Final Touch

By Staff
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Little Sam ran all season with this set-up: a 1-gallon barrel for cooling and propane for fuel.
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The finished plate (top), measuring 2-1/2-by-1-1/4-inch on the bending jig, and with the rough cast plate (bottom).
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A detail shot of the nameplate.
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Little Sam’s nameplate. From top: The wax pattern made from Marvin Hedberg’s die; rough casting; formed and polished.
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A close-up of Little Sam with the new nameplate.

Little Sam has been to several shows out here in California,
accumulating over 50 hours of running time, and has never missed a
lick. The little 1/3-scale Samson gas engine has proven itself as
steady and reliable as its bigger brothers. It runs like a watch on
propane. I consider it a Samson gas engine in every respect, a
smaller version fully representing John M. Kroyer’s ideas and a
full member of the family of engines built by Samson Iron Works in
Stockton, Calif.

When the final update appeared in Gas Engine Magazine in April
2006, it showed a finished engine all ready to run with the bugs
worked out. But you may have noticed a very important final touch

That final touch was the one thing Little Sam needed that I
couldn’t build in my mind. It was too small, too detailed and too
complex. I thought about it and could never come up with a
practical solution.

Isn’t it strange how engine guys have the best of luck? When I
first informed GEM of my intentions to scale the 5 HP Samson
webspoke, Richard Backus, editor, printed my inquiry asking for
practical suggestions for pattern making be sent to Modeler’s
Corner via Rusty Hopper. Shortly thereafter, I received a wonderful
letter from a fellow named Roland Morrison. This letter was filled
with encouragement and practical advice, and he also suggested he
might be able to help with the final touch. Because he himself had
been down this road and realized how difficult it is to create this
scale final touch.

I was intrigued! That was the beginning of a great friendship
with Roland. By now you may have guessed the final touch is the
lovely miniature nameplate fitted to Little Sam. It captures every
single detail of the early builder’s plate in high relief. My wife,
Melissa, swears it’s the most beautiful piece of “man jewelry”
she’s ever seen. I think so, too. The little nameplate makes the
engine, giving it a pedigree, and has become the focal point of
Little Sam.

Roland is an interesting guy and everyone should get to know
him. When you do, you’ll find another guy who partners with Roland
producing the most exquisite scale engine developments you can
imagine. This other guy is a soft spoken, gentle “Minnisooootan”
who has a big smile and firm handshake. Did I mention he builds the
most exquisite scale engines? (All to exact scale, using the lost
wax process.) Nothing common for these guys: Kansas City Lightning,
Mery vapor engine, Gade air-cooled and some in development I’m not
allowed to mention.

Marvin Hedberg is his name, and they are producing marvelous
stuff. They have a website at

Roland and Marvin are great guys and contributed the lovely
nameplate to Little Sam. There was no charge to me, but they were
not cheap to make. Consider their development.

When the plates came in the mail, I became so choked up I could
hardly speak. I was so pleased and astonished at the detail these
little plates of bronze possessed. I’m amazed at the high level of
precision inherent in these nameplates. They have no equal from
anyone or anywhere in the world.

The Samson nameplate was made using the investment (lost wax)
casting method. This method will give the finest casting detail
available. Marvin made an aluminum mold for the wax forms on his
CNC mill. First, he had to recreate the Samson nameplate on his
computer using surfcam software. To do this, he looked at photos
and rubbings of the original plate and this alone took eight to 10
hours. (Roland’s lovely wife, Luella, provided many details.) From
there, Marvin created a cutting program and posted the cutting
program to a floppy disk. Marvin loaded the program into a
milltronics CNC mill, which used cutters running up to 15,000 RPM
with diameters of 1/16- and 1/8-inch and 0.01 and 0.1 thousandths
diameter. The whole milling process took eight and a half hours.
Then the mold was sent to Roland where he did his magic using the
lost wax casting procedures.

In the beginning when I asked Roland how much the nameplates
would cost, he replied, “You (or us) could never afford them!” Shop
rate for a mill like this is $160 per hour.

I cannot begin to tell of the great help Roland and Marvin
provided in the development of Little Sam. How does this relate to
the hobby? Why would they help a guy with only a dream?

Let me tell you one thing: These guys who develop scale engines
are not getting rich. They work full-time jobs with all the
responsibilities we have. When you kick about the price scale
casting kits cost, when you gripe that the prints are off, when you
roll your eyes at what finished scales are bringing, consider this:
For every scale engine, there is a person who had a dream – a dream
that germinated into an idea and that idea into iron castings. From
this came a finished engine that other people will value and

Some are very, very good; others poor. This is the reality of a
scale. Their purpose is not to make money (but that would be nice)
but to bring joy and pride to the builder and designer. These
scales recreate a moment in time that existed long ago.

Building scales is a noble pursuit, occupying many dimensions,
but never making the developer wealthy. This is not the purpose,
nor the reason for their existence.

The Roland and Marvin nameplate represented is a work of art
created out of love and great respect for the early inventors who
struggled to initiate engines they dreamed would help their
environment. Many of these early pioneers will forever remain
nameless, unknown to modern man.

Roland and Marvin will always be identified with Little Sam and
his nameplate. It is a gift intended to perpetuate the engines that
helped remove the cruel yoke of toil from the backs of men (and
women). These engines created a better standard of living for our
children and helped create the finest country on the face of the

I tender my heartfelt thanks to Roland and Marvin for such a
wonderful gift. The little nameplate should be on a king’s crown,
but who am I to complain? It looks just fine on Little Sam.

Contact Lester Bowman at 175 N. Santa Ana Ave., Modesto, CA
95354; (209) 527-4665;

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