need help with steam engine choices

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D&J Fitzgerald

Active Member
Jun 3, 2018
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Ottawa, Ontario Canada
hello, i am a newbee, i have a question perhaps someone could answer. I wish to build a Vertical Double Steam Engine with reverse gear. i have looked on the internet at at various plans offered for free down loading but non fit the bill, i cannot cast were we are living nore am i interested at this time. if i must cast then these would have to be custom made ,but from whom, i do not know. what i am looking for is a set of plans for a double vertical marine engine with drawings for reverse gear. i wish a cylinder bore of 1 inch not 3/4the vessel is 8 ft. long, the stuart double ten as an example is too small according to articals i have read. i am looking for one that does not require castings.

if not, can i increase the size of the vertical Jepson engine plans to a 1 1/4 bore, this engine is not a double its a single this the reason for a 1 1/4 inch bore asopposed to a 1 inch bore. i have another set of free plans also for a bigger engine the plan for this engine are exellent its a unit with a Lp cylinder and Hp cylinder but it requires castings or can i not use castings and instead mill solid material. this engine plan comes with no reverse gear drawings either which is a problem. also i cannot find any good books on amazon nor ebay on how to build a steam engine sadly, what is available is not according to people whom bought some of the few books available, not very helpfull. any help on the above would be appreciated very much. i have a mill and lathe but still must purchase some tooling. i wish to indicate how happy i was in ordering for the little machine shop, they are very good highly recommended.

thank you kindly
Stuart twin launch would do as that is a twin 1" bore vertical and has reversing gear. You could just buy the drawings from Stuart and fabricate / cut from solid.

How much machining experience do you have and what machines are available.
Hello Jason , Thanks for your imput, you say buy the drawings from Stuart, ok. I have several plans, i really don't want to buy plans from Stuart, i have one plan for a large steam engine but it has no reverse gear indicated its 8 inches long 7 inches in height, bore of the hp cylinder is 1 1/4 i think and the low pressure cylinder is smaller. i have another plan for a unit no castings required with a 3/4 bore but its limited to a five ft model.
regarding stuart i will consider it, i did not know they sold the plan for the engine. where would that plan be located on there website? No i have never used a Metal Lathe nor milling machine but have both one is on the way. Lathe Standard 7×14 100 mm three jaw chuck type. i am a model ship builder i can read plans but drawings for engines are a little different. I need to have understanding on how to covert the drawings to the production of the finished parts. i have a question why bother making a mould that is in wood the exact same dimentions as the part to be fabricated, for a cast when you can simply mill the part once in the selected material for the part?
i have been looking for books on understanding drawings and also books on how exactly to build a engine and exactly how the lathe is used in doing so, and all the spacific tooling required to build an engine and how each tool is applied. but i cannot find a book or books. i want to build a steam on the first go, its just learning to connect all the pieces together in order to acheive that goal. question can lead steel be used for the cylinder, or how about brass , i don't want to use aluminum one scratch on this metal and you must start over.
i am hope full it will turn out just fine. tell me how much are the stuart plans would you happen to know? look forward to your response, thanks very much. dan.
Hi D&J Fitzgerald !

hello, i am a newbee, i have a question perhaps someone could answer. I wish to build a Vertical Double Steam Engine with reverse gear. i have looked on the internet at at various plans offered for free down loading but non fit the bill, i cannot cast were we are living nore am i interested at this time. if i must cast then these would have to be custom made ,but from whom, i do not know. what i am looking for is a set of plans for a double vertical marine engine with drawings for reverse gear. i wish a cylinder bore of 1 inch not 3/4the vessel is 8 ft. long, the stuart double ten as an example is too small according to articals i have read. i am looking for one that does not require castings.

I also look for plans that does not require castings, but there is not
Maybe I will based on free plans, modify .... with separate sections and combine them together
Stuart list the drawings in the "spares" part of their site, bottom of list

Having said that with your total lack of model engineering ability I would suggest you choose a barstock design to start with and even then something smaller to practice on before your launch engine would be a good idea. Ray Hasbrook's book has plans and build descriptions for about 12 engines several of which will power a launch of teh size you are thinking of or the larger ones could be scaled down a bit, #5 and #8 would be likely candidates or two of the singles could be built onto the same base to give a twin.

