Bee-ing Creative: Build a Gas Engine

Cabin fever leads one collector to build a gas engine from spare parts

| October/November 2011

Sometimes it is just necessary to invent a project, or build a gas engine, when the weather is cold, snow is on the ground and you’re tired of staying inside.


Going through my excess inventory (junk pile), I found a set of Witte flywheels, a John Deere head, Sparta Economy piston and rod, a Fairbanks-Morse governor, and a crankshaft that worked with the Witte flywheels, though I don’t remember what engine it came from. Having a local salvage yard is certainly a big help in developing projects, so I went there looking for more parts. I found a hydraulic cylinder with an inside diameter that was a perfect fit for the Sparta piston, some C-channel for an engine base and cart rails, well pipe to use as the outside water jacket, a pump off a glue machine, a set of self-aligning pillow block bearings from a shrink wrapper and an oiler off an old metal lathe. Then, it was back to the shop with this wonderful “collection.”

Determining the engine base

Step one was to find a crankshaft gear, so I used a Fairbanks-Morse ZC 118 as I also had the cam gear and governor from the same engine.

Next, I worked on the pillow block bearings for use as main bearings, the narrow pulley to be used as a drive source for the water pump, and then the flywheels. Starting there determined the necessary width for the engine base, which was made by cutting two pieces of the C-channel from the salvage yard. I bolted the bearing to the C-channel and I had an engine bed.

Prepping the hydraulic cylinder  

Step two consisted of cutting the hydraulic cylinder to length, which meant using a few calculations to determine the crankshaft throw distance, as well as piston length and combustion chamber size when the piston is top center.

The next job began by cutting a half-inch steel plate to attach to each end of the cylinder, providing a water jacket as well as something to anchor the head. Upon welding one end to the cylinder (head end), I cut a piece of well casing to provide the outside of the water jacket and then welded this to the first plate. Next, I welded the other steel plate to the hydraulic cylinder and then to the well casing.