Bee-ing Creative: Build a Gas Engine
Cabin fever leads one collector to build a gas engine from spare parts
Jim White built this gas engine from spare parts including Witte flywheels, a John Deere head, Sparta Economy piston and rod, Fairbanks-Morse governor and additional pieces from his local salvage yard.
Sometimes it is just necessary to invent a project, or build a gas engine, when the weather is cold, snow is on the ground and you’re tired of staying inside.
Going through my excess inventory (junk pile), I found a set of Witte flywheels, a John Deere head, Sparta Economy piston and rod, a Fairbanks-Morse governor, and a crankshaft that worked with the Witte flywheels, though I don’t remember what engine it came from. Having a local salvage yard is certainly a big help in developing projects, so I went there looking for more parts. I found a hydraulic cylinder with an inside diameter that was a perfect fit for the Sparta piston, some C-channel for an engine base and cart rails, well pipe to use as the outside water jacket, a pump off a glue machine, a set of self-aligning pillow block bearings from a shrink wrapper and an oiler off an old metal lathe. Then, it was back to the shop with this wonderful “collection.”
Determining the engine base
Step one was to find a crankshaft gear, so I used a Fairbanks-Morse ZC 118 as I also had the cam gear and governor from the same engine.
Next, I worked on the pillow block bearings for use as main bearings, the narrow pulley to be used as a drive source for the water pump, and then the flywheels. Starting there determined the necessary width for the engine base, which was made by cutting two pieces of the C-channel from the salvage yard. I bolted the bearing to the C-channel and I had an engine bed.
Prepping the hydraulic cylinder
Step two consisted of cutting the hydraulic cylinder to length, which meant using a few calculations to determine the crankshaft throw distance, as well as piston length and combustion chamber size when the piston is top center.
The next job began by cutting a half-inch steel plate to attach to each end of the cylinder, providing a water jacket as well as something to anchor the head. Upon welding one end to the cylinder (head end), I cut a piece of well casing to provide the outside of the water jacket and then welded this to the first plate. Next, I welded the other steel plate to the hydraulic cylinder and then to the well casing.
I then drilled a hole through the well casing and hydraulic cylinder to provide an access point for the oiler. This was fairly simple to do by drilling a hole the size of a section of 1/4-inch steel pipe through the water jacket and a smaller hole through the hydraulic cylinder to be threaded. I then welded the pipe where it came through the well casing, making the intrusion water tight. This was followed by drilling a 1/2-inch hole in the top and bottom of the well casing for an entry and exit space for water circulation. With those steps finished, it was time to pressure test the water cylinder, and I found a couple of leaks based on the soap test. I got out the grinder and rewelded the spots. The second soap test revealed just one leak, so I fixed that spot again.
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