The End of the Beginning

The Little Samson Webspoke is Assembled!


The mild steel crankshaft is turned from a solid billet.

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Little Sam is beginning to acquire the distinctive Samson character, as you can see. I never dreamed it would turn out as well as it has, considering what little experience and machine tools I have. I am very pleased at the end result of Phase One and look forward to the beginning of Phase Two (completion).

Phase Two consists of building the patterns and core prints for the combustion chamber, chamber top cap, governor body, frame and balls, air preheater and possibly some linkage parts. I've been told small cast iron parts are very brittle and may break under normal machine tool operations. However, I will attempt the cast iron first because I'm hard headed and need to learn the hard way. Plus, I'm trying to maintain the integrity of original materials in application.

A few technical details are as follows: The cylinder has a cast iron sleeve and water jacket and the head is water-cooled using a two-piece design shrink fitted together. The crankshaft is turned from a solid billet using mild steel running in a tin-based babbitt bearing, the connecting rod is a marine style fitted with correct brasses true to form and all bearings are fitted with shim packs as original. The timing gears are Boston blanks machined to specification and the timing gear blank was bored to accept a large blank plug on which the Samson cam profile was machined. All nuts and bolts were turned from hex steel with high profile heads and lubricators are from Debolt Machine Inc., Zanesville, Ohio.

The dark finish used to blacken the castings is a product called Brass Black, a Birchwood Casey product. It can be purchased from Coles Power Models. Specifically for brass, it works beautifully on cast iron to give it that "aged" look. It is durable, doesn't rub off and doesn't hide the beauty of the iron.

One of the marvelous things about building scales is that when they are in pieces or you are just beginning, the big picture seems so far away. But piece-by-piece they are assembled, until one day it all comes together with the character of the big one. I feel the same thrill with Little Sam that I do with the big Samsons. It amazes me that something so small can capture the same magic the big ones possess. It is something only a builder of scales can experience.

I would suggest that a first time builder choose a 1/4-scale engine for his first project, something of a simple, basic design. These larger, 1/3-scale projects require larger machine tools. This was a problem for me, not having access to a lathe accurate enough to bore the cylinder.

Dave Wallace of Waltman's Machine in Modesto, Calif., did the boring and sleeving of Little Sam. Frank Beeks lent a hand as well, and between the two of them, they were able to find that elusive centerline on which everything else depends. Everything lined up perfectly. Very excellent work, thanks guys!

After the boring procedure, things started falling together as the crankshaft was aligned and babbitted, and the piston and rod assembly were fitted. I have learned more about machine work in the last four months than I have in the previous 20 years. Some things I will do quite differently next time around with perhaps better results. That's what it's all about, creating solutions and exercising your mind with challenges. I have a great fondness for this wonderful journey of creating power in flywheels by the power of thought and imagination.

That's it for now. Back to the drawing board and pattern making. Now I will trade iron swarf for mahogany sawdust and shellac - the cleanup never ends!

Contact engine enthusiast Lester Bowman at: 175 N. Santa Ana Ave., Modesto, CA 95354;

Hey Porter!

A W.F. Porter Engine has Never Surfaced: Frank Gassett Thinks he Has One

By Frank H. Gassett

Recently, I acquired an air-cooled, hit-and-miss engine, but have not made a positive identification as to its manufacturer. It has a brass plate attached to the upper cylinder skirt, but no data is shown. Looking in C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 makes me believe it's a W.F. Porter, as most engine features are identical to the photos herein.

The engine is heavy, weighing in at about 600 pounds. Cylinder cooling fins are few and spread apart, which no doubt necessitated the belt-driven fan. There are five cylinder barrel fins and five diagonal cylinder head fins. I didn't see any wear patterns that would indicate a cooling shroud was ever used. Cylinder bore and stroke is 4-1/2 inches and 5 inches, respectively, and the crankshaft journal diameter mea-sures 1-1/2 inches. The flywheels are 20 inches in diameter and have a width of 2-1/8 inches. The belt pulley diameter is 12 inches, and width is 5 inches.

The base and cylinder are cast as one, and there are two bearing bosses located below and to each side of the cylinder skirt, which allow a transverse-mounted idler shaft to rotate for a PTO. Embossed on the flywheels is "BE1," and the main bearing caps read "B3." The engine is equipped with a Lunkenheimer carburetor and buzz coil/spark plug ignition. The fuel tank is cast with the base.

I have talked with several people who have some knowledge of this type of engine, and all say it was built by Air Cooled Motor Co. of Lansing, Mich. This may be true, as many components shown in Wendel's book of the engines manufactured by Air Cooled Motor Co., Original Gas Engine Co. and Ideal Gas Engine Co. (apparently all are related) are similar to those on my engine. One person advised that his similar engine has "Air Cooled Motor Co." embossed on the flywheels, but mine lacks this feature.

I believe my engine was manufactured early in the 20th century, as the main castings are very heavy and crude. I also believe whoever built my engine must have built the W.F. Porter engine also.

I can't honestly say I restored the engine, but parts and repairs were made to bring it to a state of good running condition. The cam gear lies under the crank gear, and as a result of worn main bearings, the two gears were bottomed. The crank gear was constructed of bronze and was worn beyond use as a result of the bottoming. So, a replacement was cut. Two fan blades were missing, so I had a four-blade fan assembly cut from stainless steel sheet metal at the local technical school's machine technology department. I poured new main and rod bearings with help from my best friend, my wife, Nyoka. The green paint I used is the result of finding traces of old green paint under the accumulation of oil and grease while cleaning.

I would've thought starting would be a problem, as the carburetor sits far below the intake port. Not so. In fact, I had a severe flooding dilemma, but installing a fuel shutoff valve between the fuel tank outlet and carburetor inlet rectified this. Opening this valve prior to starting for only a few seconds, then returning it to the "off" position, allows just enough fuel to enter the mixer for an easy start. After start up, shifting the valve to "open" maintains continuous operation.

Hopefully some of you Gas Engine Magazine readers have knowledge of the history, have collected technical data or just know interesting information about this engine and are willing to contribute. Most importantly, I would like to know the manufacturer, approximate year it was built and the horsepower rating. It would also be interesting to learn how the two bearing bosses were utilized for a PTO.

Contact gas engine enthusiast Frank H. Gassett at: 156 Kelley Bottom Road, Oglethorpe, GA 31068; (478) 472-8894;