DIY Steam Engine

If you’ve ever checked into steam power, you’ve probably noticed the high cost of steam engines. With an old four stroke engine, a few bucks, and a couple tricks up your sleeve, you can build one for very little money. Let me show you how I did it:

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As you can see, the conversion is simple and will work just as soon as the epoxy and rtv sealant have cured. What about running on steam? It is far more impressive:

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I don’t necessarily endorse building the kind of boiler I did, but it does show a cheap way to do it. Monotube boilers are far safer as the amount of water being turned into steam at any given time is quite small. The flexible tubing will split instead of producing a major explosion. Keep in mind that as the pressure of the steam goes up, so does the temperature.

A steam accident will yield crippling, if not lethal results. Proceed with great caution and a lot more education than a couple of Youtube videos if you decide to try out steam.

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Converting a 2 stroke engine to steam

Two stroke engines are perhaps the easiest type of engine to convert to steam. They are almost a ready made uniflow steam engines. Here’s the easiest way I can come up with:

I’m going to change this to a chain driven mechanism to eliminate a lot of the vibration and make it more reliable. Here is a way I’ve done it in the past with a inefficient bash valve:

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Converting a 4 stroke engine to run on steam

Steam engines are quite costly. If you have a old 4 stroke engine that quit working on you, chances are it will run great on steam. I took one and modified the camshaft with some epoxy putty. By adding an additional lobe to the intake and exhaust, it now produces 1 power stroke per revolution. This makes the engine quite powerful for its size. Here’s a video of it running on compressed air with no head gasket for proof of concept:

Pretty weak and unimpressive, right? Running on 20 psi steam, it livens right up, capable of producing some real power:

I don’t recommend using this type of boiler, it is quite dangerous if you do not constantly monitor it. It does, however, illustrate how simple a steam system can be if you have to make one in a pinch.

I get a lot of questions on lubrication. Since I was running this for a short period of time, a simple greasing of the engine components and cylinder worked just fine. For long term use, one would lubricate the engine like any steam engine – with a steam oiler.

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