What’s in the Box?

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Not many shops can claim their own coat of arms, and even fewer have a back story so deeply involved as Bone Shaker Boxes.

The crest, which is hand-drawn, borrows elements from England’s Coat of Arms and adopted the motto and seal of Britain’s original secret service(“Regius specialis muneris. Deficio est non an bene,” or “King’s special services. Failure is not an option”). Why? Because these are not just props; these are stories disguised as luggage.

The boxes grew out of a world based on Queen Victoria’s Secret Service (bits of which survive today as MI-5 and MI-6). Each box is designed with a specific character in mind. Hero or villain, vampire hunter or spy, you can see an individual’s profession and personality in every millimeter of space, from the upholstery to the mechanics.

Shannon Truax, the mind behind the boxes, came to steampunk through a combination of crafting and literature. After a challenge to literally build a better box than the flimsy steampunk kits a major chain store was selling, he became curious about the genre, and soon enough, Bone Shaker Boxes appeared.

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Me: Why “Bone Shaker?”

Shannon Truax: Bone Shaker was the first steampunk book I ever read… Probably three years ago, I had no idea steampunk even existed… I’m an avid reader, so I looked for a book in steampunk, and I found Bone Shaker [by Cherie Priest]. So I paid homage by giving [my shop] that name.

Me: The quality of your products is clearly important to you. Did Bone Shaker Boxes emerge from existing skills and talents, or did you have to learn new things in order to fulfill your vision? After all, you have boxes that employ special mechanical, electronic, and design skills.

Shannon Truax: The basic woodworking skills came from working with my father. He bought me out into the shop and I worked with him, but he wasn’t good with the detail stuff, but that’s where my OCD comes in, because until it’s perfect, I won’t let it go. And, yes, I had to learn a lot of new skills. I’d never worked with leathers or suede, so I had to learn that for upholstery… I’ve taken Thomas Edison’s advice to heart: I haven’t failed I’ve just learned how not to do it.

Me: How long does it take you to make these boxes? What are the trickiest aspects of building them?

Shannon Truax: Probably the longest box is about 80 man hours. And of the smaller boxes, the shortest is probably 20-25 hours. But once I get into the rhythm of the box, they go pretty fast. It’s finding the soul of the box, I guess… And after that it’s trial and error. Measure twice, cut once. The vampire hunter box? I cut that thing seven times. The phone box is nonfunctional. I call it my bane… because it will never be finished until it’s functional, and I don’t have the heart to tear it apart again because I know it’s going to drive me nuts.

Me: Imagine an unlimited budget and all the time in the world – what would you make?

Shannon Truax: I would probably make a steampunk house. And it would be unbelievably steampunk.

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Each box literally has its own story. Mr. Truax was good enough to share a few which he passed out as pamphlets during DragonCon. There are many more boxes than we’ve featured here and many more adventures waiting at Bone Shaker Boxes’ official website. You can also follow the shop on Facebook. Be sure to check it out and enjoy the intrigue of The Service!

Sebastian’s Analyzer Box!

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Recruited in 1912 Sebastian McDonald was only 23 years old when he was expelled from Trinity College in Dublin where he was studying for his Doctorate in the medical field. Sebastian was drawn to the supernatural and was convinced that “Homo Sapiens” were not the only species of humans to inhabit this world. His passion for the truth was not accepted by the faculty and his expulsion was quick and irrefutable upon discovery of his work.

Professor Sean O’ Reilly was intrigued by Sebastian’s beliefs and abilities, and he had been tasked with recommending outstanding or special students to the Director of the Irish Guard as possible recruits for the newly formed “Secret Service” now charged with protecting the Crown.

Sebastian eagerly accepted the invitation to join the service, once properly trained he immediately set his sights on finding a way to test bodies to see if they were something other than “human”. The resources and technology provided by others under the direction of the service allowed Sebastian’s genius to blossom and the object you see here is his masterpiece.

Made to his exact design specifications this box contains the means to draw a fluid sample from any body and determine if that person is truly just human.

The box has the capability to determine 4 different sub-species of human, vampire, werewolf (lupine), faye (magic), other (alien), or a combination of these groups through DNA splicing. Sebastian worked out that these sub-species have a chain of DNA that remains undetected unless subjected to gamma radiation in a vacuum which allows them to be sequenced by the analyzer.

As a crime scene investigator Sebastian also designed the box to be a portable lab with test tubes, slides, and various chemicals to allow him to analyze anything from dirt to skin samples and prepare them for further study.

The Bar Box!

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Elsa Bueche was only 16 when she was recruited by the service. Having been a prostitute since the age of 12 she had a maturity level closer to a woman in her mid-thirties from the life she was thrust into. Blessed with beauty and brains she had risen quickly to the top of the list of “must haves” for the wealthy visitors to the Suvretta Ski region of the Swiss alps.

Abandoned by her Mother at age 10, Elsa was plucked from the streets by Madam Neeser who had seen the beauty hidden under the dirt and grime. Elsa slowly saw that the path for her had been chosen and she vowed to be the very best. Using her intelligence she quickly developed the skills necessary to achieve her goal by charming the older more experienced women in the brothel to divulge their secrets.

The Service wanted her more for her information gathering skills than her body, but they got both in the deal.

Tonight she rounded the corner in the 4th floor hallway headed to room 457 in the Suvrettahouse, one of the newest most prestigious hotels in Switzerland. Reaching the door she adjusts the curls in her long blond hair and makes sure her breasts are setting correctly in her corset. Taking a deep breath to prepare for what was coming, she picks up the box and softly knocks on the door of Count Rechstiener, the owner of Rechstiener Chemicals.

She must get the information tonight, the fate of the world depended on it and she would not fail, no matter what the cost.

The box she carries contains a fully functional bar which includes a mixing chamber and holds a substantial amount of the finest liqueurs and mixers. After spending a night with Elsa and her expert bar tending skills, the “mark” remembers only having one of the most exotic nights of pleasure they have ever experienced. The truth is, she never removes a stitch of clothing, the magic potions provide the experience and most importantly the information she pries from their drugged minds is soon on its way to Whitehall, The Service’s HQ.

The Radio Box!

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Throughout the early 20th century Airships quickly became the norm for long distance travel all over the globe, but they reached their zenith in 1923 and the skies were filled with ships of every shape and size.

A version of the communication device first started by Guglielmo Marconi in 1909 was later secretly improved by Antonio Mignani, the butler of the Marconi family, who worked with a young Guglielmo and got him started on his famous career of inventions focused around radio waves.

Antonio tried to educate Marconi and show him that by winding copper wire in a circular pattern he could not only increase the power output but could also increase the reception from 2 miles to over 20. Marconi was stuck on his designed and the “Butler” was soon discharged from the family’s service.

Soon after he was approached by A.E. Dolbear of Tufts College who himself was working on radio waves and the two collaborated until the genius of Mignani surpassed the professor and caught the ear of the leadership of “The Service” soon Mignani had the resources and assistance to shape and refine his designs into the device you see before you.

Used exclusively for ground to air communications this radio is based on Mignani’s early designs. Later he modified his devices to house an Ipod/MP3 player, the sound could be played through either the external speakers or through the headphones by selecting the proper plug on the inside. This device was used for many years and saved countless lives due to the immediate communication it allowed coordinating attacks and allowing direction of fire for bombs delivered by the Airships.

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