Reclaim, Reuse, Rebirth

End of life for one thing can often be the beginning of life for another.

Among the Infernal Device crew, this has been an intentional thought in both design and execution. We are pleased to have been able to find many ways to put this in action.
In addition to the main structural beams, which I talked about in the Story of the Beams, there are many other stories built into the device.
The weight of the drum and the shaft is carried by a bearing at the bottom of the device. This bearing surfaced out of a farmer’s little red drawer of spare parts, once a bearing from the unload auger of a Combine. The Belt that drives the main gears and keeps the whole device turning came from the floor of an auto mechanic’s shop- destined for a trash can, but rescued and given a second life here. Some of the wood in the main drum was plywood that was left over and cast off from the set of “Thirty Minutes or Less”, a movie shot right here in Grand Rapids Michigan. The iron bars in the safety railing around the device were found dusty and abandoned in the back corner of an antique shop,we cleaned them up and gave them a new purpose. The Main shaft was a treasure located by one of our team mates in a metal scrapyard, discarded from unknown sources but impossible tucked into a minivan and driven back to the build site with great excitement. The Pulleys in the drive train were constructed from wood scraps saved in the Cogbots shop and repurposed here. The Scraps were created during the creation and cutting of gears for The Gear Lab, which will be visiting the Infernal Device site this weekend.
Of course, we dream of the device having a long life in a place where people can meet and gather around it for years to come- but we know that all good things will eventually come to an end. Just as important as the source of our parts, we know that most of the parts in the device will eventually move on to other lives and uses. The batteries and controller in the accumulator will be essential to the power system in a friend’s house. The demo Solar Panels on loan from Four Elements Energy will be used in future projects. The simplicity of the parts used to build the device means that it could be dis-assembled and the parts used to build other things- either purely functional, or functionally aesthetic like the device is today.


Sometimes an art installation is more than just a nail in the wall….

Laying down the body of the device.. from YouTube
This may look like the demise of the device, but it was just the beginning of the install at the museum.
When you have a vision this large, it takes large equipment to get it moved. The Body had to be laid on its side in order to fit through the streets of Grand Rapids.
We were all proud that the device was able to be lifted by crane, laid on its side, driven 12 miles, lifted back up by crane and set down still square.


Steampunk and Surrealism.. just go together

If you’re not on my list of friends, or followers on any of my feeds. then chances are you are coming in for Artprize related things, have seen us on […]

If you’re not on my list of friends, or followers on any of my feeds. then chances are you are coming in for Artprize related things, have seen us on the news, or just stumbled upon this page – and you may not quite know what “steampunk” is.

In a nutshell, Steampunk is a return to the days when people were familiar with the technology they used, nearly intimate… but not in any sort of naughty or profane way… I am sure there is another name for that…

… but what I am talking about: Those times when something broke, the owner knew how to fix it. If the part was broken, they knew who to go to to have the part made, if they didn’t make it themselves. Everything was quality: quality materials, quality craftsmanship; The things you owned, if they broke (which was far less likely), you fixed them, because they were just that awesome… nice wood, bits of brass or steel… every part, every gear, every cog, crafted with pride and often decorative for no good reason other than to say “I made this, and I did a fantastic job of it”.

On the flip side of using old technologies, familiarizing ourselves with them, revisiting old inventions and designs that were unsuccessful perhaps due to a lack of the proper materials or support technologies – is familiarizing ourselves with the technologies of today, on the same level that people were once familiar with the technologies of their day.

We splice, we cut, we reprogram e-proms, we wire in computers or computer parts for controls… maybe powered by a sterling engine, or an 1800’s-style solar energy, or a gasinator, or whatever the heck we can make out of a bucket of discarded scrap and some broken antiques… we use, and re-use *everything*. Ours is a culture of reliability, sustainability, eco-conscious, and an opposite to the modern day way of throwing away what is broken or discarding anything that is more than three weeks old for the next new thing… another piece of plastic, old the day it is unboxed.

But again, it is about quality, pride, and ingenuity…

Which is much like any good painting or other artwork…

Art should focus is on quality and craftsmanship… like the paintings of our  beloved eras, where people actually cared about what they were doing: from the canvas chose, the gesso layered, into the pigments picked and mixed by hand – with great attention to detail and every detail about the details.

