IndianaRog and the Temple of Steam

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Restorer's Toolbox:

UNDER PERPETUAL CONSTRUCTION ...when I think of it, I jot it here, in no particular order, just a brain dump

First off, I don't presume to be a know it all.  I have just picked up some time savers that worked for me either of my own thinking or that of others.  If I can remember where I got the tip, I will give credit.  Otherwise I take the blame.  Contributions are very welcome!!!

This stuff worked for me and has worked for others, your
mileage may vary as they say.

Index of What's Here:

    1. Oiling and prepping your engine (click here)
    2. Sight glass seal replacement (click here)
            - Jensen porthole type (newer style)
            - Jensen external type (older style)
           - Empire cast iron engine type (only style!)
    3. Fixing stripped boiler threads under a Jensen external sight glass  (click here)
    4. Fixing a leaking Empire "In Stack" pressure valve (click here)
    5. Securing loose chimneys (click here)
    6. Operating electrically heated engines (click here)
    7. Speed control for electrically heated engines (click here)
    8. Venting paint, stripper, Esbit & denatured alcohol (Meths) fumes (click here)
    9. Getting a Jensen 50/51 feedwater pump to operate reliably (click here)
    10. Jensen blanket heater replacement and boiler strap re-riveting (click here)
    11. Fixing a leaking or broken cylinder-steam chest solder joint (click here)
    12. Fixing a cracked Jensen cylinder wall (click here)
    13. Building a DC generator from a stepper motor (click here)
    14. Fixing a Jensen Model #15 generator with little or no light output (click here)
    15. How to properly package steam engines to survive shipping (click here)
    16. Repairing the heating element on an Empire B-31 Vertical engine (click here)
    17. Sourcing a NEW heating element for an Empire B-31 Vertical engine (click here)
    18. A standalone boiler for running small to midsize "orphan" engines (click here)
    19. Safety Check for New (old) electrically heated steam engines (click here)
    20. Key thread sizes on Jensen boilers (click here)
    21. Making large teflon gaskets for Jensen porthole style sight glasses (click here)
    22. Make a steam tap from a whistle to power that standalone engine (click here)
    23. Adapting a PM Research whistle to fit a Jensen boiler (click here)
    24. Jensen safety valves and how to replace their springs (click here)
    25. Making a replacement Jensen decal for early engines (click here)
    26. What is the correct water for use in toy steam boilers? (click here)
    27. How to remove/install a Hayco Cord Restraint on a Jensen firebox (click here)
    28. Removing smooth head/spiral nails from Jensen firebox bases (click here)
    29. Nickel plating with an inexpensive Caswell plating kit (click here)
    30. Replacing Jensen firebox rivets (eyelets) (click here)
    31. Stripping the pink paint off Jensen fireboxes to reveal copper plated steel beneath (click here)
    32. Cutting Boiler Gauge Glass Tube with a Dremel Diamond Cut Off Wheel (click here)

1) Oiling and Prepping Your Engine

To keep your engine in good running order, you need to oil it before a run and I often add more oil while it's steaming.  What's the best oil?  That is like asking a bunch of guys what is the best will get strong responses and plenty of them. 

All I can say is I have found a source of steam oils that works for me and they sell them in small quantities up to drum sizes.  My source is Green Velvet Oils  and I buy two types of oil from them in quart bottles.  A quart will last me a very, very long time as you use very little each time.  They also sell smaller pint bottles.  The two oils I get are:
  • Steam Cylinder Oil formula 3.1 (meant for coming in contact with live steam) and honey in color
  • Pin, Bearing & Journal Oil formula 1.0 meant for any friction surface not in contact with live steam.  This was Green Velvet's first oil and it is indeed GREEN

To get the oils where I want them and not drooling all over the place, I use a needle tip clock oiler, something I found on eBay just by searching on those words.  They are perfect, cost just a few dollars and hold several ounces of oil.  You might have to buy them WITH clock oil, but I just dumped that into a can we keep in the kitchen for oiling little things around the house. 

Get two such oilers, one for each type of oil.  An example oiler full of Green Velvet Steam Oil is to the left.  I'm told empty printer cartridge refilling bottles are similar to these and work just as if you or someone you know refills their own printer cartridges.

For oscillators, I just squeeze a bit between the two surfaces that oscillate AND drip a bit in on the piston.  If you are really committed, pull the piston out and coat the piston and cylinder walls with this oil.  Any whistle handles or steam valves that contact steam can also be oiled with a bit of this. 

For slide valve type engines as many of the Jensen's are, you can squeeze a bit in the exhaust port of the engine and turn the flywheel so as to suck it into the cylinder/piston area.   You can also squirt a bit into and onto the exposed inside cylinder walls when the piston is fully into the cylinder.  On an Empire, enough of the piston comes out of the cylinder walls you can drop a bit on the end that shows. 

For more sophisticated engines with built in lubricators, just take the needle part off for a moment and squirt a larger quantity of the steam oil into the lubricator and replace the cap.

The Pin, bearing and journal oil just goes everywhere else something moves and is contacting another surface...such as axles into their journals (supports), connecting rods where they meet the flywheel or eccentric. 

DON'T: use too much of either oil or you will find the engine slings it all over ...experience and cleanup required after a run are a good guide

DON'T: squirt any oil into the boiler will turn to a tar ball in the bottom and could gum up the steam outlet, sight glass or both.

