I have been continuing sporadic work on the beam engine with today being a relatively quick wee part: a bushing to hold the crank shaft onto the crank. Given that this part was about 1/”8 in diameter and 5/16″ long, it is one of the smallest things I have attempted.

My ML7 lathe was supplied with an excellent ER25 collet set that mounts directly on the lathe spindle. I thought it would be useful but I am still growing in appreciation of just how much. Holding onto the 1/4″ round brass bar I started with was no problem but niether was holding the finished 9/64″ barrel so I could turn off the remains of parting off. And, as is the special property of collets, it did so concentrically as far as I can tell. Which is just as well since I needed to finish reaming out the center hole from that side.

I find this especially exciting since this is getting into the range where I could turn bushing, bearings and the like for 1/4″ scale railroad models if I need to.

Beam Engine Crankshaft

Having finished the crank, the obvious next step is the crankshaft. This will link the flywheel to one end of the beam and introduce the first interesting motion to the project. It is also the start of the wee small bits, at least according to my experience. Learning experiences were anticipated.

First I tackled the end that goes on a pin sticking out of the crank. I again used the method of milling the piece out of a larger bit of stock with the extra used to hold on to. In a flash of enlightenment, I realized I could up the game a bit by using my small toolmaker’s vise to hold the stock. I could then rotate the part 90 degrees without unclamping the stock.

The major work was done with the vise clamped to the rotary table. The fun bit was getting the appropriate spot centered on the table. I did this by center punching the spot, deploying my fancy new coaxial indicator which came with a tip for just such a purpose and gently tapping the vise around until it was centered. I then clamped it down and rechecked to make sure I didn’t shift it. Surprisingly, I also managed to get the thing square in the x-y plane to within 30 arc minutes. (I needed to know where to start and stop the rotation of the table to be planar with the straight sides of the piece.)

After I got the main body of the piece shaped and drilled, I needed to drill a hole in the flat end for the shaft. This was easily done by clamping the vise on its side in the mill vise. I found the edges by using a drill blank because there wasn’t room to get my center finder in there next to the vise jaws. I know that things are at right angles because the toolmakers vise has precision ground sides for just this sort of thing. I may have committed a sin by clamping on the jaws of the vise, though.

The last operation was just reclamping the piece wide side up and skimming off the back side. This was easy in this case because there are two parallel sides unlike the crank.

Next, I made up the crank shaft itself which was a simple matter of threading one end of a 3/32″ brass rod and cutting it to length. For the exercise, I used the lathe to square and shorted to final length the cut end. Here is the piece to date. I still need to do the other end which has a fork to go around the beam. I added my machinist scale to the photo for a size comparison.

Fits and Starts

I have managed to get crank attached to the crankshaft. A simple operation of you do it correctly or, in my case, not so much.

The drawings call for a press fit. This is where the shaft is about .001″ larger than the hole. You usually obtain it by using an “under” reamer, in this case a .124″ reamer to go with a .125″ shaft (O-1 drill rod). I had no such reamer and my choices were order a complete over/under set which seemed expensive or buy a single reamer for double the per/unit price of the set and a trip across town. So, of course, I opted for the third choice, use the nearest drill I had.

That turned out to be a #31 drill at .120″. Surely 5 thousandths is close enough for me to press a shaft in. Technically, I proved this to be true. Now if you specify that the shaft in question should not acquire a bend in it during the process then, no, I did not. It would not line up the holes in the flywheel bearing which is kind of the point.

I knocked the erstwhile shaft out with a punch and hammer and ordered the o/u reamer set like I should have done. I lucked out in that I did not have to remake the crank so I figured I should quit while I was ahead.

Here is the properly press fitted crankshaft in place.

Next I need to drill and tap for a set screw on the flywheel hub and then I think I will do the bits to connect the crank to the beam so I can see some bits moving together.

Cranking It Up

I may be getting the hang of this milling thing. Today I got most of the way through making the crank for the beam engine. This was two setups and more tool changes than it probably should have been but I am pleased with the result. I just need to mill off the back of the part to separate it from the block of stock I used as a handle.

It looks like it should even if it may not exactly match the drawings. I realized that the only things that really matter are that the two holes are parallel, the correct size and the correct distance apart. Everything else is mostly shaping things to resemble the cast part a full size engine would have. As long at things are symmetrical, nobody will notice if the end radii are a bit too large or small.

I also improved my finding of the center of the rotary table by using a new gadget, a coaxial centering dial indicator. This device gets chucked in the mill spindle and you center on the hole while the mill is spinning (at low RPM). This is actually fun as opposed to the usual dial indicator spinning holder that makes you keep having to move around to see the readings.

The other improvement which is much less photogenic was the acquisition of some drill blanks. I used a 3/32″ dill blank chucked in the mill to center up the part on the table center for the second setup so I could round the small end. I previously just used a reversed drill bit and I don’t think it produced as accurate results. The drill blank is both more rigid and has not flutes to mess with the alignment.

Cylinder Head

I finished up the cylinder head this afternoon. I had long abandoned my plan to drill the remaining holes on the cylinder since they are all varieties of clearance anyway. Instead, I used a 1/16″ drill blank to center the piston rod hole previous drilling on the lathe under the mill spindle and worked from there. As long as I got the relative placement of the holes correct, all would be well. Or almost, anyway.

I used my milling pallet in the vise and clamped the head face down on a small square of hardboard. The hardboard is flat enough and allowed me to drill through holes without messing up the shiny surface of the pallet.

