A Piezo Crystal Furnishes the Ignition

| February/March 1997

4312 Lone Oak Road Nashville, Tennessee 37215

A friend of mine gave me this air compressor to convert into a hit and miss engine, an offer I couldn't refuse. It turned out to be NOS, as the hone marks were still evident on the wall of the 17/8 dia. x 1 stroke cylinder. The crankshaft runs in Timken taper roller bearings. I had to weld an extension on the back end of the crankshaft to support the second flywheel, and upon checking the hole in the front cover, I noticed it was around .003 larger all around than the crankshaft passing through it. Then I realized the purpose of that reed type valve on the top of the crankcase: On the down stroke of the piston, air is compressed in the crankcase and this is vented out through the flapper valve, while the vacuum formed inside there, on the upstroke, sucks any oil trying to get out around the crankshaft back into the crankcase. So I machined the same clearance around the new shaft end in the back cover. This works very well, as I have experienced no oil leakage in this area at all.

I really liked the cylinder head on this compressor with its fins and the two valve locations just right to position my valves inside the cylinder area. It was simple to ream out the air valves and press in cast iron guides for the valve stems. These were NOS Lauson engine valves. On an air compressor the piston, of course, comes almost smack up against the head, so I inserted between the head and the cylinder a ? thick cast iron spacer bored out around 7/16 deep to form a combustion chamber that would give me about a 4 :1 compression ratio. As the valve seats are in this insert and the valve guides are in the head, I doweled them together with 3/16 pins to maintain alignment. I used 'O' rings to seal both joints, as it looked like there was not much area here for a regular head gasket to hold.

The timing gears are Briggs &. Stratton, as is the mixer valve and also the flyweight governor, which was internal on some model B&S. I had to add some steel pins for added weight to the flyweights to have enough 'umph' to slide the tapered spool back to operate the push rod latch-out properly. The two rough flywheel castings were purchased from Tiny Power Models. I made the gas tank from a piece of 2' brass pipe I had and the ends are from ? brass sheet soft soldered in with 95/5 solder. The ends are bumped out just to give the tank a little 'character.'

The little brass box shown in the photo wired up to the spark plug contains a piezo crystal, which furnishes the ignition for the engine. I have had very good success with this system, as this is the second engine I have used it on. The crystal is from one of those red handle charcoal grill lighters that can be bought most anywhere for around $3. The crystal is encased inside a spring loaded plastic case that acts just like an automatic center punch, in that as you push the end of the case in against the spring, a latch releases and the spring snaps an internal weight against the crystal, causing the spark. I mounted a cam on the side of the large timing gear opposite the exhaust valve cam, only instead of a lobe on this cam I have a low spot. This is to hold the plastic assembly compressed until the spark is needed, when it will retract and quickly move back in to fire. It takes 3/16 travel for the unit to cock before the next cycle. The idea of keeping the unit compressed is to have a way to prevent the crystal from firing while the engine is coasting, thus extending the life of the unit. The ignition system is operated by a bell crank with a roller on the end of the lower arm that contacts the timing cam and the upper arm pushes a rod in line with the piezo crystal assembly. Bolted to the front side of the top arm is another lever which extends over close to the exhaust valve push rod. A pin in the end of this lever lines up with a sheet metal foot bolted to the push rod in such alignment that when the engine is coasting and the push rod is up, the foot catches the pin and prevents the bell crank from doing its thing until the push rod moves back down. I have not had to replace one of these crystals in the two years the other engine has been running, but when the time comes it will be a matter of maybe twenty minutes time and not over $3 in cost. A small price to pay for eliminating batteries, coil, points, condenser and a passel of wiring.

Oh yes, the compressor engine runs fine. Runs a little fast, hitting one lick and coasting eight or nine revolutions at a very constant speed.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

Be sure to take advantage of the Square Deal Subscription Program.

  • No Missed Issues.

  • No Renewal Notices.

  • No Additional Cost.

The Square Deal Subscription Program is designed as a paperless transaction with automatic renewals at a preferred low rate.   With advanced electronic notification, a 100% satisfaction guarantee and an easy opt-out plan, the Square Deal Subscription Program is the best value, risk free, eco-friendliest way to subscribe.

Facebook YouTube


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265