The Bug: Steampunk Computer Mouse

The Telecalculograph finally has a suitable mouse!


Though the eccentric Professor William C. Ravenscroft remains stingy on details of his “Telecalculograph“, he has recently allowed photography of the device with which its user controls it. These images, as well as speculation upon their contents follows:

One holds the device in a manner similar to the way a wood-worker holds a sanding block. The palm rests upon the “ball” in the foreground, with the fingers extending forward. The middle digit is placed upon the spiked cog, while the pointing-finger and the ring-bearing finger sit on the studded levers on either side. The thumb and small-finger rest comfortably on the side of the cylinder, helping to grip the contraption. The “Bug”, as the Professor calls it, is slid about upon a table top–thusly controlling a mobile indicator upon the Telecalculograph’s display. Push the device away from one’s self, and the arrow “moves” towards the top of the viewing window. When the arrow has been positioned appropriately so that it is pointing at the desired “item” on the glass, the user pushes down upon the various levers to elicit his desired effect. Turning the wheel in the center produces an action similar to turning a page in a book, or cranking a kinetoscope.

How the device works is shrouded in mystery, however some speculation can be made. One can clearly see that there are small tubes running from the wheel and levers to the cylinder in the middle. It appears that they are simple mechanical linkages, however they remain perfectly stationary even when the controls are manipulated. This leads one to believe that they are likely either hydraulic or electrical in nature. Power seems to come from the large drum in the center, as there is a key extending from the side–similar to a small clock–suggesting that it is based upon the principles of clockwork. This cylinder also has two knobs, presumably for fine adjustment. The device connects to the Telecalculograph by means of a cloth hose which extends outward from its front. Presumably, the actions taken with the device are transmitted through this cable. Like the Bug’s internal workings, it is unknown whether this operates on galvanic or hydraulic principles. Far more mysterious, however, is the way in which the contraption measures its movement. Upon stealing a look at the underside of the Bug, this author saw not the wheels one expected, nor in fact any visible moving parts. Instead, there was only what appeared to be a small glass lens located directly under the domed portion of the device. It was observed to emanate a fiery orange glow, though how or why is unknown. The following most ghastly object was, however, seen in the Professor’s laboratory in close proximity to the Bug. It appears to be a human eye-ball suspended in a glass chamber. A troubling tangle of wires extend from the organ’s nerve bundle and out through the vessel’s corked seal.

One can only speculate that this “bio-galvanic” device is used to “see” the Bug’s movement. One can only imagine what a man with such a mastery of the sciences is capable of…

Real (mouse):

The “Bug” is based around this nameless laptop mouse (mine was procured for much less money, mind you). Other than that, it’s pretty much as it looks: a big jumble of bits and bobs from my parts bin. The two large gears that make up the base were harvested from the Sargent Recording pH Stat.

The cylinder in the middle is a chunk of solid brass scrounged from one of my university’s many scrap bins. The knobs and key all rotate, but do nothing beyond that.

The circuit board (and presumably the human eye!) are hidden under this brass-plated-steel corner piece from a steamer trunk. A random cog fills in the gap in back, and allows some of the mouse’s LED light to glow through. It may be noted that I replaced the red LED with an orange one which makes it match the computer better, but does not effect performance.

The PCB is uniformly painted a gun-metal gray to make the visible parts look a bit less “circuity”.

Wires connecting the buttons, scroll-whee, and USB cable to the board go under the cylinder (which has a large notch cut out of it) and around the gear post.

The six wires leading to the buttons and scroll wheel are thin, rubber-insulated copper wire (from an IDE cable) housed within tiny brass tubing. I tried enamel-insulated bellwire originally, but it proved to be extremely problematic. It seemed that no matter what I did, things were connecting to things they shouldn’t…

The scroll-wheel is made from an alarm clock’s escapement wheel and a small brass knob. The rotation sensor and middle-click button (both harvested from the mouse) are concealed within the brass supports. These supports, as well as the left and right “buttons” are actually hinge pieces from a toilet seat mounting kit!

