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June 7th, 2011:

A Compact Steampunk Computer Table


Here’s a recent project of mine that isn’t quite finished yet, but it’s a beautiful illustration of why I love pipe fittings. I’m attending Walter Jon Williams’ Taos Toolbox writers’ workshop in July, and I needed a compact computer and a small table to set it on. The computer is hiding behind the 20″ LCD: It’s a Dell Optiplex GX620 USFF (below), stuffed to the gills and tricked out right.

GX620USFF.jpgThe table is entirely my own design. I had the Unfinished Furniture Warehouse here in Colorado Springs make me an oak tabletop 20″ X 28″, stained to match the woodwork in my office. Back in 2006 they built my primary computer table, and did a wonderful job of it. Ditto this project. The legs are all standard pipe fittings and standard lengths of 1/2″ pipe, as many in brass as I could find. I’m short one brass tee (and some of the fittings still have label cruft on them) but that’s an hour’s work to fix.

Why bother? I’m very particular about the height of my keyboard relative to my chair. I like to be slightly above and look slightly down at my monitor. Having to look up even a little kinks my neck and gives me splitting headaches. Experimentation years ago showed 26″ to be an almost ideal surface height, at least when using one of my treasured Northgate keyboards, and that’s what I did here. The four brass unions in the legs add 2″ to the table height, which would otherwise be 24″ and a hair low. The unions also allow the legs to be easily removed from the tabletop for transport in the back of the 4Runner, as they will next month.

I couldn’t find copper or brass threaded pipe in sections longer than 6″, so there will be some galvanized iron in the final product. I may buy a buffing wheel and shine the hell out of the zinc, and in the end it’ll definitely be a striking piece. Best of all, it didn’t take a huge amount of time to do, compared to some of the boggling steampunk craft creations you see online. I’m trying to see if I can finish a novel a year for the next several years, and that will require not spending a huge amount of time on unnecessary refinement. Pipe fittings are steampunk Tinkertoys, and I was good at Tinkertoys. I’m also good at pipe fittings, and it was a fine thing to find myself elbow-deep in them again.