… That sort of realism and attention to detail one would expect of John Singer Sargent – and other proud artisans- from those days before everyone grew up expecting to be a celebrity or famous… without any required effort or skill… the age of entitlement, and this “the Emperor Has No Clothes” mode of assessing and promoting art in order to satisfy the sort of fast-food way that has filtered into every aspect of life and business.

No paint dumps here, no splotchy works painted with various unspeakable body parts, no sob story, or heartwarming tale, or intriguing title to make up for lack of work or imagination… skill, and attention to quality are  essential.

In this, there is something incredible quite about seeing a real-world object recreated perfectly with pen or pencil or in paint – yet… quite incredible considering that such images used to be done entirely from eye or from memory… but we live in the age of cameras and scans and enlargements – which not only renders realism tedious and completely unnecessary, but somewhat lackluster and less than special these days. These days, there isn’t much point in having a perfect pencil drawing of en existing object, when it could be photographed, and likely was photographed before the drawing.

Surrealism, is applying the actual skills of old, while going above and beyond to create images of things that do not, did not, might not ever exist, and pushing one step further towards “cannot” for those who apply themselves. In effort, and application, it excels to be something beyond mere abstract and beyond realism.

There is that exciting spirit of inventiveness and imagination, combined with the traditional dedication to hard work that was once the mark of artisans, artists, and craftsmen – seeking to make the unreal real, or at least seemingly likely if only in its own self-contained and self-made world. For this reason alone I feel it fits remarkably well with the genre, which based in speculative fiction, both requires and inspires these sorts of works.

Steampunk, craftsmanship and pride in work aside, is about imagining and re-imagining – looking at the future through the eyes of the past, and vise-versa – to create something bold and new, plausible, perhaps even possible – mixed with a wonderful touch of impossibility and improbability – the subculture in itself is a sort of surrealism – more than merely fantasy, bound to science, history, practical knowledge, self-reliability, and sustainability- it ties the real to the unreal, tangible and intangible – and inspires us to dream the impossible, while exploring the very fringe of possibility.

Our project, is in the spirit of steampunk and in the spirit of surrealism. Fantastical in nature, and tedious in its crafting. Bordering on impossible and improbable from the very beginning stages… yet certain to happen. do or die. Everything from the painting itself, to the structure it is painted on, to the structure surrounding it, and the engines powering it, embodies this spirit… the best woods, the best primers, the best paints, and painstaking effort in every detail from the planning up…

I am very proud to be a part of this project, and do hope you come out to see it between the 21st and the 28th. I also ask you to take the time to register to vote (at a number of official Artprize hubs throughout downtown), and vote for our project. Voting is highly important to this contest – and the beauty of this contest is that it allows the people to decide what is art, what isn’t what is good, and what they would like to see more of.

Hopefully ours is a project that leaves you wanting to see more from us. I feel it will be, we’ve worked very hard to make it so.

Thank you for supporting us, and for your interest and participation, this has been a wonderful experience already,

Myke Amend


To the Wire

Racing against the clock, painting like mad. 5 days to go, counting today.

It is 4 AM… my left eye has been twitching involuntarily for days, I suppose as a result of eyestrain; My shoulders and back and knees were sore a week ago… I have no idea what I would label them now, but something a bit more.

The painting I was supposed to have 4 months to paint.. began 8 days ago, and I have 5 days left. I worked day and night all these weeks prior to get the drum built and primed, while trying as best I can to coordinate everything else going on… all those intricacies from logistics to PR to just trying to get a few dollars here or there for another bucket of primer, another handful of bolts, seeking helpers for some of the two or three-person tasks like raising and lowering the roof on the central cylinder…

And now, finally, painting until 3 or 4 AM every night… counting down how many days I have/panels I have remaining, dividing one by the other to keep a loose plan.

I did a painting this week that previously would have taken me over a month, and at three times my usual working size, in just 2 days – and think it is amazing what a person can do when they set their mind to it. I suppose I always think this… as I am always putting myself to some new and semi-impossible test. I guess I am not happy if I am not putting my butt on the line to cover a check my daydreaming mind has written… by the seat of my pants, with all the unforeseen obstacles and stumbling blocks between…

My fiancee, also an artist, is thankfully, extremely patient in watching me do this, regularly – and given the size and scope of my  projects, or my obsession over trying to make it as an artist, is often made an art widow… for weeks, months… as I pour hundreds of hours and many sleepless weeks, into another new piece… a commission sold to pay down bills, or in hopes of buying some building materials for the “work in progress” : our eventual living space… with walls and wiring in place… waiting for things like a ceiling, flooring, fixtures… 3 years in, a box of screws where I can, a 2×4 or a sheet of drywall when able… very similar to how the building of the mural drum went.

