Milling A Steam Engine – Part 1

A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and was confused about what Jay was watching on TV. He has to fall asleep with the TV on, so it’s not unusual for me to wake up to some kind of video playing. It can be anything from the moon landing, astrophysics lectures, documentaries on WWII subs, or even programs about airplane disasters. In fact, there have been a couple of times when the video’s volume suddenly went up and I woke up thinking that the air raid siren I heard going off meant we were under attack. This time, though, when I woke up I was even more confused than normal because I could hear something mechanical moving, but when I looked at the screen without my glasses, I thought he was watching a video with a sewing machine needle moving up and down. It was 2 a.m. and he was still awake. I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

It turns out that he was NOT watching a video about the mechanics of the sewing machine. Instead, he was watching this:

Website Picture

Stuart Models Steam Engine

From what I was told, he somehow happened upon videos of this one particular guy milling and machining the parts for this engine. Jay was fascinated and stayed up way too late watching these videos. Of course, watching the videos led to research which eventually led to him actually ordering a kit.

These kits consist of plans, raw castings that you have to machine, and a few other little things. I find this whole thing to be a bit ironic. Jay specifically bought this kit because you receive raw castings that must be machined within specified tolerances in order for the engine to work when completely assembled. Why do I find this to be ironic? Because Jay spends his working life in a FOUNDRY that manufactures cast iron products.

Molds

That’s a picture that I took off his company’s website. It shows you the sand molds that the iron is poured into to form the parts. Jay spent the majority of his working career running that machine. He spends all day talking iron content, gray iron, tolerances, and numbers of castings produced. Then he comes home to play with more iron?

Foundry

Does that make sense to you? It would be like if I suddenly took an interest in creating Crystal reports at home to calculate the productivity of various household chores. Working with numbers can be fun, but I don’t want it as my hobby.

Jay also used this kit to justify the milling machine that he got this spring.

New Milling Machine

*sigh* It’s a good thing that he’s cute!

He’s been spending lots of time in his work shop since receiving the kit. He’s taken some pictures for me to share, but I can’t promise that I’ll know everything that’s going on in them. That’s just a fair warning to all of you.

Steam Engine 1

This is a part that sits on the base and holds the inlet where the steam enters the engine (I think…) I do know that when he finished milling this part he was so excited because the part that rests in it fit perfectly!

Steam Engine 2

This is the base that it sits on. I think there was some kind of machining done on it.

Steam Engine 3

That holder thing again with something else machined on it.

Steam Engine 4

Ooo… an action shot! I can almost feel the metal shavings hitting me.

Steam Engine 5

See how perfectly it fits!

Steam Engine 6

Look! Holes have been drilled! If you’re wondering, he did NOT strike oil. *sigh*

Steam Engine 7

The part on the left is what was used to make sure the holder was machined properly. I have no idea if it has any other purpose. The part on the right looks like what actually will go on the holder.

Steam Engine 8

This is an action shot of drilling out the hole in the center of the A-frame of the engine.

Steam Engine 9

See! Isn’t that a beautiful machining job?

Steam Engine 10

The part was so excited about how beautifully it’s turning out that it decided to do a head stand. Woo-hoo!

Steam Engine 11

And here we are using the lathe to turn… something metal. To be fair, this could be anything. At first glance it almost looks like the top to one of Jay’s e-juice tanks.

I guess that we’ll have to wait until the next blog post to discover what it actually is!

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