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Thread: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

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    Default Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Hi.
    As though we didn't have enough to do with the Atlantic engine, I starting a Herreshoff steam engine build, collaborating with the Hart Nautical Collection here at MIT. I don't have a ton to post, but the engine is a 3 1/2" recirculating engine used on the first torpedo boat, USS Talbot. Here's a CAD file the students developed from the archives:


    I'll share some pattern pics shortly.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Tasty! Looks like a pretty simple engine. NGH's later engines were rather complex in some instances and quite innovative. If you don't already know, there's a fellow named Chris McMullen somewhere "down under" (NZ, I believe) that is also building a replica LGH engine and hull of "Vapor," one of his early launches and the Herreshoff Marine Museum is restoring a couple of NGH steam engines right now. See: https://herreshoffsteam.wordpress.com/ You might also look at the Steamboating Forum, the membership of which are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to all things steam and very helpful. http://www.thesteamboatingforum.net/...wforum.php?f=5

    You might keep in mind that there is a small, but reliable, market for small marine steam engines and casting kits. You may be able to make a few bucks off your patterns when all is said and done. Check out Pat Spurling up in Seattle. He's been marketing a number of these for years now. http://www.steamlaunch.com/

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Elegant! Please keep the thread going!

    Alex

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Thanks for the links Bob. I'll definitely check them out.

    Here are the beginnings of the patterns for the top and bottom cylinder cap, and the cylinder itself. The material is a high density foam. Cut time is on the order of 30-40 minutes - we use a vacuum while cutting lest the dust gets everywhere.




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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    watching this with great interest!

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    I am very interested in this as well! I have been involved with the "Vapor" project for over twelve years. As a result of the boat being struck and sunk at her dock by a drunk in a stolen vessel, we were forced to build a new hull for her using the original hull as a guide. All of her machinery is now in the final stages of being prepped for installation. We are working slowly as there are other projects going on as well. Chris Mc Mullen is a very close friend, even though he lives in N.Z. He has been to visit us on several occasions and took extensive measurements off of the engine for "Vapor". Oddly,for him, the most frustrating part of the project has been in reproducing the Marsh Pumps, we have three that we have are the only ones known to still exist. They are so complex as to have inside channels that are not visible unless x-ray or sonic scanning could be done. Herreshoff was a genius. But he often did not document all that he designed, leaving great room for speculation and investigation. We hope to have Vapor running around the end of this summer.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Jay, we'll be watching the Vapor project. I'm curious to know how Chris make the crankshaft.

    Here's a new pattern rolling off our production line. It is the bottom half of the top cap. This is the second of three toolpaths.


    There's a little handwork to do - some toolpath figments were overlooked, but the material sands very easily.


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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Hi Dr. B
    Here is a shot of "Vapor's" engine. #! and 2 cylinders showing. #3 low PSI cylinder hidden on the back. We have it apart right now and are cleaning every thing up and checking crank play.
    Fortunatly we have all the brasses for it to check clearances. You will have to check with Chris for info on his crank. That would be more direct than me relaying info to and from. I would be happy to help if you are in need of info however.
    This is "Vapor's" hull after completion.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Jay,
    how far did you and Chris chase down drawings of the pumps? I ask because Id be happy to dig through the archives here with Kurt and some of the students. We spent some time going through drawers of drawings when selecting an appropriately sized student project.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    I took photos of "Vapor's" Marsh pumps for Chris. He also did a lot of measuring and research on his own.
    Best,
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Post spring-break, and back at it. Colleen makes the second half of the cylinder pattern. Two tool paths done, one (I believe) to go. Then she's moves on to the core boxes. In the meantime, apprentices Matt and Larkin are getting ready to mount connecting rods and the top cylinder cap on pattern boards.




    Notice the boss on this half of the pattern for the pillar post. I couldn't tell you why it's not rounded. I'll have to get to the bottom of that tomorrow. Worst case, the fillet gets sanded in. Thanks to Larkin for minding the vacuum cleaner towards the end of cutting and cleaning up (Colleen had to run to another class).

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Excellent stuff.

    I was in the new gallery at Mystic Seaport over the weekend, they have Damfino's boiler sitting in the lobby. Oddly fascinating.
    A boatless inlander, searching for the meaning of life-aground.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    A point of interest about the Herreshoff design of the launch boilers that look like the rib cage of a camel is that steam can be gotten up to a working pressure in three to four minutes! This is why they were called, "High Speed Cummuter Launches". Another factor is that the curved tubes move enough during firing up and cooling down to eliminate most of the need to run boiler compound through it for cleaning. Scale does not build up because the tube flexing causes it to sluff of before build up can occur.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    I don't know my Herreshoffian practices as well as I ought: will this be fed by a fire tube (slower start up, but better steam reserves) or water tube (faster start, as Jay describes) boiler?