On which: it is relieving, and frightening to finally be painting… time ticks down… and I think back to when this began… March… I’ve been at this project in some stage or another, 16 or more hours a day… since … March… over half of a whole year…

But there is good reason for this insanity. I really do feel we have a chance of winning this thing if we can pull it all together as planned.

To me, this is not just about exposure – I worked many months at planning this project – sat up 16 to 72 hours at a time online pushing our initial fundraiser, waited all night on April the 17th, waiting for Artprize registration to open so I could be the first in and first seeking venues, building on our site, sketching out plans and designs, spent months writing to my few choice venues trying to get our foot in the door, site building, making movies and animations, design mockups… seeking sponsorship…. into the months of building the drum to paint on, scrounging change for primer, wood, and and screws by the end of it… building away, until the drum was made and primer down, to where I could finally paint…

We are each thousands of hours into this thing, and for each of us thousands of dollars have gone away, one more board, another bucket of glue, primer, a pack of sandpaper, a box of screws, bolts, knobs… hundreds of days, documented in random snap shots of exhausted artists, each ending another 16 hour day… I don;t know what keeps them together, but for me… well…

I remind myself every hour of every day, that if we can possibly win this thing – I’ll be able to buy that ring for Bethalynne I have never been able to buy, organize a ceremony, take my first real vacation in the nearly 40 years I’ve been around… and finally make it back to my hometown to see my family, who I miss so much… maybe not being so tied up in work and finances that I can actually be a a good uncle to my nieces and nephews… sending cards, returning home for birthdays/Christmas/Thanksgiving… maybe even put a real roof over our heads and *finally* not be living out of boxes as we have these three years… dental work for myself and my mate… medical insurance maybe… in all, a life… a real chance at life… even if just one sunny day elsewhere not crammed behind my desk trying to make something work out for us, or spending the days behind a table at another convention.

I see, dream of, many good things on the horizon, but not if I, for even a second, shed the “do or die” state of mind I have been in for the past nearly 7 months…. just 5 days more… scary as all Hell… but I *will* make it.. I’ve pushed too hard for too long not to.

Please keep me, and mine, along with my team, and all those helping in your thoughts and prayers. We’ve done an incredible amount of work, and an incredible job – but could certainly take and appreciate some winds in our favor and at least a few days of smooth sailing.

Friday, the 16th – we’ll be unloading at the Gerald R Ford Museum. September 21st Artprize officially begins. I am torn between wishing for later dates and being relieved…. whatever the outcome, I do hope you are there with us for this incredible event.

Peace, love, and warm wishes

– Myke Amend


The story of the Beams

The main structural support for the Device is a set of four 10 foot tall wooden beams. These are not just pieces of wood we found, the beams have a history and a tell a story of generations of a family.

The corner beams were originally structural beams in a building in David’s grandfather’s local lumber store.
When David was a teenager, the buildings were torn down and the beams were saved for a future building project. David spent an entire weekend side by side with his grandfather, pulling nails from the beams by hand. Now, the beams have returned to David’s hands- spending many hours being transformed into the strength of the Infernal Device.

David Braun applies detail glaze to the beams in the Infernal Warehouse.

When a section of the outer railing is removed, there is a juncture point where the many lives of the beams come together. The rough, creosote beam still exposed in one small section, contrasting with the Tin cladding, lovingly formed oak trim and the many brass buttons that finish the look of the machine.

We know that if David’s grandfather were still with us, he would stand as we do.. in amazement, staring up at the re-born beams and into a universe of possibilities….


New Video

This new video for our kickstarter and Artprize pages shows our piece in place on the river. Thee 3-D model and lighting for the model were done by Ben Amend […]

This new video for our kickstarter and Artprize pages shows our piece in place on the river.

Thee 3-D model and lighting for the model were done by Ben Amend (My nephew), and combined with a few days of work on my part, and the music of Vernian Process, it came together fairly well for a three day project.

