Sunday, December 29, 2013


Time for another whimsical project. The inspiration for this one came from a video sent to me by my friend Lorien Francis of plywood paddle toy with chickens around the edge pecking at a feed pan in the center. I do not care to copy other things exactly so it kind of evolved from there with my own ideas.
I wanted to have a roller track with ball bearing (eggs) rolling down it, and for that I needed something to recirculate the balls back to the starting point. So first order of business was designing and building an egg pump. No need to build the rest if that did not work.
A stared wheel somewhat like one in a corn planter pushes the balls one at a time into the copper tube. It worked surprisingly well.
Castings were needed for the project, so I proceeded to make patterns, and would you believe the day I needed to do the castings a storm moved in and the temperature dropped from about the 60's to 20 degrees. Because of the melting furnace exhaust, I have to run it outside. So I got all the molds rammed up, then opened the door long enough to melt and pour the metal, then moved things back inside and shut the door again. Actually the door only needed to be open for about 30 or 40 minutes.
Whew! All the castings turned out good, so I only had to do it once, and could proceed with the project in a warm workshop. Work proceeded a little bit each day as time permitted. Finally by Christmas day some of the parts were ready to receive paint.
By now the temperature is way to cold to paint outside, and spray painting is not a good thing to do inside so I set up a little temporary paint booth with filters and an exhaust fan to blow the fumes out the window via a dryer duct.
With parts painted final assembly could begin. Here is a view of the underside of the egg factory. It is OK here, but I would not advise you to stand under a real egg factory and look up. The mechanism is chain driven. I had some miniature roller chain, but no sprockets of the right size so I had to machine them from scratch. They are a little tricky to machine, but that is one of the challenges I enjoy in my project building. Daughter Liz thought it ought to make a clucking sound, but how do you do that mechanically? Friend Ira suggested a wood slat rubbed against a star wheel so after a little experimenting, that is what I did. It is a fair representation of a clucking sound.
     Finally, last night after weeks of fussing with it, it became an operational EGG FACTORY. 
Here is a video for you to look at.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Back in July of this year I completed a Silver angel engine as designed by the late Bob Shores of Florida. It is not a scale model of any particular prototype, but a rather interesting design in itself.
It was an interesting project to build and not all that difficult as models go. All machined from solid stock, except for the flywheel which is a casting.
During the process a demand regulator was constructed so it could be run on propane rather than gasoline.
I even built my own spark plugs to use in it.
Finally it was completed. It did not have much compression. Cranking it with an electric drill, it would pop a little, but simply would not keep running by it's self. Disappointed, I set it aside for a while and built several other projects. But I was bothered by the fact that it had little compression and would not run. I assumed the valves were leaking, so a few days ago I took it apart and re lapped the valves with a polishing compound. Still no compression. But when I removed the spark plug and put a finger over the hole, lots of compression. A little more investigation revealed that the packing nut holding the insulator in was hardly finger tight. After getting that sealed up tight, it runs like--- well an old hit and miss engine ought to run. Take a look at the video and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


My friend Dan Jenkins who lives in Idaho, had purchased plans and a materials kit for a miniature Launch Engine from Little Machine Shop in California. Dan finished his engine a couple months ago, and he thought I ought to look at the plans, so he mailed them down to me. They arrived just as I was finishing up on the Gyro Governor project, and being without a workshop project I immediately started to work on it. It was a quickie job and took less than a week, even though I only worked on it a couple hours a day. A few things were changed from the plan to accommodate materials that I had on hand, and the diameter of the rotary valve was reduced, I certainly did not want to experience another problem like I had with the Comber engine of several weeks ago. Other than that I followed the plan. This little engine took off running the first time air was applied, and it runs equally well in either direction depending on which port is hooked to the supply. Fun little engine for "Show and Tell".
It has already been placed on a display shelf along with some other similar sized models. Below is a video showing the little Launch Engine in action.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


A couple weeks ago I was thumbing through one of my old mechanical books looking for inspiration of something mechanically unusual to build for a next project, when I noticed a simple illustration of a gyroscopic governor. That triggered my memory of seeing one many years ago, at an antique machinery show. Searching my old photographs turned up a single picture of it. That seemed like a suitable project. I've never seen a governor like it before or since. At least it ought to make for a good conversation piece. I have no idea what it was used on, but suspect it was probably some kind of internal combustion engine. The name plate says it was built by Harris Machinery Co. in Minneapolis.

A casting for the governor yoke required making a new pattern, but for the rest of the castings I was able to use on hand patterns and things. I rammed up extra molds so I would not have to make another heat in case of defects, but it turned out I did not need them. I can use the spares for other projects or simply remelt them.

Work on it progress a little bit at a time over the past couple weeks until today when it became a completed model. It certainly works, but perhaps not as smoothly and efficiently as a fly ball or fly weight type governor. Perhaps that is why we no longer see them in use. But for me it is a fascinating bit of history. It deserves a spot on the display shelves.
     Here is a short video. Notice how the control lever moves as the speed of rotation is changed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


 After working on it since the first part of September, on the 16th I completed a model of a Comber rotary engine, using plans taken from the book "Elmer's Engines". Although it would spin free and easy when turned by hand, it refused to even try to run when air pressure was applied, even up to 120psi. Needless to say I was quite disappointed and did not know what to do about it. Good friend Mike Nay came to my rescue. He searched the HEME website and found other builders of the same engine had experienced problems and solved them with slight design changes. Those changes would have been so easy initially had I known about them, but a major rebuild now, but then what good is an engine that will not run.
  Shown in the above picture is the engine rebuilt with a 1/16" larger cylinder bore and 3/16" smaller rotary valve diameter. WOW, what a difference it made. The engine runs very well now on almost no air pressure at all. Take a look at the video below.