If you have a Google for "Ray Hasbrook Engines" you should get plenty of results and maybe even find a build thread or two.

A solid piece of cast iron bar would be a good choice for your cylinder or bronze if being silver soldered together from several parts.

A Couple more drawing sets that will give you an idea of whats involved with a 2 cylinder marine engine, both these would suit, maybe scale the second down a bit, if you prefer imperial sizes then allow 1mm =1/32" which will bring it down from 38mm ( 1.5") bore to 1 3/16"

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hello , i thank all of you for your input,i will most certainly look ray up. I do plan on learning via some smaller projects, i will start by making some aluminum grooved pullys, i plan on also building a miniature search light out of brass or copper, drilling some precision holes, using messure instrments also some engineers scale rules, dial indicator, and vernier calibor which is in my order that i am still waiting for. i did find a cylinder steam engine drawing but the cylinder head diameter is not indicated. that really does not matter since castings are required. i checked out the Stuart Big Twin , plans thats perhaps the engine i will build but i will as your advice indicated , build something simple first before i tackle something larger, learning first is a must. i will ask again, this question, can i use Lead Steal for the Cylinder head, a machinist who's artical i read said that lead steel could be used and then heated to harden the block after the initial boring work is completed. another question i have is this, does the steamchest need to be milled as part of the cylinder head or can it be milled seperately and added to the cylinder head? Also regarding a boiler, i wish to build my own boiler as opposed to buying one, i thought a vertical one would take up less space, i was thinking of one that produces a 120 psi max. pressure and understand that any boiler whom's operating pressure is over 50 psi will require brazing as opposed to soft souldering, is this correct?
i have seen some plans for boilers already i prefer a Vertical boiler, please tell me what you think? were i lack, is in understanding the numbers on the blue prints and how i drill and tap holes in given locations and centering the holes in the exact locations indicated in the plans, i need to figure that out as well. another question i have is can buy to sets of castings for a stuart no'7 build them and somehow connect the crankshafts together at the crank ends if i set the crank shafts to oppose the firing order would that also not work, the problem i do see in such a scheme is that while i could revers the front engine the rear would not reverse in order to reverse both the shift into reverse direction must be timed perfectly so both shift at exactly the same moment,well i must go.thank you all.
hello again out there, i have looked at Rays book and some video's on some of his engines. there are apparently 12 sets of plans for his different engines, question, in one video i saw a small one 12 inches in height , are some of the vertical designs small units for a 7 foot tug? or must i scale one of the 12 down, are all his plans for real boats?
please reply.
thank you Dan.
You would be better off using Cast Iron or Bronze bar to machine your cylinder from.

Yes silver braze the copper boiler

Steam chest can be done either way, separate makes it a bit easier to get at the port face to get it flat and machine the ports.

With the No7 pair you would be better off making a single crankshaft, the reverse lever usually has a bar that allows it to control the reversing linkages at both ends of the engine from one place on a twin or triple.

Rays book has small engines as well as ones that will do upto a 20ft hull, you could make one of the small engines as a practice piece then the larger. Big ones will be fine in a real launch
Hello out-there,Thanks very kindly. i located the Book on Rays engines and will buy one for christmas i am sure my wife won't mind. i had a issue with my lathe chuck sticking, but found the corresponding numbers ,1,2,3 on the inside of the chuck i had the chuck claws in wrong, this happened because i could not find the numbers on the chuck it self, i have fixed the problem. i have a14×7 lathe and a small milling machine its a Seige clone. i have not run it yet, i have tested it it works fine , i ordered some aluminum round and brass round to make some simple precision parts as I already noted. Regarding Stuart that double with a one inch bore is a real nice piece, i will conider it. I looked at rays engines on Video, i commend Ray on his designs and those that have built them, fine work,i hope my first effort turns close to as perfect as theirs. In one video i think its a number 5 or was it a 3, it was 12 inches tall a single,i saw it run on yutube at 1 psi and i think thats the engine for my giant tugboat. i should before jumping headfirst into a Stuart Double, build one of Rays first. I could also build the crank shaft in three parts, the Chinese have built successfully big diesel engine's with crankshafts were the Journals actually can be dismantled individualy, for individual replacement , these engines run at 2000 rpm max. i may there fore not mill a solid crankshaft but rather mill it in three pieces then press fit all three then check for true, please tell me your thoughts on this?

