This is "The Complete Steam Atomizer" which is what was in the old box of mysteries - well, at least most of it. There are a few more glass parts that are either broken or attach to a broken piece, but as far as I can tell it is essentially a really old humidifier.

This shot involves something called a "specular highlight" which is just a fancy way to say a reflection. As simple as it may sound to take a picture of a reflection, it is quite tricky to get right, but when done correctly, really gives a shiny or somewhat shiny object a soft, finished look. The idea is to use a flash to light up something that then reflects the light onto the shiny object. While it is possible to light the object directly with the light AND light the thing reflecting the light back on the object with a SINGLE light source, it is much easier to use one flash for each job... provided you have 2 (or more).

Since I only have one flash currently, I thought I'd try out a very fancy piece of equipment known as a macro studio. Okay, it is just a cardboard box with the sides cut out and covered in tissue paper, but it does diffuse the otherwise hard light all around the subject and you end up with something like this. Some parts are darker than I'd like, but it is a simple and effective tool I just need more practice using.

Strobist info: SB-600 off to camera left on 1/2 power zoomed to 50mm fired into the side of a 2-ply tissuepaper-sided macro box lined with white posterboard from the back/top to front/bottom for that infinity-sweep seamless white background look