The 'Hit 'N Miss' Can Crusher

'Hit 'N Miss' Can Crusher

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2019 12th Street, Two Risers, Wisconsin 54241

The Idea

This project is the fruition of an idea I've had for a long time. We've all seen can crushers of various designs at the engine shows, but I didn't want my design to be an 'also ran.' I also wanted it to fit the theme of our antique engine shows, and to give my Hercules something to do at the shows besides just happily popping away. I've had the basic mechanics of the idea brewing in my head for years. A crank driven piston type crusher with a magazine feeder for the cans. I never built it before because there was nothing special about the design, and I had other things to occupy my time like rebuilding old engines. The spark that ignited the construction came one day when I was in the hardware store looking for a large spoked sheave (pulley) for another project. While looking at the sheave, I noted how much it looked like the flywheel of an old gas engine. I coupled that with my earlier thoughts about a crusher design, and thus, the 'Hit 'n Miss' can crusher was born.

The Construction

I chose hot rolled plate steel for the construction. I purchased the steel from Louie Taddy, a collector friend who had it sitting and rusting by his place for several years. The pitting and mottled surface texture add some character to the design. After sandblasting and painting, the texture simulates cast iron construction to some extent. At least that was the intention.

To start construction, two identical side plates were rough cut on the band saw, then milled to final size. To ensure milling them identically, I pinned the blanks together and milled them as one piece. Dimensions were determined using the dimensions of a standard aluminum can as a guide. The height of the can and the amount of crushed height determined the length of the hopper opening and the stroke of the crank. The hopper opening length needs to be such that the can will easily drop into position when the piston clears the chamber without tipping and wedging in the opening at an angle. A five-inch opening seems to work well. The crushed height of the can is 1 inches. I used a 4 inch stroke, which allows extra time in the bottom end of the stroke for the next can to settle into position. The distance from the hopper end to the crankshaft center is determined by adding the crushed height, the piston's wrist pin center-to-top dimension, half the stroke (crank offset), and the center to center rod length. Bronze bushings are used for the crankshaft and rod bearings.

I used a piece of three inch exhaust pipe for the cylinder and a 2 inch diameter piston from an old Briggs and Stratton engine. The cylinder is notched out to its midpoint beneath the hopper area to allow the next can to drop into place. This arrangement causes the piston to completely clear the confines of a round cylinder at the top of its stroke, so I welded a 2 inch long extension to the piston skirt. It works well at the slow speed that the crusher runs. The outside dimension of the cylinder determines the overall width of the unit.

The crankshaft is constructed from five pieces pinned together with roll pins. The shaft ends were machined, keyed, and drilled from a single shaft, then cut apart and faced on the ends. This ensures that the keys for the 'flywheels' will line up properly (so the spokes line up as on a real engine). The crank arms were also made from a single piece which was milled, drilled, and bored before cutting them apart and milling to final size. All pin holes were drilled 1/64 undersize, then reamed at assembly to ensure a good fit. The rod is milled and bored oversize at the ends to fit a set of bronze bushings for the crank pin and the wrist pin. My rod is ten inches long between centers.

The cart is welded up from 14 gauge 1 inch square steel tubing. I used an old flat belt pulley given to me by a friend, and machined an arbor for it to mount in a set of pillow block bearings. At the end of the flat pulley arbor is a two-inch v-belt sheave. This drives an eight-inch idler sheave. I machined a hub for this idler which has a two-inch v-belt groove at one end. This drives the ten inch spoked sheave 'flywheel' on the crusher itself. The end result is the crusher rotates at about ten to twelve rpm when driven by my Hercules engine. I used a piece of an old workbench for the cart's top. The wheels were found with some junk machinery at my father's farm. The handles are a set of post hole digger handles, shortened and modified to fit inside the square tubing pockets. There are more pictures and CAD drawings of the crusher available on my web site at:

I painted the unit dark green to match the Hercules. The striping was done by Randy Levendusky, a friend who works with me. Randy also helped me with some of the more difficult welding on the unit.

The crusher was built mostly as a conversation piece for the engine shows; all proceeds from the crushed aluminum will be donated to our church youth group or the local boy scout troop. Maybe I can even talk some scouts into tending the crusher at the shows. That may be a good way to get youth involved in the hobby. This was one of those projects that started very small and simple, then blossomed as I went along. I never expected to spend so much time or have so much fun doing it.