For those of you whom are model ship builders,i have ordered a set of plans for a Steam Winch, this also will be used as a training build for me, before i attempt a steam engine.

i had asked about lead steal for the steam engines cylinder case hardened via heat before or after the boring,i thought after but then realized that, heat after the bore may alter the bore it self due to expantion. i guess lead steal is not recommended? it is apparently easy to mill but cannot be welded or brazed.
question, does rays plans come with reversing gear plans?
I also need a 4 and 1/2 inch Dia three blad prop, i saw some for sale but i am going to build my own prop, another test for training myself on precision messurements . i waslooking at four Jaw Chucks as well, this is recommended for precision work by a home machinist in the UK whom has a Myford Metal Lathe he has an artical on google, i thank him for presenting the the required tools to build model engines , in particular. i bought a book on lathes for the home machinist but i bought the wrong one, as it is for machinists that already have the basic understanding,i require a complete beginners book you" no like the old Dos for Dummies! i have learned many things because of the kindness of other home machinists whom took the time to share what theyknow, i thank all of you very kindly.

regarding rays engines, i would like to see if he has a small single with a 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 bore a single of this size it all i need for my 7 ft tug. thank you for the info on the Stuart no"7 also still in the consideration phase. i will start by buying a absolute beginners book on metal lathes, and will buy Rays book as well.
thank you very kindly all of you please send me photos of your engines i would love to see all of them.
A full size steam engine and a Stuart 5A
Hello again, Thanks for the Photo's. Stuart 5A both engines look real. i have a question or two, i cannot find Ray Hasbrooks descriptions of all the engines indicated in his book, unless i buy a copy, which i am going to do. My question is, in the book, is there a set of plans for a small double Vertical say with 1 to 1 1/4 bore, or a single with a single with a 1 1/4 bore that would fit my 7 ft. tugboat? could someone please answer this question thanks. i ordered a few sets of plans as beginner projects on my Lathe, the first a scale steam ships winch, the second, a hobbyist table saw, third a set of plans for a model outboard lower unit, designed for a 049 . the table saw is for a 4 to 5 inch blade, i need this to cut flat brass and other metals, all the componets for the saws drive system are contained in the drawings, made of metal rounds. the mini outboard lower unit i wish to perhaps produce say five of them, keep one sell the rest, the steam winch, again build five keep one, sell the rest, i might make five table saws, keep one sell the rest, i will use the profits for more tooling for my lathe and mill, i wish to someday buy a bigger lathe say one that is 8 by 20 or something like that!

Some information now on my.monitoring Drill Press Conversions to milling machines an interesting subject for those interested. ok i know some will Mock the very suggestion, but i have watched a few( what i refered to as a poor mans milling machine) the question i had was, can it actually be done? well yes and no is the answer, one fellow tried a year ago or so and failed completely, but the reason is that he did not have a Lathe to build the modification parts required. Vertical drilling with a Drill Press is fairly accurate, but any sideways loads and the drillpress Quil goes out of alignment, i have watched several people try with only two success stories reported recently. one of these, the fellew that successfully modified one, made some changes to his drill press, he indicated that a standard drill press quil bearing cannot take side loads and has alot of run-out when attempted, so he removed the quil and removed the bearing he then enlarged the hole the bearing sits in and he installed a wider bearing, the problem was that the clearence between the bearing and quil was not close enough in tollerence he ended up with a run out of 000.5 according to his dial indicator once the modification was completed. he also installed a threaded bolt to lock the unit and also added a worm gear with dial wheel, he seemed quite pleased with the results that is all i know for now. i will not comment on these conversions, accept to say that a milling machine is very expensive, and the cost for one has never come down here on ebay the cheapest is 1000.00$ .

