Tag Archives: engine

Late- yes, Embarrassed – some, Nearly There – maybe

I noticed that I had not written anything since the end of March, and I guess (unconsciously) this was because I had intended to have Befur ready for the water on the first of April, and that clearly wasn’t happening – and addressing that fact in print was a bridge too far!

However, we have been far from idle, and I actually do think we should be there for the first week of June (fingers-crossed). So here is a quick review of progress in April and May.

Checking the Solar Panels

As you may recall Befur uses solar panels to maintain it’s batteries and drive ancillaries that have to be on all the time – Bilge Pump, Airhead ventilation fan etc. So we dragged her out into the sunshine to make sure all this worked – and clicked a few photos.

(The Propeller Saga: John Maltby (friend, boiler inspector and ex merchant navy Chief Engineer) stopped by one day, and as he walked past the back of the boat casually said “Malcolm, that prop is the wrong hand”. I tried arguing, but finally realised that he was right! So a panicked phone call to Fal Propellers in Aberdeenshire ensued. They happily agreed to take back the old one in part-ex and modified one they had in stock to provide a replacement – what a great company – thank you Lorna and Mark).

Deck Fittings and a Samson Post

The next job was attaching all the deck fittings – we opted for two fairleads on the fore-deck and cleats on the stern and midships. These were fitted with large (4mm and 6mm) stainless screws epoxied into the deck clamp.

However, the reason for opting for fairleads on the foredeck was that it seems that we might well be on a swinging mooring, and so relying on cleats to moor Befur seemed unwise. So we installed a “Samson-post” to provide a secure point for mooring.

This post is made from a single ~2M length 75mm square Iroko epoxied into the fore-deck, bolted to one of the deck-beams and pegged and epoxied into the keelson (bottom of the hull). This makes a very sturdy locating point for a mooring strop running over the (also installed) bow-roller – which will also hold one of the anchors ready for deployment.

At the same time we fitted the forward navigation lights (this involved making a small mast for the stem light (and VHF antenna), as it has to be a metre above the port and starboard lights.

In addition we fixed two handrails to the cabin roof, to make access to the fore-deck safer. We arranged these to pass outboard of the part of the cabin roof that will finally  be removed to allow the mast-step to pass into the cabin, when we fit the sailing rig – and at the same time managed to pick up some of the cabin roof beams to make sure the rails were secure enough to withstand a panicked grab!

The last job was to fit the escape hatch (we chose a Vetus PLA45L one at almost £200, but it’s an important item) and checked we could get through it in the kitchen (hula-hoop-style). It was a bit tight, but we figured a decent fire on board would provide the necessary incentive to make it through!

Fresh Water, Bilge Pumps & Heads

We plumbed in the sink, which involved fitting a fwd water tank, cleaning & nickle-plating an antique filler, and installing a seacock for the waste (actually a skin fitting and ball-valve, as the seacocks I had acquired at an SBA auction were too small).

Another similar skin-fitting assembly was installed to take the outfall from the bilge pumps. We opted for a Whale SuperSub 650 automatic bilge pump (and associated wiring), which will be left on when we are away, to provide some security, and a hand-operated 25GPM pump. We have fitted two strum boxes with a diverting valve to let us clear either side of the keelson, and wound up drilling a bunch more limber holes as a quick test demonstrated that the ones we installed as we made the hull were too small (or probably full of epoxy from the cladding process.

Sample of the hull which shows two adjacent strips fitting tightly with the glass cladding and paint.,

A good thing about installing the skin fittings was that you get a “core sample” from the hull and for the first time get to see/check what we built about two and a half years ago! Fortunately it proved that we had not sanded away too much of the hull as we finished and clad it (it’s still about 20mm thick) and also showed that the joints between two of the strips were nice and tight! (two different colours of red-cedar strip on show)

Fire Extinguishers and Fuel Lines

We opted for one powder (2Kg)  and one foam extinguisher (2 Litre). While my original plan was to install the foam one outside (as the biggest risk is a fuel leak), I  realised that putting the powder one in the cabin was probably a bad plan!!!