CLICK HERE for an instant video


2) Sight Glass Seal Replacement

- For a Jensen porthole style internal sight glass engine (very easy)
  • If you are not familiar with removing the round porthole style sight glass...the following is a blow by blow explanation.   Simple task if you have the right tool. You need a piece of metal about the thickness of a penny and 1 1/8 inches along a straight edge from corner to corner. American 50 cent coin cut in half makes a perfect tool!!!  Whatever you use for the tool, it must fit snuggly in the slots in the nickel plated retention ring that holds the glass in...if the metal is too small or loose you will chew up the ring.
  • Put a squirt of WD-40 or similar thin consistency penetrating oil in the groove around the outer edge of the ring and let it sit overnite if possible, hour or so if you can't wait. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to remove it with the old hammer and a screwdriver tapping in a circle approach, as you will ruin the retaining ring.   Fellow steamer Ellis C. recommends a few drops of Coca Cola will also free up threaded parts that have become heavily limed up...seems Coke will not only dissolve your teeth, it will dissolve calcium deposits (lime) too !!!
  • After the oil (or Coke) has seeped into the grooves of the retaining ring, take your bit of metal, clench it in an adjustable wrench for some leverage and carefully turn the ring in a counterclockwise should come loose easily.  Behind the ring should be a round fiber gasket, then a round piece of glass and finally another round fiber gasket...remove all.  The retaining ring, two gaskets and glass ARE your sight glass...nothing more to remove.Soak the glass in a little vinegar (or Coke) until any built up lime is removed and the glass is clear. 
  • IF the gaskets are in good shape, you can re-use them...better to replace them however as they get out of round and leak easily.  Jensen sells the round sight glass gaskets, the retaining ring, the glass window itself and even the little piece of metal needed for use as a wrench.  It's a bit tedious, but you can also make new gaskets out of automotive fiber gasketing material...just need a good hand, an exacto blade and patience.  The $2.50 gasket kit from Jensen might begin to look good after an hour of messing with homemade gaskets!!!!
  • To reassemble...first rub a little steam oil into the two gaskets to soften them and help them seal better.  Put ONE gasket in place, then the glass, then the SECOND gasket and finally screw the retaining ring in and snug it up with your metal bit/wrench.  It will often require re-tightening a couple of times to stop any seeping leaks after firing a time or two, but once sealed, they are pretty water tight.

- For a Jensen External Sight glass type (a bit more complicated, but very doable)
  • Buy the necessary glass tubing piece and their complete gasket kit (ask for  the external sight glass type gasket set) directly from Jensen who can be contacted via the Jensen Website
  • Their toll free phone number is: 1-800-525-5245 and you get to deal with a really nice lady named Dorita who can help you out.
Personally, I use the 1.5" long Jensen glass tube they provide and the round fiber washers that come with itEXCEPT I pitch the little black bits of tubing intended as glass seals, I could never get them water tight, and found a better alternative.

Instead of Jensen's black tubing, I use 1/16" thick slices of silicone tubing cut with a sharp razor blade (see pic at left).  I use size 3/32"
ID silicone tubing which happens to be what I use for fuel line in RC airplanes and is readily available from hobby works perfectly for a Jensen external sight glass. 
    The process of putting gaskets on is as follows.  First clean everything of lime deposits, old gasket crud, broken glass bits etc.  A dental pic works great for this.  Then slide the two threaded nuts to the center of the glass tubing with threads facing both ends.   If your original glass tube is still intact, you can re-use it by  cleaning out the crud inside with a snipped off Q tip, moistened with Windex or other household cleaner.
      Slip a slice of silicone tubing over both glass ends (as in above pic and to the right) and insert ends into the square metal sight glass blocks.
        Once both ends of the glass are in the sight glass blocks, carefully screw in the threaded nuts so they compress the slice of silicone tubing.  I hold the  square block with one crescent wrench and tighten the small threaded nut  with a second , it works without damaging the metal.

        Be careful to keep about the same length of glass inserted in each end.  Tighten snug but not gorilla tight.  Glass should not swivel in the nuts.  Now mount the sight glass blocks onto the boiler with the fiber gaskets provided by Jensen and arranged as in pic to the right.  Rub a little steam oil on the gaskets before tightening the steam screws to help them swell and seal better.  Voila, all should be watertight under pressure.   Whatever you do, if there are minute leaks upon steam up, tighten the steam screws a very little bit at a time, overtighten them and you will strip out the boiler threads.  That will ruin your day and an otherwise good boiler.    


        - For an Empire Steam engine (at least the cast iron based kind)
        • Visually, the same process described in detail above for Jensen external sight glass type...just bigger glass tube and use neoprene "O" rings vs. silicone tubing slices described for the Jensen external sight glass type.  Make sure to clean out the old, petrified crud inside the compression nut and area it screws down onto.  Dental pics work well for this.
            • 0.25" (1/4") O.D. glass tubing cut to the proper length which is about 1/8" longer than the distance between the two compression nuts when they are tightened down.  New glass must protrude into the nuts a bit or they won't seal with the  "O" rings noted below (search online for glass tubing).  There is a seller on eBay who sells the glass pre-cut with gaskets for $4 each...very reputable seller who goes by the name of "dogs4sail".  His B-30 glass is 2 1/4" long, B-31 glass is 2 5/8" long.
            • Slip both clean compression nuts onto the center of the glass tube with the open threaded ends facing out.  Slide onto each end of the tube,  two of four thin wall neoprene "O" rings (from the toilet repair section of the hardware store).  The "O" rings go on each end of the glass tubing and I found a pair of thin ones work better than a single thick one when the compression nut is tightened down.
            • Insert the lower end of the glass tube into the male threaded sight glass base that is attached to the boiler...slide the tube down as far as fit the other end of the glass tube in the upper male threaded sight glass base.  Ensure about equal lengths of glass tube are extended into both ends and then tighten the compression nuts so they squeeze the pair of "O" rings tightly around the glass giving you the perfect seal.  DO not tighten to the bitter end, just enough that the glass won't spin easily when twirled between finger and thumb.  That does it, steam things up and check for leaks...tighten the compression nuts further ONLY if you have a seepage leak at that nut, and then only enough more to make it stop...too much can crush the glass.

