Monday, November 18, 2019

DIY Gears and Sneaky Gear Lessons for Your Homeschooled Steampunk Teen

It was at some Comic-Con or other that Syd first saw steampunk style, and since then she's been low-key invested in it. She's collected a few steampunk-style accessories, but to me, the main essence of steampunk is that it's DIY.

Like, hardcore DIY. Handmade rocket-powered boots and gear-operated wings, muscled together with blowtorches and too many rivets in a grimy basement workshop with music that's too loud playing to distract the neighbors from the screams of metal.

Girl, you don't buy that at Michael's! You weld it all together your own dang self!

I managed to scavenge some gears from other stuff for Syd and I to play with. We're short on old clocks, alas, but Will had an older wooden moving model kit that she was happy to donate, and it turns out that we've got lots of gears in with our LEGOs!

These scavenged gears are enough for  me to sneak in some gear-based physics and engineering lessons with Syd as we're crafting with them. A good ratio for a teen who really only wants to be making herself steampunk accessories is 1 Lesson = 1 Craft Project. So here are some good lessons to sneak in!
  • What are gears and what do they do? The Powerpoint for this lesson is actually quite informative (it turns out that I really DID want to be able to identify gear types!), but Syd would never sit through a Powerpoint, so I distill the information and re-present it in lecture format. The associated YouTube video, however, while dry, goes down a lot better because it has that retro documentary feel to it.
  • Build working LEGO gears. If you've got as big of a LEGO collection as we do, you've got everything that you need to build this working model of gears. This is a nice project to do right after the previous lesson, because you're moving straight into model-building!
  • free play. Every kid, big and small, loves experimenting with gears! Check out Syd and Will at Maker Faire Detroit eight years ago:

Gears are just really fun to get your hands on and explore, so if you can set up something similar (even those plastic toddler gears work well), I highly recommend it!

And here are some good books on gears to sneak into your teen's hands (all our books are from the library, so these are Amazon Affiliate links):

So in between and all around the sneaky learning, Syd really just wants to craft with gears, but the problem with our non-steam-powered world is that there just aren't enough gears to scavenge!

That's why we've started DIYing gears from scratch. You can play with size, you can play with color and texture, and if you don't, you know, actually need your gears to function, you can build them out of just about anything!

Here are some of my favorite DIY gear tutorials so far:
  1. cardboard 3D gears. Corrugated cardboard is the most useful supply EVER! This is a clever way to build up the gears so that they aren't flat and fake-looking.
  2. cardstock 3D gears. Here's a similar method that uses cardstock, which is fiddlier to work with but the tutorial includes templates so that at least you aren't also making your own patterns.
  3. corrugated cardboard gears. These aren't picturesque gears; instead, they're real, WORKING gears! Corrugated cardboard is an accessible supply that makes these gears super easy to make.
  4. craft foam gears. I don't love craft foam, but if you've got it handy, here's how to make gears from it. And at least craft foam is paintable, so your gears won't look like craft foam!
  5. gears art lesson. Syd wants perfect, machine-looking gears, but I think that these mostly hand-drawn gears are really awesome! I'd actually love to create that interlocking gear garland, below, with hand-drawn gears instead.
  6. gears on wreath forms. Building a gear on a flat wreath form makes the gear a LOT easier to mount on the wall.
  7. gear template. Use this template to cut your own gears out of any material.
  8. gear template generator. I can make the gears using this generator, but alas, I still can't get them to print correctly. Maybe you can do better?
  9. interlocking gear garland. The gear template for this paper garland includes an extra tab so that you can attach the gears together with brads.
  10. papercraft gears. I haven't explored all of these templates, and the instructions for many of them are in Japanese, but there are several different styles.
  11. pin gears. These working gears are made from more thick cardboard and sewing pins.
  12. pool noodle and thumbtack gears. Here's another option for working gears. Both these and the pin gears don't make cute, steampunk-style gears, but they do make gears that you can actually USE. I also like the fact that you can put the pins and thumbtacks anywhere you want so that you can play with gear ratios.
  13. plastic caps and popsicle sticks. Add a cardboard box and make more working gears!
  14. Styrofoam gears. The secrets to getting this realistic look with Styrofoam are spackle and hot glue.
Syd and I are planning to steampunk up our Christmas decorations this year. First up: a steampunk snowman!

After that... don't you think that a gear garland in Christmas colors would look nice?

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