A steampunk record player.

November 30th, 2010

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.

IMG_9215_1 Finished steam punk record player.

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.

First test run on YouTube.

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.

IMG_9218_1 IMG_9220_1 IMG_9221_1

IMG_9224_1 IMG_9225_1 IMG_9227_1

IMG_9228_1 IMG_9234_1 IMG_9235_1

IMG_9219_1 IMG_9229_1 IMG_9250_1 IMG_9246_1

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.


73 Responses to “A steampunk record player.”

  1. ARMTRONICS - Steam-powered Sex Pistols Says:

    […] is a must-have if you find yourself in the woods with no power and a bunch of LPs. The steampunk-o-phone was design by Simon […]

  2. Steam-Powered Record Player | Fun is 2 cool Says:

    […] asciimation Share Tags: New Zealand, Simon Jansen, steam record player, steam tunrntable, steampunk record […]

  3. A Steam Powered Record Player · Gadgets Says:

    […] Simon Jansen built this fully functional steam-powered record player out of a desire to make something authentically steampunk.  His attempts at making a true gramophone, horn and everything, went awry, and so he settled on a turntable that was spun by the power of steam. […]

  4. Because he could: steam-powered Sex Pistols… « (Roughly) Daily Says:

    […] of (among other things) the world’s first Jet-powered Beer Cooler, has built a lovely steam-powered turntable.  In the video above he demos his steam-punk player with “a punk LP. The Sex Pistols – God […]

  5. BETAROCKER >> Endlich eine Alternative zum 1210 Says:

    […] Die plattendrehende Zunft darf endlich erleichtert aufatmen. Nachdem in den letzten Wochen zum wiederholten Male der endgültige Tod des Technics 1210 verkündet wurde, ist nun endlich eine praktikable Alternative gefunden. Besonderes Sahnehäubchen: die Energieversorgung durch ein integriertes Verbrennungskraftwerk. Hier lassen sich dann auch gleich die während der Session anfallenden Kippenstummel oder etwaiger Verpackungsmüll schnell und umweltfreundlich entsorgen. An einer Verbesserung der Gleichlaufstabilität wird derzeit noch gearbeitet, der erste Prototyp macht aber bereits einen sehr vielversprechenden Eindruck. Weitere Details verrät der Hersteller auf seiner Website. […]

  6. Marty Says:

    I describe this as “zany”. God it sounds awful!

    Seems a shame to control something steam-powered with something as modern as an arduino, even if it can be made to regulate speed better….

    So here’s a thought: check your local library, or buy a copy (Amazon) of: “Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook” 3rd. Edition, (by Neil Sclater & Nicholas P. Chironis, published by McGraw-Hill). Pages 362-366 provide various ideas for speed governors. The book is now in its 4th Edition.

    Another book: “Ingenious Mechanisms For Designers and Inventors” Vol. 4, (Edited by Franklin D. Jones, published by Industrial Press).

    On page 299 (Ch. 13) “Speed Regulating Mechanisms”. On the same page, “Instant Acting Centrifugal Governor”. While this device is used with a steam turbine, maybe it could be adapted to your (insane) application.

    This is really demented.

  7. Steam-Powered Record Player | iCrates Says:

    […] Read more about this and many other cool inventions on: Asciimation […]

  8. Steam Powered Record Player Build It Blog Build It Blog Says:

    […] Powered Record Player This post comes form Asciimation. He has created a steam powered record player. This one also comes with a video break down, so I do […]

  9. illume.eu — A steampunk record player Says:

    […] A geek in New Zealand posted his blog entry about making a steampunk record player. […]

  10. TECH.get | tech. gadgets. lifestyle. | steampunk record player is powered by steam, what else? | a convergence of technology, gadget & lifestyle Says:

    […] via Asciimation […]

  11. Steampunk Record Player lets you rock out like it’s 1899 - The Red Ferret Journal Says:

    […] that not use parts applicable to the imagined time period, but are also completely functional. This Steampunk Record Player is a fine example of […]

  12. Sex Pistols auf Vinyl – und auf ‘ner Dampfmaschine… | Alles in allem Says:

    […] die! Auf der neuseeländischen Seite Asciimation lebt ein Bastler seine Retro-Freuede aus, und der Plattenspieler ist echt super geworden. Zwar hört er das Wort Steampunk nicht so gerne, aber wer auf einer […]

  13. Vinylpunk, verbindet verschiedene fiktive Vergangenheiten « 11k2 Says:

    […] asciimation via redferret […]

  14. Austin 7 Special » Blog Archives » Arrival! Says:

    […] The radiator is a honeycomb one and seems in good nick. The surround is brass and quite wonderful. I think that will have to stay as it is despite the danger of people claiming it’s steampunk. […]

  15. Steampunk Record Player with Arduino | HACKOLOG - Amazing Hacks and Mods Says:

    […] This was made with small steam engine with a boiler crafted from a copper water pipe and carved some wood for the custom platter and base. Add some magnets, a coil for a pickup and a servo that is controlled by Arduino. […]

  16. Arduino Blog » Blog Archive » Steampunk Record Player with Arduino Says:

    […] steam-powered record turntable made out of juck & re-used things. This was made with small steam engine with a boiler crafted from a copper water pipe and carved some wood for the […]

  17. Steampunk Record Player with Arduino | dev.SquareCows.com Says:

    […] steam-powered record turntable made out of juck & re-used things. This was made with small steam engine with a boiler crafted from a copper water pipe and carved some wood for the […]

  18. Steampunk Record Player with Arduino / Cooking Hacks Blog Says:

    […] steam-powered record turntable made out of juck & re-used things. This was made with small steam engine with a boiler crafted from a copper water pipe and carved some wood for the […]

  19. MAKE | Steam-powered record player Says:

    […] New Zealand, wrote in to share his Arduino-controlled, steampunk (literally!) turntable. This is my steam powered record player built to play a Sex Pistols LP. Yes, it is true steampunk. The engine was made mainly from bits and […]

  20. publisher Says:


    Can we please reproduce pictures of your steam turntable in Hi-Fi World? This is for a News feature.


    best regards
    Noel Keywood, publisher

  21. Any interest in starting new open source automated brewing project...for propane? - Home Brew Forums Says:

    […] http://makeprojects.com/Project/One-Ton+Linear+Servo/882/1#.UPWhoqFxe_C Steam-punk record player http://www.asciimation.co.nz/bb/2010/11/30/a-steam-punk-record-player This may seem out-of-place, but it's basically a servo control with hall effect sensors to control […]

  22. Steampunk: Steam-Powered Turntable Puts The Retro In Cool! | Audio Tweak Says:

    […] Official web page of Simon Jensen […]

  23. Steam-powered record player | Make: DIY Projects, How-Tos, Electronics, Crafts and Ideas for Makers Says:

    […] is my steam powered record player built to play a Sex Pistols LP. Yes, it is true steampunk. The engine was made mainly from bits and […]