We also installed the fuel-line from the tank to the burner, with an in-line filter and fuel cut-off valve. At the same time we installed the wiring for the fuel gauge and stern-light, all tucked quite neatly under the port deck clamp.

Inverter woes

Both 1500 watt – but as you can see the “pure sine” one is a lot bigger!

At this point I decided to make sure the electrics all worked – they all did, except the inverter which just would not light the burner. It’s really a mystery, which many people put down to me choosing a “modified sine-wave inverter”.

These are meant to power “dumb” things quite well, but I guess the electronics in the flame-failure device were just too smart. So I had to buy a replacement “pure sine-wave” one at about 3 times the price and 4 times the size!!!

A complete triumph – for Louise!

The next job was to make a cover for the boat – something we had both fretted about for a good while. But emboldened by her success with the piped cushions Lou ordered 10 metres of waterproof “canvas” and produced a perfect result!

We had arranged to use a ratchet strap between the cabin roof and rear deck (passing over the funnel) as a type of “ridge pole” and used about 25 lift-the-dot fasteners to hold the cover taught. We had cut a very rough template from an old (cheap) tarpaulin, and with apparent ease (and her 30-year old Brother sewing machine) Lou produced the result below – one very impressed and pleased Malcolm!

So – bringing the blog up to date

As I have written this post, I have started to realise why we weren’t ready on the 1st April – there was a LOT to do.

I really think we are coming to a close now, today I made the tiller for the rudder (just needs final fettling and some varnish), and attached a boarding ladder to the transom (it’s starting to look like a cross between cross-channel ferry and gin palace), tomorrow John is stopping by to provide another head as we finally decide how to route all the steam and feed-water plumbing, and then we might have no more excuses not to launch it… Oh wait a minute, there is the anti-fouling…..

Here are some pictures of the “engine room” to tide you over to next time!


More Electrics, “Decks” and Woodwork

Having craned the engine and boiler into the hull we have now settled the position of the key components and can start to deal with some of the remaining fitting out tasks.

We are still aiming for an April Launch, but in true project planning style we had not said which day in April, so we have a few days left. The following items have been addressed so far:

Electrical Installation

Continue reading

A final video: Everything running on the bench

First Fix the Bugs!

Following on from the Boiler test, and a quick trial we identified just over 20 items that needed some attention. So a week later, with all these items fixed (from leaking valves to painting and plating valve gear components), we are ready to try again. Continue reading

ValveGear getting close

Close but no coconut

I have been working on the valve gear completing the expansion links and die blocks. The link slots are longer than designed (due to iffy dimensioning on the drawings), so I made the die blocks longer to match, so I think all should be OK.

Colin Sims and I have been debating if the eccentric rods are too long, and having now assembled the LP Valve gear I can confirm they are!! I have ad to shorten the clevis (?) at the bottom of the valve rod, and also shorten the valve rod to get everything to fit – not a complete disaster, but it seemed to be about 3/8″ long over all…

Worried about LP Valve too

Having now assembled the LP gear I could not resist applying some compressed air to see what happened – and what happened? The valve leaked (a lot). Inspection revealed that the eccentrics and eccentric rods are too close to the valve chest, and so exert some side pressure on the valve rod, and the design of the “buckle” means that this resulted in the valve being held off it’s seat. I am sure this is all as a result of inaccuracies in my machining, but it’s still a bit of a concern.

A normal slide valve buckle allows the valve to settle smoothly onto the port face, but the circular arrangement in the Leak has the opportunity to hold it at an angle in either the vertical or horizontal plane. Disconnecting the expansion link from the valve rod, resulted in the valve seating, so I think it’s just a matter of providing enough “slop” to prevent the crank endfloat from forcing things out of line…

However, I also found if I upped the pressure the balanced valve started to leak. – It  seemed to be that the part a the valve bearing on the valve chest cover is forced off it’s seat.  (not a good sign). It would appear that there is insufficient surface area on this part of the valve to hold it in contact with the cover, a large change!.. Time will tell…

Some picks of machining the links and assembly…

Making it nice…

As we have stripped down the assembly, it’s time to do some “finishing” prior to a (hopefully) final erection of the major components.

