Forget snowmen; Thomas Willeford is building a super villain-sized robot.
Harrisburg’s mad scientist of Steampunk has undertaken colossal projects before, but his latest contraption is positively Brobdingnagian. That is, it’s really freakin’ big. So when Willeford announced that he was recruiting minions for his workforce, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer because—I’ll say it again—he’s building a giant robot. You do not say “no” to an invitation like that.
When I first met Thomas Willeford, or “Lord Featherstone”, at Steampunk unLimited, he was clad all in leather and brass, sporting a fantastic mechanical left arm of his own construction. This time, he was wearing a layer of sawdust as he labored over an arm worthy of a Steampunk Goliath. The rest of the jumbo robot limbs were laid out on Willeford’s porch, much to the concern of his neighbors, I’m sure. But that’s just another day at the weird and wonderful Grimmelore Manor, home of the steampunk celebrity and his Brute Force Studios.
Fueled by gallons of Mountain Dew, Willeford has been pounding out robot parts 12 hours a day for nearly two months. He begins by diagramming each piece on his computer, then “printing” it out with his laser cutter (you can’t have robots without lasers). The laser-cut pieces serve as patterns for the actual plywood parts that form the structure. After the wooden components are assembled, their exteriors are covered with a layer of masonite hardboard, which will take on a metallic appearance once painted. Then comes the fun stuff: smokestacks, flamethrowers, mysterious and threatening dials, and all manner of steampunk flair.
It might seem strange to build a robot out of plywood, but metal is heavy and this particular mock-automaton is destined to travel. He was commissioned by the Steampunk World’s Fair, a massive convention that draws thousands of elaborately costumed steampunks to New Jersey each year. The 16-foot-tall robot, who already has his own theme song but has yet to be named, will be the centerpiece of this year’s Fair, towering over the event and striking awe (and a little fear) into attendees. How they’ll get him from Harrisburg to Piscataway, however, is a problem that remains to be solved.
Although the robot won’t be fully functional, he will have a swiveling torso and posable arms, not to mention a few other steamy surprises that I won’t spoil. He might even break the world record for Largest Action Figure. And if he doesn’t…well, I wouldn’t want to be the judges.
You’ll be able to see Thomas Willeford’s iron giant May 16th through 18th at the Steampunk World’s Fair, at future Jeff Mach Events, or rampaging soon through a city near you!