need help with steam engine choices

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Dan, get a copy of Kozo Hiraoka's "The Pennsylvania A3 Switcher", the subtitle of the book is "The first project for the beginner" which is very apt. I have a collection of similar books, and without a doubt Kozo's is the very best. There's more to learn in this hobby than you can ever get from the interweb. Even if you never build this loco the book is worth its weight in gold in that it takes you through all the necessary machining, forming, finishing, and silver soldering, techniques required for any and all steam engines regardless of application. After building this loco according to the book I was able to build a matching "Baldwin American" 4-4-0 (think classic western loco) from scratch with no plans. And to repeat what others have said, don't make your boat engine first, start on something you can put on a shelf if you make too many mistakes (most of us have boxes full of throw-away parts!). And don't start with something too small, too small comes with its own set of challenges. 3/4" to 1" bore is a good place to start for steam, and 1" for IC engines. Peter Lawrence.
Forget using your drill press for milling. Get a "vertical slide" to fit your lathe and then your lathe becomes a mill on it's side. This gives you a suitable spindle and the ability to position the work to 0.001" using the lathes handwheels. Mill is certainly easier but as you say a mill is not needed provided you can develope the skills to use the lathe. This was done without a mill but I would not want to go back to that method again.


I would also forget about making your own patterns and find designs that are made from barstock, even a lot of castings can actually be either cut from solid or fabricated. For example you mention cast standards but with 3 bits of steel and some silver solder plus some machining you can make a "cast" standard




Post the link to the engine you are thinking of doing so we can see if what you are proposing is a good option or not.
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Hi Jasonb !
If possible, you can provide some more image of section in picture :


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Greetings all, thanks Jason for your advice, and also Peter. Ok, I am not going to build Locomotive that is out, I have nothing against trains, but I am a Titanic type, but thank you for trying, the book ,yes thank you I appreciate the advice, and yes steam is really all the same whether a Train, ship or tractor or what ever. I am sorry I am a dummy when it comes to building a engine, but more a dummy when it comes posting photos. I can look up were I down loaded the single vertical I am going to build and then you all will know. Thanks for telling me not to build casting, yes yuck,I don't want to either.

I want to my steam engine out of a softer metal choice, other then hard as rock steel. Could you fellow friends please give some material options and types for example 6061 . I like aluminium but do not want to use it I prefer heavy stuff as my tug needs all the weight it can get.

I asked you all about Lead Steel but no one answered me on that, does lack of response mean No? Please kindly let me know. Ok no drillpress, Roger that; but I am buying one anyway since I need one as I do a bench belt sander for my model ship building.

You that live states side, your lucky you no, because you pay about half what we have to pay up here for a vertical milling machine , I will never ever pay 1500.00$ cad for a milling machine no way . I will stick to a lathe milling attachment and face plate. Jason you do great work thank you for the photos .

I do no how to Braze there you see, one thing I am good at. Ha ha. Boilers, yes will build that too boilers are no easy task neither , but again buying one is expensive. My plans for the condensing steam engine are nice, I was told that I should not attempt it ever, that these are two complicated perhaps so. In going to buy a independent four jaw chuck, but have noted they do not come with a back mounting plate. My chuck is 100mm. I will now go look up the vertical I want to build and indicate where the plans are, which were free to down load.
Thanks again all.
Well if you don't want to use steel or aluminium and you don't seem to like spending money you could be in problems as the only alternatives would be brass and bronze which are considerably more expensive, cylinder could be cut from a block of cast iron bar.

For Minh

Hello Jason, no it's not a matter of spending it it's a matter of what I can afford, I do not mind aluminum after all you did aluminum and it looks great. I cannot afford a milling machine the cost in Canada is astronomical even for a harbour Freight one. Those that have one are very lucky. Some asked exactly which engine am I going to build as my first, here is the answer, anyone wanting to look will have to download the plan I cannot supply it, if anyone wants to take the trouble then come on the forum and give me there over all opinion on the plans and articial included ,by all means ,please do so.

It's on Google's website, the name of the site on google is , steam engine plans - for everything plan number 43down from the top or third from the bottom of the first page. Aphoto of the engine is there and the description simply states" small vertical engine, so please take a look and tell me what you think.