i was looking a stuarts websight at the No7 yes two of these would be wonderfull, but unless i win the lottery, i will stick with the Ray Hasbrook option, the 7's are 245.00$ pounds Stirling which is about 400.00'$ Canadian plus taxes, duty and postal costs for each units castings. now finally some bad news, i found out that the manufacture of my lathe did NOT bolt the motor in place, its sitting in its small cavity loosely,i have decided that i am going to tear the lathe apart and rebuild or clean the entire thing up, i could send it back but thats more trouble then its worth, and as small as it is 7×14 its so heavy i can hardly lift it, mine has a 100 mm. three jaw chuck and 100mm centre height, its a nice lathe. i do not like the two plastic wheels one of which is on the tail stock , i also do not like the metal bracket holding the tailstock on the bed with a rediculious nut and bolt alignment method,also mine came with no wrench at all to remove the Chuck the instructions with the unit were simply garbage consisting of very little information and the parts schemetic required a magnifine glass to even read it, but when i finally went out and bought a magnifine glass i found out that the motor in the unit was not the motor indicated in the drawings of the parts schemetic that is on page 8 of the manual. mind you i only paid 500.00$ for the lathe apparently a new one. I could have bought the real mini lathe from china that has a 60 watt motor centre distance of 100 mm. but that will not build u a model engine. the lathes bed is very accurate, mine has all the features of the bigger lathes and a 550 watt motor of which does appear to be very heavy built, it has a small toothed belt their are some very plastic gears and spares that came with it, i think i will eventually convert it to metal gears and also a independant four jaw chuck is coming as well.
i still have Not received my tooling package i ordered from the little machine shop, but hopefully next week or the week after.

Regarding the mini outboard plans, These plans as far as i know are the only ones in existance, and this unit has solid bevel gears in the lower gear case, i guess i could make bevel gears for it via what is known as gear hobbing. or buy them they are in-exspensive. I am saddened that single cylinder diesel engines are no longer manufactured. i have noted a few modelers attenpts to build real diesel engine minatures, interesting? well must go, one other question i have is it true that a three jaw chuck is not as accurate as a four jaw. Thanks again for the two photo's some photos of Ray Hasbrooks engines would accepted as well.
Hello Jason, thanks for writing, and sending the photograph, real nice single, you indicated that you took care of the engines Knock, please tell, what caused knock? nice base casting, i cannot make a casting were were we are residing thats is impossible, i have the ability to make wooden plugs with my wood lathe which i also have in my collection of tooling, but i cannot cast with a furnace here that is the problem. you say the engines bore is 24mm. but the engine you show, running is that the engine you built that has the 24mm bore i only ask because it seems smaller in the video? that engine would work for my tugboat if it had a 24 mm. bore with a added reversing gear and lever, but again for me ,i cannot cast the base, maybe i could make the mould and a outside sourse for a casting of the base and cylinder. i need to know, what tools do i need to transfer the dimmentions from the plans to the metal and accurately align the lathe and tooling to do the milling work? is there a book help with this or do i need several books, one on lathe mill operations and usage, another on understanding how to take dimentions off of the plans and accurately transfer those dimentions onto the metal with pin point accuracy. please share with me what you know, if your willing? I have some good plans down loaded into my phone, but practically all of them require Castings and some of the plans do not give some dimentions of the cylinder for creating an accurate wooden plug. the best of the bunch is two plans of the same engine this one is big 8 inches long 7 inches high with hp and lp cylinders of about a under two inch bore its a real nice engine the details in the drawings are the best i have found yet, i could avoid the castings and use bar stock if i so chose to do so including the base, my problem here first is that i found that this engine has no reverse gear indicated, but i will recheck that to make sure, second i can read the plans as i have built model ships for 35 years and have a complete understanding of ship blue prints, but in the case of working model engine plans i do not know how to take the messurements from the plans and apply them to the metal with accuracy, this is where i am a little lost, i will learn but need some help with the right books on topics such as how too use a lathe and mill set up and how to use messurement tools and a list of what exact tools are required and how to operate these machines successfully in the building of engines.

