October is a perfect time for releasing a new book on building your own Steampunk costume. Even though Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos has cosplayers as its primary target, the information contained in the book is suitable for putting together a great Halloween costume. The author, Thomas Willeford, is an inventor and owner of Brute Force Studies. He’s been designing and selling steampunk-related costumes and props for over 10 years, and he’s done a great job here of sharing a significant number of his tricks and methods that will allow you to create some fun and interesting props of your own.
Like many steampunk books, this one starts out with a basic explanation of steampunk and moves quickly through some tool suggestions and a basic deconstruction of a cuckoo clock to show you just how many bits and bobs can be obtained from a clockwork based device. The book’s images are in full color, so you’ll get the full effect of what the final projects look like. And speaking of projects, this is what the book will show you how to make:
- Steampunk Goggles — The backbone of any good steampunk costume, right? Thomas has some interesting tips for obtaining the components necessary, and I was surprised to find that metal and leather were actual components and the author provides templates for cutting certain pieces as well as good instructions for drilling metal and sewing leather. The finished goggles (Page 47) are nicely done!
- Gauges — You learn how to use a combination of washers, nuts, tubing, and other random bits of hardware to put together some fairly realistic looking gauges to mount on many of the remaining projects in the book.
- Steampunk Book Drive — This is one project I intend to do soon. Hiding a backup drive inside a leather-bound book looks cool, and since I’m starting to gather ideas for my steampunk office this is one that’s just screaming to be done.
- The Ray Gun — This is my favorite project in the book. I don’t want to give away his secret, but the method he uses to create this incredibly cool looking High Voltage Electrostatic Hand Cannon is genius. (You still may be able to guess his secret from the photo, but the detailed instructions he provides for building the hand cannon are outstanding.
- Mobile Device Enclosure — Another item that would look great on my wall as a way to hold an iPod while also making it easily accessible.
- High-Altitude Mask — A nice leather mask that covers the lower part of the face. I like how Thomas integrates the earlier gauges into the mask, and you’ll find a nice tutorial with some great pictures for cutting and sewing up leather pieces from templates.
- Pith Helmet — With a mini-cannon mounted on top and the hat reinforced with brass strappings, this is my second favorite project (after the Ray Gun).
- Prosthetic Arm with Gatling Gun Attachment — This is the project that wraps up the book, with the author giving you some detailed instructions for designing this amazing costume piece. I’m completely blown away by the simplicity of the parts involved and how Thomas turns them into a very realistic looking prosthetic arm.
All projects are broken up into easy-to-follow stages; there are plenty of good places to pause mid-project and pick up later. I also like the generous number of Note, Caution, and Tip sidebars that provide even more information and details related to creating your own costumes and props. The full-color photographs provide their own high level of detail, and I like that Thomas didn’t hold back on any secrets.
In addition to the instructional material, the book is also just a fun read. Each project chapter has a fun little one-page fictional story, and you can tell Thomas has had some fun with many of his fictional characters — Professor Isadora Maelstromme, Busty von Schluttentrappen, and over a dozen more. He’s also provided a short reference section with steam-related movie, book, and gaming suggestions for the steam-newbie.
I’ve got so many ideas running through my head right now for giving my office makeover even more steam, and this book has definitely provided me with a number of To Do projects. I’d like to thank McGraw-Hill for providing me with a reviewers copy, and a special thanks to Thomas for some top-notch step-by-steps.
Note: Images provided by publisher and used with permission.