              3) Fixing stripped threads under a Jensen external sight glass

              There are 4 solutions I know of:
              1) carefully look at your steam screws themselves (hollowed out screws that pass thru the sight glass blocks and into the boiler).   If the screws themselves are stripped, you might get by just purchasing new steam screws from Jensen.  They are about $2.50 each and for that much money you might solve your problem with nice crisp threads and a fresh coat of nickel on the treads...beefing up what you are screwing into the boiler holes.  If you go this route, just screw them in ONLY as much as it takes to stop any don't want to strip the boiler threads out if they are still passable enough for screws to get a bite on them.

              2) I just recently repaired a stripped out boiler thread that turned out quite nice...this is now my #1 fix for a stripped out boiler face sightglass hole.  12-32 threads in the boiler were shot, hollow steam screw would slide in and out.  Otherwise boiler face and sight glass blocks were in perfect shape.

              Here's how I did it:
              a) took a piece of flat brass stock the same thickness as the boiler
              b) drilled a hole with a #13 bit followed by threading with a 12-32 tap
              c) traced a rectangle on the brass using one of the sight blocks for a template...centering the hole properly
              d) cut the brass into a rectangle using a Dremel cutting tool on the traced lines...then squaring the finished rectangle of brass with same Dremel
              e) resulting rectangle of brass fit perfectly behind the sight glass block
              f) I cleaned boiler face well, cleaned bit of brass well, fluxed both and tinned the underside and edges of the brass bit with solder
              g) laid the brass bit over the stripped out hole squaring things perfectly...then hit it with the torch sufficient to melt the tinned solder and bond the brass bit to the boiler face perfectly positioned over the hole and behind the sight glass block.
              h) once the sight glass block assembly was screwed into place with the usual gaskets etc., you needed a magnifying glass to see that the lower block had that piece of brass behind it...because the tinned edges of the brass blended in perfectly.

              Best of all it sealed perfectly,  and another boiler was saved.
              3) another option to "fix" stripped out holes under boiler sight glass blocks was to make up larger hollow steam screws.  Get a couple of slightly oversized brass screws from the hardware store, matched for head size as well as possible vs. the Jensen steam screw  (hollowed out screw that holds sight blocks on) I was replacing.  Then, using the old steam screw as a model, I cut the new brass screws to length with a hacksaw and drilled them out to create the same hollow passages that allow water to flow thru the sight glass. 
              I found that drilling the brass screws went a whole lot smoother by making a slightly smaller hole in a scrap of pine, then simply screw the screw into the pine.  Now you have a firm thing to clamp in a vice or other means of securing while you drill from the bottom of the screw shaft toward the head of the screw...that is the toughest thing to keep centered, but doing it in a block of wood helps immensley.  Use same approach to drill the sideways hole in the screw...pre-drill wood where threads will be near the surface of the wood and measure, measure, measure so your hole comes out where you expect it to.  By drilling thru wood enroute to the brass, the wood itself helps keep the drill bit from drifting. Save an extra trip to the hardware store...get 4-5 of the new brass screws in case you bugger up the first couple!!! 
              Took me about 2 hours of messing with it and several screws, but I got them to work perfectly and they actually look pretty good. I ground the edges of the heads a bit to better simulate the original straight shoulder screw head look of Jensen steam screws, then "tinned" the screw heads by melting a thin layer of solder on the brass screw head...buffing the solder with a wire brush Dremel...gave a reasonably good "nickel" look.  Once I was done with all the drilling and polishing etc. I carefully but with pressure turned the screws into the original boiler holes to effectively cut new threads in the boiler where the originals were stripped out. Be very careful your screwdriver doesn't slip and make a mess of your boiler face (experience speaking here).  IF you are successful making nice clean new threads in the boiler...THEN, slightly drill out the holes in the sight blocks to take the larger screw...DON'T drill out the sight block holes larger unless you have been successful in making the hollow screws and new boiler sense modifying blocks to take larger screws unless those screws are going to work.  I have done this about 4 times to various engines over the years and they work perfectly...trick is careful drilling of the screws themselves.  Best part of this approach, you have about a buck invested in screws.  It works, it looks good if done well and most any duffer can pull it off with care.
              4) Last fix and one I have not actually tried myself, though I have bought a parts set just in case.  This fix is to solder a set of new threaded brass bushings into the stripped out holes.  On the older Jensen engines, this is actually how Jensen made them, but bushings were later eliminated and threads cut directly into the boiler body.

              You can get the bushings from the only guy I know who makes them (Kirby Kindell) email: brikk@wildblue.netKirby machines them himself and as I recall charges about $20 for a set of two.   This is a real, proper fix and the brass bushings are concealed behind the sight blocks and allow for use of original steam screws.  They do require you however to drill out the boiler holes enough for the bushing to slip in AND you have to be pretty good at soldering to heat just enough to melt the solder and not too much to damage the nickel boiler face or worse...burn a hole in the boiler face.  Kirby also makes such bushings for the top holes in Jensen boilers, such as whistle and pressure valve holes.

              5) scavange a good boiler off another less valuable model...I have done this several times to save a more valuable piece.  The Jensen boilers are interchangeable within certain a Jensen 5, 25 or 70 boiler will fit a Jensen 10...but a Jensen 35 boiler won't work with any other model.  If you have a riveted boiler, they are much rarer and should be saved if at all possible by one of the other ways suggested.
              My personal recommendation is to try new steam screws first if the originals show signs of stripping themselves.  Next try the soldered on rectangle of brass approach, then homemade screws approach and finally Kirby's bushings. Lastly, if none of the above seem to work for you, start searching eBay for a suitable donor boiler on another lesser engine.

              4) Repairing a Leaking Empire "In Stack" Pressure Valve

              If your Empire pressure valve is leaking around the bottom 
              exterior or bubbling up inside, the following should fix the problems:
              a) Clean mating surface of stack with engine...there should be a 
              rubber/fiber gasket bonded to stack metaland about size of a
              nickel.  IF it is gone, you canfind an O ring of rubber/neoprene
              in the plumbing section of most hardware stores. If gasket is OK,
              cruddy, just clean original carefully. You know if this gasket
              is your problem if steam/water leaks out from the junction of stack
              and boiler vs. INSIDE the
              b) Most likely source of leakage is the spring valve
              itself inside the stack. You know this is happening if
              steam/water is bubbling up inside the stack when
              running. Disassemble using long bladed flat
              screwdriver inside the stack and small wrench/crescent
              wrench on little nuts that stick out the bottom of
              stack and provide back tension on screw against spring
              pressure. Mine had two nuts, so I had to fiddle with
              a flat wrench on inner one/crescent on outer. Once
              nuts are removed, spring and screw come out easily.
              If you don't have two nuts, suggest you get a second
              one as one locks the other in place so it doesn't end
              up INSIDE your boiler some day.
              c) Clean screw, nuts and spring with a bit of vinegar
              if limed up, otherwise a dremel rotary brush does a
              nice job of spiffing them up. Clean the inside
              surface of stack base where screw head (with gasket)
              makes contact.
              d) Mine leaked primarily because the screw's gasket
              that lies between head and stack base was almost
              gone...I cleaned remnants off completely with razor
              blade and replaced it with a 1/16" slice of blue
              silicone rubber tubing it makes a perfect gasket for
              the Empire stack (and the two glass seals on Jensen
              external sights). This silicone tubing is sold in hobby
              shops as model airplane fuel tubing. A small piece will
              make dozens of sliced gaskets.
              e) Stretch the valve spring a bit...mine was brass and
              I stretched it about 1/3 longer than original to give
              it some additional back pressure on the screw
              f) Reassemble the screw with gasket thru the hole in
              base of stack (hemostat/forceps help here with lining
              it up). Once screw is sticking thru the bottom of
              stack, hold it inside with the screwdriver, add the
              spring back on, then finger apply the 2 nuts
              ....tightening nuts down the screw enough to give some
              spring pressure on the screw/gasket surface.
              g) Should work like new...mine didn't leak a drop.
              Just make sure there IS some ability of screw to rise
              under excess steam don't crank nuts
              down too tight on screw and remove it's ability to
              release pressure if needed.
              Hope this helps...turned out to be about a 30 min
              repair/clean/reassemble for me, but results were very
              satisfactory. The following photo shows these key
              parts as well as a whistle top...all originally from Don
              Stilson at the address listed earlier. Don's quality is tops,
              but I have heard from others that he is no longer supplying
              parts. I know of no other source.

              5) Securing Loose Chimneys (common problem on faux brick Jensens)

              If you own a Jensen of the last few decades that has the faux brick style firebox and chimney, you have probably had problems keeping the chimney affixed to the metal bump (stub) on top of the chimney base.  I have experienced this with almost every Jensen I've had.   The same problem and solution may apply to other brands of engines, I just see it on the Jensens because I collect them.

              Simple fix:
              • Clean the stub surface and the inside of the bottom end of the chimney with some alcohol on a Q-tip.  Take some super glue (cyoacranalate) and run a bead of it around the inside edge of the chimney on the last 1/8" inch that friction fits on the stub.  Press and hold the chimney for a minute onto the stub, making sure you have it straight.  Done.  It is permanent enough to use that way for years, doesn't disfigure the engine in any way and if you eventually want to remove it, just grasp firmly and rock it a bit...glue seal will let loose and you can easily flake off the residue.  If you bump it in normal use and the seal breaks...flake off the residue and do it again.

              6) Operating Electrically Heated Steam Engines

              If you are using an electrically heated steam engine as many of the Jensens and Empires are, do yourself (and your family) a favor and follow a few safety guidelines:
              • In today's eBay/internet marketplace, you might be acquiring an engine from Europe for use in the U.S. or vice versa.  Point being to check on electrical compatiblity.  A U.S. engine wired for 110 volts AC will be short lived if plugged into a European outlet.  Converters and transformers are available, just check the wattage requirements so as to not overload them.

              • Check the wiring before plugging in...if it's tattered, especially where it enters the engine or plug, fix that first vs. set off fireworks.
              • Plug your engine into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interupter) outlet which is built to detect current leakage (like that tingly feeling when you touch the boiler).  It will switch off immediately if it senses some extremely low leakage.  If this happens repeatedly, you have wiring or heater problems that must be fixed before proceeding.
              • If your engine's plug is a two pronger as they were 20-30 years ago in the U.S., your GFCI won't do it's job unless a third, grounding wire is run to it.  I took an old computer cord for 110 volt AC, holding the male plug end, I snipped off the two flat prongs that carry the power and just left the round grounding prong sticking out.  I snipped off the female plug on the other end of the computer cord, soldering an aligator clip to the green wire that goes to the grounding prong and sealing the works with a bit of heat shrink tubing.  Lastly on the male plug end, I epoxied one of those child safety outlet caps to help keep the plug solidly inserted in the GFCI outlet.  See the picture to the right:

                Now whenever I run an electrically heated engine, I clip the aligator clip to an exposed bit of metal on the engine such as a screw head, and plug the other end into a spare outlet on my GFCI protected power strip.  This effectively grounds the engine as a modern 3 prong cord would do.

                DON'T be tempted to leave the other two metal prongs on the male end of the plug...this could energize you in a bad way if you don't cut them off flush!! 
              It works fine and I've tripped my GFCI a number of times when first checking a "new" acquisition telling me to stop and check out the electrical aspects of that engine before something disasterous happens.  Electrocution probably qualifies as a disasterous event.

              7) Speed Control for Electrically Heated Steam Engines

              This little jewel was inspired by steam friend Peter B. in Toronto as a way to more fully enjoy electrically heated steam engines such as many Jensens, Empires and others.  It was Peter's idea, I just glitzed the packaging up a bit.

              The idea is very simple, you use a dimmer switch to dim lights over the dining room table and elsewhere, and a light filament works like a heating element.   Sooooo, take one light dimmer (not a fan dimmer) and a single style outlet and mount them in a convenient box to protect you from the open electric terminals, then plug your electrically heated steam engine into the outlet.   One caution.  Most dimmers of this type sold in the U.S. are rated at 600 Watts Max.  Just avoid plugging in something that would demand more than that, it could fry the dimmer and ruin a good day.  If you need a higher capacity dimmer, a 1000 Watt version can be had online from Aubuchon Hardware in the U.S., though for some reason this type costs about $28 USD vs. just $4 USD for the 600 Watt version from Walmart...external dimensions are the same.

              Here are the nitty gritty details of how I wired up mine:
              Juice Reducer Detail.doc

              My box components cost about $5 and came from WalMart's craft dept., the cord came off a $6 power strip, the outlet and the dimmer switch from Walmart again about $4 each.  Grand total less than $20 and loads of enjoyment for that.

              To get the engine up to full steam, twist the dimmer knob to full, THEN after the engine is running at full speed, you can dial it down so that the heat output to the boiler is just enough to keep it ticking over or any place in between. 
              It's been called the "IndianaRog Juice Reducer" and the "Diminator"...but whatever you call it, it can be built very inexpensively and increases the range of speeds you can operate your engine at.  I like to think of it as the steamer's equivalent of a Lava Lamp...very soothing to have an engine running in the background for as much as one hour.  Just don't forget it and run the boiler dry.

              The following video is of my Empire B-30 running at a slow pace while plugged into the "
              Juice Reducer

              CLICK HERE for an instant video


              8) Venting Paint, Stripper, Esbit and Denatured Alcohol (Meths) Fumes OUT of the House

              Pardon the butchering of the King's English, but this is an important subject and can save marriages as well as brain and lung tissue.   Plus this little sign hung by my wife, reminds me of those exact words, and hangs not ten feet from where I'm sitting.
              • If you are a restorer like myself who dabbles on a regular basis with paint strippers, spray paints and all other manner of other paints and noxious chemicals...this idea is for you !
              • If you like to run your toy steam engines on solid fuel Esbit tablets or Denatured Alcohol (meths in the UK)...this idea is for you !

              All of the above activities used to take place in my basement workshop and I could count the seconds before management (the wife) would start up on how I was stinking up the house, turning my brain and lungs to mush etc. etc.  All of which was true I must admit.

              Well, in January 2006 I opted to build my way out of this problem for good (no, a divorce was not in my plans).  Instead I built a fume/chemical/paint smell/Esbit and Alcohol smell extraction hood to vent the smells outside much like they use in chemistry labs.  WHY I didn't do this years earlier I don't know, but with the house closed up for winter, my restoration activity had crawled to a stop and a solution was needed fast.


              IndianaRog's Fume Extraction Hood for the home workshop.  Built into some shelves I already had installed,  the key expense was an extraction fan (300 CFM explosion proof squirrel cage type) , a few pieces of plexiglass, some lights, a speed control switch and some vent pipe.  In total I probably have $200 tied up in this and it's worth every cent.

              First picture

              Finished hood with front up/down sliding door in down position.  You are looking thru a plexiglass panel at the lighted insides.  The exhaust fan is located center-rear of the hood's ceiling. 

              All seams except front door were caulked with silicone bathtub caulk to keep air infiltration flowing from front to top rear exhaust fan.  In current practice I have the shelf over the hood filled with storage boxes, but I am keen to leave air openings such that the fan doesn't get too hot when running.  After 12 hours of continous running I can easily hold my hand on the fan motor, so I have avoided heat buildup.

              Second Picture:

              Front up/down sliding door in the up position, held there by two 2.5 pound window weights. "Door" rides on sliding screen door hardware traveling up and down a piece of aluminum angle stock.   To the left and right are plexiglass panels with 75 watt flourescent fixtures outside the fumey area (important to avoid explosions !). 

              The white cylindrical thing in the rear is a newpaper end roll purchased for $4 from our local newspaper.  It's suspended by a closet rod and feeds a continous sheet of paper as a tear off drop cloth for painting. I just roll the paper back on roller when using hood to operate an Esbit or alcohol fired engine. Variable speed switch is just to the left to control fan speed.

              Third Picture:

              The fan used is called a squirrel cage type and is deemed explosion proof.  This is done by isolating the "cage" inside the flow of exhaust and keeping the motor with it's inherent spark OUTSIDE the exhaust. 

              IF you build one of these things, do not cut corners and install a fan that basically pulls the air thru the motor.  Spray paint fumes I am told are very explosive.  Nuff said.   I went a bit overboard on the estimated exhaust volume needed at 265 CFM. 

              As folks have asked me....Specifically my fan was made by Dayton Electric Mfg. Co. model (1) 4C447 Blower...Free Air At 115 volts AC, 60 HZ=  265 CFM.  Other code numbers on the box = CL99 and 61194703   AND, it was made in the U.S.A.  I purchased mine from "Worms Way" gardening supply chain...apparently they are used in hydroponic greenhouse gardening.

              My hood's interior is 5 feet across the front, 3 feet deep and 2 feet tall approx., which totals about 30 cubic feet of volume which my fan will exhaust 10 times in one minute running at full volume.  I use full volume while actively spray painting but reduce it to about 25% of that for overnite paint curing and while running engines on Esbit or Alcohol.  These levels keep my house fume free even sitting 2 feet in front of it.

              Fourth Picture:

              Up, up and away go the fumes via some PVC sewer pipe.  I ran the pipe up above the basement block wall where it was easier to cut a hole in the wood and siding at the point where the pipe passes thru the house wall.  All joints were sealed with silicone caulk to keep the noxious stuff inside the pipes and not blowing back into the room.

              Fifth picture:

              And it comes out here.  I ran the PVC pipe about 12 inches out from the house to avoid any potential of spray painting the house over time.  I still think this is a good way to do it if you don't mind this odd looking bit of pipe erupting from the house's sidewall. 

              The open pipe end was capped off with a standard louvered clothes dryer vent that very conveniently slid right inside the 4 inch inside diameter sewer pipe.  I silicone caulked the juncture of the pipe and the siding to prevent rain dripping in.  In this picture the fan is running and the louvers are visibly open.  Over several months of use just the louvers themselves are taking on a gray color from paint residue, but even if they caked up completely over time, a replacement dryer vent is under $4 and easily dropped in.

              Fifth and Last Picture:

              Several items drying simultaneously in the hood. 

              Momma is happy, so we're all happy

              It's now 2+ years since I built this lifesaver (Mar 2009), and I made a video showing it in action...I know, sorta dumb, but I had to do it:

              CLICK HERE for an instant video

              9) Servicing a Jensen 50/51 Feedwater Pump

              The Jensen Models 50 and 51 utilize the same eccentric driven feedwater pump, pulling intake water from a cup on the 50 or the water tower on the 51.  While quite simple in design and very effective...such a system is a bit mysterious to the uninitiated.

              Having acquired said pump with the Jensen 50  I converted to a replica 51, I was quite disappointed to turn things on for the first time and get ZERO water passing thru the pump.  The tower stayed full and the boiler level went down quickly as the Jensen 50 motor is a hog for water consumption.

              Through the collaborative efforts of several Jensen 50/51 owners including Randy C., Bill W., Gil G., Steve T. and myself...we got to the bottom of the problem and each improved our pump(s) ability to move water dramatically.  The following is a simple diagram of the pump's components as if viewed from it's right side with X-ray vision.

              Our collective learnings about servicing the pump:

              1) To do this right...remove pump for a benchtop checkup
              - undo the compression nut if so equipped on the water intake line from tower or cup
              - unscrew the two screws holding the pump to the cast iron engine
              - unscrew the two screws holding the outlet block
              - loosen the compression nut (or screws on flange if so equipped instead) and slide the pump free of the piston.  Let piston just dangle on engine.

              2) Remove the intake plug (hex nut on mine pictured above...others have a knob)

              3) remove any spring(s) and balls within the wells of the intake and outlet sides
              - tweezers or dental pick can remove springs
              - mouth suction on a short piece of silicone tubing will lift the balls right out
              - clean the balls and then clean the seats they sit in with Q-tips, alcohol etc.  If seats are limed up put a bit of SimiChrome or Maas type polish on a shortened Q-tip and chuck it in a variable speed drill...ream holes with the Q-tip until shiny brass in appearance.  If you do this polish step you will need to rinse pump out well in the kitchen sink to remove grit. 
              - Make sure the internal passages are clear by running water thru or blowing thru.

              4) Replace TWO 5/32" (0.156") diameter chrome balls, one in each well
              - measure to be sure someone didn't experiment with larger or smaller balls
              - new ones are available from Jensen or ACE hardware sells same for 20 cents each.  If you are going to all this trouble, it's worth a few cents to replace them.

              5) NO spring is used on the intake side...just the one ball
              - intake plug is meant to bleed air from system and must occasionally be cracked open a bit during startup to let air leak out.  I put a homemade white teflon gasket under mine as the original was shredding and bits could get in the guts of the pump and stop things up.  The teflon is very durable and makes a good seal.

              6) A short compression spring of the same diameter as ball goes in the outlet well above the ball
              - it seems the length of the compression spring is NOT that critical.  I got good results using a piece of Wilesco pressure valve spring cut in length so it just barely stuck above the pump body before screwing down the outlet tube block over it.
              - this spring actually serves as a checkvalve to prevent water from the tower siphoning into the boiler when the engine isn't running. 
              - the pump works with or even better without the outlet well spring in place.  If operated without the spring in place, operator needs to be certain to shut the supply valve from the tower OFF when done running or risk overfilling the boiler and water escaping from the whistle or thru the cylinder creating a big mess.  Also, operating without the spring in place will result in greater water volume passing to the boiler without the spring resistance to overcome...therefore the supply valve needs to be reduced to just cracked open at a point where incoming water matches that outgoing.  I personally have chosen to operate without the spring in the outlet and use extra care as a result, but it's easy enough replace at any time.

              7) Clean out any gasket material inside the compression nut that surrounded the piston
              - slide compression nut onto the piston
              - take a 4" long piece of 1/2" wide plumbers teflon tape and twirl it lengthwise to form a rope of sorts...wrap this rope around the piston such that it fits inside the compression nut and tighten compression nut finger tight over the piston after it has been inserted in the pump body (USE NO OIL)

              8) Screw the pump body back onto the cast iron engine mount with two screws

              9) Screw the outlet block down with it's two screws after putting a new gasket under it
              I hand punched a new gasket from fiber based automotive gasket from Autozone and saturated it with a bit of oil to make it flexible and seal better.  I made it's center hole 5/32", and the outside diameter 1/4".  It takes a bit of dexterity to center the gasket on the top of outlet area and screw the block on with 2 screws, but with a bit of practice it's not that difficult.