    Alex

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    We donated the old boiler out of "Vapor" to the Herreshoff Museum. It can be seen there for you to copy if you wish. That quick start is just enough to allow the boat to move. It takes a bit more time to get up a full head of steam but it is still very fast to heat up. "Vapor" runs on a diesel burner that spreads a long row of double flames. She was originally set up to burn coal. The owner had his shop make the boiler up out of mil. spec. SS tubing. You don't want to know how much it cost.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    This is as cool as the make and break thread.

    Thank you.

    Peace,
    Robert

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    We donated the old boiler out of "Vapor" to the Herreshoff Museum. It can be seen there for you to copy if you wish. That quick start is just enough to allow the boat to move. It takes a bit more time to get up a full head of steam but it is still very fast to heat up. "Vapor" runs on a diesel burner that spreads a long row of double flames. She was originally set up to burn coal. The owner had his shop make the boiler up out of mil. spec. SS tubing. You don't want to know how much it cost.
    Jay
    As far as I know, which isn't particularly far, generally speaking, stainless steel is strictly prohibited in the construction of ASME code certified "wet" parts of steam pressure vessels. There are a few exceptions for exotic stainless alloys, however, so I presume one of these was used. If so, it really must have cost a fortune! I mention this because unless one is a ASME "code certified" pressure vessel welder, do-it-yourself boilers are frowned upon and I believe non-certified boilers are completely outlawed in some regions. Nobody without the technical credentials should attempt to build a boiler themselves, let alone one of stainless steel. ("Fire tube" boilers pose the greater danger of explosion. "Water tube" boilers much less so. When a "water tube" "blows," it generally just puts out the fire and makes a big mess. When a "fire tube" boiler fails, the whole thing explodes.) Undoubtedly, the "Vapor Project" had access to the best of contemporary boiler engineering. More information on Vapor's stainless boiler and its diesel burner would certainly be of interest to the few "steam wonks" here. (Diesel is great fuel for steam boilers, but pressurizing the diesel to atomize it in the burner efficiently can be a challenge. Electrical fuel pumps add another layer of complexity with power take-offs to charge batteries as do mechanically driven pumps. The conundrum is that the steam engine has to keep getting bigger and bigger to sustain its own operation and every accessory comes at the cost of reduced power for the prop.)

    It's perhaps worth dropping an ironic historical footnote: Nat Herreshoff graduated from MIT and went to work for the Corliss Steam Engine Company to "cut his teeth" in steam technology before moving on to join his brothers' boatbuilding enterprise. His engineering genius quickly propelled him to the forefront of innovative marine steam power design, but early on, during sea trials of a new vessel, he permitted the boiler pressure safety valve to be "tied down" in order to get a bit more speed out of her. The boiler exploded, killing a crewmember. Herreshoff's steam engineer's license was revoked as a result. A lesser man might have given up in the face of this tragic development, but instead, NGH turned his attention to the design of sailing craft, excelling at that as well and realized his greatest fame in that endeavor. One might wonder how frustrating it must have been for him to have found himself thwarted from proceeding with his development of steam powered vessels. Certainly, there has been much more general interest in his sailing vessels than in his steam engines over the years since. If he'd' concentrated on steam, his contributions to that now practically obsolete field would have been given scant notice today.
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 04-06-2017 at 03:28 PM.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Nightly news a day or so ago had a bit about an exploding boiler propelling itself through the roof of a factory and crashing through the roof of a neighboring building. Truly not for your average backyard tinkerer.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Robb View Post
    Nightly news a day or so ago had a bit about an exploding boiler propelling itself through the roof of a factory and crashing through the roof of a neighboring building. Truly not for your average backyard tinkerer.
    Yep. In 2001, five people were killed and forty-seven injured when an amateur-restored and operated steam tractor boiler exploded at an antique farm equipment show at a fairgrounds in Ohio. The primary cause of the explosion was "operator error." http://www.farmcollector.com/steam-t...1#PageContent1 Safe operation of steam engines requires rigid adherence to the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) codes and meticulous attention to required maintenance and operating procedures.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    As far as I know, which isn't particularly far, generally speaking, stainless steel is strictly prohibited in the construction of ASME code certified "wet" parts of steam pressure vessels. There are a few exceptions for exotic stainless alloys, however, so I presume one of these was used. If so, it really must have cost a fortune! I mention this because unless one is a ASME "code certified" pressure vessel welder, do-it-yourself boilers are frowned upon and I believe non-certified boilers are completely outlawed in some regions. Nobody without the technical credentials should attempt to build a boiler themselves, let alone one of stainless steel. ("Fire tube" boilers pose the greater danger of explosion. "Water tube" boilers much less so. When a "water tube" "blows," it generally just puts out the fire and makes a big mess. When a "fire tube" boiler fails, the whole thing explodes.) Undoubtedly, the "Vapor Project" had access to the best of contemporary boiler engineering. More information on Vapor's stainless boiler and its diesel burner would certainly be of interest to the few "steam wonks" here. (Diesel is great fuel for steam boilers, but pressurizing the diesel to atomize it in the burner efficiently can be a challenge. Electrical fuel pumps add another layer of complexity with power take-offs to charge batteries as do mechanically driven pumps. The conundrum is that the steam engine has to keep getting bigger and bigger to sustain its own operation and every accessory comes at the cost of reduced power for the prop.)

