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Steampunk: If you can’t learn from your mistakes… learn from mine

Effie Cotter, reporting

On Friday afternoon of the Wild Wild West gathering, I attended a scintillating panel on “learning from our mistakes.” Initially, I thought this would be a rollicking panel with tales of derring-do and vicious duels fought between man and machine.

I was not disappointed, dear Reader!

Mr. Joe Hernandez, Captain Whittacker of the Steampunk Isabella, and Mr. Steampunk Boba Fett all engaged us with tales of extreme steampunk crafting, the kinds of stories that involve delicious words like “grinder” and “black lung” and “regeneration.”

Indeed, Mr. Hernandez does seem to be quite the anomaly among men, my friends!

Suggestions, if not admonishments, were provided for how to work with the glues, solvents, grinders, punches, drills, springs, and materials that we are all familiar with when cobbling our gear (and gears) together. Among the recommendations: An N95 dust mask, a respirator, safety goggles, close-fitting gloves, and a conveniently located radiology department or Geiger counter. I would add a nearby hospital to that list, given the occasional need by Mr. Hernandez for the surgical reattachment of appendages. Oh, and crazy glue. Because, although one might not wish to “glue some gears on it,” it can be used in a pinch as an emergency liquid bandage. We are living in the future, my friends!

Why, you might ask, would one need such things?

Well, among the injuries our fine panelists reported, we heard about heavy metal poisoning from combining an unfortunate mix of chemicals and metal, sepsis, a minor amputation, and a number of cuts, punctures, and scratches. All from Mr. Hernandez– who was sitting among us as hale and hearty as any regenerating cyborg might be expected!

Captain Whittacker contributed with his fine demonstration of “steampunk land mines,” a fancy little device found inside most modern clocks and which, when opened, releases a spring with approximated forty feet of tightly-wound metal, all under high torque. The fine captain related the story of a young man who lost a duel to such a machine and now sports a wicked (if, perhaps, a bit dashing to our more impressionable ladies!) scar running from his forehead to his jaw, diagonal across his face, where such a spring once opened and split his face in twain.

Not for the weak of heart, my friends!

Of course, you may now be wondering why one might need tools to detect Madame Curie’s finest discovery? Indeed– many of us are familiar with paints and other substances that glow in the dark. These substances are relatively harmless when safely encased behind wristwatch glass. But when that glass breaks, the paint may rub off onto other materials in a “junk box” and contaminate other items. Although I am sure we have all heard of the invigorating power of radioactivity on the body, particularly when consumed in water, these effects are, perhaps, less beneficial when one makes jewelry, particularly earrings, out of materials which may contain trace amounts of the stuff. Have a care for your lady friends and their health and run a Geiger counter over your repurposed materials before using them.

One of the more entertaining sections of the panel was an instructive look at “how to weather an instrument,” such as a wrench or other large, heavy item. Mr. Fett was very kind to provide instruction about this process, which seems to involve throwing heavy artifacts around a train yard until the gravel and asphalt do the job of weathering the device. Suggestion: learn to dodge wrenches before commencing this activity. Pin torch distressing can also be a viable way to artificially “age” material, but be wary of doing so indoors, on wooden furniture or banisters, as one may find oneself distressing an article this weekend, but repairing burn damage to the house on the next.

Finally, only engage in the safest of crafting endeavors when time is in short supply. Nothing will quite make you question your priorities like the event of Mr. Hernandez’ friend who, in a last-minute fix, minutes before the crew left for the aeroport, rammed a leather awl into his arm causing a deep puncture wound and a few profanities. Chief among the complaints of the victim and his friends was that this event may cause them to be late for the flight, a possibility which was not welcomed by any of the crew. Fortunately, a few dozen bandages and some understanding flight staff meant they arrived safely and sought medical care at their destination. Nonetheless, such injuries can cause unnecessary delays, not to mention the need to explain your pale countenance and blood-soaked bandages to the trained professionals who are diligently trying to divest you of your nail clippers and tweezers.

In summary, play safely, dear Readers, for we are not all so fortunate to have the hardy constitution and regenerative powers of Mr. Hernandez!

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2 thoughts on “Steampunk: If you can’t learn from your mistakes… learn from mine”

  1. I just love the word ‘regeneration.’ There is something so inquisitive and empowering about it.

    And who knew steampunk crafting could be so….dangerous?! Indeed that doesn’t change my desire to learn, and I can thank this blog post for that!

    Keep up the great writing, dear friend! 🙂

  2. Why, thank you, Miss Wanda! I am sure the gentleman in question is grateful for the word “regeneration” as well!

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