I had a bit of a bad moment when I went to test fit the head on the cylinder block and the screws would not fit in the alleged clearance holes. Only then did I remember that I needed bigger holes for the M2.5 screws I was using. Back under the mill and a bit of hole size increasing and it was done. Here is the head fastened to the top of the cylinder block.

Since I had some more time and had a head of steam up (hah), I took care of a couple of small tasks I had been putting off. I shortened the machine screw that holds the flywheel bearing to the main body so it no longer projects into the flywheel’s running space. I also cut and cleaned up a suitable length of 1/16″ drill rod for a shaft for the beam. After a bit of assembly, here is the current state of the engine. Flywheel shaft is still pending so the flywheel is just propped in place.

It Has Been Remade

While waiting for paint to dry, I got started on a second instance of the beam engine cylinder only this time with less broken taps embedded. I consider this a triumph of will over fear of failure. I also suspect that the diligent work on the lathe drawer project concealed a bit of anxiety about the second attempt. With the drawers done, my anxiety was left place to hide so off I went before some other project arose!

This time around, I exercised extra care about the depth of the M2.5 blind holes in the cylinder end. I purchased a set of M2.5 taps (taper, plug and bottoming) and used the two extremes to get my thread depth without any optimism about hole depth. All was completed without incident although I think I could use a somewhat smaller tap wrench for this work. The one I have will hold the tap but I fear its weight threatens a break all by itself. I will have to do some research.

I resorted to marking the required depth on the taps with a marker. This seemed simpler than counting revolutions of the tap. 🙂

The cylinder is complete with the exception of plugging the two small holes in the side of the cylinder. These were the result of drilling through the valve into the cylinder bore. Those internal holes are wanted, the outside ones are not.

Next up is drilling the matching holes in the cylinder cover.

Drawer Deployment

Today all the recommended waiting periods for the assorted finishes on my newly built lathe storage drawers expired. This made it easy to find the motivation to get into the shop early. I find the prospect of doing a bit of tidying up when I have proper places to put things motivating. The demotivator is having to clean up and having no place for the stuff to go.

Here is a partial before shot of the shelf above the lathe. This has been the primary and only dedicated lathe stuff repository. It is nominally organized but piled deep enough that I can lose things I just set down.

I have a basic organizational scheme in mind in order from the top:

  • less frequently used small stuff I don’t put on the pending splash guard rack.
  • major accessories. The reason I went with 100 lb drawer slides.
  • lathe tooling, infrequently used accessories
  • rarely used metrology tools.

Not all was light and roses, however. In a mildly irritating oversight, my gauge block set case is about a half inch too long to fit in the rarely used measuring stuff. With foresight, it could have gone into the bottom of the metrology drawer. Bother.

Finally, the after shot of the shelf. I haven’t touched any of it but a bit of shuffling and it can be much more useful than it was. Instances of enraging small widget loss should be greatly reduced.

Infrastructure Week Conclusion

The drawers for under the lathe are done. I am moderately happy with how they function and very happy with how they look, at least when closed. The handles are brushed aluminum not the white plastic they appear in the photo.

The final stage is the hardest, waiting another three days or so for various finishes to cure/harden/dry so that I don’t scrape things off with the first lathe chuck I bung into a drawer.

Now, back to the regular projects.

Making Multiples

I have been beavering away in a push to get my lathe tool drawer project finished or at least complete to the point of needing finish applied. After one minor setback (back of carcass cut too narrow) and two extra trips to the hardware store (finishing nails and supplied screws for handles too short), I have reached to point where everything needs to be sanded.

False front drawer construction hides a host of sins but that is not my point for this post. Like many modellers, I am used to making things by the each. Make one switch frog, build a car, install one decoder, and so on. From my reading of Kozo Hiraoka’s lived steam locomotive construction book, it is clear that he gives a lot of thought to making multiples of the same part. The very first thing described is the locomotive tender truck construction with two trucks requiring a total of eight wheels. He lays out a way to do the first setup on a part, remove that part, put in the next one until all eight are first step complete and then on to the next step. Definitely more efficient. The symmetry of a steam locomotive being what it is, many of the remaining parts come in at least pairs if not more so more techniques are described.

I had cause to think on this outlook as applied to woodworking because my four drawer cabinet has a total of 29 wood parts of only 11 different types (one drawer is an odd height so not the minimum 9). I used one commercially made fixture, my Kreg K5 pocket hole jig, to drill some 50 pocket holes. Coming up with a way to regularize hole placement on panel edges paid off in reduced measuring and increased neatness. All I did is mark out where to put the panel ends with painters tape and away I went.

Investing in an adapter for the dust collection attachment so my shop vac would pull all of the sawdust away as I went sped things up as well. Pocket hole drilling produces a surprising amount of sawdust per hole and you either have to keep clearing it manually or have some way of sucking it up.

The final step of the construction process was drilling the holes for the handles. This was one place where getting things misaligned could make a mess of otherwise nice looking wood drawer fronts. And, unlike any dodgy joints in the drawers, I will have to look at them all the time. It made investing in another technique that Kozo uses, the drilling template, very attractive. My template was simple but is meant I laid out, drilled and test fitted the holes in an expendable piece of scrap instead of my nice drawer fronts. I then needed only to mark the centerlines of the drawer fronts and off I went.

While I have digital readouts on both my machine tools, I don’t have on on my hand drill so this worked well and I got excellent results with much greater speed than if I laid out each pair of holes individually.

I just need to find a place far away from my machine tools and train layout to do the sanding and then apply various finishes. I am looking forward to using the extra storage to organize my cluttered lathe tool shelf.