The actual button portions are standard “leaf switches” enclosed in brass sheeting. To give the buttons a more old-fashioned, mechanical feel, I added the little spring cylinders you see above. They are made from brass tubing, springs from a mechanical pencil, and brass screws. These springs do make clicking a bit slower, so the screws are easily removable when some fast-clicking needs to be done.

The USB cable is a standard one that has been stripped of its original rubber skin. The shielded wires were then fed through a length of hollowed out parachute cord to give it a cloth-covered look (besides making it virtually unbreakable!)

The bottom ain’t pretty, but it works. The optical sensor looks through the rear gear’s hub, while the whole thing glides along on it’s polished base and the two (white) polystyrene squares (poor man’s Teflon). Did I mention how heavy it is? Oh, she be heavy! I don’t have a scale, but I’d say it weighs a good 10-15oz… Its actually quite nice and comfortable to use. It fits my hand perfectly (imagine that!), and I find I rather like the heft. Everything is so light and plasticy these days, that it’s most refreshing to handle something with such substance!

Real (eyeball):

The “eye in a jar” was made by forming the eye and optic nerve out of poster putty (Blu-Tack), then painting it with model paints. I put a clear coat over it, with mixed results. Somehow it absorbed the water and turned milky and wrinkled. While this was not the intended effect, I’m rather happy with it as it makes it look absolutely disgusting 🙂 The “formaldehyde” is actually Tazo “Calm” tea, which, so far, seems to be holding up well.

Cost: $5US

Time: About 10 hours for the mouse, 1 hours for the eye

Tools: Basic hand tools, Dremel w/ press, soldering iron, X-Acto saw w/ miter box, and JB Weld

Date of Completion: April 18th, 2007

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 1:04 pm  Comments (86)  

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86 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh my! Mr Hildebrand – you were intending to tell me about this, weren’t you? I mean – it’s lovely! How sharp is the middlecogwheel? Do you find that you get strain when using it? Have you taken to using it as your standard?

    I have such questions! I do apologise.

  2. Hehe, thanks Tinkergirl! The wheel is comfortably dull on one’s finger, though I surely wouldn’t want to tread on in in bare feet or anything 🙂 So far I’m finding it comfortable enough for regular use, though my trusty Logitech is still standing by for serious mousing…

  3. Bully and Bravo! Your tender years belie your talent, good sir. We look forward to extended experimentation upon “The Eye”.

  4. A most amazing creation, indeed! Charming photographs, as well.

  5. Having seen the Human Body exhibit that is touring science museums, the eyeball in a jar looks very real & almost familiar. Top notch work lad!

  6. […] for resting your hand apon, and the ‘antennae’ are for clicking on, I believe.  It is The Bug, by Mr Hildebrandt, and a fitting accompanyment to the Telecalculograph computer mod that we […]

  7. We are delighted that Wired Magazine has taken note of your accomplishment:

  8. very nice! Bravo, my friend!

  9. Like a weapon… 🙂
    thanks for your post

    Best Regards…

  10. Remarkable! you sure like that toilet hardware 😉 Who knew it was so versatile!

  11. Oh hush all of you–far too kind! How’s a guy supposed to improve when all he gets are compliments?

    @Mr. Adams: Hehe, indeed I do! It’s likely a result of all the time I spent in the local hardware store as a young lad… Besides, what other industry uses so much brass?

  12. […] — The mouse mouseRead — The Steampunk […]

  13. […] — The mouse mouseRead — The Steampunk […]

  14. […] — The mouse mouseRead — The Steampunk […]

  15. That’s awesome! I want one 😛

    Though I’d make the thing where you rest your thumb a real button. Or maybe a second wheel. I love my 5-button mouse…

  16. Well done, sir!

    Just thought I’d drop you a quick note. I’ve linked to this page as well as written a small blurb about “The Bug”. Capital idea!


  17. dagnabbit! Here’s the link!