The track included in this video is an old Demo version of “the Delta Queen”. You can hear the final recording version at VernianProcess.com


Myke Amend talks About The Device

Myke put together this video last night for our kickstarter page, it explains the project, and how we’re going about this. He also does a (somewhat clumsy) demonstration of the […]

Myke put together this video last night for our kickstarter page, it explains the project, and how we’re going about this. He also does a (somewhat clumsy) demonstration of the device… due to how incredibly directional a blow-dryer is as source of wind. He manages to successfully target the device and pull it together in the end though.

He forgot to mention the new rewards such limited etchings on brass, paintings, and the like – but, if you’d like to know more, we’ve got a writeup about the project here:



The Dangerous Kitchen

(above: Myke Amend stands amidst a tight gathering of machines, hanging tools, sorted wood, and machine parts) One of several things we aim to fix along the way – we […]

(above: Myke Amend stands amidst a tight gathering of machines, hanging tools, sorted wood, and machine parts)

One of several things we aim to fix along the way – we each have our own individual work spaces (some more cramped than others), and will definitely need one nice sized workspace near our venue for the final build (or sooner).

A close gathering of tools and equipment, surrounded by hanging tools, stretcher bars, clamps, and bits of wood down to the tiniest scraps - alphabatized by wood type.

This, my workspace was mostly inherited. This is where Bethalynne’s grandfather worked away through the night. I believe the lady in the picture frame (below) kept him in good company. My company is “Jeeves”, the wooden guy who likes to stare and say “finish me”. He also hates being called “Jeeves”.

Scroll Saw and Band Saw

The band saw is broken. I learn (often) that things can be "too tight" - in this case the metal tensioner assembly.

Though it *is* majorly cramped, everything is set up in a way where there is *just* enough room in any direction, as long as all surfaces are clean.

Table Saw

My favorite table sawof the two. The cheetah patterned curtains? I think Beth's grandfather really liked this pattern. It was the 70s.

When making frames or stretchers for canvas, the table saw allows me just enough room to put a 6 foot strip out and across the table where the vices are, and just enough room to make that angled cut.

Router Table

Routing table

I can run a wood beam *just* behind the drill press is I need to use the routing table on it (though I have to stop and turn half way through the beam).


The Lathe - The lathe and the older scroll saw both run off of the same motor (I move it around between the two)

The Lathe has just enough stretching room for me to make baseball bats, table legs, and the like. All the vices/clamps swivel, so there hasn’t been a job so far they aren’t good for.

The Garage

The garage used to be a *lot* roomier. Bethalynne and I really need to get studio space, or sell that mural (which I think will require studio space).

The garage…. well, there *was* a garage in here. After last year’s artPrize, it became storage for the 30-foot long mural Bethalynne and I did (in three pieces), buckets upon buckets of leftover paint,  the cabaret-fortune-teller styled shadowboxes I built, some antique wood doors, stacks of plywood, and the other table-saw… that new-fangled one with all the pesky safety stuff on it.

Well, there you have it. This is where I make the magic happen… and by “magic” I mean chanting and screaming words not for mortal ears and especially not for those of children; Also this where I’ll likely be working on my part of the scale model. I suppose it is a good thing that a lot of the more intricate work will be in the hands of people like this guy (Mr. Todd Cahill):



… to the new home of the art project “The Infernal Device” by Retrofuturist and Steampunk artist Myke Amend (painter, engraver, and woodworker), and Machine Sculptor Todd Cahill. This site […]

… to the new home of the art project “The Infernal Device” by Retrofuturist and Steampunk artist Myke Amend (painter, engraver, and woodworker), and Machine Sculptor Todd Cahill.

This site will build and build as the Infernal Device project progresses, so please bookmark this site and come back again soon.

Concept sketches will be available shortly before or after our tour at the World Steam Expo (Memorial Day Weekend 2011), scale models of our project, as well as videos of the team in action will probably appear around that time as well.

For now, this site serves to familiarize you with the artists involved, to give you a feel for their previous and current works, and hopefully to inspire you to become a part of our project through donations of parts, supplies, or change – or through simply spreading the word.

Machine Crafter Todd Cahill

Retrofuture builder Todd Cahill with some of his extraordinary contraptions

Thank you for visiting – We hope you enjoy your stay.

– The Infernal Team