Posts Tagged ‘Rivets’

Propeller process

07 Mar

I get asked all the time how I made a particular part on one of my steampunk airships. I’m also told that I should do DIY pictures and videos, and truthfully, I do take progress photos when I’m working on an airship. I do this because I have always thought that someday I’d do some sort of steampunk DIY book or something.

With that said, I thought I’d post a few photos showing how I did a particular propeller for a particular airship. Of course, this is only one example, because I’ve done dozens and dozens of different propellers in many different ways.

This one is made using a scotch tape core and 8 of those little plastic tasting spoons…you know, the ones they have in samples passed out in grocery stores. So they started like this…

Photo of repurposed pieces to be used in making a steampunk airship propeller.

Then I cut slits in the outer ring of the tape core and glued the ends of the spoons into them. You’ll also notice that I cut a thin cardboard ring that was glued to the top side of the tape core for a smooth look. For plastics, I either use super glue or E6000, depending on how the pieces go together and what stresses they may be subject to. Super glue is great for “matching fits” and the E6000 is a gel-like glue that can fill small spaces and it a bit more flexible, so it was what used in this case. As with all volatile glues, don’t breathe the fumes. Use in a ventilated area or wear an approved respirator!

Photo of repurposed pieces glued together, making a steampunk airship propeller.

After all the glue dried, I then spray with a copper spray paint for the metal look I wanted. I use a couple different ones depending on the desired finish. In this case, I used Rustoleum’s Hammered series in copper color.

Photo of copper painted propeller made of repurposed materials to be used on a steampunk airship.

Finally, I used a couple different green acrylic paints to add a patina or corrosion look to the propeller. Some people like the shiny copper look, but I’ve always been partial to the patina look and think it adds realism and character to the piece.

Photo of copper painted and patinaed propeller made of repurposed materials to be used on a steampunk airship.

So this is what you wind up with after adding the patina. See how it looks rusty and aged? This is why I like it so much. After the patina, I’ll add accents like copper rivets, (just blobs of paint), which adds contrast and interest and even a bit more realism.

What techniques do you like to use? Send me comments and photos and I’ll be happy to show what some of you are doing!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at or at 810-516-7381.


Small steampunk gunship #2

18 Dec

Another of the 12″ steampunk airships that I built for the 2012 World Steam Expo in Dearborn Michigan.  Similar in shape and design, but with some modification. Like my other airships, it uses recycled, repurposed materials.

12" Steampunk Gunship Airship 02

12″ Steampunk Gunship Airship 02

If this ship is one that you would like to have built as part of your own home steampunk display, don’t hesitate to email me for details!

As I said before, I welcome all comments!


Adding the stabilizer fins

07 Feb

In building the stabilizer fins for the steampunk diarama airship, I first had to choose a shape. On other ships, I’ve made them rounded, but I like the feeling of a scalloped fin. I’ve also made different scalloped fins before, with some being a solid fin with ribs and others having a support structure, to which was attached actual cloth sailcloth. For this small zeppelin, I decided on the former for its ease at this relatively small scale. This decided shape I then cut out of an index card stock I had lying around. To give them age and interest, I sponged them with a light brown watercolor (not pictured, sorry!)

Index stock fins cut out

Index stock fins cut out

I then had to make the ribs, and to make it simple, yet appealing, I decided to cut these out of a similar stock, but in this case, since they would be painted anyway, I decided to use cereal box cardboard and then paint them to contrast and have interest. Remember, I throw nothing away that may have a raw materials use when reused, repurposed or recycled!

Fin ribs cut from cereal box cardboard

Fin ribs cut from cereal box cardboard

I painted them by spraying a basic green enamel. I did this because a water-based paint would have been repelled by the coating on the cereal box. I then antiqued a patina on with a lighter water-based green acrylic, then applied to the fins.

Finished fins

Finished fins

After finishing the fins, I glued them at top and lower angled positions to the airship body with standard white glue and let them dry. To add another element of interest, I used dimensional paint to “dot” copper rivets on the fin ribs. I forgot to mention that I had done this to the propeller scaffolding as well. (How many of you noticed that?) So here’s the finished attachment…

Attached fins

Attached fins

Next time, I’ll show the process of building the gondola. It’ll be fun too, because it isn’t your run-of-the-mill boat shape!

Stay tuned…in fact, tell all your ‘punk friends to subscribe!


