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Finished: Steampunk Computer Table


Well, as much as any project is ever really finished. And with the deadline for Taos Toolbox closing in (I’m leaving for Taos a week from tomorrow) I’ve had to make some serious progress on a number of things. The table is a biggie–if you don’t have a table to write on, not much else matters, especially if it’s a writers’ workshop.

I first mentioned the project here. In truth, it looks pretty much like it does in that photo, but there’s a big difference: The 20″ X 28″ tabletop is now connected (securely) to the legs. In the July 7 photo, the top is simply resting on the legs. In addition, there were labels on some of the fittings, and one galvanized pipe tee that I’ve since changed out for brass. I’ve also added four brass caps on the ends of the legs, to allow adjustment for wobble on uneven surfaces. (Like the tile floor here in my office.)

The photo above shows how the legs are lashed up with pipe fittings. (I hadn’t added the pipe caps to the ends of the legs yet.) Yes, there are two pipe tees that have unused openings. I’m considering using them to mount a pair of thin steampunkish speakers, once I find (or build) a pair of thin steampunkish speakers. In the meantime, I may put two more 6″ brass pipe sections on them and claim that they’re handles. The reason for using tees all the way around is simple: Not all pipe fittings are precisely the same length, even though in a proper tinkertoy system they should be. A simple pipe coupling, although available in brass, is not the same length as a tee. Because there are tees in two of the legs, there need to be tees in all of them, or the legs will not be of the same length. See the photo below, which is just a still life of pipe fittings. At the front edge are a tee and a coupling, and they are not the same length, even though both are threaded for 1/2″ pipe.

I didn’t use four brass unions just to look pretty. (Not at $15 a pop!) The unions allow the tabletop to be removed from the legs, which will make things tamp down a little harder in the back of the 4Runner next Sunday. The flanges are not conventional pipe floor flanges, but TracPipe AutoFlare natural gas flanges. And that wasn’t an accident or simple good looks either, but a consequence of their length. I needed the table surface at 26″ from the floor, and the TracPipe combos plus the union, the tee, and three 6″ brass pipe sections are just about precisely 26″ long. (The caps at the ends of the legs add about 3/8″, which I can deal with.)

The finished item is shown below, with the Aethernet Concentrator tossed in for atmosphere. Much remains to be done before the workshop, but almost all of that is reading and note-taking. My first 10,000 words of Ten Gentle Opportunies has already been submitted. The Concentrator will be along at the workshop, and my updates from Taos will almost certainly go through it.

The tabletop may seem off-center, and it is: I and my legs need to be centered in front of the keyboard, with some mouse-surface to the right. The table is designed to be about as compact as would still be useful, and asymmetry, well, it appeals to me.

Now, how about a fifth flange set into the top side of the table, holding a vertical pipe section to mount the Concentrator about three feet above the table? Hmmmmm…not this week, but the idea is calling to me.


  1. Get a “Mouse Rug” ™ for your mousing surface. They come in a number of different styles, but you have to go to an exotic store (read Staples) to get one. I did and I got one for Pat too. Hell, it has FRINGE on opposite sides! What more do you need??

    1. Well, actually…my sister gave me one of those for Christmas two years ago. It works well, but an interesting thing happened: The underside of the pad polished the wood surface beneath it until the rubber no longer gripped the wood, and when I moved the mouse the pad was as likely as not to move with it. I discovered soon after that the mouse I have (a Dell 0CJ339 optical) doesn’t appear to need a pad at all. I still have a few ball mice in the odd-lots box, but the 0CJ339 has been so reliable (and cheap) that I standardized on it here. Mouse pads soon joined ball mice in the odd-lots box.

  2. Tom says:

    Great Job Jeff. With work like that you should be sure to get a guest spot on the New Steampunk Workshop — If there was such a show!

  3. […] I recently found a PDF describing the first computer I ever programmed for money. It was a…1 MHz…8080. It cost a boggling number of 1979 dollars, so Xerox ended up using most of the initial production run in-house. The 3200 cast a long shadow: I got so used to sitting in front of it that when I built a computer table later that year for my S100 CP/M system, I made it just high enough that the keyboard was precisely as far off the floor as the 3200′s, a height that I use in computer tables to this day. […]

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