A Really, Really Good Book on Engine Building

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Everything I ever built ran------eventually. The key word in there is eventually. As the old song goes "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen---" There were two sides to all these engines that ran. One side was that I didn't want to have built an engine that was a failure.--And perhaps even more important, I didn't want others on the forum seeing that I had failed. There are a finite number of things that will keep an engine from running. I think I know all of them. Very often it's a number of unrelated things that keep an engine from running, and the big secret is to figure out what they are. One thing about building a lot of engines, is that you get to see darned near everything that affects how an engine runs, and find "work arounds" or fixes that will let the engine run.---Brian
Brian: I am aware of what you have in that thread. The engine I have built is the Upshur flat twin. Others have built this engine and have not had a problem. This engine seems to be jinxed. I solve one problem and another problem comes up. I get good compression on the piston and then a valve hangs up or suddenly stops seating or the push rods seem to bind up. Not really sure what the problem is. I have been back on this thing several times and for some reason I just cannot get everything to come together at the same time.

Presently I am back working on the 1/8 scale Rumely Oil Pull I build recently. I have a clutch on it but I am not happy with it so I am reworking and redesigning that and doing some other cosmetic things. I always have something on the shelf which I think that I can improve. Sometimes I actually do improve it but my track record is not 100%.
Brian, going back to your OP, we seem to have established that nobody knows of a book to meet your requirements. You were not seeking suggestions as to what to build next, but are you any clearer about what it is you are looking for?
Charles, I have no idea. I have been building engines almost steadily for 14 years, and this is the first time I haven't felt like doing any more. I'm enjoying the break, but don't know what I will do next.---Brian
Hi Brian,
I had a similar thing a few years back. I reckon I have been in the doldrums for a few years. I have a few steam engines that are worn out and need some new bits, water pump castings to be machined and made, and a boiler or 2.... plus a half done generator project! But I feel I am becoming more productive now, as I have done a couple of boiler refurbish projects for my local club, and the need for water pumps has pushed me to making 2 hand pumps - just about completed. Those projects have got me "back on the tools".... so try something really different, like a Tesla turbine and generator, or something, maybe a compressor - to be driven by one of your infernal combustion engines? Or maybe take a break and make that tool, jig or fixture you thought about a while back, but other projects took precedence?
A project I have enjoyed is a steam boat, as the boiler needs to look after itself, the condenser has to be sized to match the engine, the boiler feed-pump has to be set to return the condensate to the boiler, but not over-sized and pump air.... the engine and screw have to be sized to give the correct performance for the model hull and need a reversing arrangement driven by the remote control.... lots of odd problems to occupy your noggin!
And a nice "ornament" when you get it all balanced and move on!
Years ago, after working as a carpenter in the building industry for many years, I gave it up and became a mobile mechanic. I bought a very big compressor that just fitted in my BMC mini van (UK based you know) so I could also spray cars. I did this for about 18 months or so then I went back to being a carpenter. Perhaps Brian you need to shut the door on your workshop, build a shed in the back garden, install heat and light and take up pottery or woodwork. You might even find out you can paint (pictures not engines). A word of warning. Don't sit around for too long, keep busy. Good luck.
Hi Brian,
You could write a book - or a few books - of the 14 engines? - or your life? A bit of history around the engines, and some of you anecdotes - will make excellent reading, I'm sure, because many of us find your writings here so entertaining.
My Grandfather did and recently (50 years after Granddad passed) my brother published it (on-line publishing is cheap), so it is available. - Only short, but tells of times we don't know and will never experience.
I bet yours will be interesting to modellers, and some others?

I totally sympathize with your need to get away for awhile. I've not had much shop time for an extended period of time and various life events have kept me away as well. I've "got back" to the point where I just enjoy doing little "fixit" projects, as I can just go out and make things now that my machines and skills match up pretty well. Sometimes just taking a half-hour to make a bracket or something can be satisfying.

My wife and I had some adventures over the summer with cooking and gardening, without getting obsessive about any of it: Totally enjoyable when not trying to meet deadlines or impress anyone.

In your book search, perhaps expanding to read some history might spur you to think in new directions. (For example, several years ago I was reading about airships and came accross the information that the famous German ships had to consider the weight of the fuel [diesel fuel] and that meant that the engines were huge and heavy themselves in order to be efficient and keep running at full throttle for hours on end. (Obvious when you think about it, but not immediately apparent) I also came accross the statement that the "rocker arms reversed" to switch from forward to reverse running: How did that work?)

If you are interested in contemplating things to make, but in a new direction, here are some things I have been thinking about. (But I'm just thinking, not even sketching or drawing.)

The levitating electric motor (See, I even forgot the name of it.)

A "Water Engine" that runs on water instead of steam or air, machined out of plastic (I don't stretch to 3-D printing yet).

Some kind of fluid device for entertainment, where colored liquid substitutes for the moving parts we like in our engines, or substitutes for the mechanical objects in some of your devices you have made. Whatever it would be, it would be made of clear plastic and have clear tubing.

A device using lots of electromagnetic parts: I once thought about building a pinball machine for the grandkids, but they have all grown up before I even got to the planning stage.


Enjoy the break

When I hit the wall on a project I find it works to do something in the shop but different than an engine. I just got through replacing the lubricating wicks and adjusting my South Bend lathe. In the past I built a small rotary table which works better than my larger table in some cases. I always have a list of maintenance projects or shop built tools. Some of these projects take a day or less and some involve days or weeks. Perhaps tear down, clean and adjust your new band saw. Build some special tool for your shop like perhaps a cutter grinder. Perhaps build a complete machine like Rudy K Case Tractor or steam roller. Build something for your grandkids or the kid next door like a finger engine.
On water engines. These can be run from the domestic water supply faucet/tap. (Dual language to avoid confusing our colonial cousins). The first hose with a regular electrical supply belonged to Armstrong, of Armstrong-Whitworth fame, a Victorian gun maker. His 100 ton gun still sits in the castle in Gibraltar. His Armstrong works is in Newcastle. His house - Cragside - can be visited and some days the water-engines power electricity. They are configured like horizontal steam engines, but use water from the reservoir instead of steam. Valve timing has "no cut-off", as the water is incompressible. In a village in County Durham there is also a preserved water engine, I think it runs on high days and holidays? This one was built in 19th c. For a big house, but not sure of details.


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Brian, this picture in the website article about Harry Ricardo shows a v-twin that he designed using one cylinder to pump the second to run as a 2-stroke engine, using auto-valves.
I find these odd-ball engines to be interesting....
The Doxford engines were opposed - piston units. Burmeister & Wain and Harland & Wolff both produced true double-acting opposed - piston units ~ a world of difference and pigs to sail with.