Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Changing of the Projects

While I haven't decided that my Webster engine is just not going to get any more effort devoted to it, I haven't touched it in a week.  I just have had no luck in getting it to run better.  If anything it has gotten worse.  Maybe it's time to put it on a plaque and stick that on the shelf, but I keep hoping for ideas.  

I don't really have anything picked out to build for the next project.  I have several sets of prints I've downloaded over the years for potential next projects, but nothing has given me that "I have got to do this" feeling.  Naturally, I'd like something that runs better than this engine, and overcomes it's weak spots - I thought relying on the piston creating vacuum to open the intake valve wasn't as reliable as using a push rod to open a valve. 

There's a popular model that I've seen at all both of the shows we've been to that I'm considering.  PM Research sells a kit of castings for a 1/4 scale model of a Hit and Miss engine from the early 20th century that kind of appeals to me.  It had the advantage of being bigger than the Webster; it's just about 2-1/2 cubic inches vs. 3/4 cubic inch.  The flywheel seems just about the limit of what I can turn on my lathe at 8-1/4 diameter (I have an "8-1/2 by" lathe).  This is the water cooled version and they make one that doesn't have that big tank on the right.  The water cooled version was the first model I ever saw, so I think of water cooled as the way to make this engine.

The main drawback is that kit is $500 and I'm sure there will more expenses along the way.  I've never machined something from castings, so there would be lots of learning, that's for sure.

Other thoughts include a Stirling Engine of some sort, or perhaps not an engine at all.  Maybe an orrery

My main project lately has been resurrection of an old project, but on the electronics/ham radio end of the house.  Long time readers might remember me talking of trying to get my ham radio linear amplifier running after the lightning strike we had back in August of '19; summary here.  After I got the insurance reimbursement for the amplifier, I couldn't bring myself to throw it out.  Why?  For all the world, it seemed like the only thing wrong with it was the high voltage/high current power supply.  Unfortunately, the only way I could know that would be to replace the power supply. 

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that I could buy a cheap, lower current power supply and test the radio frequency (RF) deck one subcircuit at a time.  I found one on eBay for $72.  If it ends up being a waste and I don't fix the amplifier, then I'll put it back on eBay myself.

The amplifier is roughly 1/3 power supply and 2/3 RF deck.  The RF deck is my home turf and I feel confident I could fix anything broken in it.  The amplifier has four identical amplifier modules based on a transistor I actually worked with about 20 years ago.  I did primarily receiver design for a living but would help optimize or solve problems with RF power amplifiers that someone else designed. 

The power supply is more a question of determining how much I need to keep and how much I can get rid of and to make that call I pretty much need to understand their schematics and other documentation.  Sparse, but far, far better than what I had in the fall of '19. 


  1. How about a desktop EDM machine?

    Look for BAXEDM on YouTube

  2. Hey there;
    I've been following your site for quite a while and really appreciate your dedication to updating so regularly. I've thought of doing a site of my own, but realize I just don't have that much to say. TMI? Sorry.
    One of the things I really like about you and your presentation is your wide variety of projects. I'm a project guy too, but mostly mechanical. I've been scheming on the idea of taking a couple of lawnmower engines and cannibalizing them to make a sterling engine that would actually be able to drive a generator, or more likely for the sake of efficiency and simplicity, an alternator. I've almost developed have a free heat source that will give me about three h.p. of steam energy. I figured that if someone like yourself were to get creative and make an inexpensive sterling out of almost free parts, and with a minimum of machining, it would compliment my own efforts and something great could result. This is a shot in the dark, but how would you feel about tackling such a thing?

    I'll keep checking back to see what you think.


  3. Maybe go kick around the recycling yard and scrounge some industrial castings and play with them?

    Making a wall hanger out of a
    many hours dollars and maybe some amount of blood
    project sux , but I have experience with it.

  4. I too have been trying to figure out what to do since retiring. After 25 years in electronics, it has been a year since I have looked at a schematic or picked up a soldering iron. I have done some woodworking, and other things, but mostly wandering from small project to small project without finding the one I really want to dive into yet. It has been a real adjustment moving into the retirement phase after a lifetime of working .....v

  5. Yeah, I can finish a project, and if it doesn't meet my expectations, oh, well...move on and try something else.

    I look at it this way, SiG. You built a functioning Internal Combustion Engine from a a set of plans, and a pile of stock!

    That's quite an accomplishment, sir!

    No harm in making it a "MKI" wall hanger.....

  6. I too second getting some cast iron wheel thingies from a scrap or junk yard for to play with and practice on.

    As to the electronics, yeah, I can see throwing away some soulless piece of modern garbage where the individual parts are way more expensive than the whole (like tvs...) but if you can ressurect the olde beastie, do so. Won't hurt to have a spare or two...

  7. My current snail project is a steam powered generator. Target is min 0.5kW, achieve 14V to charge a 12V deep cycle lead/acid battery, to be able to break down into man-portable sections with minimum tools, and run off multifuel stove or a rocket stove. And not explode, I'm allergic to steam burns and shrapnel. I'm collecting bits and pieces already; trying to get as much cheap or free parts as possible, for example a chainsaw piston, a bronze tube for the cylinder. For the boiler the Admiralty Three Drum pattern with a superheat stage seems the most efficient and compact. A pity about your Webster, call it Lilypad because it is a step to something else...

  8. The Stirling engine and the RF power system both sound "fun". It would be entertaining to see a battery recharger powered by a chafing dish alcohol burner. You know, it might make enough power to run a Raspberry Pi.

    How about a .22LR gatling gun? The rifling might be a bit of a challenge.

    1. That chemical etching method that some of the guys are working on are a way. The other way, of course, could be bunch of 10/22 barrels.

      Hmmm. It involves a 3D printer. This sounds like a match of equipment and interests.

  9. Update on my February shop adventures: