Steam-powered record player


Ãœbermaker Simon Jansen of Auckland, New Zealand, wrote in to share his Arduino-controlled, steampunk (literally!) turntable.

This is my steam powered record player built to play a Sex Pistols LP. Yes, it is true steampunk. The engine was made mainly from bits and pieces I had lying about in my junk box. The boiler was made from some copper water pipe and a bespoke platter and base was made using wood. I am using an Arduino to control everything buy using a coil to detect the passing of magnets in the edge of the platter. The Arduino works out the revs then feeds this information into a PID controller the output of which drives a servo controlling a throttle on the engine. The speed is regulated to 33 1/3 (well, more or less) and displayed on an analogue meter. The tone arm uses an old phono cartridge that connects to my phono pre-amp and into my stereo. The hardware is complete and works well but the software could use a little tweaking. It does however run!

Also check out Simon’s fire-powered beer cooler and home-made weather satellite receiver previously featured on Make: Online.

22 thoughts on “Steam-powered record player

    1. Thanks! I even had to use a Dremel for some parts of it :) Wish I had proof read my summary more closely though. I hate typos.

      1. Haha, that’s great. I think you should try hand-cutting a record groove with a Dremel engraver for some serious punk noise.

  1. Very impressive. I can’t help but imagine how cool it would be to have one of those tree-shaped whirly-gig mechanical governors instead of an electronic system. One could also build in a steam-driven generator, and it would then be 100% steam powered.

    1. But everyone loves Arduino :) That whirlygig thing you mention is called a flyball governor ( and yes, they are very cool.

      I am not sure at this scale it would work though. You need some force to physically move the throttle via linkages and this is only a little engine. I did think about making one and using some kind of electronic position sensing and using that to feed back into the Arduino and use the same servo mechanism but that would be cheating really!

      If it were purely mechanical you wouldn’t need a generator. The phono pickup doesn’t need power. It just plugs into the pre-amp and amp. A little engine like this couldn’t supply enough power to drive the amp though.

  2. The great thing about using a Sex Pistols album is that it doesn’t really matter if the turntable speed is accurate or not.

  3. You can’t use an arduino and still call that “Steam Punk”!! No electricity allowed! And Silicon, too?? For shame, young Knickerbocker… J/K Cool player, though I would imagine that the whistle from the governor is one of the reason hand crank players were the more prevalent in the hey day of phonography. 

  4. You can use a centrifugal governor to control the speed. It looks cool, too. I think electricity should be allowed as long as it’s generated internally and all the components are hand made. I hope one of the drawers is used to hold the coal. Coal is a must.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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