Steampunk Motorcycle Runs On Compressed Air, Is Pure Hacking Art

Sometimes it’s ok to sacrifice some practicality for aesthetics, especially for passion projects. Falling solidly in this category is [Peter Forsberg]’s beautiful, barely functional steam punk motorcycle. If this isn’t hacker art, then we don’t know what is.

The most eye-catching part of the motorcycle is the engine and drive train, with most of the mechanical components visible. The cylinders are clear glass tubes with custom pistons, seals, valves and push rods. The crank mechanism is from an old Harley and is mounted inside a piece of stainless steel pipe. Because it runs on compressed air it cools down instead of heating up, so an oil system is not needed.

For steering, the entire front of the bike swings side to side on hinges in the middle of the frame, which is quite tricky to ride with a top speed that’s just above walking speed. It can run for about 3-5 minutes on a tank, so the [Peter] mounted a big three-minute hour glass in the frame. The engine is fed from an external air tank, which he wears on his back; he admits it’s borderline torture to carry the thing for any length of time. He plans to build a side-car to house a much larger tank to extend range and improve riding comfort.

[Peter] admits that it isn’t very good as a motorcycle, but the amount of creativity and resourcefulness required to make it functional at all is the mark of a true mechanical hacker. We look forward to seeing it in its final form.

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Converting A Lawnmower Engine To Run On Compressed Air

Our most likely exposure to a steam engine these days will probably come courtesy of a railway locomotive. A machine capable of immense power and probably with significant complexity and engineering  in its construction, something the majority of us will only ever be able to see at second-hand. But there was a period when steam engines were much more accessible, before internal combustion engines and electric motors took on the task of automating hard work you would have found small stationary steam engines in all corners of industry.

These engines are on a scale much more easily embraced by hackers and makers, and though vintage stationary engines are thin on the ground these days there are a significant number of people pursuing their construction by converting modern petrol and diesel engines to a more old-fashioned medium.

[Lindsay Wilson] has a lawnmower engine which a few years ago he converted with the addition of a sleeve valve to run on compressed air. It’s not a steam engine because creating a safe and legal steam boiler is an expensive process, but despite this it amounts to the same thing. The engine in question is a small sidevalve single cylinder Suffolk Punch lawnmower engine from which he has removed and blocked the valve gear, and added a sleeve valve powered by a linkage from the crankshaft and using the spark plug hole as an inlet and outlet. He provides a lot of detail on the sleeve valve’s construction, and it really is a surprisingly simple arrangement. We might look for a harder metal than copper pipe for the guide in which it runs though.

The video below the break shows the engine being run up after a period of storage. It’s an effective device, easily capable of taking more air than his compressor can supply.

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