Archive for May 2012

Steampunk Jetpack

I’m a big fan of the steampunk genera, as well as the DIY movement. So, as such, my wife and I attend steampunk related events as often as our schedules will allow. For the 2012 Edwardian Ball in San Francisco, CA, we decided to go as a pair of jetpack clad aviators. So, it was time to build a jetpack . . . but where to start?

Fortunately, after all the work I had done on Project Goldfinger, I had plenty of leftover PVC plumbing of various sizes to work with. My idea was to make a back-pack style jet-pack reminiscent of the movie The Rocketeer, but with the added bonus of making it mostly hollow, so I could smuggle things into the events we attend that we might want (*cough*rum*cough). I started simply enough: cut the pipes to size, and bolt them together . . .


Next, I added some embellishments, like old vacuum tubes and things . . . mostly I made a mess in the living-room . . .

jetpack in progress

With the basic form set, all I really needed to do was add the lights (which turned out to be a huge distraction). The lights themselves are held in two stainless steel bottomed shipping cans that I put a wire mesh top over. This allowed me to not only mount the battery powered lights with ease, but also install some magnetic hardware to hold the cans in place. That way, the contents of the jetpack would never be in question unless I was indiscreet. The final product was so good, I got people taking pictures of me and my handiwork all night. I was quite happy with it.


Of course, my wife didn’t want to wear the full jetpack rig, which I could understand, it was rather bulky and heavy at the end of the day. So, we opted to make her some “Rocket boots”. Thematically similar to the jetpack, but instead they were “rockets” that attached via a copper harness and leather belts around her lower leg.

rocket boots

Project Goldfinger

So, every year many of my friends come out to participate in our annual ski-weekend, which has grown to include “The Experiment” as well as a snowball launching competition. My first entry into this competition was a variation on a potato launcher, modified slightly to accommodate snowballs without obliterating them. The initial design was roughly 7 feet long, and was mounted on a small turret that I made from an old bar-stool. The construction was almost entirely schedule 40 PVC plumbing, with an internal shuttle valve that I made from a toilet plunger and some rubber gasket material. Overall, it did quite well, and ended up being the winning machine. However, my fabrication method was a bit lacking, and the cold pretty much did her in, breaking most of the seals near the barrel end of the launcher.

Goldfinger version 1.0

Fortunately, I had a year to re-work this design, and using most of the original design, I was able to not only cut it down by almost 3 feet, but I also was able to more carefully seal all the joins of the PVC, making it much more efficient and lightweight in the process. I no longer needed the turret, or the original pump I had built, and could now rely on a standard bicycle pump to power it. Average range on a 8-10psi charge is about 100 yards, with a variable projectile speed of about 90mph.

Goldfinger version 2.0