Apr 232014

This is just a quickie; I know I’ve been missing frequently over the past month, it’s been crazy trying to get everything ready in time for the Symposium! One of the things I needed was a lot more belt pouches, some in specific sizes and some more for looks.

For Isaac’s belt, I just wanted some pretty pouches, so Chaos went to the thrift store and got some purse. I got the idea from this tutorial and basically followed it:

For Laika’s belt, I needed specific-sized pouches to fit the electronics, so I made boxes out of fosshape; these basically followed my messenger bag tutorial, but sized for the electronics I needed to carry. Like so:

And there you have it: two ways to make belt pouches! Our pinnable today brought to you by Lady Val, our newest steampunk:


Apr 102014

Greetings and Salutations Folks. Red here again. Well, it’s a been a bit quiet here on the Radiant Vanguard site for a bit, but I come bearing good things (hopefully). Another Victorian Tech Column!

This week’s topic is…. metallurgy (‘n bells)! So, I’m writing and posting this on April 10th. Anyone know what happened on one particular April 10th? The (re-)forging of what might be the world’s most famous bell (or at least close to it), commonly known as Big Ben, and officially known as the Great Bell.

Originally the bell in question was cast in 1856, but well… it ended up cracking during testing. On April 10th 1858 the bell was recast, creating what is the current large bell found in the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, and was first rung on July 11th 1859. After the recasting all was not well though, because just a short while in September the bell cracked yet again. Four years later, it was fixed by switching in a lighter hammer, and cutting out a piece around the crack to prevent the crack from spreading.

So, anyway, what’s this tangent about bells for? It’s a starting point for talking about the metallurgy of the time. Bells such as that were made of particular type of bronze called bell metal. Bronze is an alloy that was around for a very long time, with the earliest tin based forms of bronze being from around 4500BCE. Bronze an alloy of copper and tin (well, there’s also some alloys of copper and arsenic alloys that are called bronze, among other combinations…), which is generally considered useful because it’s hardness in comparison to it’s constituent elemental metals.

Now, what’s a metal that comes up in the context of steampunk-y stuff besides bronze? Well brass of course. Many people might think of bronze and brass as similar, on account of them looking superficially similar to someone not too familiar with them, but that’s pretty far from the truth. Brass is an alloy made from copper and zinc and is in fact much softer than bronze. Consequently, it is valued not for hardness, but instead for how it is easily tooled and has low friction. Now, where did/does brass end up used? Well, you guessed it, clockwork stuff is one example, along with plenty of other examples such as musical instruments, plumbing, and even jewelry. One useful property of brass is that it doesn’t tend to spark easily. Maybe consider using that in moving parts of your hydrogen-filled airships? Haha. While brass had more development later than bronze, most of the interesting developments in terms of brass making in Europe seem to have been in the 18th century, before the Victorian Era, so well… brass making had matured nicely leading up to the Victorian Era.

Now that we have those obligatory two covered, what else is relevant to metallurgy of the time period? Well, they had moved a long way past having bronze and brass (though they hadn’t stopped being useful of course). They of course had iron and steel at the time, and the industrial revolution was making good use of those, with some improvements in blast furnaces happening during the era.

So, What metals were more novel at the time? Well, as it turns out this time period was when metallic aluminum first started being produced and used. In 1825 it was first produced via a chemical reaction (anhydrous aluminum chloride with potassium amalgam), which precipitated a lump of the metal, however it’s not like that was a useful method for producing significant quantities. While some improvements to the process were made, it was a metal more rare and valuable than gold for much of the time period. A process called the the Hall-Héroult process was then invented in 1886, which used recently scaled up electricity production for the production of metallic aluminum. This was put into commercial scale production in 1888.

How about metals that weren’t around at all during the time? Titanium is probably a good example, as it was first produced in the pure metallic form in 1910, and wasn’t really commercialized for a few more decades.

I haven’t went as in-depth here as I would have wanted to, there’s a ton of other things one could talk about, but eh… can only make this little article so long in any case.