As the modern technology of the internet and World Wide Web make
the world a smaller place, hopefully it will help in the fight
against crime in the hobby.
Earlier this year engines and smaller parts such as oilers were
stolen from the Anson Museum in the UK, a museum devoted to
stationary engines, and in a recent GEM was the distressing story
of two engines stolen from a show in Virginia. Thankfully, these
are rare occurrences, but ones which we can try to prevent by being
aware of stolen items and keeping a look out for them. To this end,
Ken Christison of North Carolina has created a web page with a log
of stolen engines which can be found at:
Take a look, and keep an eye out for any of these items.
The Tri-State Show at Portland is not just to look at lots of
engines and have an annual meeting with friends, it’s also a
time to do a little work on engines and share ideas. One of our
group was using a homemade gasket cutter which has been the subject
of recent discussions on our internet mailing list, when someone
asked for a description of the device.
It’s a circle cutter only, made of hardboard near to 12′
X 12′ with a center pin, upon which an arm will pivot. On the
outermost end of said arm is a slot and a threaded hole for an
Xacto blade and a set screw. You push the gasket paper over the
center pivot pin and this will hold it steady and also index each
et the arm down over the pin and start making circles. Just
remember to make the outside cut first! It won’t work too good
on the steel reinforced stuff except for layout work. But it’s
a killer on paper and compressed material.
Cut the gasket out like using a compass. Adjust the arm to the
ID, cut and you have a perfect gasket. Works best with round
gaskets! You then need a punch to make the head bolt holes but if
you don’t a paper hole punch will also work. It is a lot less
complicated than it sounds.
After seeing the one at Portland, I bought a set of Trammels at
a local wood working store. I then bought a 14′ bar of
‘x1′ stainless steel and bingo!I have a gasket cutter that
will cut a gasket up to about 26’. I have about $30.00 invested
in the whole thing.
The Trammels I bought simply have a pin on each of the legs. The
pins are replaceable and VERY sharp. I’ve cut three head
gaskets for my 16 HP Galloway out of heavy gasket material. I’m
still on my first pin, and it is still very sharp!
It takes a bit of pressure to cut, and about 8-10 times around.
It took me about five minutes to cut a gasket14′ od x 8′
ID. They came out perfectly.
This is a great set-up for cutting paper gaskets. I have a hard
time cutting the head gaskets made from thick gasket material. I
used a Stanley/utility knife before and had to bear down really
hard and go around three or four times to get all the way through.
Do you think this Exacto blade set-up would work for the harder,
thicker, head gasket material? I wonder if the blade would hold up?
Any tips for cutting that thick stuff?
I used the thick gasket material for my Sattley. I roughly sized
the material to fit outside of the head. Then, I punched out the
holes for the head bolts. Next, I placed the gasket down on the
cylinder using the bolts as a guide. To reach the back side of the
gasket to mark it, I tied a pencil on a rod. I was able to scribe
the diameter of the cylinder on to the gasket material. Using a
pair of tin snips, I was able to cut the gasket to conform to the
pencil lines. I used smaller punches to make the cuts for the water
I like to use a router with a ‘ straight cutter for circles
over 6’ dia. I made a radius jig with a piece of sheet metal
that’s fastened to the router base. It had holes as needed.
Wood screw the gasket material and the center pivot to a piece of
plywood. Requires little effort. On tough stuff make several
We use a ‘Walkers’ brand gasket cutter at work with the
average run of the mill Stanley knife blade in it. Just keep going
round till it breaks through (usually five or six laps on material
1/8‘ thick). Because you pierce a hole
through the middle, on wire/shim reinforced gaskets, you can scribe
through to the wire on one side, turn gasket over and scribe
through on this side then the tin snips follow the scribe lines
easily cutting through the wire giving a neat job.
Thanks to everybody that responded to my gasket cutter query!
What I’ve done before is take a piece of notebook paper, place
it on the head, and run my greasy finger around the edges of the
head, bore, water ports, and bolt holes giving me an outline of the
gasket. Then I cut out the paper template with scissors. I taped
the notebook pattern to the gasket material and proceeded to cut
around and around with the utility knife. It’s hard to keep the
knife in the same groove each time around. The next time I’m
needing gaskets I’ll make my own cutter based on the design
suggested. Instead of the outer block being able to accept only the
Exacto blade I’ll add another bolt/knob to tighten in a utility
knife blade. Thanks again everyone!!