Last week I was feeling kind of down and needed something to cheer myself up a bit, so I carved out a little woodpecker. It was quick and easy. He is a lively little fellow and it makes me smile to watch him. Take a look for yourself.

Friday, August 30, 2013


It was a time for another project of a whimsical nature, not good for anything except maybe amusement. After considerable thought a scatter gather machine was chosen. In a way it sort of reflects my own personality. It has gears and a crank, things that I really like, and besides that it is quite "eccentric".

     As is normal for scratch built ideas it required some pattern work, castings, and machining.

           Here is a video of it in action. It cycles every 4 turns of the crank.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

VAN DE GRAAFF generator

After completing the Wimshurst machine I decided to build a Van de Graaff static generator. I wanted to build one anyway.
First order of business was to gather some materials. A couple stainless steel bowls from K-Mart, a piece of PVC conduit from Lowe's, an old sewing machine motor, etc.
The construction was reasonably simple. It is simply a belt that runs on pulleys, one at the top and one at the bottom, and then there are brushes quite similar to the ones that I made for the Wimshurst machine at each end to pick off the static. The two bowls were fastened together to form a reasonably close approximation of a sphere which serves as a collector of electrons at the top.
Most instructions specify using a gum rubber belt, but one claimed vinyl coated polyester worked better so that is what I used. Shown here being super glued into an endless belt.
 Here it is finished setting on the work bench ready for testing. The wand with the door knob on the end is for discharging the static, but it turns out that using my hand is easier. Besides it really impresses people when I take a 3" or 4" spark without flinching.
And finally set up in the display room for demonstration. It will certainly generate static producing real long sparks, occasionally some nearly a foot. Interestingly they are almost painless when they strike your skin. One time I got zapped right on the end of the nose as I reached over to shut it off. I've had varying degrees of success getting it to make people's hair stand on end.
BUT it does a real job on a large Blond Barbie Doll head. She gets a real charge out of demonstrating it!

Thursday, April 4, 2013


For quite some time I've had a hankering to build a static electricity generating machine, ether a Van de Graaff or a Wimshurst. The Wimshurst was picked because it is more mechanically interesting. Over time I had collected information, and there is tons of information on the internet, although I never did find a suitable plan. It looked like most builders did their own variation, so I decided to do the same.
As with most models I started by making patterns and pouring castings.
Followed by a little machining, which did not amount to too much on this one.
Then acrylic discs were cut out and aluminum sectors applied.
After that a Walnut board was milled out to mount everything on.
Large pill bottles were used to make the Leyden Jars by applying aluminum foil inside and out over the bottom half.
The combs or brushes were of my own design. A copper strand from a scrub pad was wound around a simple mandrel and a very thin layer of solder run along a 1/16" brass wire.
This was then slid into a keyhole shaped slot in a 3/16" brass rod.
After being at it for a month it is finally completed. Here is a view from the back side, there is a front view at the beginning of the post.
There is nothing like a Video to show that it works, so take a look.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Due to chances of fires in the neighborhood, we have up graded and are now in full compliance to the new fire code.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


During one of the first couple days in January I went to Cutler Cycle and Mower and bought a new snow blower to replace the one that has that been in use for the past 27 years. It still worked OK, but I wanted to treat myself to something new.
While I was there, I was able to acquire some magneto coils from lawn mower type engines. They can be converted to make ignitions systems for model gas engines, and even full size ones for that matter.
 The first step is to check it out to make sure it is good. It was.
Then a small wooden box is constructed and everything stuffed inside. Also a set of buzz points and some terminal screws.
After all that, it is time for testing so an old battery that has been sitting around for ages was pulled out. The meter indicated 6 Volts, but it only produced a puny weak spark and then quit altogether. How disappointing.This is the 4th system I've built so I knew it should do better than that. A trip to the hardware store for a new battery proved it. Look at the video.
These little buzz coils are a facsimile of the buzz coils used in Model T Ford cars and Fordson tractors. They produce an almost continuous arc rather than a snap spark supposedly providing more positive ignition.
 If desired these coils can be hooked up to provide a single snap spark too. The model Atkinson in the previous posting is wired that way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Somewhere around August or September while browsing the HEME website, I happened to see a picture of Jan Ridders version of an Atkinson Cycle engine that intrigued me. Although it uses the Atkinson Cycle, it is not a scale model such an engine. This one has a timing belt driven overhead cam shaft. Not vintage at all, but still interesting. I happened to mention seeing the picture to correspondent friend Reg Ingold of Australia, and would you believe by return email he sent a PDF of the plans for the model. I happened to be out of a project at that time and thought what the heck, it is as good a candidate as any, so I started gathering materials.
Just happened that materials to build it were already on hand, so it was a matter of cutting them out and start making chips. Progress was slowed by the fall cleanup (leaves etc.) and care taking responsibilities, but never less it proceeded at a rate about as fast as a snail tied to a stump, and parts slowly started to emerge.
                        Here are just a few of them.
The ignition is powered by flashlight batteries using a coil from the magneto of a Lawn mower type engine. The breaker points, not shown, are a Micro switch operated by a cam on the crank shaft. The spark plug is also home made. It is a spare left over when I built the 4 cylinder Panther Pup engine.
This engine is equipped with a Vapor Carburetor, where the intake air is drawn through the fuel tank, where it picks up vapors to run the engine. While this concept dates back to some of the very first gas engines ever built, it is new to me. I'm not sure how good it works. At the time of this posting I have not yet had the engine running, so I'll have to do a bit more fine tuning, but I feel confident that it will work. Videos of them show them working very well.
      During construction I took a short video while turning the engine by hand. It can be seen much easier how the mechanism works turning at that speed than running anyway.