View Full Version : Totally manual workshop

03-08-2007, 02:58 AM
I have a totally manual workshop, consisting of an Atlas 10f lathe dating from the late 1930's, a Picador mill/drill from the 80's and a Herbert manual surface grinder from the 50's. I have restored them all and brought them up to date.
Later this year I hope to invest in a small CNC mill, as even with 3 axis digital readout on my mill it is very time consuming drilling and reaming so many holes in the projects I have undertaken.
I have already built and run numerous steam engines and one four stroke side valve, water cooled petrol engine.
At the moment I am building a few twin cylinder oscillators (wobblers for those in the US) and the attached picture shows what stage I am up to, they all need surface grinding all over, but that comes after the tapping stage.

03-08-2007, 03:44 AM
They look excellent. I thought of doing a batch myself and selling a few off!

A surface grinder is a nice luxury to have and gives a very professional look and is obviously better than rubbing on a bit of emery cloth like I have to do for the port faces!

Got two questions...

What is the feature at the end of each cylinder? Is that cosmetic or just to further reduce the friction?

Also, why have you chosen to put the ports where they are instead of at the extreme ends of the cylinder? I have never thought of doing that before simply because of the more awkward angled hole. I can think of a few reasons for doing it now I've seen yours though. Have you done it to optomise the distance between the ports? (that was governed by the length of the piston rod and stroke on mine but your way gives more flexibility) Or was it so that your cylinder cover bolts don't interfere with the port? Are the covers going to be bolted? The only other reason I can think of is so that the port doesn't become uncovered by the cylinder when at 90 deg btdc like the mistake I made on mine! Or am I off the mark with these thoughts?

Thanks, you've given me some more ideas, although I want to tackle something more complicated than an oscillator next. I'm fed up of making those now but at least it was an inexpensive way to get back into the swing of things.

03-08-2007, 06:22 AM
Hi Nick,
The 'feature' is just another way to reduce the friction to as little as possible.
The ports on this engine are all either straight in or up and down, ie. drill in the side, then drill from the top straight down to hit the side drilling, no complicated angle drilling at all, then just a small milled 'nick' connects the port to either the top or bottom of the piston (just enough to allow steam to bypass the top & bottom cover locating flanges).
The top covers are all bolted on with 2mm stainless cap screws.
The engine is a french design, a couple of minor mistakes on the plans, but it is 10mm bore with 20mm stroke, double acting, with a sealed bearing crankshaft support, so should run nice and slow and turn about 3" to 3 1/2" steam prop.
I left 0.002" oversize on all flat surfaces to allow for surface grinding, this saves hours trying to get the port faces flat by lapping.
The reason I am making six of these is that they are fairly expensive to produce, with bearings and all stainless fixings and fittings, I will be selling four to recoup my costs.
I have just finished an E.T.Westbury designed 'Whippet', a very nice project that gives a lot of challenges. My next project is the 'Seal' by the same designer, a four cylinder side valve petrol engine.


03-08-2007, 07:02 AM
Hi John,

I've always liked the look of the Whippet engine and fancied giving it a go.

When I first got into the hobby when I was about 15, I bought the Woking Precision Models catalogue and made a big mistake. I bought the castings and drawings for the Sparey 0.8cc compression ignition engine! With hindsight I don't think this was the ideal model to start with! Needless to say I messed up every component I attempted and then gave up! Infact I'm still using the material left over from it, the other day I used a bit of brass for my oscillating engine that had "carb body" written on it in felt tip pen ... this is 12 years later!

I now think my skills are about good enough to attempt a flame licker or hot air engine so I want try one of those next then move onto an i.c. engine.

The main project I started was a 5" gauge sweet pea, I'm confident I can machine the components but the size of the task is daunting. I have no time now I am married and have a 1 year old son, so what I do do, I want to see results relatively quickly for! I must have been serious at the time with Sweet Pea though, I bought a brand new professional boiler for £500 thats sat under my bench, I'm told they're now circa £1000 though so that wasn't a bad investment!

Good look with the Seal, that's a lovely engine too, my ultimate goal one day, way out of my league at the moment though!


03-08-2007, 09:23 AM
the attached picture shows what stage I am up to, they all need surface grinding all over, but that comes after the tapping stage.

