The mist clears and a brassy, leather-clad apparition appears towering above with nothing but a low hum and muffled wirring of clicks and springs. Prepare to inspire your rigid 3D mind into the most pliable, inventive machine of mechanical renaissance madness you’ve ever experienced.

Steampunk. It’s the coolest new ‘old’ on the internet. It brings in aspect of manufacturing and design long since forgotten.

People, have latched on to the sub-culture attempting to define it within context of different media, but leave the details overlooked and under-appreciated. Let’s change that and see what’s makes Steampunk so wickedly steamy.

What exactly is Steampunk?
And where did this strange design-form come from? Art Donavan, a steampunk designer and artist, states it one way in a recent interview.

“Steampunk is a new style of art and design that, in less than a year, has become so wildly popular on the internet that it has spawned an actual philosophy and life-style among it’s fans. The genre has its literary roots in 1990s sci-fi novels but now boasts a worldwide (albeit, small) group of passionate artists who have connected with one another to give the genre an actual physical form.”SteamPunk meets the Hamptons

Another way to put it would be, Steampunk design mixes aspect of retro structure with futuristic style. But it’s more than slapping a bunch of old parts on modern equipment. It’s a way of defining the style and function of an object within the medium of materials that have a richer texture and appeal than the sterilized, plastic laden, and vacuum-formed apparatus’ of everyday life that just drown out existence. Let’s take a look.

Wood, Leather, Brass, Symmetry
You’ve got to have the right materials. Good rugged materials that don’t rust, but wear nicely would be just splendid. Leather and Brass are some of the best. Ya mix those with a little symmetry and you’ve got some amazing steampunk design worthy of years

(Image via Wired Magizine)

(Image via Planet Damage )

(Image via

Gears, Levers, Creepiness
If it doesn’t have gears, it’s not steampunk. better yet, if it doesn’t use gears to function it isn’t steampunk. Right next to gears is lever that make the gears work and it wouldn’t be complete without a very large dab of really creepy and exaggerated detail to spice up the typical.

(Image via Eric Freitas)

(Image from InsectLab Studios)

(Image from Stephan Halleux)

Dials, Tubes, Thickness
You need feedback for… overheating or something and tubes to run all the hydraulics and coolant for all those moving gears. I know, it’s a pain to have to add a couple extra safety precautions, but it will add that much more interest to whatever it is that’s running beneath.

(Image from Gizmodo UK)

(Image from Gizmodo)

Goggles, Goggle, Goggles
Last, but not least. you need to know how a decent set of goggle should look. Who know what kind of grit and grim you’ll be working in under the conditions of brass, dials, tubes and the most nefarious of materials.

(Image from Curious Expeditions)

(Image from Wired magazine)

The Mechanist Period
There’s a lot to be said of style that defines the form and genre of a period of time and the products developed around that style. Steampunk absorbs the best periods of past and future industrialization to bring about a style that would make any engineer smile. Hollywood has tried to capture it in movies (Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy), but it’s just a coated exterior of the idea.

The essence of it, is people, the machinist, engineer and designer, using the natural and forged materials to manufacturer raw detail into how a product functions.

Resources for SteamPunk Tools and Parts
You would be lost without a good source of equipment, tool, machinery and tech to create your own Steampunk designs. Here are the best places to start massing items for just about any new DIY hobby, including Steampunk.

Rockler hinges, woodworking equipment
McMasterCarr – any part imaginable
Tandy Leather – Tools for leather work
Harbor Freight – machines and tools cheap enough to tear apart


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.