The inspiration for this steampunk Wacom stylus was born out of two events that coincided a few years ago. One was the fact that every so often I need to upgrade my equipment to support new software and features. The other was a chance find of an antique lap desk at the local swap shop (technically, the dump) around the time my Intuos 2 became a dust gatherer. I hate getting rid of graphics stuff like this so “What to do with it?” was top of mind.
A lap desk is a throwback to a Victorian era travel necessity for any well connected globe trotter that needs to keep up with correspondence. Perhaps a lap desk could be considered the laptop of the 1800’s. It certainly makes sense based on name and function. The surface layout of a Wacom tablet (especially an Intuos 2) is remarkably similar to the divide between the richly veneered wood and felt on the business surface of a lap desk. There are also cool compartments that come along with a lap desk design that can serve as storage space for a stylus and those tiny tips that are easy to lose. Although in disrepair, I didn’t want to cannibalize the lap desk for parts since it was nearly intact and a little on the small side. Instead I began a slow and methodical process of selectively collecting objects and materials I could use and re-manufacture into like components.
I worked first on the stylus (unmodified original shown on the right) knowing that this would be the most intricate work. Must-have materials in any good Steampunk creation are always brass, wood, and leather. This led me to work out a design for the stylus based off of airbrush, fountain pen, and clock parts which I had lying around. The stylus has three controls other than the tip. The rocking button in the middle of the stylus looks like a single slim button, but once one gets into the guts of the stylus it is clear that the button design triggers two independent toggles on the internal circuit board. The third control is the digital eraser on the rear of the stylus.
Most airbrushes use a rocking lever assembly, which is why I chose to mount a trigger assembly from an old Passche airbrush on top of the original lever. See my Custom AB post for comparison with the image above. This actually works better for me because the trigger puts my finger in a relaxed position above the stylus on a single pivoting button instead of an elongated fulcrum/button I have to drag my finger across to toggle internal buttons at both its opposite ends.
It turns out that any type of metal covering the front of the stylus interferes with signal reception, so I covered the front of the stylus body with a strip of leather from an old wallet interior. Behind that I used permanent black ink to mask the original color of the light gray plastic. I was able to use a gilding process at the tip using 24 carat gold leaf without any signal compromise. The assembly required precise cutting of the stylus body, leather, and brass tubing, plus the manufacture of a brass strip to cover the rocking button.
At the opposite end of the stylus I sacrificed eraser functionality for a bit of decorative metallic flair. The decoration at the end of the stylus is a gold plated band from a 1930’s fountain pen and a finial from a Schatz German table clock. The parts were merged together with threaded brass parts and some foil tape to help non-threaded parts like the pen ring fit snugly over the other brass parts. This one detail makes the design LOOK Victorian.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where I will discuss the process I went through in finding and assembling recycled wooden, brass, and glass parts for the tablet’s body and drawing surface.