John, the work looks good, are they brass or bronze? reason i ask i've never considered surface grinding copper based alloys, wondering what the results are like and what wheel you use. I've a Norton manual grinder, probably the least used piece i have, but admit its nice having. gets used mostly for tooling that i get case hardened.

Always like the Seal, nice project - please take lots of pics and post them. I've wondered how difficult it would to carve the block and from solid and avoid the castings or maybe the cost of the castings isn't so bad? always seems ridiculous by the time they get to north america.

Nick, don't sweat not having a surface grinder, I've got one and would still finish and piece of brass off with progressive grades of emery and the surface plate :D

good luck with it and keep the pics coming

03-08-2007, 10:33 AM
Hi Mcgyver,
The bits shown are all brass. I use a standard grey carburundum wheel for grinding all my non ferrous materials, but I do dress fairly often to keep the wheel unclogged. They all come up with a mirror finish, aluminium as well. For all my ferrous work I use White Aluminium Oxide (loose bond) that a friend gets me from his works, when they wear down to 5" they are normally thrown away, but they are ideal for my machine, they use them for grinding guide vanes for aero engines.
With reference to the Seal, I purchased everything to build it a couple of years back, even down to the spark plugs, but since then Woking Precision has gone belly up, and all the rights have been taken over by Hemingway Kits, but they are going to remaster everything before releasing it, so expect everything to double in price. Looking at the plans there is really nothing that couldn't be hogged out of the solid, in fact I think you would find it a lot easier than making from castings, the main reason you could start from a flat and square datum, on the castings there isn't a flat or square part on them.
Before I start the build I have to make a camshaft grinder, for the Whippet I made it in the lathe using jigs, but that only had two lobes (both with different profiles for inlet & exhaust), I made two just in case, but as it turned out they were both good, but the seal has eight lobes, again with two different profiles, so the cam grinder will be born. I am also considering whether it could be used for grinding the valves as well, as these are much smaller than the whippet valves, and getting a good finish on the stems is always a problem, but I suppose I could use my toolpost grinder if all else fails (I don't really like using it because it covers the lathe in what could be described as rough grinding paste, and no matter how much you cover things up you always get some 'leakage')


03-08-2007, 11:41 AM
in fact I think you would find it a lot easier than making from castings, the main reason you could start from a flat and square datum, on the castings there isn't a flat or square part on them.

John, thanks for the grinding, info i'll have to give it a go!

on the seal, pretty sure i have the old ME issues it first appeared in, the $@#%$ won't even get my dough for the plans. hehe

I hear you on the castings, I've made engines from castings and the uninitiated often look at them and suppose that making it from castings was 'easier' because the basic shape is provide, au contraire!

I've long been a casting snob....however recently have been rethinking it. Castings are ridiculously expensive, and while one hand they are judged to be a more authentic model based on materials, in fact from an appearance standpoint greater detail and better scaled look can be achieved via some, albeit very complex, fabrications. Poster Keith and the chaski site has made two corliss engines that imo look superior to kits such as the Coles model. The reason is that when scaled down, the details of the casting can end up to rounded off and blob like for a true scale representation. Keith's work is as good or greater than Kozo's excellent silver solder fabrications imo.

Notwithstanding some of the kits cost $1000. What hasn't emerged though (that i've seen) are plans of a major project, say a triple expansion or corliss engine, that are intended to take advantage of the detail possible with fabrication.

03-08-2007, 01:11 PM
Hi Mcgyver,
I agree with you about castings, some are very 'dodgy' indeed. The main crankcase for my whippet had been over fettled by the foundry by 1/8" on the water jacket area, I got my friend who supplies my grinding wheels to take it into work where a coded welder built it up again, now you can't tell anything was ever wrong.
If you go to here - http://modelenginenews.org/index.html
and select November 2006 you will see a build of the Seal by some of the best model engineers around.
I think all the parts I bought for the seal came to about $600 but that included everything (gears, plans, piston rings etc) except raw materials, like cast iron for the cylinders (I use old sash window weights). But even though it was designed in the 1940's no-one has ever corrected the faults on the drawings. Maybe Hemingway will do it when they get around to it.
If ever you require any of the info for the seal I am sure I could copy it for you.