question for you Jason may i ask you how many hrs it took you from start to finish the engine in the video. look forward to hearing from you, and thats a real nice piece of work, thanks for sharing.
I did put the word casting in inverted commas, there are no castings used for that engine all fabricated or cut from solid. For the base I started with 4 bits of aluminium

After a bit of milling it starts to look more like a casting


Engine is just under 7" tall, about a month to 6 weeks work weekends and the odd evening


This is the naked engine where it is easier to see the materials used

The knock was just a loose pin in the cross head.

You are probably better off watching some you tube videos and reading some good build threads to see what is needed to make an engine and how to use your machines. I have not written that one up yet but this is the build of a horizontal engine that will give some idea of how I do a simple engine.,5820.0.html
Hi" Jason got your information ,hey thanks. i have a plan for single similar to yours, it indicates that the standard must be casted, the Vertical Single is basicaly the same as the Stuart no"7 with the same standard and the base plate is the same as yours in design. the Standard has two drawings ,each representing one side and legs. i would much rather mill both the base plate and standard which is what iam going to do. the design i have has a 1 1/4 inch bore . The plan comes with a reversing mech; as well. the builder indicates the design is a Heavy Duty one. There is a builder from the UK on Google who has an artical on all the tooling required, he states that a lathe and drill press are all that is needed. and a number of chuck tools are also indicated and messuring tools. i will use my milling attachment on the lathe and face plate to accomodate the milling process, my milling machine. I will build the single i have desided, but your right some simpler projects must me build first for experience. tell me what kind of lathe do you have, and do you a attachment for a milling machine and centre plate or do you have a seperate milling machine. Do you use a four jaw chuck or three jaw for building steam engines, if four, is it a independant chuck. what other metals can i use for the engine outside of aluminum if iam not sandcasting. i mentioned lead steel, or mild steel ,gun metal....? please tell me, what other engines have you built? as well.

which book do you think would of help to me in building my first Vertical single steam engine, do you have any recommendations? i have seen a few books on both ebay and amazon, there is a TubalCain book, and a few others. i am going to buy the ray hasbrook book for sure for christmas. and another book on metal lathes for beginner ( a dos for dummys) like me. I am not in any rush, also i plan on making my own 4 1/2 inch three blade prop out of brass plate as well. my Biggy tugboat is 3/4 quarters planked, i am working on that too. sorry i have no photos that i can send you. Tonight i will go into google and copy all the tooling i need for model engine building listed. by this builder in the UK.

another question i have is why did you choose aluminum for the base plate? i better go now listen thanks very much for all the information.
If you will PM me with your email address so that I can contact you - I have two books by Stan Bray I can send you. One is Marine Steam Engines for Model Boats. The other is on the construction of model steam engines and boilers. Both are excellent and can be used as a starting point. His designs and explanations are excellent in Metric and US measure and could be scaled as needed.
Hi there i just received your message and thank you very much that would be great please let tell me Mr. DW when you have time the kinds of steam engines you have built. and thanks very much for your help.