At the SBA social in Hereford in the Autumn John Winn had given a talk on Nickel Plating as a way of reducing the polishing needed to maintain the engine. Given that Befur is destined for Salty Water this seemed like a good plan. I had done plating in the past with complete success, using a Dynic Nickel Plating kit on the loco, so decided to have another go on the bright-work on the engine. However, on the last batch of plating I had contaminated the solution by letting the brass anode hangers get into the bath (even though they were varnished over. So it now produces a rather nasty looking black (but corrosion proof) finish.

Dynic seem not to exist any more, so eBay provided replacement Nickel Salts (Frost Restorations), and the local gardening store provided a nice plastic trough capable of holding the rather larger parts needed on the Leak.

I had not done any plating on steel or cast before, and did not imagine it would hold any problems. The whole game plan is to CLEAN the parts to be plated – any failure here and you WILL get crap results!

You can  use an  Acid Bath to start with, but Dynic provided de-greasing solution that you boil the parts in, and then you scrub and wash them repeatedly using scouring powder – and DO NOT TOUCH the parts once they leave the de-greasing tank.

Well, we followed the previous plan, with mixed results – everything “looked” OK, but after a short time tell-tale rust was showing thru but not on the really polished parts of the components (The parts rust very fast (10 mins) in the open air as they are SO clean).

So some analysis suggested that we had failed to get the grease out of the minute holes in the less polished parts of the components, so back to the start – stop-off the bits that were OK with varnish, re-boil the parts in the de-greaser, re-scrub and re-plate. The results look pretty good to me… See Pictures below>

Connecting Rods, Cleaned waiting under water for the plating Tank

Connecting Rods, Cleaned waiting under water for the plating Tank

Scrubbing after degreasing - each component is scrubbed then washed at least 3 times.

Scrubbing after degreasing – each component is scrubbed then washed at least 3 times.

Like any Chemistry this is messy - CHinese Fishtank Heater, Maplin Constant Current Supply, Bath, anodes and components.

Like any Chemistry this is messy – Chinese Fish-tank Heater, Maplin Constant Current Supply, Bath, anodes and components.

The Engine Columns in the Plating Tank (Nickel Sulphate provides nice colour)

The Engine Columns in the Plating Tank (Nickel Sulphate provides nice colour)

The end result seems quite nice - I stopped off the sliding surfaces on the piston rods - we will see how the plating survives in the stuffing boxes!

The end result seems quite nice – I stopped off the sliding surfaces on the piston rods – we will see how the plating survives in the stuffing boxes!

Work on the engine begins!

Well, we’re off! Spent the day clearing the workshop ready to get started, and trying to decide where to begin. The bed casting had already been mostly machined, so I spent a while measuring it up to check all well. Bruno had mentioned that it was “mostly” OK, a few minutes found that all was well, except that the main bearing housing was 1 3/4 instead of 1 5/8’s..Not catastrophic, but it has implications. The next parts to address are the columns, and there I found my first dimensional error on the drawings (the offest from the cross-head slideways to the front of the foot is shown a 1 5/16 instead of 1 15/16!).

This also points to a need to adjust the column setting jig to accomodate the changed main bearing housing – so the first metal to be cut is the removing a 16th from the face of the jig… so we have certainly begun! 🙂

The Castings Arrive!

Castings for Befur's Engines

Beauty in Cast Iron!

The engine ceases being and “idea” and transforms into a few hundred pounds of cast iron!

As planned Louise and I returned from the sailing course and hot-footed it to Paris to meet up with Bruno Martin-Neuville and his friends from the Amateurs de Bateaux á Vapeur and purchase this beautiful set of castings.

Bruno, Jean-Yves, and John entertained us wonderfully with a tour of their fabulous facilities in Severes on the outskirts of Paris and a very nice lunch. (we forgot to take pictures! but saw Midship, Melusine and others…)

So the winter’s work is now clear – to commence transforming these castings into a working engine – it’s clear that there are some “deamons” lurking in the drawings, so I am pleased to have the help and advice of some of the professionals from my Model Engineering club and the support of previous builders in the SBA