03-08-2007, 02:52 PM
....The main crankcase for my whippet had been over fettled by the foundry....John

Hands up how many people know what "fettled" means. :) Apologies for the intrusion, I had not seen the word for many decades.

03-08-2007, 03:06 PM
Depends on how many potters are reading the thread. :)

Ditto re intrusion - I just like to know how the other half lives !


03-08-2007, 05:04 PM
Its a common term in the area of the UK that I come from. But it is used even more in the so called black country, north west of Birmingham where there still exists a fair amount of small foundries. I also think it is used in the potteries of Staffordshire (very close to where I live), in the same sort of context, cleaning off excess casting material or rough edges.

03-08-2007, 05:17 PM
...context, cleaning off excess casting material or rough edges.

I did my share of fettling during my apprenticeship in New Zealand.

03-19-2007, 03:02 AM
Here are a few more bits I have knocked out for my project.
The crank webs are a slightly different shape to the drawings to aid production.
The steam control valve was enlarged from the original drawing to allow a third slot to be machined, this will be used for a physical stop for fully fwd/rev. Also the slot on the back was moved round by 45deg. This was one of the errors on the drawing.
All top covers and steam glands have been made, should be able to start on all the shaftwork and pistons this week.

03-25-2007, 04:50 AM
Here is an update how the engines are going.
All have been surface ground, just waiting to get the viton o-rings so that I can start on the pistons and rods.
It looks like my cobbled together digital readout on my miller really does its job, every part is fully interchangeable throughout all engines.

03-25-2007, 06:49 AM
That is really nice work. Have the drawings got tolerances on them if the parts are interchangable or have you applied your own? Will you be fitting the pistons to cylinders or just machining a batch of them to a certain size?


03-25-2007, 08:33 AM
Hi Nick,
I personally take no notice of drawing tolerances, but I like to work within 0.001" or 0.02mm.
The plans are free from here -
All the bores have been lapped to exactly the same (using delrin rod turned to the diameter I want and then use very fine carburundum grinding paste), so once I have a piston to size I can make all the others the same. I keep all my tolerances very tight by the use of a collet chuck or soft jaws on my lathe, if using the soft jaws I can transfer it directly to my rotary table on the miller and keep almost perfect registration, within 0.001" or 0.02mm which is close enough for anyone. For mating surfaces I tend to surface grind, this saves hours on lapping flat faces, just fit the two pieces together and it usually seals perfectly within a couple of minutes running.
The pistons will be having viton o-rings for piston rings (no rings on the drawing), I find that they last a full season of sailing before they need to be replaced.
Hope I haven't gone over the top answering your questions, but we are here to help each other to understand things better.


03-25-2007, 01:06 PM
Hi John,

thanks for that, it answers another question I though of, was there any kind of power take off. But it seems that it come out of the centre of one of the crank discs.

What I meant with the tolerances was, do the drawings give appropriate clearances etc. e.g If the Cylinder was 10.00 mm +0.01 -0.00 would the piston be 10.00 -0.01 -0.02 i.e. if the components were machined to the drawings there would be at least 0.01 mm clearance with a maximum clearance of 0.03 mm.



03-25-2007, 03:13 PM
Hi Nick,
I do a very basic test for piston fit, I tape over the side ports, put a bit of oil in the bore and slide a piston in, put my finger over the top of the cylinder and pull the piston out, if it doesn't come out with a loud 'pop', time to make a new piston, usually 0.001" gives a very good compression.
With reference to the power takeoff, it can't come off the centre shaft because the conrod would hit it, what happens is that you extend one of the big end rods and put another crank disc onto the extended rod, if you look at the picture on the plans website it explains what I mean, but I usually make a bearing carrier that sits on the engine bedplate rather than connecting straight onto the propshaft. These will be shown some time in the near future, when I have the bedplates made.


03-26-2007, 04:57 PM
Hi John,

thanks for the info again, of course the power take off can't come of the centre shaft! I wasn't thinking straight when i said that! I just glanced at the drawing and assumed that.

The engines are looking great, very professional, am sure you'll fetch good money for the ones you sell. They look like a relatively compact and powerful engine.


