The ‘Hit ‘N Miss’ Can Crusher

Author Photo
By Nelson Johnsrud | Sep 1, 1998

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I don't have a router, so Louie rounded the table edges for me.
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Randy Levendusky striping the crusher.
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Randy and Louie running the crusher. (Note the load of 'new projects' on the truck in the background.)

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

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

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.

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