Jake von Slatt’s Steampunk Wonder Car

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Jake von Slatt’s Steampunk Wonder Car

Many of you may remember Jake von Slatt. Ten years ago, Jake burst onto the burgeoning maker scene with his impressive steampunk-styled keyboards and computer mods, brass-etched cases, and other projects that frequently went viral. Every project he did seemed more elaborate than the last, more inspired, and more inspiring to those of us paying attention. His Steampunk Workshop project site took off and the world took notice. In 2008, I was at the Steam Powered convention in Sunnyvale, CA where Jake was the featured speaker. He was greeted like a conquering maker hero, a rock star.

At some point during his reign as a god among steampunk artificers, Jake acquired an old kit car with the intention of turning it into a steampunk wonder car. He began working on it in dribs and drabs (restoring a car is a lot of work!). One of those sub-projects, to create coach lanterns for the “steampunkified” Mercedes Gazelle replicar, even made it onto an early episode of Make: Television, the 2009 PBS TV show that Maker Media was involved with, in a profile of Jake (see below).

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Steampunk Workshop, Jake decided to finally finish and show off his steampunk car. He is also using it as an opportunity to announce his retirement from steampunk projects. As he puts: “Glue a gear on it and declare this Jake von Slatt’s Last Steampunk Project!”

Jake is not quitting his maker activities, that is clearly bred in the bone. He is simply letting go of the whole steampunk aesthetic and moving on to other projects and build aesthetics. We have covered Jake’s work from the beginning. In fact, it was a piece I did in an early issue of Make:, on his antique Bell phone handset cellphone mod, that provided much propellant for Jake’s initial assent. From there, we had him at Maker Faire (where he was instrumental in helping to put early steampunk modding onto the wider maker stage), we have featured many of his projects, and we’ve had him as a frequent contributor to the magazine and the website.

Here is a video tour Jake put together of the resulting car followed by some images with stand-out details of the build.

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steampunkCar_2To add some character to the vehicle, Jake wanted some ornamentation on the front fenders. He found these brass elephants on eBay. To mount them, he sculpted a base in bees wax and cast his own brass bases which are angled to fit perfectly along the curvature of the fenders.

steampunkCar_3“Here’s a shot of one of the completed coach lamps. I decided early on that I was not going to put a clear lacquer finish on any of the brass fixtures that I built for the car. I love the rich dark look of aged brass and polished brass requires constant upkeep. Simply stated; life is too short to polish brass.”

steampunkCar_4To create the ornamental patterns for the fenders and the radiator, he used a technique where lace is taped down as a stencil and gold-painted to create the resulting pattern.

steampunkCar_5The steampunk wonder car in all of its glory, with the fabric top on it.

steampunkCar_6The interior of the car. The rug was an old wool area rug that Jake cut up. The seats are from a Pontiac Silhouette minivan.

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You can see many more pics, videos, and get more detailed info on the build at The Steampunk Workshop.

Congrats to Jake and The Steampunk Workshop for a decade of making inspired objects and sharing them with us. We look forward to seeing what you do next.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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