Retrotechtacular: Constructing A Car Engine

Oxford is a city world-famous for its university, and is a must-see stop on the itinerary of many a tourist to the United Kingdom. It features mediaeval architecture, unspoilt meadows, two idylic rivers, and a car plant. That’s the part the guide books don’t tell you, if you drive a BMW Mini there is every chance that it was built in a shiny new factory on the outskirts of the historic tourist destination.

A 1930s Morris Ten Series II. Humber79 [CC BY-SA 3.0].
A 1930s Morris Ten Series II. Humber79 [CC BY-SA 3.0].
The origins of the Mini factory lie over the road on a site that now houses a science park but was once the location of the Morris Motors plant, at one time Britain’s largest carmaker. In the 1930s they featured in a British Pathé documentary film which we’ve placed below the break, part of a series on industry in which the production of an internal combustion engine was examined in great detail. The music and narration is charmingly of its time, but the film itself is not only a fascinating look inside a factory of over eight decades ago, but also an insight into engine manufacture that remains relevant today even if the engine itself bears little resemblance to the lump in your motor today.

Morris produced a range of run-of-the-mill saloon cars in this period, and their typical power unit was one of the four-cylinder engines from the film. It’s a sidevalve design with a three-bearing crank, and it lacks innovations such as bore liners. The metallurgy and lubrication in these engines was not to the same standard as an engine of today, so a prewar Morris owner would not have expected to see the same longevity you’d expect from your daily.

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Simple Jig Uses Electromagnet For Clean Angle Grinder Cuts

We like it when hacks are literal hack jobs, put together with what’s on hand to do a specific job. This quick and dirty angle grinder circle cutter certainly fills the bill, and makes decent cuts in sheet metal to boot.

The build starts with an unlikely source for parts – an old automotive AC compressor. The one that [Made in Poland] chose to sacrifice was particularly nasty and greasy, but after popping off the pulley, the treasure within was revealed: the large, ring-shaped clutch electromagnet. Liberated from the compressor, the electromagnet was attached to a small frame holding a pillow block. That acts as an axis for an adjustable-length arm, the other end of which holds a modified angle grinder. In use, the electromagnet is powered up by a small 12-volt power supply, fixing the jig in place on the stock. The angle grinder is traced around and makes a surprisingly clean cut. Check out the build and the tool in use in the video below.

At the time [Made in Poland] recorded the video, he noted that he did not have a plasma cutter. That appears to have changed lately, so perhaps he’ll swap out the angle grinder for plasma. And maybe he’ll motorize it for even smoother cuts.

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Linear Track Makes Plasma Cuts Neat And Simple

No microcontroller, no display, and not even an LED in sight. That’s how [Made in Poland] decided to roll with this motorized linear plasma cutter, and despite the simplicity it really gets the job done when there’s metal to be cut.

Plasma cutting makes slicing and dicing heavy stock a quick job, but it’s easy to go off course with the torch or to vary the speed and end up with a poor edge. This tool takes the shakes out of the equation with a completely homebrew linear slide fabricated from square tubing. A carriage to hold the plasma cutter torch moves on a length of threaded rod chucked into the remains of an old cordless drill. The original clutch of the drill removes the need for limit switches when the carriage hits either end of the slide, which we thought was a great touch. Simple speed and direction controls are provided, as is a connection in parallel with the torch’s trigger. One nice feature of the carriage is the ability to swivel the torch at an angle, making V-groove welds in thick stock a snap. No need for a complicated bed with sacrificial supports and a water bath, either — just hang the stock over the edge of a table and let the sparks fall where they may.

Simple is better sometimes, but a CNC plasma table may still be your heart’s desire. We understand.

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Wrecked Civic Rides Again as Cozy Camp Trailer

It may not be the typical fare that we like to feature, but you can’t say this one isn’t a hack. It’s a camp trailer fashioned from the back half of a wrecked Honda Civic, and it’s a pretty unique project.