              10) Reconnect the intake water line's compression nut (or slide on tubing as the case may be)

              Running the pump

              1) Be sure the tank/cup or whatever you use to hold water is filled with distilled water

              2) Be sure the boiler itself is filled approx. to the center of the top porthole, again, distilled water only.  Close whistle and screw in the pressure valve.

              3) Open the valve from the water tank if one exists, to permit flow to the pump

              4) Start your engine heaters, open the main steam valve to allow the engine to warm up gradually, bring pressure up to about 10 PSI on the guage, rock the flywheel to work steam and water thru the engine, finally give the flywheel a spin in clockwise direction and it should start running.

              5) Loosen the intake nut (knurled knob) a bit until air and a little water seep out, then is critical to get the air out of the line between the water tank and the pump.  DON'T completely remove that nut or you will have a gusher...just crack it a half turn or so til you get water seepage...then retighten and clean up any dripped water.

              6) Check fittings you loosened, removed and/or re-gasketed to be sure they are not leaking water...tighten as needed.  Snug the compression nut on the piston only enough to stop drips...not so much it slows engine.  NEVER put oil on the piston, tempting as that might be.  The water is lubrication enough and oil just deteriorates the teflon tape packing material and eventually gets into the boiler.

              7) IF the pump is working as it should, you will soon see the water level drop in the tank or cup.  I put a Sharpie Marker line on mine and fill to that point, then it's easy to see if it's gone down.  Also, if the short feedwater line from pump to boiler stays cool during the run, that is another indication you are pumping just fine.  If that line warms up, it means just the opposite...boiler water is backing up into the pump and something is wrong...I found this happens quickly if the water tank runs dry!!!

              8) IF you have a Model 51 with a 0-30" H20 guage, that guage serves two water in tower goes down it will read that loss as inches on the meter...a way to keep track of the need to refill tower tank.  When pump IS working, it also causes the needle to pulsate a bit...that's a useful measure as well to reassure you the pump is doing what it's supposed to do.

              9) Watch the top porthole in the boiler...if it drops you are not pumping, if it holds steady at the center of porthole you have perfect balance of input and condensate loss...congrats.  If the water level starts rising in the need to close the valve on the water line from the tank a bit. 

              With a bit of fiddling you can find a pretty good equilibrium.  Just check your tower periodically, water level in the boiler and keep an eye on the pump for any leaks (initially)...guage for routine monitoring of pump function.  My pump drips a tiny amount at the compression nut and I'm content to catch that in a small drip tray...I figure it's lubricating things and I don't want to mess with something now that it is operating 99.99%. 

              Lots of words, but we spent a lot of time sorting this out...if you are reading this you should have the job done start to finish in 30 minutes and you will worship the ground we walk on

              10) Jensen blanket heater replacement and boiler strap re-riveting

              Replacement electric blanket heaters and factory rivets are available directly from Jensen parts dept....see Jensen Website.

              1) carefully drill out the rivets holding original straps (or remove screws as some were factory that way, others result of a previous owner's efforts)
              2) lift out the boiler to get at old heater (good time to do a thorough polishing of old boiler, cleaning inerds with vinegar etc. to remove calcium buildup)...polish only with cream polishes like Maas or SimiChrome.  IF you had an inclination to repaint the firebox...NOW is an ideal time...much more difficult after everything is reassembled and never looks right if you do it after the fact.  Heater may be sitting on a piece of fragile asbestos...handle with care and preferably shake any loose bits outdoors.  Jensen makes a non-asbestos insulation replacement sheet that they sell very reasonably and it's worth using to get rid of the asbestos.  Don't be too concerned with the asbestos ...just handle carefully to avoid making dust and in my case I dispose of them inside zip loc bags.
              3) cut old cord close to the Hayco cord restraint on both inside and outside of chimney base...then with a blunt object like a philips head screwdriver...push the 1/4" remnant of cord inside the Hayco until the remnant comes out (throw that part and original heater in the trash...but keep the 2 heater attachment screws)...Hayco cord restraint should then come apart in two pieces for re-use.  New ones are better, cheap and available from Jensen, but old ones work fine IF they have not been chewed up with vise grips previously.  Make careful note how the Hayco fits around cord and must be compressed upon re-installation such that inner part slides thru hole in base of chimney stack.
              4) using original cord (if still good), strip ends appropriately to match the crush fittings Jensen sends on ends of heater wire stubs.  Put Hayco fitting around the cord an appropriate distance from stripped ends (5 inches approx.)...then slide cord and Hayco THRU chimney stub from outside in...when you have the cord length just right...NOW apply gentle pressure on outside of Hayco with pliers or vice grips...just enough to compress the Hayco into the wire and get it to slide thru the hole in the chimney stub...prepare to grimace, grunt and swear a bit...but careful pressure will get it to insert...once you let go of the pliers or vice grips...Hayco will expand and lock cord into the chimney stub while protecting it from chaffing.  Clever gizmo!!  A tiny dab of vasolene on the Hayco's exterior that touchs the chimney stub will help ease it thru.
              5) set new heater in place and loosely attach the two screws thru the strap it comes with...centering heater in the middle of the firebox and screwed into those two center holes in firebox upper edge.  Make sure the end with wire connections faces the chimney.  Do NOT cinch the heater down by it's strap until AFTER boiler is in will lift heater blanket tight up against boiler and if done beforehand you won't get boiler to sit down in recess properly (voice of experience here!)
              6) Slide the insulated tubing pieces (2-3 inches long) that come with the new heater down onto the incoming cord until the wire fittings are crushed together...then slide the insulated tubing pieces back up until they meet the heater itself.  Insulated tubing pieces are intended to protect the wires from overheating...don't misplace or skip them!  Make your heater electrical connections to the incoming cord...crushing the crush fittings when appropriate length of stripped cord is inserted.  There is a tool meant to crush those fittings, but if you don't have one, needle nose pliers or vise grips will do the job...just be sure enough bare wire is inserted and hold that insert til the fitting is crushed upon it...test for tightness. 
              7) to set the rivets...Jensen used a custom made will have to improvise as follows.  Have another person assist...just seems to take 4 hands to do this right.  Get two blocks of hardwood (like oak, ash or maple...don't use softwood, it won't work).  Blocks I use are 3/4" wide x about 5 inches long...intent is to elevate the inverted boiler off the work surface, so sitting on edge they need to be at least as high as the distance from firebox edge to highest projection on maybe 1/4" for a safe margin. 
              8) place boiler (correct direction and with whistle, steam tube and pressure valve removed) into the firebox resting on top of heater.  Put boiler restraining straps in push new rivets thru from outside of straps, thru firebox lip such that the male part sticks up beneath the firebox lip...holding all 4 rivets in place, flip things over and set on the blocks of wood from step 7 such that rivets, straps and firebox upper lip is resting on the blocks and suspending boiler over workbench...those extra hands are useful for this step.
              9) extra hands are key for THIS step...have second person firmly hold everything upside down and with blocks aligned along firebox lips...check to make sure all four rivets are poking thru the underside of firebox lip (now pointing to ceiling).  With a medium-large sized philips head screwdriver and a screwdriver tip on one rivet and give it a good tap with the hammer...ONLY enough tapping to splay the underside of rivet.  Repeat for other rivets.  This is not easy, but very effective if done properly.  Turn the works back over on benchtop and check that rivets are snug...if any are still loose or will rotate, flip over again on blocks and tap a couple more times.  DON'T tap too hard or you will flatten and ruin looks of rivet tops from the outside...true mark of an amateur!!  Also, hardwood is critical vs. pine as the later will just sink the heads into the wood and not transfer enough energy from the tap to splay the rivet properly, buggering things up.  If you ruin a rivet...drill it out and do it again...I often end up ruining at least one per engine.
              10) once your rivets are properly set...NOW tighten two heater strap screws until the heater is snugged up to boiler don't have to crank these down hard...less is more!  Re-attach firebox and chimney stub to the wood base and you are done. 
              Piece of cake