  18. […] Jake Of All Trades [via Gizmodo UK] Posted in […]

  19. Top, top work buddy. Written about it on my own blog (not that it gets much traffic, as it’s relatively new).

  20. Thanks guys! Your comments and publicity are most blush-inducing, but appreciated 🙂

  21. Oh~~~! Good idea~! Bravo~~~

  22. […] — The mouse mouseRead — The Steampunk […]

  23. […] Read(情報元) | Permalink | メールで送る | Comments […]

  24. I especially like that the brass is not polished and the way you hid the switches. And a working scroll wheel. Wow! Truly great work, man!

  25. […] — The mouse mouseRead — The Steampunk […]

  26. […] Syndicated via RSS from picture and video […]

  27. […] a entusiasmar. Se trata de un ratón completamente de aire antiguo y completamente artesanal (aquí os explican cómo podéis fabricarlo). Tiene pinta de íncomodo y de ser complicado, pero ¿a que es bonito? Sin duda el […]

  28. […] The Bug: Steampunk Computer Mouse […]

  29. Looks like it can do some hand damage . . . Maybe carpel tunnel the thing of the past with this, might just have to worry about whether or not you’ve got a hand left.

    Dan Hanosh
    Dreams are yours to share

  30. […] Любители стимпанка один за другим создают необычные версии современной электроники. Например, в рубрике “Кадр дня” уже фигурировал телеграфный аппарат, озвучивающий морзянкой информацию из каналов RSS. Не оставили энтузиасты без внимания и компьютерную мышь. […]

  31. […] (.): Jake of All Trades […]

  32. […] Steampunk Mouse: It’s an optical rather than a mechanical mouse, despite the gears in the underside, and connects via USB. It was also made to complement the modder’s Telecalculograph. […]

  33. This is just about the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Steampunk rules!

  34. […] os ha gustado y queréis fabricaros uno, aquí tenéis las […]

  35. […] on Gizmodo and Engadget over the past few months with astonishing disport. Mods include scanners, a mouse with a scrollwheel, spy cameras and a telegraph that taps out RSS […]

  36. […] LINK […]

  37. […] have said it several times before: I quite like steampunk design . Via Jack of all Trades comes this computer mouse design – with directions on how to build it … well, kind […]

  38. Your mouse has been featured on the Spiegel website (one of the major German news magazines).

    “eine Computermaus, die aussieht wie ein des Telegrafierens mächtiger Messing-Mörser”

  39. […] Your Cluttered PC Desktop, at I’m not really sure why, but I think this and this are really […]

  40. im not exactly sure what the point of the eye in the jar was, but it would be interesting to turn it into a webcam…

  41. […] es el ratón steampunk, que se vería ideal conectado a tu portátil steampunk y tu teclado steampunk. Incluso podría […]

  42. Very cool. I really love all this steampunk stuff.

    Have you played the Bioshock xbox 360 demo at all? It has a bit of a steampunk feel

  43. […]’s the full link: Steampunk Flat-Panel LCD Mod This is the mouse for the perfect fit: The Bug: Steampunk Computer Mouse Jake of All Trades Did you remember when everything still comes in […]

  44. Amazing, how it works ?

  45. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  46. UUUUMMMMM! I think I’ll need a new toolkit to repair that one??

  47. I see that your blog discusses patent-related resources at I recommend adding to the page. WikiPatents has the largest database of patents open for public comment on the internet, allows PDF downloading of patents, free patent translation into multiple languages, and additional information and resources. It is the best free patent site on the web.

    Have a nice day,


  48. […] Jake of All Trades Steampunk Computer Mouse […]

  49. That is actually pretty neat for a hobby, but i don’t think its gonna work, maybe.

  50. […] I didn’t see a mouse in that setup, but I imagine it may have looked something like this. […]

  51. the eye in the jar is disgusting…

  52. classic stuff, but I’m not sure it’s working 😉

  53. Inspiring – those of us dwelling in the antipodean steampunk wilderness of the far flung colonies can only admire from afar and dwell upon such creation as we labour on our own secret constructions (what’s he building in there???)

  54. […] Escrito por Daniel Roda Arquivado Uncategorized Tagged: engenharia, mod, mouse, steampunk […]

  55. Jake,

    The mouse is really fantastic. I’m writing a post (almost finished) and would like to use your jpeg of it, and will of course link to this site with a credit.