03-26-2007, 05:18 PM
Thanks for the compliment, I am building them for members of our model club but any that are left over will be sold to recoup some of my losses, when you build as a hobby you can't sell your time.
With the engine being a long stroke it should run a lot slower than the commercial units available, but they should give a large increase in power, I have calculated from past experience that they will turn a 3" to 3 1/2" steam prop. in a 48" model.
I have just had some answers from another website that specialises in model paddle boats and I should be able to gear one down and lay it on its back to make a horizontal engine.
Made all the pistons today and as expected they were all within 0.001" of each other, just one that was slightly tight, I guess I didn't lap the bore as much as the others. That is the advantage of multiple production, if you have it set to do one you may as well make a dozen, it doesn't take much longer because most of the work is in the setup and jigging.


04-01-2007, 07:59 AM
Just an update on how the engines are progressing. Nearly finished, just baseplates (couldn't be started before power takeoffs were made) and a bit of shafting to make.
Here are piccies of the now ball raced power takeoffs and the ready for silver soldering displacement lubricators.
Have had the engines running and they are very satisfactory, just a bit tight till they bed in.
Neither of the two items shown here are on the plan, both my own design.


04-10-2007, 01:04 PM
Here is a finished engine.
Already had successful run on air, steam trials over the weekend.
A nice slow runner, just a bit tight, needs to bed in.
First pic showing inlet side, second showing exhaust side, third next to a very early Cheddar Puffin engine, showing the extra long stroke in almost the same height.

04-13-2007, 04:59 PM
For those interested here is a short video showing the bedding in of one of the engines.

04-13-2007, 05:24 PM
very nice engine bogstandard!!! i like the vid also :)

04-14-2007, 03:30 AM
Very nice smooth runnning engines there, great job.

04-14-2007, 05:54 AM
Hi Nick,
Thanks for the compliment.
At this moment I have the engines being run on steam, and everything as what was expected, they run really smooth and powerful on 25psi (2 bar), with good throttle control, what more could you ask for.
My next project is going to be a piston valve engine, hopefully the same bore and stroke as these. But it is going to take a bit of designing and a lot of developement.


04-14-2007, 09:11 AM

A piston valve engine sounds interesting I was toying with the idea myself but decided I want to make a stirling engine instead.

How does the valve usually seal? Presumably it has some sort of piston ring? You could use 'o' rings as long as you pay a lot of attention getting the fit right. However, if you are doing this for a boat application again, I'm not sure whether 'o' rings would be suitable as you would need the engines to be self starting and the friction with 'o' rings is high initally until things start moving. However, I suppose also that you have more of a mechanical advantage on the valves since we're not talking about 'o' rings on the driving pistons.

I'll be interested to see your design and development of your next project. It's good that you share your knowledge on here as people like me can learn a lot from people like yourself!


04-14-2007, 10:05 AM
Hi Nick,
Hopefully I won't be using piston rings on the piston valves, I hope to get the tolerance tight enough that the oil will make a good enough seal, but it will have a gland on the bottom and a sealing cap on the top, these may have a ring in them, it is too early to decide yet. I haven't even decided yet whether I am going to make the cylinder block out of brass or stainless steel.
The main priority at the moment is getting my workshop rekitted with new machinery so any new developements will go on the back burner, and played around with until I am ready to start in earnest, and when I do, I design and make as I go along, get one bit right and design the next bit to fix to it. Some people do full drawings first and hope they have got it right, the way I do it suits me. Don't get me wrong, I do drawings, it helps with the calculations, but I don't rigidly stick to them. If you stick to good general engineering practices you can't go far wrong, and don't take shortcuts, it usually has to have a fix on it later.


05-09-2007, 07:45 AM
Just a little update on the engines I made. I decided to convert one to a horizontal engine for fitting into a model paddler.
It was a quickie exercise, with the criteria that the engine can be put back to how it was with just a few component changes.
This was achieved with great success and would take approx 20-30 mins to restore, and the engine turned out to be very powerful with the reduction gears on it.


07-06-2007, 04:09 AM
Here is another little update.
This is one with a couple of videos of my own design 10mm bore by 20mm stroke piston valve steam engine. It still needs the control valve designing and making.
and here -

07-06-2007, 06:03 AM
Looks very smart indeed! Will have to watch the vid later, won't let me at work!