We don’t know about other parts of the world, but a common “rural American engineering” project is to turn the bed and rear axle of an old pickup truck into a trailer. [monickingbird]’s hacked Civic is similar to these builds, but with much more refinement. Taking advantage of the intact and already appointed passenger compartment of a 1997 Civic that had a really bad day, [monickingbird] started by lopping off as much of the front end as possible. Front fenders, the engine, transmission, and the remains of the front suspension and axle all fell victim to grinder, drill, and air chisel. Once everything in front of the firewall was amputated, the problem of making the trailer safely towable was tackled. Unlike the aforementioned pickup trailers, the Civic lacks a separate frame, so [monickingbird] had to devise a way to persuade the original unibody frame members to accept his custom trailer tongue assembly. Once roadworthy, the aesthetics were tackled — replacing the original interior with a sleeping area, installing electrics and sound, and a nice paint job. Other drivers may think the towing vehicle is being seriously tailgated, but it seems like a comfy and classy way to camp.

Now that the trailer is on the road, what to do with all those spare Civic parts? Sure, there’s eBay, but how about a nice PC case featuring a dashboard gauge cluster?

Drill the Wet Side Wet and the Dry Side Dry

Working mostly in metal as he does, [Tuomas Soikkeli] has invested in some nice tools. So when his sweet magnetic-base drill was in need of a new home, he built this two-in-one drilling station to maximize shop space and add some versatility to boot.

For the non-metalworkers out there, a mag-base drill is basically a portable drill press where the base is replaced with a strong electromagnet like the one shown here. They’re often used in the construction trades to drill holes in steel beams or columns, and often include nice features like a built-in coolant system.

[Tuomas] effectively turned his mag-base drill into a very beefy drill press by mounting it to a disused miter saw stand. A thick piece of plate steel forms the base, and with holes and drain channels machined into it, used coolant can be captured in a drain pan below for reuse. A second base for a benchtop drill press means he’s got a dry drilling station too, and the original support arms on the miter stand are ready for drilling long stock. The drawer below the dry side is a nice touch too.

There’s a lot to learn about fabrication from [Tuomas]’ video and the others on his channel, which is well worth checking out. And if you want to convert your drill press into a mag-base drill, why not check out this microwave oven transformer to electromagnetic crane project for inspiration?

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Grease Gun Hydroforms Custom Motorcycle Parts

Never underestimate the power of an incompressible fluid at high pressure. Properly constrained and with a full understanding of the forces involved, hydraulic pressure can be harnessed to do some interesting things in the home shop, like hydroforming stainless steel into custom motorcycle parts.

From the look of [Clarence Elias]’s video below, it seems like he has a 100% custom motorcycle build going on in his shop. That means making every part, including the reflectors for the lights. While he certainly could have used a traditional approach, like beating sheet stainless with a planishing hammer or subjecting it to the dreaded English wheel, [Clarence] built a simple yet sturdy hydroforming die for the job. A thick steel ring clamps the sheet stainless to a basal platen with an inlet from the forming fluid, which is ordinary grease. [Clarence] goes through the math and the numbers are impressive — a 1,500-psi grease gun can be mighty persuasive under such circumstances. The result is a perfectly formed dish with no tool marks, in need of only a little polishing to be put into service.

Whether by a pressure washer, a puff of air, or 20-tons of pressure on a rubber pad, hydroforming is a great method to master for making custom parts.

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Beautiful Rocketeer Jetpack Replica Boasts Impressive Metalwork

Fans of the Rocketeer comic book and movie franchise will be familiar with its hero’s 1930s-styled rocket backpack.  It’s an intricate construction of complex streamlined curves, that has inspired many recreations over the years.

Most Rocketeer jetpacks are made from plastic, foam, and other lightweight materials that will be familiar to cosplayers and costumers. But [David Guyton]’s one is different, he’s made it from sheet steel.

The attraction in his video is not so much the finished pack, though that is an impressive build. Instead it’s the workmanship, nay, the craftsmanship, as he documents every stage of the metalwork involved. The panel beating tools of a sheet metalworker’s trade are surprisingly simple, and it’s tempting to think as you watch: “I could do that!”. But behind the short video clips and apparent speed of the build lies many hours of painstaking work and a huge amount of skill. Some of us will have tried this kind of sheet work, few of us will have taken it to this level.

The video is below the break, it takes us through the constituent parts of the build, including at the end some of the engine details which are cast in resin. Watch it with a sense of awe!

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