my email address is [email protected]
regards the apprentice
Dear DW. I received your email, did you receive mine? You indicated that my building a eight ft. tug was hard to fathom, i had the plans enlarged by the Office Depot, originally i wanted it to be enlarged to Ten feet, as i wanted to put in a five hp briggs and Stratton engine in it modified for marine applications but i did not since the weight and transport to the water would have been difficult. so i opted for a 2 ft smaller version. right now the tugs hull is almost finished withbit first planking i am going to Double plank it, no fiberglassing will be resorted too at all. i was debating a steam engine for it, its certainly big enough, but i wanted a steam engine that would push the tug to seven knots with 1/3 in reserve , and power enough so that it could tow anything with out resistance i also decided on a Vertical Boiler. but now need the right engine either a big heavy duty single steam engine with reverse gear or a big double running a max of 120 psi. also i wanted to build a steam engine i could sell and would build four at a time, further i bought a set of plans for a steam winch and a mini outboard motor leg and i bought another set of plans for a home built small table saw. i have a vertical nine inch bandsaw already but do not know were to find metal cutting blades for it.
i want to and will marketing a line of scale Search Lights exact replacas of real ships search lights of yesteryear milled from solid brass and sell these as well , to off set the costs of tooling for my lathe and other stuff, i want a bigger better lathe at some point a 20 by 8 or 9. i have indeed the skill to produce both steam and ic engines my problem as stated is simply learning to use the lathe and mill and how to messure off the plans which most are two dimentional . I prefer steam engines over gas engines, the Stuart Sirus really interested me, but has no reversing capability. but the steam engine i love the most is the vertical twin or big single like the Stuart 7 or the next one up. castings are no real problem its the two dimentional parts on the plans for the Standard that are throwing me off, i have a 36 inch wood lathe that is very capable of producing the molds and quite quickly i might add but, i cannot produce castings here as i cannot run a furnace here. making Rays designs thus far my best bet. i also have a set of plans for Fairmile B also enlarged to 120 inches why big, simple they are easy to build. I thank all whom have given me advice and i have seen some real engineers here and there great work they have done and i am proud to be part of this forum.

i have indeed the skill to produce both steam and ic engines my problem as stated is simply learning to use the lathe and mill and how to messure off the plans which most are two dimentional .

This statement is somewhat contradictory. You need to learn the skills of mill and lathe use (as well as plan reading) to be able to build these engines. It can be quite a bit more difficult than it seems. Starting with a casting is an even bigger challenge, though it may seem to be easier at first glance. I recommend you start with the tried-and-true method of a simple oscillating engine and build up your skills from there.
hello, thank you for your sound advice, generally speaking, your advice would be correct, I actually do plan on some lessor projects but not engines, but the same rules do apply. i have found a way to practice using a plan with out risking a error that could cost me a new engine,i do not have a issue with understanding dimentions there is way to take the dimentions off the plans and build a accurate prototype, the secret methods homemachinests have obviously learned. i do accept a trial and error approach to this problem with out the cost of ruining parts of a new engine. so i will make instead make wooden molds and use these at a loss until i have contructed my vertical steam engines casting molds, most of the plan i understand with some confusion simply on the standard, it has two legs and four sides two of which include the legs. i beleive that the standard must be molded into two parts or a whole part, made slightly larger as the plans indicate the finished sized, 3 /32nd extra for machining seems reasonable, so my first build will be a single cylinder vertical with reverse gear. molds by the way are a easy build, molding and casting is to me easyest. my problem is that i cannot run a furnace here. I will use a Drill Press and milling attachment with face plate, you do NOT require a milling machine for a steam engine build. Now unlike in past more and more people are able to and have developed ways to convert a drill press to s milling machine, the problem initially for the conversion was that the quill in a drill press could not successfully cut horizontally, the quill moved from side to side to the degree that accurate milling could not be acheived. Then enough people decided to figure out why and created a solution, and two people were successfull, but you need a lathe for the attempted conversion to mill the parts for the conversion. one issue that was found was that the bearing in the standard press was not high enough to take the side loads and arbour was not tight enough this caused the mill to go out on side load cuts way out, you place a stop bolt into the press to keep the quill from falling out. its a bit of work but any successfull machinest whom can build a engine should be able to covert a drill press into a milling machine. Milling machines do not seem to decrease in cost per unit, they are way over priced. the smallest one on ebay is 1000.00$ or more plus 500.00 or less for shipping, hardly worth it. i will attempt the conversion. regarding your advice my understanding is that a steam engine is not hard to build its the set up on the lathe that requires the most time. i have been building model ships off plans for thirty five years this helps me to understand.
thank u.

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