    It's perhaps worth dropping an ironic historical footnote: Nat Herreshoff graduated from MIT and went to work for the Corliss Steam Engine Company to "cut his teeth" in steam technology before moving on to join his brothers' boatbuilding enterprise. His engineering genius quickly propelled him to the forefront of innovative marine steam power design, but early on, during sea trials of a new vessel, he permitted the boiler pressure safety valve to be "tied down" in order to get a bit more speed out of her. The boiler exploded, killing a crewmember. Herreshoff's steam engineer's license was revoked as a result. A lesser man might have given up in the face of this tragic development, but instead, NGH turned his attention to the design of sailing craft, excelling at that as well and realized his greatest fame in that endeavor. One might wonder how frustrating it must have been for him to have found himself thwarted from proceeding with his development of steam powered vessels. Certainly, there has been much more general interest in his sailing vessels than in his steam engines over the years since. If he'd' concentrated on steam, his contributions to that now practically obsolete field would have been given scant notice today.
    Yes Bob, you are correct in that normal SS is not a metal that is usable for boiler tubes. The boiler for "Vapor" was made of an approved allow specifically chosen for that purpose and the boiler is certified. Very astute of you to point that out!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    I received the following Letter From Chris McMullen yesterday with permission to post his words here. Chris is currently working with the Herreshoff Musuem on a display of "Vapor's" tube boiler. It should be a well done project when it is done. Chris is one of the best craftsmen I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
    Jay:
    On my Herreshoff 34 foot Steam launch MIT provided me with drawings of almost every thing to do with the engine, boiler , hull and hardware. All measurements were given in inches and fractions. So for example a 2- 5/16” shaft was shown to fit in a 2-5/16” bore. Whether it was a force fit or a running fit was up to the machinist. In other words there were no tolerances shown on the drawings. The original drawings were coloured and that would have made them easier to read. The prints provided by MIT were in black on white.
    Herreshoff manufacturing made almost every thing for their boats. Even the sails! The only thing they did not make on my launch was the steam driven boiler feed pumps. Most steam launches have pumps driven by the steam engine. Not so Nat Herreshoff. He used independent pumps and strangely enough these were made by another company. “American Marsh” or later called the “American Steam Pump Co” of Battle Creek, Michigan.
    There were silhouettes shown of these two Marsh Pumps but no drawings. This presented a problem. There was no internet in New Zealand at that time and no eBay. I travelled to the USA a few times and went to some steam Launch meets, always asking questions. Marsh pumps of the size I required are rare. I bought a larger one to find out how they work. I ran it and was amazed. Two moving parts and they are not linked together! Very clever.
    Eventually I tracked down Vapor and that is another amazing story. The owner of Vapor kindly let me do sketches and take photos of his pumps. I went back to California a second time to finish the job.
    I made wooden patterns and had them cast by a friendly foundry that allowed me to mould them. Way easier than trying to show a professional moulder how the pattern works and remember I am an amateur pattern maker and learn by my mistakes.
    Machining/ boring the body of the pumps from both ends was tricky. I tried to imagine how The “Marsh Co’ did it. They would have had two boring headstocks in perfect alignment and bored the castings from both ends. Lots of engineering challenges in these projects and I guess that’s what makes it interesting. I have to say the shuttle valve body was too tricky for me to cast. I managed to buy two pumps on eBay (right size wrong configuration) I robbed these pumps of their valves and used them on my pumps. This job has taken a long time but It was a spare time job and I don’t have much spare time.
    Every thing on the boat bar valves and pipe fittings has been hand made. Even the propeller. Nothing has come from a ship Chandler or marine supply shop.
    You can see a model BB Marsh pump running on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHKl1Gorvus My pump is smaller, a model B and side mounted. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypHNF_mMY1U shows the basic design and how they work.
    Chris

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    You're giving me ideas for a new sprinkler system!
    Thank Chris for the links and description. I'll be heading down to the Herreshoff museum for a field trip with a few of the students.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    If you see Halsey tell him Hello for me and Jon Martin who is the owner of "Vapor". If you would like to chat with Jon or me, contact me privately and I will give you some numbers for us.
    Enjoy the field trip!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Will do Jay.