Steampunk Airship Diarama

10 Jan

I have done many airships and those of you familiar with my workmay have seen them at World Steam Expo, which is sadly, no more  :-(.  This project is one that I wanted to approach a little differently. I still wanted to do an airship, but one that was the same style as those in my Airship Kits, but a little larger, more detailed and in a whimsical format that could have a place on a tabletop or a wall. What better way to accomplish that than in a diarama. You remember these from school, but you probably built yours in a cardboard box or an old shoebox. This airship diarama is built in an old dresser drawer that I put a base on and painted just for the occasion!

I started by scaling up my Airship Kit pattern and creating the cone ends of the airship body.

Airship body end pieces

These ends were then put together to form the body or envelope of the airship.

Assembled airship body

With the body assembled, the trim and detailing can begin. I began by using a watercolor wash to add some depth and interest to the surface of the airship body, then trailing on some veining that makes the surface look a little marbly, but fun.

To cover the cone joints, I used strips of cloth tape that I had painted with metallic copper acrylic paint, then applied them carefully and burnished them down.

Then, over the center seam, I used a strip of the same index stock I used to construct the original cones…a great way to reuse, re-purpose and recycle, since this is really old manilla file folder! This strip was then also painted with metallic copper acrylic paint and glued around the center if the body. “Rivets” were added using paint dots and the copper was given a patina with green paint. It’s cool what amazing art you can come up with if you just give it a little thought!

Details added

Next post, I’ll add more details and start building some other structures for the zeppelin.

What projects have you started for the New Year?



Turret installation

23 Jul

Installing the observation turrets into the sides of the Diabolus first requires cutting a hole in the mâché. Due to the curving shape of the airship’s sides, the hole could not be just a simple circle, but rather a complicated ellipse. I had to hold the turret alongside the airship and lightly and carefully trace its contour into the side, allowing the pencil to follow not only the edge of the turret, but also the contour of the Diabolus. Once the hole was traced and cut, the turret slid in fairly easily and was glued into place.

Observation turret in place

With the turret in place, I bordered around it with brass trim and riveting for a strong finished look.

Turret from below

And with the “brass” trim applied, adding some patina with acrylic paint to the side of the airship gives it a weathered and aged look. Below is another view of the Diabolus showing both turrets and their position relative to the rest of the airship.

Both turrets in an inferior view

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Do you have any cool stuff you like to do with recycled or re-purposed materials?


Turret construction

09 Jul

Today, I’m going to show you how I put together the observation turrets that are on the sides of the Diabolus. Believe it or not, I used repurposed pieces for these as well 😉  Really, you say? I don’t believe it!   Well, it’s true…read on to see more!

I started with the bottom of one of those 50 cent gumball machine toy bubbles as shown below…

Gumball toy bubble

In order to make it look like a paneled turret, I need something that not only looks like metal, specifically brass or copper, but also is thin and flexible. I could use thin sheet craft copper, but remember that I like to reuse materials or repurpose things. What I do is to paint tape, then cut it into strips. You’ll also notice that I added “rivets” and patina before peeling up the strips to apply to the bubble.

Painted tape cut into strips

Next, of course, I add the strips to the bubble in a fashion that is reminiscent of the gun turrets on a WWII bomber, or the bridge of the Millennium Falcon, whichever you prefer!

Finished turret

So this is how the finished turret looks. In order to add it to the side of the Diabolus, I need to build a “background”, and I’ll show you how next post!


Propulsion continued

06 Apr

Now we are going to look at how the propeller itself is constructed. Again, I chose a plastic laundry cap as the central hub of the propeller. The blades are factory scrap dense foam from some punch out process. I cut the foam to shape with my band saw and cut the contours the same way, then smoothed them with sandpaper. I sealed the foam blades with white latex primer, drilled pilot holes in them and in the sides of the laundry cap. I then used wall anchors and hot glue to secure the blades to the hub. To finish the shape of the prop, I used half of a plastic easter egg and the hollowed out lid off a spice bottle.

The next step would be to add rivets and brass paint… but not today. Stop by again soon!

Assembled propeller

Propeller top


Adding rivets

20 Mar

The next step in creating the large zeppelin fins is to add the appearance of rivets. This doesn’t need to be actual metal pierced through metal, but rather, just look like it. I experimented with a number of things before I realized that what I needed was already on my shelf and I’d had it for quite awhile. Puffy paint…

You just apply the paint dot-wise in areas that look like they should have rivets, then let it dry and paint it with whatever paint you want to make your steampunk airship look metallic. This ain’t your momma’s Victorian whimsy, that’s for sure!

Rib with puffy paint rivets applied

Puffy paint rivets detail

Next time, I’ll show you the painting process. It’s gonna be cool, so check back soon!