Homebrew steampunk lamp

Inspired by this post showing off the marvellous steampunk lamps of Etsy's "Dr Robert", Mike Pusateri set out to make his own and did a smashing job: "I used an old wooden cigar box, a few ceramic bulb mounts, a rheostat and few other odds and ends. I did get a little fancy and paint the ceramic mounts with textured copper paint. The wiring was trivial, but I got a chance to use an Underwriter's Knot. There's a lot more steampunk I could have thrown at it, but I like the simplicity of this. I used two 60 watt bulbs, so it can get quite bright. It's much more pleasant at a lower light level."

Steampunk Lamp


  1. Wow! I was surprised to see this, as my husband is hosting a craft day at the local library tomorrow on making basically this lamp! Cigar box, rheostat, clear globe bulbs, and chicken head knobs for the controller. Had to keep it simple, as 10 teens have to make it in a library in under 2 hours. You can see our lamp here: http://tinyurl.com/cigarbox. It’s being held in conjunction with a steampunk exhibit at the library. Mike’s extra touches of textured, metallic paint and the cool knobs and bulbs are great. We’ll have to suggest this post to the teens looking to customize their newly made lamps! Great timing, thanks for the post!

  2. Whats with the functional and well made steampunk project?

    I don’t see any gears hotglued to the side either…

    You’ve lost your roots Boing Boing.

  3. I think the light bulb itself is standard, but he wrapped copper wire around it (or used something that looks like copper wire). I’d love to know more about it too.

  4. when I saw it my first thought was ‘I love the fact that he’s not glued a load of cogs on it’ – so pretty much snap, #3.

  5. Simple and elegant. I’ve got to admit that I too am looking more at the pieces than the project — I’m less interested in it as a glow lamp — but it’d go nicely as a context-setting piece for other projects.

    Looks like what he used was actually a humidor rather than a wooden “cigar box” — but I really miss the latter; they were wonderful cases and storage boxes for all sorts of things.

  6. Howdy, I’m the guy that built the lamp. I’m glad you all liked it.

    @thieving magpie – Your husband lamp looks cool and similar. I hadn’t thought of using that style of rheostat. I used a standard household dimmer that I modified to use with a drawer pull.

    @daemon – For the bulbs, I simply pulled the copper ground wire out of some romex I had lying around and wrapped it around the bulbs. The copper slides right off.

    @technogeek – I did use a old Ashton cigar box. My local shop has a ton for sale at $3 a pop. My wife used them to hold her beading supplies. I liked the idea of reusing something that had outlived it’s usefulness in one role. The idea of a humidor is a good one though and I’ll keep it in mind.

  7. Wow, this is great. See also Nik Willmore’s Tube Lamp – it’s more of a throwback to the 1960s than the 1860s, but it uses the same bulbs for a similar effect.

    I was inspired by his project to build a couple sets of “mad scientist lamps” – mine is a much simpler version with no dimmer. I simply ran a pair of bulbs in series; at 60VAC the bulbs put out a really nice warm glow and last pretty much forever.

  8. @cruftbox What style of bulb is that? Is it a specialty bulb? We thought of using Edison 1892 bulbs but the price is prohibitive, esp. when you’re giving them away to kids at the library! Yours looks great.

  9. picture light bulb, aquarium bulb, tubular bulb, (medium base T-12 maybe? as in twelve eighths of an inch diameter.) various wattages available. If you know how to make a fishing net float knot (like around glass ball floats) you can use a regular bulb and fine copper wire.

  10. #8: On second look, you’re right; I’ve forgotten they came in that nice a form. If that store was near me, I’d be Really Tempted to take a pile of ’em off their hands. (I still regret not having stocked up on the IBM TCM transport cases when IBM was surplusing them — the few I did grab have been very useful for everything from microphones to musical instruments.)

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