    Awesome work. Thanks


  56. […] Above (left) Valerie Beetle’s Wood PC, (right top) Electriclerk, Andrew H. Leman’s, (right bottom) Steampunk mouse by Jake of all trades. […]

  57. […] The Bug You might have noticed that many of these PC’s lack appropriate accessories.  That’s where The Bug comes in.  Simply put, The Bug is a steampunk mouse to go along with your steampunk PC.  It’s hefty for sure, crafted from excess pins and bobs and gears.  It also plugs into any USB 2.0 port and works just like you would expect a mouse to. […]

  58. […] From that first REALLY awesome keyboard to the now ever popular mod of your entire computer, mouse, or just your case. Give it a Google, SteamPunk is picking up steam in not only the modding […]

  59. […] la bête ! Quelques gros plans dans la suite de l’article ! Pour les plus curieux : JP4U Partagez cet article sur vos réseaux sociaux […]

  60. Super travail ! Cela fait penser au jeu Myst ou Riven 🙂

  61. Just great…

  62. Brilliant. I linked to my blogpost this evening. Thanks…and good luck!

  63. now, that’s what i call weapon of mouse destruction. LOL

    Nice one, kudos to you.

  64. hahahaha, sweet!

  65. Really wish I knew where you look for your parts. Anything I try and make is horribly restricted by my tools and the fact that I’d have to make any part I needed from scratch.

    (Also my lack of skill, but let’s not mention that)

  66. […] is a mouse mod.  This fully fuctional USB mouse was made by Jake Hildebrand and posted on his blog Jake of All Trades.  It only cost him $5 US dollars as he used scrap parts to save on costs, and took 11 hours to […]

  67. Хорошо написал. Так держать!!! 🙂

  68. А мне блог понравился

  69. Не подскажете, как ссылки в футере убрать, если он закодирован. С интересом читал ваш блог и тоже решил завести себе на подобную тему. Заранее спасибо.

  70. […] zur Steampunk-Maus: AKPC_IDS += "1080,"; nächster Beitrag: vorheriger Beitrag: Windows 3.1 im Browser […]

  71. […] I saw an article on someone who had built a steampunk keyboard, which led to the monitor, the mouse, the Mac Mini, the laptop – and then I found that there was a huge community of people who […]

  72. Very impressive!

  73. I’m Chris, and just started up a blog about table top displays, and other stuff to do with trade show displays. I ran across your site while searching for table top displays. Funny how Google works sometimes. 🙂

  74. Can you tel me the system for buy it ?
    With simple words please…
    Thanks !
    Peter (France)

  75. This mouse is amazing.

    Is there just one or are they made as a product too?

  76. […] More recently it has shown up in illustration, books, movies, fashion and fantastic recreations of modern conveniences. It is a counter to the streamlined, unadorned product design you see in cars or Apple […]

  77. I love this mouse ! great post

  78. […] combination. And yes, that Saw-looking mouse in the bottom picture does actually work.Source / Source6. USS Salem Steampunk Command PhoneThe USS Salem (CA139) was the first boat of its kind to […]

  79. […] Source / Source […]

  80. how can i buy a steam punk mouse?!?!? BEFORE christmas?!?!? helpppppppp!! .. please 🙂

  81. do you sell these and if yes, are the compatible with Macs as well and does the USB work?


  82. […] The Bug is, perhaps, the most interesting piece of steampunk work in our list. It’s a kind of Telecalculograph. To make it work, user needs to roll about the mouse on a surface, just like woodworkers use sanding block. The device is functional, but remains mystery for most of the people who come across it. It appears to be antique piece of gadgetry from past. If you want some help to figure out how exactly it works, you can read it all in full detail here. […]

  83. […] completamente seteanpunk y completamente artesanal (aquí os explican cómo podéis fabricarlo). Tiene pinta de incómodo y de ser complicado, pero ¿a que es bonito? Sin duda el complemento […]

  84. Revitalized snare programme:

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