In this blog I will share the secrets to finding good quality gears, gadgets and gizmos at minimal or no cost---so you can create your own Steampunk Masterpiece.
Most of my components are found in curbside garbage and thrift stores. You would be amazed to discover how many of the everyday objects you have in your own home contain all sorts of intriguing gears. And by using these cast off objects, you will not only create some stunning steampunk art, you'll also be helping the environment by upcycling them and rescuing them from the landfill.
Your kitchen contains a wealth of good components. Cooking utensils (especially old hand utensils) and electric appliances are ideal for this purpose. Here is a list---to name just a few: electric can openers, blenders, juicers, rotisseries, toasters, toaster ovens, mixers, kitchen timers, old stoves, etc. When you disassemble---or "chop"--- these appliances, you'll find lots of gears and springs.
Many of these gears are made from opaque white, black or gray heavy plastic. If you want to achieve the appearance of a "real" metal gear, "Sharpie" or Paint markers will do the trick. They make these permanent markers in gold, silver and bronze. The only caution when applying these markers to a surface is that they go on wet and can easily smear. Treat them like paint. Apply one "coat", let it dry, and if needed, apply a second. Metallic acrylic craft paint is also effective, but often you have to apply a primer (clear spray acrylic or enamel finish or fixative) first so that the paint will adhere. The advantages to using craft acrylic is that it is offered in a wide variety of metallic colors and is inexpensive. There are many more shades of gold available, for instance, than when you use markers. Markers, generally, are only available in one shade of gold, silver and bronze. Spray paint will also achieve that realistic gear look and does not require a primer coat.
Other sources of gears: computers, printers, watches, old and new clocks, VCRs, CD players, stereos, earphones, telephones, radios, sewing machines, typewriters, VCR and cassette tapes, cameras (especially disposable ones), photographic film and slide projectors, lighters, yard tools, garden hoses, purses (they often have metal accents), old costume jewelry, buttons, jeans (they have copper or other metal rivets and metal zippers), musical instruments, lighting, outdoor grills, boat and marine accessories, ceiling and floor fans, plumbing supplies, air conditioners, bicycles. Childrens toys---especially, motorized ones---have all sorts of cool gears inside.
Even if an object does not appear to be useful, check again. Objects, such as lamps, contain washers, screws, metal rods and other hardware---often made of heavy, quality brass. And when I chop an object, I save every usable part possible. Every screw, washer, nut, bolt. I have an enormous bucket filled to the brim with every conceivable piece of hardware made. It comes in handy when you're working on a project and need that just right, hard to find bolt.
Caution: Always look for any warning label on a device you wish to chop prior to disassembly. These labels caution that there is a hazard if you do so. For example, a smoke detector will contain a label that warns if you disassemble the device, you will be exposed to radiation.
If you are hard pressed to find gears and have a deadline to complete your artwork, you can purchase them online. I obtain gears this way when I need certain old metal clock or watch parts which are rarely found discarded in the trash. Simply type in the search words steampunk gears, gears, watch parts, clock parts. When using Google, click on "images", and you'll find pages and pages of gears for sale. I only use these sources when I am desperate for gears as they can be costly. Typically, you receive a small quantity of gears for the money.
Once you start chopping everyday objects to mine for "gear gold", beware...you'll never look at the world in quite the same way ever again. You'll be tempted to chop every object in sight. But what fun you'll have hunting for the next great gear and chopping your first toaster to see what really awesome stuff is hidden inside!
Happy Junking! Happy Chopping!
Below: Example of plastic gears clad in one coat of metallic permanent marker (left); plastic gear in its original state, untreated (right)