Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that takes many Victorian/Industrial Age technologies, and then thrusts it into a futuristic world. In a steampunk world, there might be flying machines, computers, and ray guns - but built from copper, wood, brass, and using steam as a power source. It's a unique blend of the future and the present that makes steampunk unique.

When you think of steampunk, you also think of clockwork and all of the little mechanical parts that go into it, which includes springs, wind up motors, gears, and cogs. All of these little ingenious parts work together in beautiful harmony to make things work.

Here's a couple terms involved with clockwork technology:

Mainspring: usually a ribbon of metal that is the power source in gadgets utilizing clockwork. When you wind your watch, for example, you're twisting the mainspring tighter, which results in the mainspring storing potential energy.

Gear: a rotating wheel with teeth that, when used in conjunction with other gears, transmit the torque and make things move. That's why gears working together is called a transmission. There's all kinds of different gears: spurs (which are the most common), helical, and bevels. And gears can also be put together to form all kinds of neat components. For example, the sun and planet gear configuration is what powers steam trains.

Cog: just another name for the teeth on a gear. Many people confuse cog and gear - so now you know the difference!

Escapement: is how watches and clocks keep time. It's what gives a clock it's tick tock sounds, and as it moves (usually in a pendulum type of manner), it ocillating movement is what turns the gear in such perfect precision with each tick and tock.

What's cool about how clockwork is used in steampunk is how authors combine this ancient technology with more modern inventions, like automatons (or robots). A gear with it's spur-like teeth is a common symbol of steampunk. Steampunk just wouldn't be steampunk without clockwork.

Steampunk Beetle


farawayeyes said...

Wind 'em up.

Dafeenah said...

This genre is practically non existant here so it's interesting to learn what makes steampunk "steampunk".

Kelly Barnes said...

Gears. Very cool. Steam is the power source, but it's wasted power without the gears that make the machine turn.

Juliana L. Brandt said...

I hadn't realized your theme for the challenge was steampunk, I just thought it was a super awesome first post! This is officially my favorite of the challenge themes so far :)

It's very cool how clock work is so associated with steampunk. As someone who hasn't read much of it, it's still a visual I recognize. Makes me think of The Time Machine (does it count that I've seen the movie?? ;)

R.A.Desilets said...

I really was tempted to buy a lot of clocks to make necklaces out of them - but I didn't. (Pointless story, I know). But I kind of want to try to make my own steampunk themed necklace someday by using old clocks.

And I really want a pocket watch. Real bad.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Beetle looks a little like those from the movie Cronos.

Emily R. King said...

Fascinating post. It's amazing how little I knew about clocks. :)

Arlee Bird said...

Clocks are very cool. I have them in just about every room in my house. I'm a fanatic for correct time.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Jay Noel said...

faraway: And let 'em go!

Dafeenah: Yup, and it's only the third day.

Kelly: Yes, very true. The clockwork mechanisms transfer all of that energy to make things go.

Juliana: Why thank you so much. And yes it counts! The movie was really good, and it's what led me to read the book as a kid.

Jay Noel said...

R.A.D.: I know. I want a pocketwatch too. So classy. If you ever make a necklace, post it for me to see.

Alex: You're right! Alchemy is VERY steampunk too.

Emily: Amazing little things. And we rely on them everyday.

Arlee: I always wear a watch.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I loved Lady Gaga's tribute to steampunk in the video Alejandro.

Anonymous said...

That beetle is cool AND creepy.

And what else is cool is to learn about Steampunk. It's not a genre I regularly delve into so my knowledge is pretty much what I see on covers.

Vero said...

Very true, gears of different shapes and sizes are very much tokens of steampunk, just like... well, the steampowered machines. Great post, Jay!

M Pax said...

That beetle is so cool. I think it would be easier to figure out how to fix a steampunk machine than other types of machines. Maybe. Shrug.

Rusty Webb said...

Cool beetle. Clockwork is essential. Agreed. I think I associate Steampunk more with teeny gears than I do anything else.

Christine Rains said...

Cool. I love the look of clockwork stuff. I got my husband a really neat steampunk pocket watch for his 30th birthday. It looks a lot like the one in your photo.

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