Steampunk Holiday Ornaments, or I CAN HAZ LASER CUTTER

The Ainsley House Museum in Campbell, CA decided to do something different for their holiday decorations this year: Steampunk! And to make a long story short, the Geek Club and the Steam-Federation had two weeks to plan and execute this ambitious project. Besides recruiting the local Steampunk community to lend artifacts and costumes, we needed to make lots of ornaments that would look good from arm’s length quickly and cheaply.

One of our ideas took advantage of my laser cutter class and TechShop membership: gears drawn in Adobe Illustrator and cut from discarded IKEA boxes on the laser cutter. Since I designed five different gears and had four shades of metallic paint, it was easy to create unique assemblages with different layouts of varying sizes of gears, sprockets, and an elegant escapement.

The first batch decorated the Christmas tree, sconces, and other areas of the suite. The second batch I brought to Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery and assembled an ornate star tree topper, a simpler topper, and a prototype simple ornament for my Etsy shop (also called SplendidColors). After assembling ornaments from the rest, I joined them into a gear-train-like garland with copper wire.

Photo of ornament made from cardboard gears hanging from a wall candle sconce with greenery

I also photographed the gears for my Etsy shop. However, I still need to work out some technical glitches with the laser cutter. It turns out that, thanks to the inverse-square law, the laser beam doesn’t cut as well the farther it gets from the plotter origin. I need to program the laser cutter so it uses different settings on different areas of the cardboard sheet so all the gears will be cut through cleanly.

Artists and crafters see many creative possibilities for these intricate yet lightweight and inexpensive faux gears.


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