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Why Can’t I Like Cheap Stuff? October 16, 2010

Posted by Mitchell in Art.

It never fails.  Whenever I have a choice between two or more similar items I’m ALWAYS instantly drawn to the more expensive one.  And of course, I have a real hard time convincing myself that the lesser priced item is perfectly good.  I know plenty of people who have no problem with this at all.  Here the matter at hand is more stuff for my current steampunk obsession.  Now that y’all have convinced me that it’s still a real, viable cool thing I’ve continued with assembling the components for my look.

I’ve already bought one item that cost way more than I really expected, but it has other uses too, so that’s OK.  These top hats I bought have a distinctly American Western feel, as does the leather duster coat so I’m going that direction in general.  To that end I picked up a black leather vest at a local western wear store.  Yes, of course they had several similar versions priced from about thirty dollars to a hundred.  And yes, of course I had to go with the hundred dollar one.  It was the buttons.  The lower priced ones had snaps.  Yeah, that just doesn’t work does it?  Oh Lord.  It just occurred to me that they are plastic buttons.  I’m going to need metal steampunk buttons aren’t I?  Well, gosh darn I think I probably will.  Ooo – silver buttons?  Those would be nice.  Yes, antique silver buttons would be gorgeous.  I need Professional Help.

Tomorrow I’m going over to the Men’s Wearhouse and pick up a nice white, long-sleeve button down shirt with French cuffs and a pair of plain black pants.  That should complete the Basic Outfit I think.  Oh, and cuff-links.  Yes, I will need those.  Steampunk cuff-links?  But of course!  Happily there is a VERY wide selection of clockwork cuff-links on Etsy.

I’ve looked at dozens of them now and I’m drawn to a few that I’m having a hard time deciding between.  Check them out:  Matched Bulovas, Their #1 Seller, and the Matched Hamiltons.  One thing that does save me some money is the fact that I prefer to match black with silver-toned stuff rather than gold-toned.  Otherwise I’d have no choice and have to go with the Jules Jergensens.  As it is, regardless of which ones I go with I’m nearly out a hundred bucks just for cuff-links.  Sure, there are plenty that are cheaper, but after seeing these I just can’t make myself even consider them.  It’s a tough life.

So of the three I posted, which ones do y’all like the best?  Or if you find another set elsewhere for a similar price let me know about them too.



1. LC Aggie Sith - October 17, 2010

Seems to me it’s just an exposed watch used for a cufflink, right? Why not make your own?

Personally, I would rather make my own out of sprockets and screws, instead of watch parts. The watch part is a bit overdone in other items, IMO.

Hell, why I’m asking, WHY do you NEED them??? 😉

2. Cruel Wife - October 17, 2010

Yoral’ing again, eh? (LK told me to say it!) Okay, Lemur King sent me here to express my opinion. Honestly, I have the same problem as you. However, the last five years of being on one income has forced me into a modicum of practicality. (LK can tell you I still struggle with “nickel and diming” us to death, so please don’t think I’m preaching!)

First point – the cuff links are 1/2-inch in diameter. ONE HALF INCH! No one besides yourself will see the detail unless you go up to them and say “See the COOL cufflinks? Didja? Didja? Didja?” Their answer will be “No, but hell yeah they are cool!” Second point, you show someone the $95 set, and they’ll say “Sweet!”. You show them the $65 set, and they are going to say “Sweet!”. Notice the similarity? lol Show them both, and they’ll say “They are both sweet!” And they are.

Okay, onto the specific details. The first two sets are virtually identical, and have the same price. They have a nice symmetric look, and they have a fancy, finished appearance. However, if you were to ask me, that’s like driving a Mercedes Benz to a tractor pull. The Hamiltons have the best steampunk look. The knobs are still there. The gears are more exposed. You can see inot the inner mechanisms. It has more of the red detailing, and I love the stripes.

All in all, the Hamiltons have character. Steampunk is ALL about character. So save yourself $30 bucks, tell that elitist part of your brain to chill out, and spend the saved money on something that will have more visual impact. Last spring I took my first stab at making a cosplay costume of Sleipnir from Girl Genius. (The redhed in http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081027) I was being given advice to have pieces custom-made, buy vintage ammo belts that look like her tool belt, fancy boots, etc, etc. If I would have taken the advice, I would have spent at least $500-$700. Instead, I got creative and did for between $150-$200, spread out over the course of three months. The one piece I had custom-made was the waist-cincher. I wasn’t confident enough in my sewing skills to do it and make it look good, much less do it for the $50 I paid. I sunk a third of my budget into it, and it pulled the entire costume together. Put your money into something like that.

Okay, you were probably expecting quick answers and I write a short novel instead. I hope you don’t mind all that input. (LK would tell you this is normal. I like the sound of my own voice!) Good luck with the outfit. I can’t wait to see how it comes out!

3. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

Why not make your own?
Because I don’t have any of the parts or tools to do so. Acquiring such things and then assembling them myself for a singular project would easily exceed the cost of the items I’m contemplating. My own time is not “free”. I also like the look of something that actually was a fully functional mechanism. The small intricacy is not something easily faked and that’s a big part of the charm of good Steampunk.

As for NEED, it’s part of my nature. I NEED to do things right. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it the best of my financial capabilities. I just wish I had lower standards is all.

4. Steamboat McGoo - October 17, 2010

What CW said.

Whew. I don’t have to say anything! She covered it all so well!

