Making the Victorian Flea Chariot – Part 4
I was thinking about “aging” the brass but when I cleaned it up with a minidrill and wirebrush following the brazing it turned a nice dull colour. Hence I left it that way. I do intend to investigate some of the techniques people have told me about incase I need them for a bigger project.
Finding a small domed glass case supplier was a difficult challenge. I looked around a few suppliers back in the summer with no success their products with either the wrong shape or very expensive. Eventually a private seller on ebay came to the rescue and I purchased a dome with “Japanese Figures Garden Scene”. The dome was glued to the base so that had to be gently cut and coaxed from the base. The figures and their felt disk were removed and the base was varnished. I decided to turn a slot into the base so that the dome could be removed.
I wandered around a few coin shops in London looking for a cheap coin 1820-1870 and was eventually directed to a shop on Cecil Court that had a series of boxes where a coin could be bought for £1. I finally settled on an 1857 French coin with a relief of Napoleon III.
The chariot is secured with a small cube magnet glued to the coin. A tiny flake of steel glued below the axle (brass is not magnetic) of the chariot to allow it to be lifted off.
I also needed a way of carrying the fragile glass display case around. I had a look in the office for a suitable box and noticed that there were some fake wood books on the shelf that were not actually being used. I used some metal strips and some magnets to produce a catch to keep the box closed in transit.
I took the hands off of a “helping hands” to leave just the magnifier on a stand. The dome and magnifier were then wrapped in bubble wrap to keep them in the case. I suppose felt/velvet/velour and some kind of foam would be better but I did not have access to those.
Summary / Management Overview
The investigation part of the project has been going on and off since the summer and I’ve had some rough designs in my head since then. The build process took about 12 hours spread over several days between Christmas 2008 and New Year.
It’s been a learning exercise making the flea chariot, there were some small mistakes made along the way and almost a disaster with the problem brazing. I’m happy with the end results and so far all of the people I’ve showed it too have been impressed or amazed.
I’ll conclude with a report of a much earlier and sophisticated flea carriage from the 1800s.
” A few years ago, a Mr. Boverick, an ingenious watchmaker, of London, exhibited to the public, a little ivory chaise, with four wheels, and all its proper apparatus, and a man sitting on the box, all of which were drawn by a single flea. He made a small landau, which opened and shut by springs, with six horses harnessed to it, a coachman sitting on the box, and a dog between his legs : four persons were in the carriage, two footmen behind it, and a postilion riding on one of the fore horses, which was also easily drawn along by a flea. He likewise had a chain of brass, about two inches long, containing 200 links, with a hook at one end, and a padlock and key at the other, which the flea drew very nimbly along. — (Jamieson’t Modern Voyages and Travels.) “
There will undoubtedly be more reports on such items in the Flea Circus Research Library Blog.
More Flea Chariot articles.
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