Trying to get flame licker to run

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Jan 20, 2019
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452042B2-80E8-4065-89A9-9DAB9B446B83.jpeg 64055DDD-008A-45E8-8284-2BD66C7ED0CE.jpeg FDDF900D-9F83-4921-93A8-130A9AFBD3FD.jpeg 07E128CB-96A5-450D-9861-A34EA7B35F6D.jpeg Hello everybody, I’ve recently completed Jan Ridders internal valve engine. Been trying now for about a week to get the bugger to run. To be honest I don’t even think it’s trying to run. I’ve read numerous articles along with Jan’s trouble shooting suggestions. Just can not seem to get’er to catch. Anybody willing to offer some thoughts and or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I am using denatured alcohol
Fully assembled and with a good flick of the wrist she will spin for over 6 seconds
I do have noticeable compression
Valve just covers intake port as piston gets to BDC
I’ve tried all sorts of positions for wick as well as adding shims under tank
I can see the flame being pulled in
Piston/valve/cylinder are all 303 stainless
Piston and valve are dry with just a pencil rubbed on there sides

I’ve tried easy spinning of fly wheel as well as a quick flick of the wrist, engine just does not seem to wanna catch. As long as I have the wick to either side of intake port, it pulls a blue flame in. If I move the wick directly in front it turns into a flame thrower, I have flames shooting all over the place. Lost some hairs on my hand, lol

I have read that these are hard to get started, at this point even a glimmer of life I would be excited.


Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2012
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Perth, Western Australia
They can be truly difficult things to get to run. If you're confident all the step in Jan Ridders troubleshooting list have been met then it comes down to fuel (at least 95% alcohol) and flame placement. If the flame position is off by even a millimetre or two it may not run. I've included a video of mine running and at about the 1:20 mark it wants to stop and you can see the tiny flame adjustment I made which makes a big difference to its speed. You'll get it to run eventually I'm sure. Good luck!



Well-Known Member
Aug 29, 2007
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Clean the valve and the surface it sits on thoroughly. But, more importantly, preheat the cylinder; hold it in the alcohol flame for a minute or so prior to trying to start the engine. If the cylinder is too cold it will quench the flame (i.e. suck the heat from it) before the valve can close and contain the vacuum which allows atmospheric pressure to drive the engine.


Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporting Member
Sep 2, 2011
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you say it will spin over 6 seconds with a good flick. thats not long enough in my opinion. now mine uses graphite for piston/valve and the piston/valve are siezed in the cylinder until the cylinder gets up to running temperature hot. and then the ss expands more than the graphite does and thus frees up. however even without a flame to power it. as long as its hot and not siezed mine will spin over with a flick way longer than 6 seconds


Littlelocos Model Engrg
HMEM Sponsor
Nov 5, 2008
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Hagerstown, Maryland
I see that you're using denatured alcohol. Just confirming that this is the stuff from the paint aisle at the hardware store and not the stuff from the drug store. The latter is 30% water and won't burn hot enough.

Also, my magic elixer is Kano Kroil. (Aerokroil, from, also Amazon sells it now) It stands up to the heat, provides a good lubricant, and doesn't gum up. Our flame lickers are cast iron pistons and either cast iron or silicon bronze cylinders. Your stainless/stainless combination should have some lubricant. The graphite may actually provide too much drag, although it sounds like yours spins very freely.

You can check the piston/cylinder seal by covering the valve port with your finger and pulling a vacuum with the piston. It should take some force to pull the piston back. It should also spring forward when letting the flywheel go.

The flame placement is critical. The wick should be just below the valve port and the flame just close enough to cover the opening. The idea is to heat the incoming air as it passes through the flame. If the flame is too far out, cool air will leak by.

Hoping this helps,
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