07-06-2007, 07:04 AM
Nick, O rings are used in steam engine valves, you get a double acting engine which has more than enough power to drive it.....but you've got to be carefully to use the right ones! using the wrong ones, vitrol, are potentially life threatening as super heated steam can get hot enough such that they can produce hydrofluoric acid which is nasty nasty stuff. usually you don't seem cylinder valves on smaller engines which will have a steam chest and slider valve but they are very very common on locomotives. better to do it properly and make cast iron rings imo


John, I see you are still having lots of fun! good stuff

07-06-2007, 04:45 PM
Hi Mcgyver,
Nice to hear from you again. The only grinding I did on this one was the main cylinder block, the rest were as they came off the machine plus a bit of emery or steel wool.
I'm still having lots of fun, I have had a grin on my face just like a Cheshire cat since I got this one to run first time I put air onto it.
I just don't know what to tackle next, I don't fancy slide valves because I can't get my head round all the timing and reversing linkages, I've always fancied a turbine with a gearbox, or I could even start on my seal.
BTW Hemingway have released all the Woking engines now, and as suspected, LARGE increase in price - http://www.hemingwaykits.com/acatalog/Engine_Range.html


07-06-2007, 04:50 PM
...I don't fancy slide valves because I can't get my head round all the timing and reversing linkages,...

Awe go on, do it...and then explain to us how it works. I once spent hours on a big steam engine in a museum in Ottawa trying to figure out what all the knobs and levers and links and things did without success.

07-06-2007, 05:29 PM
Hi Geof,
Most of the twiddley doodah bits in an engine cab (at least in the UK) of a locomotive are to alter the timing of the steam inlet into the cylinder. Say when they pull away they wack 100% steam in, but when up to cruising speed (if thats what they call it in loco terms) they regulate the steam to the cylinders to say only 15%, and alter the timing as well, allowing it to expand a lot more efficiently. So they get better economy, or more chuffs to the buck.
Anyway, don't want to go down that road, I come from a railway town from the beginning of steam locos, and every model engineer around here builds locos, very boring. I need something different. Maybe I will try a single cylinder, single acting wobbler for a change, that will pass a minute or two (no disregards to all the single cylinder wobbler makers of the world).


07-06-2007, 06:38 PM
Okay here is something different which, if I had the time and energy, I would like to play with someday. Make a compound expansion internal combustion engine; apply some of the principles from steam into the petrol or diesel engine field.

I figure this would work to dramatically enhance the ICE efficiency because the final venting of exhaust would occur at a much lower pressure and temperature. It is not likely it would be suitable for mobile applications but for stationary applications such as electricity generation it could be worthwhile.

07-06-2007, 06:57 PM
its the twiddley doodah bits that make it interesting. ok, loco's are out. head ye to the coast and become a sea faring man. not wait, more reversing gear! mill engines, thats the ticket. I'm gluten for punishment, when/if i ever get the triple done, its on to a Corliss.

here, the twiddley doodah bits are done and the engine awaits the top half chunky bits, cylinders, pistons, covers, steam chests etc.



I've been working on this forever, seems like each little part sends me off on a 6 month project to make some piece of tooling or another that would be just the thing. making perfect pipe flanges for this was i think what originally started onto cnc, then i have to learn electronics, and for that needed a benchtop power supply, for that needed an enclosure, for that a sheet metal brake, tubing bender to make what the flanges get silver soldered to etc etc etc. taken my 6+ years to make a couple of pipe flanges for it and they've not done yet! yes it's disease

07-07-2007, 02:49 AM
Awesome, impressed, drooling down my t-shirt. You have made all the bits that I don't like doing, so send it to me and I'll finish it off. Just one problem, will it fit into my model boat.
With regards to your flanges, it just so happens that today I have to make 20 of them to finish the two engines I am building. Going by your building rate of six years, mine will be 2190 times quicker to make, so maybe there is a moral here, go manual young man. I think you have fallen into the trap of why do today what you can put off until tomorrow.:stickpoke

