SOUNDWORLDS 4: Steampunk Synth Luminator


After completing my Korg MS-20 Retro Expansion synthesiser, the one thing I still needed was some adjustable front panel illumination for its controls, to aid me during those late-night sound design sessions.

Although for once this synth project hadn't ended up fully steampunked, I placed no such restrictions on the accompanying light fitting!

So, to accompany the Retro Expansion, I embarked upon the design of a 'Synth Luminator' featuring full-on steampunk regalia!


The most common building materials for steampunk creation tend to be polished wood and brass, so I first measured up the desired height of the lamp component itself to place the illumination where I needed it on the synth front panel.

Having established this height I realised I already had a superfluous wooden container that was ideally suited to the task - a wooden sleeve that I saved after we'd imbibed a gift vintage bottle of port that had arrived within it.

The lamp assembly itself was cannibalised from an existing gooseneck desk lamp that was now far too small for this task, and I also bolted its original weighted base beneath the wooden sleeve for extra ballast and better overall balance.


Combining the wooden sleeve from a gifted bottle of vintage port and an esoteric assortment of brass accessories, this lamp design soon evolved into a complex balancing act of form and whimsy.

I was also very happy to finally be able to employ three solid brass and now beautifully weathered telescopic worm-geared window winders, originally used to open and close some old conservatory skylights.

The first became the vertical extension to raise/lower the lamp height, while the other two became complex internal components that just looked resplendent in their steampunk context! I now had full adjustment over the lamp's rotational angle, as well as its angle and position via the gooseneck segment.


I replaced the original mains wiring inside the lamp 'head', and then slid these wires into the braided cloth outer tube taken from an old bootlace - a perfect (and very cheap) way to perfectly achieve the look of vintage wiring.

I found a set of eight brass bushes originally helping to bolt together a modern office desk, and used two of these to feed the mains wire both into and out of the wooden sleeve, and then four more with sprung brass assemblies to support the inner 'worm gears'.

Final touches included side-mounted wooden bosses with extra brass 'clamps', plus lots of brass polish, furniture wax and good old fashioned elbow grease to bring the whole look together. I was well pleased with the final result!

Further Information

SOUNDWORLDS 1 - Steampunk Buddha Machine: Martin's first exploration of the steampunk world, on this occasion circuit-bending a buddha machine loop player.

SOUNDWORLDS 2 - Steampunk Shruthi SDE monosynth: Another foray into steampunk territory, this time chronicling extensive mods to a Mutable Instruments Shruthi MIDI monosynth.

SOUNDWORLDS 3 - Korg MS-20 Retro Expansion: This time Martin adds an entirely new front panel containing sixteen additional controls to his Korg MS-20 Mini synth, featuring FM, PWM, Sync, Diode Ring Mod, multiple oscillator waveform outputs & enhanced mixer, as well as some gorgeous cherry hardwood side panels!

SOUNDWORLDS 5 - Steampunk Photon Hunter: Another steampunk creation, this fascinating device responds to CHANGES of light level, enabling the capture of completely new soundworlds!

SOUNDWORLDS 6 - The Rustacean : Created from found objects, scavenged from the sea, or rescued from rivers, this artistic creation still manages to produce its own unique audio contribution!

SOUNDWORLDS 7 - Optimising Airwindows Console5: Martin explores ways to achieve the most effective results from this plug-in pair, whose results are subtle yet glorious, adding glue and spacial depth to mixes, and a sense of space around each sound.