I figure that some items like the Slide valve according to some people I have communicated with, is too tricky for beginners on the first go, but I had a look at the plan and desided that it is not that difficult to build based on the drawing. I will not use castings. I for me, figure that I my as well start with the engine I wish to build as long as I understand the instructions and drawings. I have had another member , help me with the standard question, and I have some books on there way, thanks ever so kindly. I think that many engines are have some hit and miss or have some requirements that require the builder to make ajustments and in testing the finished unit there are ajustments some settings and torque settings are not indicated for example in the case of my engines SlideValve the author of the plan indicated that the nuts for the SlideValve must be fairly tight when screwed on to the threaded part of the SlideValve how tight is guess work by the builder, since the tightness is not specified. It was suggested, that I not build the condensing version, but I may in the future. I will probably end up building a ray double for my tug later once I have enough experience. Which takes time. Mild steel is certainly an option and yes I do know how expensive bronze and brass actually is. But so is aluminum depending on what grades you buy the same as steel. We have had a problem with a screen hacker on our tablets, he is hacking my key pad and my wife and I have big case against Canada right now with the ICC, alot people out there no not Canada at all. I am a Religious Human Rights person which is someone who fights against the scum of the earth , this has led to hacking of our communications, I do not generally speak of this, but since the hacker is currently in here with me, I figured I might as well tell, maybe he will leave. Please don't bother commenting friends we will stick to the engine things. Regards Dan &Jen.
For my marine engines I prefer bronze or gun metal for the cylinders as theres no rust problems when laid up
As most of my model boats spend more time collecting dust than in the water it makes life simpler for me
A horizontal boiler would be my choice as the weight is low down in the hull
If you look on Model Boat Mayhem for the late Pattern Makers build of Wide Awake you may get some info and the boilers designer may chip in
Would it not be possible to simply double up the French designed Soumard twin with reversing gear just below the engine you refer to
Have you seen this site
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Hello Jason, thanks for your message, no I am not interested in French Designs as they are metric and I am not good with metric, yes up here everything is in metric. I prefer imperial measurements they're easy to work with. And I prefer a first engine to be a single, I am going to build one of Rays doubles I am sure for the tug. Props thank you for sending me some websights, I am going to build my own props it's actually not hard to build a prop, left or right either direction will work, having a lathe to.mill a brass hub is a big plus, but in order to place the blades in correctly you will need guides and the hub in the middle, exact middle, a jig for three or four places is required in order for the angle of each blade offset . The jigs are easy to make out of solid brass squares. The engine I referred to is number 43 from the top down or third from the bottom, did you not find it, it's a single vertical.? Must go.
Hi Jason ,you can't find it, that's weird, it's not at Tom, it's in "Steam Engine Plans - For Everything, its title is (Small Vertical Engine) it looks just like a Stuart. It's also on eBay under Steam engine plans. It's the same on my phone as it is on your PC, or it should be.
Dan. Let me know, there should be 45 designs in the list mine is 43 down from the top or third from the bottom.
Hello all, and Jason, I went into Steam engine plans, again, and the engine is there, I emailed them to ask why you cannot find it, or why on your system it's not being shown. I also want to Thank DW for all his help and wish him and all a happy thanks giving in the U.S. Jason I suggest perhaps you email ,Steam engine plans and ask them as well because there address is in Huntington Beach C.A USA my mobile view is the same as your PC, because generally if the site is not applicable to mobile tablets I will get a notification at the bottom of my screen asking me if I want to switch to a mobile friendly site, I never have in that site. I have to go with my laptop to down load the plans so I can print them off and some others I have as well , I cannot down load off my phone for ? Some myst. Reason, my phone is going back to Motorola it was hacked programs changes were made, I can no longer do a Hard reboot from outside the phone, as a result of this filthy hacker. Anyway please try and access those plans since I could really use some advice regarding the drawings.
Again Happy Thanks Giving to all States side and thank you very kindly for all your help.
You had mentioned Toms site earlier but I can see now it is the Woodson engine from Popular Science.
Hi Jason sorry for my late reply, you found it, that's great it comes with the build artical which helps. The drawings are fairly straight forward.

I was checking out milling attachments for my 7×14 lathe many say that it's not a good idea,one reason is the stresses placed on the Saddle, in others, they stated that when using a vertical milling attachment that lights cuts can only be made. Apparently the Milling attachment that the little machine shops sells it not meant for hard bore drilling. I have seen a milling attachment on eBay but it's for a Myford. I have seen some very good four jaw Chuck's, these are not a problem. But the milling attachment is a problem.

I thank you for your advice and the drawing with the bar on it.good set of drawings I see. Others have recommended a Oscillating engine as well , I want a big vertical twin for my tug but must first build the single, but not just one, my first engine shall be four in total .

Ok had a look at that double that other machinist did on his computer,ya I was thinking the same thing ,make the legs separate but he said that the legs perhaps would brass, but the rest of the standard in steel, question how do shoulder brass legs to a steel standard?

Regarding Castings, I would mine out of hard wood if the case then the rest of the parts my as well be casted as well, perhaps for a one off engine, matching all the parts are the way to go, but if you plan on making several of the same engine, then molds you went to great trouble to make can be re-used for a number of the same engine.

Regarding milling items, it would be nice if some company would offer a conversion kit, to change a drill press into a vertical milling machine, I do know that some company's are producing some machined parts for drill presses so that they can mill and take side loads. That's the number one problem with drill presses then no 2 is keeping the quill locked in place so that it does not fall out. You actually can drill out a bore with a press I have been informed, I will check on this further. Well must go.
You are better off to use a vertical slide on a lathe for milling. It is more sturdy than either a vertical milling head attachment or a cobbled up drill press. Many many model engines were made this way in the 100 years or so before cheap Chinese milling machines became available.

Avoid the double-swivel type vertical slides as they are not as robust as the fixed type that has just the single pivot on the base. More sturdy for larger model work. You only need the double swivel type for cutting special gears etc.
You said you can braze so that is ideal for joining brass and steel.
Thank you kindly for all your advice. I was not sure if Brazing was to hot for brass, I have not welded for 25 years, now age and memory are the other half.

I have a 7×14 Chinese lathe, but again I ask you which kind of vertical slide should I buy. I saw some on eBay, each is different ,some have a vertical vice on the slide with a adjustment wheel at the top some just have the slide grooves in them but no clamps to hold work or a mill to it.

Could one of you go on eBay and have a look then let me know your suggestions. There is one there for a Myford 7 it says it applicable to other lathes as well, they give very little information on what they are selling or applications for that matter. They never indicate that a certain product will work on a 7 by 14 or any other lathe.its just Myford seven indicated. I have a nice four jaw independent chuck but comes with no backing plate ? I must go, advice is well accepted.
I asked you all about Lead Steel but no one answered me on that, does lack of response mean No? Please kindly let me know. Ok no drillpress, Roger that; but I am buying one anyway since I need one as I do a bench belt sander for my model ship building.


What you are calling Lead Steel, is probably 12L10 which I find easy to machine.