Great idea about the expansion engine being used for petrol and diesel, one major flaw though, it would use fossil fuels so I think the idea would be fairly short lived.
Here is an idea I passed between the two brain cells I have left.
A self contained package.
Solar power -> split water to component parts, hydrogen & oxygen -> use to fuel flash boiler -> turn steam turbine -> power out.
Water in, water in the middle, water out, great all round, keeps the green party off your back, except -----
Designed for use in the third world, plenty of sunshine but can only be used during daylight hours.
Third world has a shortage of water, so use engine to pump up water from deep underground.
Because the engine is being used to pump water, need to buy another engine to do the first job it was originally designed for.
Great for the manufacturer, lousy for the consumer.
All good ideas usually have a down side.
As the old saying goes, there is nothing new in this world, it is just reinvented. Old ideas are usually the best.:banana:


07-07-2007, 08:24 AM
hehe, my shop is manual......its been a multi year diversion that started with the idea of hey, forget the file, i could do a bang up job on those flanges if i had a cnc.......... still working on it. picked up the pace recently, been debugging (bought a scope as part of learning electronics) the controller boards and I'm close. was all said tongue in cheek of course, us hobby guys have distinct advantage of getting to make whatever the heck we want without a deadline. numerous machines devices and tooling has been made in those years as well as a lot progress on other projects, I'm just 2190x slower than you at flanges

07-07-2007, 08:43 AM
Point taken.

08-14-2007, 10:03 AM
Hi Mcgyver,
While you are still making your flanges I've been quite busy.
Finished making the prototype piston valve engine, and I customised the second one I made in parallel (first picture), also here is a vid of the proto with the speed and direction control made and fitted.


Then I made an elbow engine (second pic)
Here is the vid.

Something slightly different this time, designed and made a micro steam engine, the base is a 1Euro coin, single piece crank turned in the 4 jaw (pics 3 & 4).
Here is the vid for it.


Just making a twin cylinder flame gulper for something out of the ordinary.

That is all at the moment (I hope), the reason for all this frantic work is to put on a display at a steam rally, and because I have given away most of my protos I had very little to show.


08-14-2007, 11:07 AM
you've been busy! I like that elbow engine, I'd not seen one running so didn't appreciate the motion, I like it!

still don't have those flanges done, but the cnc is 98% there (might get to turn it on this weekend, yippy), the sheet metal brake is finished and the spot welder (complete with foot actuated toggle) is 80% done (need to rewind the BIG transformer i bought).

hey, with all the engine making, you need to make one of these (yet another tooling project that kept me from engine building).


like i say, i think engine making is just an excuse for more tool making :D

08-14-2007, 02:38 PM
Here's mine, 1/16" to 3/16" in 1/32" steps, two different radii, but easy to make whatever is required, just six rollers. Less than a day to make.
Nowhere near as good as yours but it does the things I want it to.
Just cutting some very heavy metal to make a big flywheel, looks like stainless but 50% heavier, and cuts like titanium. No idea what it is, a friend who works in the aerospace engine industry got me some bar ends. Beggars can't be choosers, grab it while you can.
With regards to tool making, I fell into that trap a few years ago. I only make tooling now if it is needed and only if the job can't be done any other way.
The way I see it, at my age, if I snuff it, the bits in my workshop will be ignored for a couple of years then someone will want to sell it all, by then it will all be covered in rust, or they don't know what they are holding and so most of it will be thrown away, so why make it in the first place. In your case you will most probably get a lot of years use out of them.
What a terrible outlook on life I have.


Capt Turk
08-14-2007, 07:54 PM
Great googly moogly!!!! I envy you guys that can work that small. I usually have to double, or even triple, the size of the plans for models to be able to even SEE what I'm doing.
Some beautimous work there!!
Capt Turk

08-15-2007, 02:28 AM
Hi Capt,
No trade secrets in making small, well adjusted lathe, razor sharp tooling and no drinking the night before.
BTW you don't need a micro lathe either, this is a 10" swing nearly 70 years old.


Capt Turk
08-15-2007, 08:57 AM
With me, it's just a matter of being a blind ole fart, and a ham fisted clutz. More of the clutz part than the other....lol!!
I'll have to stick with my 1" or greater bore stuff...for now.