I do love working with brass! It’s easy to work, not hard on tools, and shines up so nicely. A perfect material for a beginner in this hobby. Here’s the first steam engine I designed myself. It’s a single-acting wobbler, which means it has only one power stroke; inertia from the flywheel pushes the piston down for the next stroke. It’s not strong enough to move anything but itself, but it does so with the enthusiasm of a dog chasing its tail, and it’s just as much fun to watch!

The engine is all brass, except for four parts: the 2-56 x 1/2” screw, the spring, the crank pin, and the core of the flywheel.

The disassembled engine. The input tube is threaded and sealed with Loctite, which is why it is shown in place. Another hole (barely visible in the photograph) is opposite and the same size as the one for the input tube. Air (or steam) exhausts through this port. We could just as easily put the input tube in that hole instead; this would reverse the engine’s direction. Note the two holes in the side of the cylinder. The top one is threaded to accept a 2-56 screw that passes through a spring and the top of the triangle of holes in the frame, to hold the cylinder snug against the frame. The bottom one accepts air from the left-bottom hole of that triangle and exhausts air through the right-bottom hole. Note the crank pin attached to the piston. (More Loctite)

The flywheel is brass except for its core, which used to be part of the armature of a small electric motor. The first flywheel was 1/8” thick x 1-1/4” diameter, and was too light for this engine. This one is 5/8” thick, and the engine runs a lot better with it. It needs the additional weight for the unpowered return stroke. The lesson for me in this was, “just because a motor is burned out doesn’t mean it’s useless.” Many parts are salvageable, including commutators, ball bearings, shafts, screws and so forth. I now greet a burned-out appliance with mixed feelings: frustration because probably I have to buy a new one, and anticipation to see what I can salvage from its innards.

This was a fun project and a challenge for me. If you have more experience it may not be as much of a challenge, but hopefully it will still be fun. Copyright © 2001, 2002. All rights reserved. See Terms of Use. Thanks to Ed Warren for his books on model steam engines. He presents interesting projects and useful metal working tips in his books “Home Made Steam Engines,” Volumes 1 and 2. These are published by Camelback Books and are available from MODELTEC Magazine.

If you build Brassy Babe, I’d like to hear from you. A link to my email address is on my home page.

only one side needs to be milled. (I cut 3/16” from the shank of a broken 1/16” drill bit for the crank pin. Drill hole “C” 3/32”. x 3/16” deep.12 1.35 D Cylinder Block Make from 1” x 0. you want the 2-56 screw to jam before entering the cylinder.25” to break into cylinder “E. ( 0. and seal with Loctite or other suitable adhesive. but they were too small for easy reading.05 See text 3 Make from 3/16” brass rod.8 C A 1 A A 0.45” x 0. On back side. Tap 4-20 for inlet and exhaust tubes.” Frame Make from 1”x1”x1.3” brass.4 Piston . 1 each.0 These plans originally were drawn 1 to 1.” Tap 2-56 to barely break into cylinder. last page. each 3/64” deep.6 1. Do not make full threads into cylinder. to break into cylinder “E. x 0. Drill air inlet “G” 1/16” dia.75” brass.) Drill 1/ 16” hole “H” for crank pin. Mill flats on both sides as shown. Drill 1/16” x 7/16” hole “A” and countersink 7/32” x 1/4” deep. to meet hole “A” (2).3 0. Drill hole “B.3 1. H 1. x 0.9” deep. See Sequence. Drill cylinder “E” 3/16” dia. to allow clearance for the crank disk.0 E F G 0.) Insert pin into hole “H” flush on one side. Drill hole “F” 1/16” dia.August 1999 by David Goodfellow davegood@gte.” 1/8” for crank shaft. They are shown here not to scale. 0. countersink 11/64” x 3/16” deep for spring. 2 B 1. front and back. Drill hole “D” (2) 1/16” dia.

Turn 1/16” down to 0.125” diameter. 6.0 0. Drill center hole “K” 1/8” dia. and part it off. and cut off at 5/8” thick. . The spring from a ball point pen should work well. I made mine. 5 0.625 J 1.25 Flywheel Make from 1-1/4” brass round. Turn 1” down to . Turn as desired.55” diameter.25 1. Cut to 3/8”.25” diameter. Make or scrounge spring to fit on 2-57 x 1/2” screw to hold cylinder block against frame.125 Crankshaft/Crank Make from 5/8” brass round. Screw/Spring (not shown). from the thinnest piece of piano wire I could find.4 I 0.075 0. Turn 1/16” down to . Drill hole “I” 1/ 16”.55 0.

