Friday, November 28, 2008

steampunk in motion



I have to admit, I like the look of steampunk - each piece that comes up on the net is often creative, thoughtful, meticulously done with attention to detail, crafted with care and passion.

That said, I also have a great love of automated assembly - what robotic assembly lines lack in craftsmanship, they gain in interchangeability, reliability, and affordability. Now, the designers must craft the love and passion to be replicated a ten thousand times over - and when marketing doesn't understand the materials they're working in, you get cheap cameras that break in your hand, and cool-looking cell phones that do everything you could want poorly, and still drop your calls.

My plane was the best, or worst, of both worlds - even today, all planes are made by hand. You can tell - though made on jigs that allow very little variance, when you repair a plane, each piece has to be carefully fitted, often adjusted or slightly altered. For mine - I am just now replacing her spars, stamped with serial numbers from original installation at the factory. The replacements are close, but took some work with file and varnish to fit the hardware.

She came, once, with a lush headliner and insulation, probably wood veneer panel, leather-wrapped yokes, cushioned foam seat... But by the time she came to me in Alaska, every ounce that could not be justified had been stripped out to save weight. Now, sitting in her canvas sling seat, you can see the bare bones of her welded fuselage and wooden stringers between holding the shape of her skin, fabric pinkish-brown on the inside still showing its origin stamped on the fabric. Her instrument panel is a far cry from modern six-pack instrument layout (she predates that design by decades). It's black-painted metal with the mandatory labels glued down and peeling, curling at the edge. Even her yokes are stripped-down, bare-bones.

She is still beautiful to me, for the possibilities, the dreams, the motion inherent in every line, the freedom of the skies. I like the way her clean curves arc down the length of her body, the simplicity of purpose and design, the arch of her airfoil and the golden gleam of her new spars, shimmer of colors in the cadmium wash of her new hardware. Was it Heinlein who once advised to love a woman, and you will come to find she is beautiful?

Still, I am looking at steampunk - an aesthetic which likes to make gears and dials and bare bones beautiful. With a a lot of thought and care, I would like to decorate her bare bones, without adding heavy weight that would retract from her performance. (As if, being female, I wasn't having a hard enough time deciding what to paint her!)

So I'm gathering ideas, in much the same way we shop for our next outfit and hairstyle by people-watching. And I'm looking at her instrument panel, and looking at this page. Clearly, I'll need the designs and labels selected and laid out, panel cut not only to the plane but to the instrument's holes, and it'll be a much larger-scale piece of metal... but I don't plan to touch her fuselage for three years, and I may have it worked out by then.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Jenny said...

AWESOME idea!

Also.. if getting a piece big enough for the whole instrument panel would be problematic, there's no reason the brass couldn't be used as backing plates on say a dark walnut background board.

Something like this perhaps?