Great steampunk style includes blinking lights, moving parts, and gauges—all perfect candidates for automation with an Arduino! With some LEDs, a servo or two, some imagination, and a willingness to experiment, you can create some really cool steampunk Arduino projects. Here are seven that you can use for inspiration.
This impressive watch got a lot of attention when it first debuted, and it remains an Arduino-steampunk classic. With a wooden case, brass tubing, and some monocle-like lenses, it exudes steampunk style, and the Arduino powering it adds some seriously cool functional tech. The source code allows the watch to tell the time in digital, binary, or analog, and also includes a Blackberry-style trackball to play Breakout.
Building the watch is a bit complicated, and requires a lot of parts both electronic and mechanical. Fortunately, the Instructable includes some hints on where to get the parts (most of the electronics are available at SparkFun, and the others at MarVac or Home Depot). To make the case, you’ll need a wood carving machine and a drill press, both of which you can probably find at your local makerspace. You’ll also need to make some cuts in the watchband to attach a number of components. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely one of the coolest steampunk projects you can take on.
While the instructions for this radio aren’t especially detailed, you should be able to use these blog posts as a guide to creating your own. You’ll need an FM radio module, an ATTiny45 board, a potentiometer, and a few other basics. Working with a tiny radio module may require some basic soldering skills, but other than that, you should be able to complete this project without doing much extra work beyond connecting the electronic parts.
Beyond constructing the radio, you’ll just need to build a case for it. Using any wooden box and a few brass parts that you can probably find at a thrift store or on eBay, you can create a case that fits your steampunk aesthetic. Use your imagination!
Gauges with faces and hands are a crucial part of the steampunk aesthetic, and this clock packs three of them; one each for hours, minutes, and seconds. Making the entire enclosure with wind-up moon phase indicator will take a lot of time, talent, and machinery—the original creator of this project is actually a mechanical engineer. But by combining his instructions for the dials with your own creativity and a couple tools, you’ll be able to make your own three-face analog clock.
With an Arduino, three volt meters, a clock module, rotary encoders, and a few other parts, you should be able to rig up a cool steampunk clock. The instructions also include the Arduino code that you’ll need so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own (though if you want to learn a lot about Arduino programming, you could try it yourself first).
Want even more analog gauges in your steampunk office? This bandwidth meter will tell you the incoming bits per second on your connection using an antique-looking analog face. The instructions aren’t terribly clear, but by combining the videos linked from the blog post, the post itself, and the inspiring article from Make magazine, you should be able to figure it out.
One thing you won’t have to figure out is how to program the whole thing; the files that you need can be found in a github repository, where they can be downloaded and used to power your bandwidth meter. Combining these resources with a little try-fail-try-again attitude should net you some Arduino success!
Having trouble finding your way around your local steampunk convention? Why not build a compass to help you out? With a wooden box, a bunch of gears, and a classic-looking watch hand, your compass will help you in wayfinding, geocaching, or just looking really cool. By combining an Arduino board with a compass module, a servo, and a few gears, you’ll have yourself a working compass.
As with many of these projects, you’ll need to come up with a wooden case yourself; however, because you only need a hole for the servo to drive the gears, you could probably use a small power drill and an empty box for this one. This is a great first project for steampunk Arduino beginners.
While you might not have steam power anywhere in your house, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a steam gauge! The hand on this gauge is controlled by a small servo, which is in turn controlled by an Arduino. The project itself doesn’t require too many parts—a Bourdon-tube pressure gauge, LEDs, a new gauge face, a servo—but it will take some ingenuity to get it all together.
This is especially the case if you’d like to mount it on your wall. If you spend some time on this project, though, you’ll have a really cool, ultra-steampunk gauge that looks like it’s measuring the steam power of your house. All in all, it’s a surprisingly simple project, and probably suited to advanced Arduino beginners.
Want more accuracy than the steampunk compass can give you? This GPS will show your current latitude and longitude, let you input coordinates for a target, beep to tell you how close you are to the target, and show you the angle to your destination. In short, it’s a perfect device for steampunk geocaching.
Another project with less-than-ideal instructions, this post only gives a rough idea of how to create the GPS. A GPS module, analog dials, switches, a beeper, a display, and a LiPo charger will be needed for this one. Fortunately, the Arduino code required is linked from the post, so between the images on the page and the necessary code, you should be able to figure out what you need to do.
Share Your Favorite Steampunk Creations
These Arduino-powered steampunk devices are great for people decorating with a steampunk aesthetic, getting into steampunk cosplay, or going to a steampunk convention. But there are a lot more potential uses of an Arduino in building steampunk-inspired devices. What else have you seen out there? What would you like to try to build? Share your thoughts below!
Image Credits:Industrial dark metal by donatas1205 via Shutterstock