Little Sam is beginning to acquire the
distinctive Samson character, as you can see. I never dreamed it
would turn out as well as it has, considering what little
experience and machine tools I have. I am very pleased at the end
result of Phase One and look forward to the beginning of Phase Two
Phase Two consists of building the patterns and core prints for
the combustion chamber, chamber top cap, governor body, frame and
balls, air preheater and possibly some linkage parts. I’ve been
told small cast iron parts are very brittle and may break under
normal machine tool operations. However, I will attempt the cast
iron first because I’m hard headed and need to learn the hard way.
Plus, I’m trying to maintain the integrity of original materials in
A few technical details are as follows: The cylinder has a cast
iron sleeve and water jacket and the head is water-cooled using a
two-piece design shrink fitted together. The crankshaft is turned
from a solid billet using mild steel running in a tin-based babbitt
bearing, the connecting rod is a marine style fitted with correct
brasses true to form and all bearings are fitted with shim packs as
original. The timing gears are Boston blanks machined to
specification and the timing gear blank was bored to accept a large
blank plug on which the Samson cam profile was machined. All nuts
and bolts were turned from hex steel with high profile heads and
lubricators are from Debolt Machine Inc., Zanesville, Ohio.
The dark finish used to blacken the castings is a product called
Brass Black, a Birchwood Casey product. It can be purchased from
Coles Power Models. Specifically for brass, it works beautifully on
cast iron to give it that “aged” look. It is durable, doesn’t rub
off and doesn’t hide the beauty of the iron.
One of the marvelous things about building scales is that when
they are in pieces or you are just beginning, the big picture seems
so far away. But piece-by-piece they are assembled, until one day
it all comes together with the character of the big one. I feel the
same thrill with Little Sam that I do with the big Samsons. It
amazes me that something so small can capture the same magic the
big ones possess. It is something only a builder of scales can
I would suggest that a first time builder choose a 1/4-scale
engine for his first project, something of a simple, basic design.
These larger, 1/3-scale projects require larger machine tools. This
was a problem for me, not having access to a lathe accurate enough
to bore the cylinder.
Dave Wallace of Waltman’s Machine in Modesto, Calif., did the
boring and sleeving of Little Sam. Frank Beeks lent a hand as well,
and between the two of them, they were able to find that elusive
centerline on which everything else depends. Everything lined up
perfectly. Very excellent work, thanks guys!
After the boring procedure, things started falling together as
the crankshaft was aligned and babbitted, and the piston and rod
assembly were fitted. I have learned more about machine work in the
last four months than I have in the previous 20 years. Some things
I will do quite differently next time around with perhaps better
results. That’s what it’s all about, creating solutions and
exercising your mind with challenges. I have a great fondness for
this wonderful journey of creating power in flywheels by the power
of thought and imagination.
That’s it for now. Back to the drawing board and pattern making.
Now I will trade iron swarf for mahogany sawdust and shellac – the
cleanup never ends!
Contact engine enthusiast Lester Bowman at: 175 N. Santa Ana
Ave., Modesto, CA 95354; firstname.lastname@example.org
A W.F. Porter Engine has Never Surfaced: Frank Gassett
Thinks he Has One
By Frank H. Gassett
Recently, I acquired an air-cooled,
hit-and-miss engine, but have not made a positive identification as
to its manufacturer. It has a brass plate attached to the upper
cylinder skirt, but no data is shown. Looking in C.H. Wendel’s
American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 makes me believe it’s a W.F.
Porter, as most engine features are identical to the photos
The engine is heavy, weighing in at about 600 pounds. Cylinder
cooling fins are few and spread apart, which no doubt necessitated
the belt-driven fan. There are five cylinder barrel fins and five
diagonal cylinder head fins. I didn’t see any wear patterns that
would indicate a cooling shroud was ever used. Cylinder bore and
stroke is 4-1/2 inches and 5 inches, respectively, and the
crankshaft journal diameter mea-sures 1-1/2 inches. The flywheels
are 20 inches in diameter and have a width of 2-1/8 inches. The
belt pulley diameter is 12 inches, and width is 5 inches.
The base and cylinder are cast as one, and there are two bearing
bosses located below and to each side of the cylinder skirt, which
allow a transverse-mounted idler shaft to rotate for a PTO.
Embossed on the flywheels is “BE1,” and the main bearing caps read
“B3.” The engine is equipped with a Lunkenheimer carburetor and
buzz coil/spark plug ignition. The fuel tank is cast with the
I have talked with several people who have some knowledge of
this type of engine, and all say it was built by Air Cooled Motor
Co. of Lansing, Mich. This may be true, as many components shown in
Wendel’s book of the engines manufactured by Air Cooled Motor Co.,
Original Gas Engine Co. and Ideal Gas Engine Co. (apparently all
are related) are similar to those on my engine. One person advised
that his similar engine has “Air Cooled Motor Co.” embossed on the
flywheels, but mine lacks this feature.
I believe my engine was manufactured early in the 20th century,
as the main castings are very heavy and crude. I also believe
whoever built my engine must have built the W.F. Porter engine
I can’t honestly say I restored the engine, but parts and
repairs were made to bring it to a state of good running condition.
The cam gear lies under the crank gear, and as a result of worn
main bearings, the two gears were bottomed. The crank gear was
constructed of bronze and was worn beyond use as a result of the
bottoming. So, a replacement was cut. Two fan blades were missing,
so I had a four-blade fan assembly cut from stainless steel sheet
metal at the local technical school’s machine technology
department. I poured new main and rod bearings with help from my
best friend, my wife, Nyoka. The green paint I used is the result
of finding traces of old green paint under the accumulation of oil
and grease while cleaning.
I would’ve thought starting would be a problem, as the
carburetor sits far below the intake port. Not so. In fact, I had a
severe flooding dilemma, but installing a fuel shutoff valve
between the fuel tank outlet and carburetor inlet rectified this.
Opening this valve prior to starting for only a few seconds, then
returning it to the “off” position, allows just enough fuel to
enter the mixer for an easy start. After start up, shifting the
valve to “open” maintains continuous operation.
Hopefully some of you Gas Engine Magazine readers have knowledge
of the history, have collected technical data or just know
interesting information about this engine and are willing to
contribute. Most importantly, I would like to know the
manufacturer, approximate year it was built and the horsepower
rating. It would also be interesting to learn how the two bearing
bosses were utilized for a PTO.
Contact gas engine enthusiast Frank H. Gassett at: 156 Kelley
Bottom Road, Oglethorpe, GA 31068; (478) 472-8894;