So I rebuilt that assembly as a single part. This is an Ed Warren tip. Instant coil. a length of 1/16” steel in the lathe. That way. You could cut it that good. If you do it this way the screw will jam and not fall out during operation. Extra Note on Crank and Crankshaft: I first made this in three pieces: crank. and some of the practices I employ. because anything thicker would Then I held the useable end with interfere with the piston. The plans just show how I made the engine. making it pliers and flipped the lathe on and necessary to go to a larger piston off at slow speed. I am new to this hobby and the way I have done things is not necessarily the best way. Spring Hole: I countersunk the hole for the spring because I didn’t want the screw sticking out too far. and the sary to mill one side but I milled extra weight improved operation. Further. First. The commutator is bly seems to be holding together ok. mistake in locating these holes took a couple of wraps of piano equals a ruined part. almost every instruction given on the plans is . into the cylinder and then stopping short of tapping through. Engine performance (and appearance) improved dramatically. Both machines loaf on a job this small. A mistake. them both because I liked the look. but I’m not a trigonometrist. This one is kind of interesting in That doesn’t leave much support for that its 3-spoke center is part of the the crank pin but evidently there’s commutator of a small. here’s some of my reasoning for the way I designed certain parts: off just above the crank pin.” on the Frame drawing): I’m sure these can be located much so that if I made that mistake I’d make a new cylinder block. and put them together with Loctite. Take safety clearance.electric motor. as a newcomer to the hobby. Plenty of challenge for me. made up of laminated wafers of the I used Loctite to secure the pin to shape shown in the photo. Locating the port holes (“D. burned out enough thickness left. The wafers are if for some reason I wanted that pin painted black and the faced area out of there the Loctite would between the wafer and the rim is release it with a little heat applied. you the smallest diameter piano wire I can verify the locations of holes A could find. painted red. at least) it looks drill holes B and C so that you can nifty in operation. one inletted on glue or some other adhesive. and it wasn’t all Note that the piston is a lot longer than it needs to be. and I thank him for it. and if I ever put a larger flywheel on Brassy. I used a cheap brand of fingernail polish.Some Notes on Brassy Babe The previous two pages should give you all the information you need to build Brassy. hole “F. I’m using a Taige lathe and a Sherline mill. I left it Sequence: Shape the frame and on because (to me. and they’re not locked in concrete. Second. It’s attached to the crank chose Loctite because I knew that shaft with Loctite. Less friction is a and you’re done. as the assem. With that in mind. I chucked a 1-inch and D before drilling them. Cut to length on the frame. and block to provide the necessary it worked the first time. no challenge for them at all. This page gives some notes on the design. and I could not bond these pieces square.” In the plans I suggest drilling this hole through. This was messy. Instead I mounted the cylinder block to the frame with a piece of broken 1/16” drill bit. It was only necesanother one 5/8” thick. good thing. in case you haven’t already gathered that. Flywheel: The flywheel is a little Piston: I milled flats on the piston small for this engine. it would need to clear the spring. It looks better this way.” then rotated the flywheel to run the cylinder block through its arc. Moral? Save yourself some grief and do it right the first time! davegood@gte. sharpened to a point. though. If you tap all the way through you’ll have to use a shorter screw and use Loctite on it to hold it in. Cylinder Block. Brassy runs to provide clearance where it rides better with a larger flywheel. Then I drilled the ports at each end of the arc scribed on the frame. I made over the crank. This would be messy and make disassembly a pain in the backside . half the thickness down to 1/4” the average piano wire is tougher diameter to reduce the rubbing area than the average eye. but I each side. mount the cylinder block and Spring: I wound the spring from crank/crankshaft. though. in hole “G. wire around it and anchored the Crank: The crank is 1/8” thick “throwaway” end to a nearby wall. You could use epoxy two of the wafers. shaft and washer. I chose to turn precautions if you try this. It worked just fine. I used the piston.

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