    Some updates: Colleen (Cylinders) and Larkin (top cap) made the cores for their parts today. The base pattern is being worked on by Zach and Ana, and Matt will be machining the connecting rods. The pics below are of the cylinder and core design, core boxes, and cores for the cylinder.








    This represents quite a bit of work. I hope the pour goes well on Tuesday.

    Base Pattern:

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    ...and the core mold for the exhaust cavity (There's two of them, top and bottom of cylinder, from post 1) :

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Impressive work!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Interesting post!

    I like!

    WgMkr

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    What program and course are these students taking?
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    In MIT parlance, they'd be course II, mechanical engineering. The class is a new one I started a couple of years ago in which a small group of juniors and seniors spend half their class time as lab mentors to younger sophomores in the "robot competition" course (2.007). The other half of the class, they get more advanced instruction in best practices, fabrication, and do project work. The juniors fabricate small Stirling engines and the seniors do a larger group project - now the Herreshoff engine. I work closely with my colleague around the corner at the foundry (course III). Three pillars are community, skills, and leadership. It's a real blessing to have been a part of the seniors' education for three consecutive years.

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Thanks. That sounds awesome for them. What an opportunity.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Hi.
    Chipping away again. I'm testing a different way to deal with hosting images, so as a test, here is a picture of Colleen's cast cylinder being machined today. We are currently working on the column, and other bits and pieces. If I get the picture thing working, I'll start posting again.
    Last edited by DoctorB; 09-21-2017 at 11:21 PM. Reason: testing resizing and reloading

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    The picture is working just fine. Very nice looking casting!

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Years ago I read in a biography that Herreshoff was already inventing his own valve opening curves before going to MIT and astounded his classmates by commenting that he had already used one of the curves that the Professor was discussing. True / False?
    I also have a question, we're these splash pan lubrication on the cranks, or pressure with reuse, or pressure one-shot? I remember as late as the early 60's the Kahlenberg diesels on the Great Lakes were one-shot systems and left an oil slick whenever they pumped the bilge.
    Ken

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    I can't comment on the oil slick because it has been forty years since we last ran "Vapor" and, we are not ready to launch her rebuild as yet.
    We do have an oil separater that removes oil from the steam on return via the hot box which is filled with luffa sponges. The bilge pumps are also steam driven.
    But do not have a means of separating oil from bilge water. However I do not recall ever seeing an oil slick when we pumped the bilges on the original boat. One point here is that "Vapor" is double planked. I doubt that the hull will leak and the entire steam system does not empty into the bilges other than by condensation.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Herreshoff Steam Engine Fabrication @MIT

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    Years ago I read in a biography that Herreshoff was already inventing his own valve opening curves before going to MIT and astounded his classmates by commenting that he had already used one of the curves that the Professor was discussing. True / False?
    I also have a question, we're these splash pan lubrication on the cranks, or pressure with reuse, or pressure one-shot? I remember as late as the early 60's the Kahlenberg diesels on the Great Lakes were one-shot systems and left an oil slick whenever they pumped the bilge.
    Ken
    Some small steam launch engine cranks did have enclosed splash pan lubrication, but my impression from studying contemporary engineering literature was that most did not. Commonly, cranks were hand-lubricated or by a gravity-fed wick from an oil reservoir box. As small engines driving proper high-pitched propellers to drive launches, even at hull speed, they didn't often turn at high speeds like internal combustion engines do, so they shouldn't have sprayed a lot of lubricant around. Any drips would have been collected in a drip pan designed to keep oil out of the bilge.

    Antique Willens three-cylinder steam launch engine with enclosed "splash" lubricated crank:



    Contemporary recreation of Victorian era "triple" compound engine offered by Elliot Bay Steam Launch Co. (http://www.steamlaunch.com/index.html,) an "open" lubricated engine showing the lubrication lines enclosing the wicks which carry the oil from the three brass reservoir boxes mounted on the side of the wooden cylinder lagging:

    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 09-22-2017 at 06:46 PM.

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