Steam bike – Roper replica

Posted by jerry on January 9th, 2009 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling, Steam

The Steam Car Club of Great Britain has a wonderful step-by-step article on how Paul Brodie of Flashback Fabrications built a couple of replicas of Sylvester Roper’s 1898 steam bike. The article gives details of boiler construction (pages 7-8), and the feed water pump (page 4) which is driven by an eccentric on the opposite side of the rear axle from the main drive. The throttle valve is covered on page 5, while the fire box is covered on page 10 – a modernised version could run a gas or pressurised kerosene burner in that space. The steam assembly is on page 13 showing how the power system comes together to make a complete bike.

Roper steam bike replica by Paul Brodie
The completed steam bike replica[photo adapted from Steam Car Club of Great Britain]

And here is a video showing the bike in action

This is a very detailed write-up and well worth visiting the Steam Car Club of Great Britain – and while you’re at it, why not join up too! The site, run by Jeff Theobold, has loads of information about steam cars and other steam bikes.


Moon photo

Posted by jerry on January 7th, 2009 — Posted in Journal, Technology

Now that I have a remote trigger for the camera (Canon 1000D dslr) I thought I’d have another go at getting a better shot of the moon


Canon 1000D dslr with EF75-300mm zoom; f/11; 1/125sec; ISO-200; auto white balance, centre focus. The camera was mounted on a tripod with remote trigger. Processing – slight curves adjustment and warming photo filter in photoshop CS2.

Any tips for this newbie photographer are most welcome 🙂


Visuwords – graphical dictionary and thesaurus

Posted by jerry on December 29th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, New media, Writing

Dictionaries are great, but they are linear in layout, and sometimes you just want words to collide with each other visually in interesting ways. Visuwords ™ uses the Princeton University online dictionary to display terms in graphical relationship with other words forming neural nets. It is a great tool for visualising where words fit in the context of syntactic structures.

You can pull the terms around and follow syntactic links with other words by double clicking on the other words to expand the net – if nothing else, it’s a good procrastination device while you are trying to think of a word while writing!


Woodworking – making a bending iron

Posted by jerry on December 28th, 2008 — Posted in Music, Woodwork

While I successfully used a piece of water pipe and a blow torch for forming the sides of my travel violin, I felt I needed something more reliable for the mandolin. I had read of the possibility of using a heat gun – the sort used to strip paint – to provide a steady heat source, but saw no plans for doing so.

It was time to think it through and find my own solution. And here it is.

luthier's bending iron

Please note that the air needs a place to escape so that the end of the heat gun doesn’t melt. But the solution is a durable one.

luthier's bending iron

The pipe structure comprises an internal plug with a square top – which is held in the vise. Attached is an T-junction connector, with one opening towards the heat gun, the other vertical. To the vertical end is attached a short piece of water pipe using a connector. And that’s it. The heat enters the wider aperture of the T-junction, finds the lower aperture plugged, and diverts up the vertical tube. The vertical tube is narrower than the T-junction, so the tube gets to be heated, while waste air is released out the top – away from the person doing the bending.

luthier's bending iron

On the hot setting (600C) the vertical tube is plenty hot enough to boil water on contact, but because the waste heat can escape, there is no heat buildup to melt the heat gun, and there is no hot blast of air against the body of the operator.

The proof is in this piece of binding which was used to test the bending iron.

luthier's bending iron

Steam bike update

Posted by jerry on December 19th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Steam

Back in October 2007 I wrote about a little-known steam motorcycle built in 1917 by William Taylor, based on an FN. Thanks to some detective work by one of my readers, an article turned up in Model Engineer Vol 1 no 7 about this very motorcycle, which provided some interesting technical details from someone who was evidently very familiar with the bike.

The frame was indeed from a Belgian FN (Fabrique Nationale) – the frame looks like that of the 1914 285cc model which was shaft driven. The FN company began life in 1899 as an arms manufacturer, later turning to bicycles and then motorcycles.

The engine was likely a Wachs as I mentioned in my original blog post. The engine was a single cylinder double acting engine with 2 1/8″; bore and 2 1/2″; stroke, directly coupled to the tailshaft (the bike was originally shaft driven) using a reduction gear of 6 1/2; to 1.

The boiler was 9″ x 12″ comprising 120 1/2″; of seamless copper tube, running a pressure of 500psi. The boiler feedwater was run through two water heaters, producing superheated steam. The burner was kerosene (parafin) fueled and had a simple pilot light. The exhaust was condensed by a surface condensor and the water fed back into the boiler, with any un-condensed steam being exhausted to the air.

The tank slung above the engine and boiler was divided into two, containing fuel and water, with the fuel being delivered to the burner under pressure.

According to the contemporary report, the bike could sustain 25mph, with higher speeds available in short spurts. The bike was heavy for its power and tended to underperform against its internal combustion contemporaries. And the burner did not behave well in high winds. In addition, as the reviewer noted “The rise in steam pressure on a sudden stop did not make one feel at ease in the saddle”!

So the bike was a one-off experiment – and the candidness of the reviewer usefully noted the bike’s shortcomings as well as its virtues.

Thanks to Pavel for the additional information.