Monday, April 13, 2015

The Sunbeam Silencer

Listing things for sale on Etsy has shown me exactly what I will and won't part with.  I've been making things for several years.  It's only when push comes to shove that I discover what I'm not willing to list.

One favorite is The Sunbeam Silencer.  This was a project that kept me going almost without sleep for over a month.  It was the first thing I thought of when I awoke, and the last thing I worked on in my head at night.  In between, I constructed it.  And deconstructed it.  Then made it again.  

Comrade Nick aims the Sunbeam Silencer
The Silencer started with a vintage Sunbeam hedge trimmer.  As soon as I saw it in the online auction, I knew I had to have it.  An idea for a steampunk gun had been germinating for a while at that point.  The hedge trimmer would be the base of it.

If I'd had any idea how difficult - and dangerous - it can be to take old tools apart, I might have thought twice.  The bolts were frozen in place.  The interior was loaded with black grease that resembled toxic primordial goo.  One good thing about vintage tools is that they actually were made to be disassembled for repair, unlike modern tools.  So there is usually a way to get them apart.  And if there is a way, I will find it.  

The Sunbeam Silencer on its stand.  The original handle
can be seen hanging from the bottom.  Most of the
base of the lower part of the Silencer is the original
hedge trimmer.  
Planning and contemplation are always a large part of assemblage projects, but this project was about 99% planning.  And unplanning.  There are limitations to what I can do when I don't use solder.  With the exception of the electric drill, all my tools are hand tools.  I do have a lot of epoxies and other glues in my arsenal, and I have a huge collection of screws and bolts.  Also, at the end of the day the Silencer had to make sense.  It had to appear to be usable.  Its parts all needed to contribute to the whole.  The last thing I wanted to end up with was some silly toy gun.  No one was going to react with "Oh, how cute!"  This dude needed to look dangerous.  

Throughout the construction I paused and held up the Silencer as if I were aiming it.  If it didn't feel right, something was wrong, and I reworked it.  Anyone who has ever become absorbed in a project will understand my absolute fixation.  I even dreamed about the Silencer.  Since I try to be all about balance, at times my absorption scared me.  But I went with it.
The handle end.

Pictured at right is the handle end of the Silencer.  You can see the white rotating mirror, perhaps used for distraction or refraction.  Not sure what the crystal jar is for (spices?), but it fits and it looks right.  Of course I managed to get a vacuum tube into the mix.  The metal housing that joins the vacuum tube to the Silencer body is a random piece of hardware that works.  I wrapped the handle with red velvet from an antique record player case, linen ribbon, and a length of vintage leather-studded dog collar.  The handle needed to be decorative but still usable.  

Another shot of the front, showing the rotating mirror, and the Sunbeam Silencer promise, "Ends the Noise."
The upper assembly of the Silencer was the most problematic.  It was very challenging to find a way to attach the assembly securely and extend it out to form the business end of the gun.  I tried two or three things that simply didn't work, and I liked some of them quite a lot.  Finally I made use of the
The business end.
metal housing of a flashlight Nick had picked up years ago on the shores of Lake Erie.  I was able to attach that securely at the back and the base in ways that looked organic.  More of the velvet, wrapped this time with vintage string, and an upstanding metal loop (adjustable, of course) for a sight.  I love the bushing at the end.  It looks like it could send out some deadly energy.  I have no idea what most of these parts were in their former lives, but I have many boxes of interesting bits in the studio, and I can usually find a piece that works in a way I'd never thought of but which feels perfect.  

Once the Sunbeam Silencer was complete, the problem of how to display it reared its head.  I wanted it standing.  My research showed that most steampunk guns were photographed lying down.  Not good enough for the Sunbeam Silencer.  I finally made a basic framework with good old Erector Set parts, of which I have just the right amount.  I adore Erector parts.  

The aiming end
Just one last shot (right) of the aiming end.  I felt the piece was a bit somber and could use a splash of color.  I also thought that a dial like this might adjust the power.  It's never cool to use more force than necessary, is it?   The photo at right gives a good idea of what it's like to look down the length of the Silencer, preparing to end the freaking noise.  It's a wonderful feeling.

This photo shows the detachable small telescope on the left side of the Silencer.  I felt this might come in handy for pinpointing targets, or for starting fires in an emergency.  It is attached to the Silencer with two tool holder brackets.  You can also see it clearly in the first photo I posted.

So this is something I'm holding onto.  I guess if someone offered me several thousands of dollars I'd have to reconsider, but that's not likely to happen.  At the present time, since my neighbors act up from time to time, I need the Silencer.  It doesn't have any real effect on noisy behavior, but I feel so much better just knowing it's there.  

With great power comes great responsibility.