had no touchscreen panel at the moment... but if I find one, I now what I will do with it!!

    Last year I helped clean out a barn that the previous owners had used to store left-over's from construction projects...I brought home a huge supply of 1/2" PVC fittings. What I lack in device skills starting out, I can make up for with an airbrush in the final stretch. Bikers used to say, "chrome won't get you home" but I'm convinced brass is the way to haul ass!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Looks great! I was wondering what is the way you use to communicate with your SteamPad. I can't see a keyboard or mouse!

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi. Thanks for your comment. At the moment I use a normal mouse and a virtual keyboard in the same look as the iPad.
    But I'm workimg on something very unique for the SteamPad: a leather glove with an integrated mouse laser....

    It will be soon here at Instructable!

    Brilliant idea! I haven't enough exposure in programming computers/electronics to even begin researching what it might require, but sure would try repeating it if you posted how to! Again, thanks for sharing; it's a godsend!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Excellently executed; greatly inspiring! I have a heavily-abused a500-tablet that I've been needing to build a housing for but couldn't settle upon an inspiring theme. Everything gelled when I saw your work, thank you for sharing!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool project. I was thinking how awesome it would be if you ran a USB extension inside that braided metal hose, and rigged it in the valve, then built a steampunk USB drive to plug into the valve. (and easy to reach USB ports are always a plus)

    2 replies

    6 years ago on Step 7

    Very cool build. It's not comparable to an ipad though as it's not touchscreen. An addition that would make this much better would be to add a leapmotion controller:

    4 replies
    The Dark Lordkeyguy13

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I would have to disagree. It is comparable with an iPad, because it's a computer in the tablet form factor. Apple didn't invent the tablet computer, by the way.

    keyguy13The Dark Lord

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Actually they did. Way back with the newton. Not trying to offend you, I just wouldn't compare it to an ipad. It is, however a very cool build of an "all in one" with a nice case...


    Reply 6 years ago on Step 7

    Hey, thanks for your idea. Wow, this controller would be really great. But as you may know: I create all my Steampunk devices from used and trashed material... but I'm very sure, in a while you can get such a stuff in the junk yard too... :-) I'm looking forward to that!


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Interesting addition would be to hook a belt to the handle at the top and allow the screen to be rotated to landscape or portrait.

    1 reply

    Hi. Thanks for your feedback. That's an interesting upgrade. To rotate the screen would be comfortable...

    Dude! That is Awesome! I've been thinking of making an "All-In-One" out of a Dell (my fav computer to "Play" with) Steam-Style. Now I'm afraid to try for insulting what you've done. WAY Cool!

    1 reply