…And I hear you on “making it”. I learned years ago to ask myself on any project, “Do you want to BUILD it, or do you want to HAVE it?”

You obviously want to have it. Can’t blame you. The intricacies of the mechanisms would be difficult to home-brew.


5. Cruel Wife - October 17, 2010

You are very correct, Mitchell. It does take a lot of time and money just to get started in many of these things, not to mention the learning curve. There is nothing wrong with buying from the people who do their work very well. (I would have purchased more for my costume if I’d had the money.) If you are going to make something, make it the best you can regardless of how you have do it.

6. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

Cruel Wife weighed in with considerable advice before I posted my response. She’s absolutely right regards to character on the Hamiltons. The striping was the very cool part and the wind stem was a big plus visually. Yet I kinda weighed it as a negative because of the “snag potential” and that’s completely wrong. Core Steampunk design values the ornamental “look” of an utilitarian item as much as the actual function. I’m now heavily Hamiton.

7. Cruel Wife - October 17, 2010

You know, I actually thought of the snag potential, too. Great minds think alike. 😉 However, I think the benefits far outweigh the potential for problem. Even if it could catch on something, what are you going to be wearing that is particularly “catchable”? If I understand the outfit (tight-woven cotton shirt and pants with leather vest and duster), I doubt there will be much that can be damaged by a watch knob. 🙂

By the way, you’d never guess that I used to make my living by writing technical reports, would you?! LOL

8. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

The “Smoothness” thing is totally a part of our own current design era and it’s amazing how we resort to that default design template even when we’re trying to ostensibly reset that design template. Or something like that.

9. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

I bought the Hamitons

10. Lemur King - October 17, 2010

And only the Hamitons? We won’t see any of the others ordered tonight behind the cloak of darkness? 🙂

11. LC Aggie Sith - October 17, 2010


I agree with everything CW said. She’s the expert. Me, I would have scoured the flea markets for broken watches and old cufflinks that I could solder together.

Hm…. maybe I will next week 😀


12. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

No, that’s the only thing I bought last night LK. I really need to ratchet down the impulse buying. I don’t even want to look at my credit card bills this month.

But Aggie, doing that kind of stuff would mean getting off my butt and getting out of the house! *Shudder*

LC Aggie Sith - October 17, 2010

Dude… there are so many treasures waiting to be found at flea markets 😀

13. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

We actually only have a couple of indoor swap-meets here in Vegas. They’re big, but mostly full of crap.

Oh, and I’m having a DEVIL of a time finding silver buttons on-line, antique or otherwise. On Etsy everyone is turning them into ear-rings.

14. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

Holy mackerel! Now THIS a button! Alas, it is only one button though.

15. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

I gave up on the silver buttons. I started looking at mother of pearl and abalone buttons. Those would look nice against black leather – better than black plastic ones certainly. It’s a better selection but I’m still having a problem of finding at least five generally matched buttons in the appropriate size range. I never dreamed it would be this hard to find nice buttons.

16. Mitchell - October 17, 2010

Well, I did find one nice set – at almost a hundred bucks! That’s so typical for me.

17. Nicole - October 17, 2010

I like the Bulovas. 🙂

18. Mitchell - October 18, 2010

Yeah, I really like the Bulovas. I wouldn’t be surprised if I went and bought those too. On the flip side, it’s hard to find clothing shops that have shirts with French cuffs.

19. doubleplusundead - October 18, 2010

Have a problem with lusting for expensive stuff, I’m happy with my pipe collection, and when I get a tin of Butera Pelican and a tin of Gawith 1792, my tobaccos. I’m hoping to upgrade to a Pelikan fountain pen and add a ballpoint and pencil, and in the distant future, an Omega watch. The good news is that most of the stuff I want is timeless, and will last a lifetime if not abused (except the tobacco, which will be smoked and thoroughly enjoyed 😛 ).

20. Mitchell - October 18, 2010

Ooooo. Don’t get me started on fountain pens! I want this Namiki. Of course, ain’t nothing wrong with a Pelikan!

When I smoked I never really got into pipes. Well, not for tobacco anyway. *cough*

21. doubleplusundead - October 19, 2010

Pipes are great, pipe tobacco has flown under the radar as far as taxation, so you can get really top-notch tobacco for really affordable prices. Plus the world of pipes is very small business oriented, a lot of family operations and endless blends and pipes to try.

That Namiki is beautiful, but I really wanna get a piston fill pen, not that cartridge converters are bad, the Waterman I’m running right now is a C/C. All said, holy shit that Namiki is spendy, you could buy either the Pelikan M1000 and the entire M800 range or hell, probably the Montblanc 149 and 146, and the rest of the LeGrand series to go with for the price of that thing. Damn pretty though.

22. Mitchell - October 19, 2010

Giving up smoking was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Ain’t no way in hell I’m ever going back!

holy shit that Namiki is spendy
Yah. It’s the Maki-e method of lacquer art on it. I looked into it a bit. It’s REALLY time intensive, not many people do it anymore, and even most of the tools are hand-made. Like I wrote, I’m instantly drawn to the most expensive stuff. I saw an earlier version of that pen in a catalog I was just flipping through and POW! 😀 BTW, even at $2200 +, that’s not even close to their top-end stuff at over $15k.

23. doubleplusundead - October 19, 2010

Maki-e stuff is beautiful, I’m just drawn to really traditional looking pens, stuff like the MB 149 and Pel M1000. I still have absolute respect for the artform, it’s amazing what the artists do with those pens.

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