21 February 2011

Arbuckle Rogers -- Steampunk Flying Ace

My house getting torn apart to make it more hypo-allergenic.  At the end of this, I'll supposedly have a happier, healthier me to share with you and 80-90% less Lego Head to worry about.  Unfortunately, this has also put some of my leather-sculpting plans on hold. 

In the meantime, let us digress somewhat into the realm of science fiction for a leather working project of a wholly different sort...

One of the iconic pieces of hardware in the science fiction arsenal is the jetpack. So much so that it has become an item worthy of simultaneous homage and lampoon.  Every kid wants one, every futurist, science fiction author and movie director is simultaneously frustrated and bemused by the insistence that the future just isn't the future unless it includes rocket belts.

I'm as guilty as the next for reminiscing fondly of the days of yesteryear when commuting by jet pack was always just around the corner.  I featured them in my humor-laden paean for golden-age sci fi Howard Carter Saves the World (click to read it free online).

All of which handily ignores the that you can now buy a "jet pack" from these guys for roughly the price of a decent sports car.We'll bow to the zeitgeist and keep pretending that the future is still just out of reach.

Enter the Steampunks. Not content with reenacting actual Victorian history, we've made it something of a mission to imagine the greats of modern science fiction as if they'd been written by Jules Verne instead of George Lucas. I did this with my "Arbuckle Rogers" costume, which brings us back to jetpacks and leather working.

Since WWI comes right on the heels of the Victorian era, as you might imagine, there's quite a bit of bleed-over into steampunk. This is in part owing to the fact that Steampunk relies heavily on the conceit of the "Airship Pirate" which itself often means the application of 1920's level lighter-than-air rigid airship technologies.

And since the Victorians didn't have a fully-developed aviation tradition of their own to speak of (well, they did, but it didn't come with snappy uniforms) and in the adoption of the so-called "Punk" aspects of this, a certain raffish WWI Flying Ace demeanor has come about.  That's where the leather biggin caps and goggles come from, mostly.

And indeed, my chief dissatisfaction with the Arbuckle Rogers costume is that I didn't -- at the time at least -- have a decent leather jacket appropriate for the milieu.  But the other day, I was wandering the aisles of a thrift store when I discovered the perfect jacket to rectify that problem.

It was decent leather, a little weathered and minus the liner, so it came to only $15.00

 A lot of people do the steampunk jetpack schtick.  I plan to do it differently.  Because I said to myself: If you really had flights of jetpacked soldiery winging their way across the skies, how would you tell your guys from the other guys?  With planes it's a bit easier because since they're coming from different engineers and different factories and design traditions, etcetera, you can spot them from afar and know a Fokker from a Sopwith.

That would be a bit harder with people.  Which brings us to the painting.  Even though both the Germans and the Royal Air Force allowed their pilots a lot of latitude on decorating their kites during the early days of flight, they quickly devised a system of painting and numbering to keep track of them and to tell quickly and easily from the ground who was who.  (At least theoretically)

I posit that this would be even more necessary with flights of jetpacked humans.  So I'm devising a paint scheme for my jacket that is inspired by RAF paint schemes used at the dawn of aviation.  Why?  Because as far as I can tell, no one else has yet done so.

I have some remodeling work to do.  I apologize for the delay in the leather sculpting demo.  And I'll be back soon to discuss paints and designs.


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