I’ve done a similar thing, but I use the piece of gasket
material and a ball peen hammer. Tapping along the edges of the
cylinder, bore, water jacket slots, bolt holes, etc. Produces a
lovely gasket and no cut fingers. Picked that tip up from an old
gas engine ‘how to’ book circa 1915.
Yes, this works great . . . generally use this procedure myself
when the objects being gasketed are accessible and have good edges
. . . and aren’t aluminum. I also keep a set of bolts with an
end sawed-off for sharpness that I use to punch the holes with.
Align the gasket on the cylinder head, for example, and you can tap
a nice clean hole just punching through the gasket into the
corresponding hole in the head. It’s a little tricky sometimes
to position the punch just right, but you can usually dimple the
gasket material with your finger enough to find the outline of the
I also do this. If I have studs sticking out of the cylinder
(usually been the case), I start the first hole on the head. Insert
a bolt. Do one on the opposite side. Insert a bolt. Do that for all
bolt holes. Then put the gasket over the studs and do the remaining
holes. Or sometimes I’ll leave it on the head. Just depends on
the configuration of the various bits (water jacket, counterbore,
Better listen to this, and cut the bolt holes first one at a
time, and then the bore. I’ve been getting great service out of
some serrated tin snips. AND you needn’t cut all the water
passage out, a hole here and there usually works fine for show.
Your advice on not cutting all of the holes may be good for the
southern part of the country. Up here in Michigan I cut all of the
holes in the lower half of the gasket to insure complete drainage
for WINTER storage. I learned this the hard way by thinking I had
drained the engine but the gasket held enough water to put a nice
freeze crack in the head. Here in the frozen north take the time to
cut all of the holes in the lower half of the head gasket.
I’ve found that using a hammer on the outer and inner edge
of the head works fine, but when doing the holes for the studs I
get a ragged cut, even with a peen hammer. If you can find or have
old balls from a bearing about the same size as the hole, and
pounding on it, I get a much nicer cut. If you don’t have a
ball bearing, get a pipe nipple about the same diameter as the hole
and grind a taper on one end down to a sharp inner edge. With the
peen hammer, tap the hole area enough to mark the location of the
holes. Then find a short piece of 4×4 and lay the gasket on the end
grain of the wood. Smack it a time or two and you got a hole. Note:
The longer the taper the better it will work. Because pipe is soft,
you may have to sharpen it again in the middle of the job.
With all the discussion on cutting out gaskets, I will offer
mine. I measure the inner and outer diameter of the head, mark this
on the gasket with a compass and cut out with a box knife. Then put
the gasket on the head, and cut out one of the bolt holes with a
box knife or a Exacto knife. I place a bolt in this hole, then cut
out another one, and place a bolt in it. Now the gasket will not
move and I proceed to cut out the remainder of the bolt and water
holes, all the time using them as guides for my cuts. It dulls the
knife blades, but provides accurate cuts and is a relatively quick
I still have the tiny ball peen hammer my dad used for gasket
making. For cutting holes in the gaskets I have to make I use a
Vs’ push rod from a big block Chevy. Cut it in half and grind
it like a fish mouth, touch it to a grinder at a 45 degree angle.
This gives two cutting edges at the very outside, put it in a drill
and run it through the hole onto the gasket placed on a board.
Makes a clean cut the same size as the hole – a hole punch
can’t do this. For larger holes a piece of proper sized tubing
would work. The push rod material is very hard and holds an edge
I have used EMT electrical conduit to cut round holes in
gaskets. It requires less grinding (thinner wall) to sharpen the
end and usually is closer in diameter to commonly used bolts/studs.
With a reamer/die grinder you can grind the inside to sharpen which
gives a little more clearance to the bolts/studs just in case you
happen to punch one or more holes just a little off center.
Did you know that you can drill a hole in gasket material with a
Forsner bit? It will look like a factory punched hole, you can even
drill a perfect hole in a piece of news print if you desire.
Hopefully this information will help on the winter restoration
projects. As I write this, we are preparing for our last show of
2000, the Christmas Toy and Steam Day at our local pumping station,
to which we take a selection of our engines. By the time I read it
in print, we’ll be preparing for the first show of the