I finally finished off the last few details on the steam powered record player and gave it the first full test on live steam! The engine and base and other hardware are complete but the software could use some work. It does however run.
Before I bore people with details and photos here is a film of it in action on YouTube.
Yes, it’s a steam powered record player. Playing a punk LP. The Sex Pistols – God save the Queen (Victoria obviously).
You can’t really get more steam, or punk, than that!
And yes, I know it sounds terrible.
For those who haven’t followed the whole story here is a brief catchup. This all came about when I decided to build my own small steam engine from bits of junk around my garage. I built the engine first (named Nigel after Sir Nigel Gresley) then I made a boiler from some copper water pipe. After making the boiler and a small throttle valve I was able to test the engine running on steam. Now I knew the engine ran I started on the next part of my scheme – to use it to turn a record. I made up a firebox and heavy wooden platter. By this stage I already had it in mind to create the only true steampunk project on the Internet.
Now steampunk is an odd thing. It’s not really my cup of tea and I got somewhat annoyed after I posted details of my Google Maps Brass Wristlet Navigator that people called it steampunk. That wasn’t the intention! It just happens to be made from brass. But I thought well, if people want steampunk then let’s do something that’s really steampunk. Hence the steam powered gramophone.
My original plan was to use an old fashioned gramophone style pickup and horn. Unfortunately this didn’t work! So I went instead for a more conventional tone arm and pickup arrangement with the sound played through my phono pre-amp and stereo. That was tested and worked well so I next moved onto how to measure and regulate the speed. For this I used some magnets, a coil as a pickup and an Arduino driving a servo to move the throttle to control the speed.
Once I knew that would work I pulled everything apart, finished up a few details like a wooden drawer in the base to hold the electronics and batteries and I made a small brass meths burner to provide the flame. I varnished all the wood and reassembled everything. The visible wires are run through shoelace to give that fabric covered wiring look. All the brass and copper was polished then left to tarnish again to give a nice patina of age and the wooden parts were deliberately varnished in a rather slap dash fashion to give the impression of age (well that’s my excuse).
I also uploaded a film of the first actual test with steam using a different LP before I risked my Sex Pistols one which I have actually grown rather fond of.
The whistling of the safety valve was totally serendipitous, it wasn’t planned that way but it make it handy to know when it is venting steam pressure. You adjust it by changing the tension on the spring.
Anyway, some pictures of the finished device. I don’t have any plans for this thing. I basically made it up as I went along and experimented to see what would work and what wouldn’t.
The Arduino is a bare bones breadboard version I made up after I had things working well on my Duemilanove following the instructions here.
What’s next? Well, the software still needs some work. One problem is as soon as the platter starts to spin the PID controller immediately pulls the throttle to the minimum RPMs. The throttle should remain at the half way point until things stabilise for a while otherwise the throttle setting can be too low for the engine to continue running. The PID also needs tuning some more to make it run well. With a bit of work I should be able to get the speed regulation a bit more constant.