My upcycling project will be the steampunk aesthetic. I really enjoy the metallic/mechanical aspect of this aesthetic. Being a mechanical engineering major, steampunk has always been one of my favorite aesthetics. The overarching goal of this project is to create a machine that I can convince people has the ability to function in a fantical sense. I plan on using the inside of metal cans to create gears, and possibly create dynamics/ rotation with simple materials. One thing I want to make clear is that my project will not perfectly adhere to the steampunk aesthetic, rather it is inspired by the aesthetic. Some key elements that will be different are that there will be no ‘industrial’ aesthetic to my design. My goal is to incorporate metallic, shiny, and fantasy elements from steampunk to create a pattern/ overall mechanical feel to my project. My current plan is to take an empty cardboard case of beer to create an enclosed mechanical box, where there will be gears formed from cut metal cans. Shown in figure 1 below is a drawing I made of a rough idea of what to expect.

(Figure 1)

Below in figure 2 is an idea of another steampunk upcycle project created by Natalie Shaw who posted the idea to

(Figure 2)

In general, this is the kind of aesthetic that I am aiming for. I’d really appreciate any ideas of how I can include elements of fantasy in the project as well, so any feedback is welcome! My current idea is to form the gearbox around a futuristic vision I create, such as turning some kind of fuel into a completely different object. I’d like for the gear system to be the focal point of the project, so I will keep all other elements as simple as possible. My primary reason for picking the steampunk aesthetic is due to the ability it gives me to leverage artistic vision over function. I do not need viewers to believe that the machine I create is functional in the world that we currently live in. I’d rather have viewers believe that the machine is functional in the world of fantasy that I create in my head while assembling it. My biggest challenge is going to be attempting to create functional gears out of aluminum cans, due to their flexibility. If this does not work, I will be eliminating the dynamic portion of this project, and mainly focus on the aesthetic appeal. My main goal is to keep things simple, and any suggestions/ feedback is welcome! I’d also like to hear if anyone has any concerns about the idea before I move forward. 

Below in figure 3 is another example of a steampunk project done by SteampunkTaller and posted to

(Figure 3)

In an ideal world, this is the aesthetic that I will achieve through this upcycling project. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Grreshan Ramesh
    February 5, 2024 12:07 am

    Hi Jason ,Your upcycling project, combining steampunk aesthetics with environmental consciousness, effectively uses recycled materials like metal cans and a cardboard beer case. Your mechanical engineering background enriches this creative endeavor. While adapting steampunk style to your materials and vision, you face the challenge of creating functional gears from flexible aluminum cans. Consider reinforcing aluminum or using alternative materials for strength. Integrating fantasy elements could be enhanced by incorporating storytelling, perhaps through a backstory for your creation, adding depth and engaging viewers’ imaginations. This project is a unique blend of art, engineering, and sustainability, showcasing your passion and innovative approach.

    • Jason Allshouse
      February 26, 2024 3:16 pm

      Thank you Grreshan! While I was creating the project, I had my own fantasy vision of what was happening. Maybe I could have done a better job portraying this to viewers. The main vision I had was that inside this box laid the mechanical room of a floating machine, and the character in front who I call “Christian” is the plant mechanic. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Barrett Lister
    February 4, 2024 2:19 pm

    As mechanical engineer myself, I am right there with you on the Steampunk aesthetic, it is kind of our bread and butter isn’t it? I think you make a good distinction between strictly following the Steampunk and taking inspiration, since we are limited to upcycled materials and it can be hard to satisfy both.
    Another smart distinction you make is about the functionality of the box idea, how it should look and feel functional, but not necessarily having a realistic purpose. A suggestion I might have to add to the mechanical dynamics inside of the box: have you thought about taking apart anything broken you have lying around and using their components? For example a broken pen will have a spring inside of it, or a garden hose might have a valve, both very mechanical ‘Steampunk-y’ things.

    • Jason Allshouse
      February 26, 2024 3:18 pm

      Yes Steampunk is popular among us mechE’s isn’t it?! Thanks for your suggestion and I definitely agree that I should include a wider array of materials. I will add that there is a few things on the interior that are tough to capture on photo along with the rest of the piece. For example, there is a bucket (made from aluminum) with torn paper inside which I vision as trash/waste from the gears grinding up fuel. Thank you for the feedback and I appreciate a fellow Steampunk enthusiast!


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