              11) Fixing a leaky or broken cylinder - steam chest solder joint

              This is how I fix a detached or leaking cylinder-steam chest solder joint on a Jensen slide valve type engine , but the same concepts should apply to other brands of engines where the steam chest is soldered TO the cylinder:

                1) disassemble to get down to cylinder and attached (if still attached) steam chest
                2) clean all external metal of oil/crud etc. using denatured alcohol...make sure any residual gasket material is removed from ends of cylinder
                3) grab something non-critical (stud on bottom of a Jensen  20 for example) using a large pair of hemostats (locking plier would do same thing if careful not to chew up the metal)
                4) while holding the hemostat or vice grips to isolate oneself from the rather warm metal to come...gently heat the INSIDE of the cylinder with a propane torch until temp gets high enough to cause the steam chest to drop off completely...have a safe surface like a piece of scrap wood beneath for the steam chest to drop an inch or will be toasty for 15 minutes and would melt right into any painted or varnished surface...bare plywood will work fine
                5) now still holding the cylinder still, keep the heat on the cylinder wall sufficient for the residual solder to remain liquid and wipe that residue off with a clean cotton cloth...NOT synthetic cloth or you will have a melted mess on your cylinder surface...also take care to NOT push liquid solder into the internal steam passages that mate up with the steam chest thru that joint.
                6) now pick up the steam chest (ice pick in the exhaust pipe works), re-heat it a bit and with cotton cloth, wipe off the liquified residual solder in same way as cylinder
                7) kill the torch and using a dremel tool with rotary brush, do final cleanup of the bonding area just desoldered and wiped clean on cylinder and steam chest
                8) secure the cylinder in a couple of wooden blocks inside a vice such that heat can be applied inside want the steam chest bonding surface to be facing straight up and level with the floor as you will be setting the curved joint of the steam chest on top of the cylinder like a saddle on a horse.  Apply liberal solder flux to both cleaned surfaces and warm the cylinder gently again with torch.  Hold a bit of plumbers solder against the cylinder's bonding surface until it liquifies enough to cover the surface WITHOUT getting it in the steam passages.
                9) while solder is still liquid on the cylinder bonding surface, set the steam chest in place...just held there by gravity.  Follow the original plating lines to assure you have it square AND be sure exhaust port is facing correct direction.  Once the steam chest is sitting squarely on the spot it needs to be, apply gentle torch flame to what will be the UNDERSIDE of the steam chest in the event any plating discoloration would occur.  Just heat enough that the steam chest has remelted the solder it is resting on and the metal sits down snug (you will see it settle a fraction of a millimeter), unless something has slid out of alignment...DON'T TOUCH til the solder has cooled enough to lock the steam chest in place
                10) last effort with the torch if needed...warm the solder right along the seam where it's externally visible and the second it liquifies remove torch and wipe seam with a cotton Q-tip (NOT polyester swab) to smooth the solder.  DON'T overheat or you can knock the steam chest out of alignment doing this.  Let things cool a bit and repeat on the opposite seam.
                11) let it cool to room temp (15-20 minutes) polish seams gently with a dremel rotary brush if needed and polish the works with Maas or SimiChrome type polish for final cleanup.
                12) Done!!  Check to be sure steam passages are clear using a paper clip, oil insides of the cylinder and coat the piston, replace gaskets and reassemble cylinder ends and finally cylinder and steam chest combo back on the engine.  Sounds complicated given my blow by blow approach, but from start to finish this was less than an hour.

              12) Fixing a cracked Jensen cylinder wall

              Dang, been there and glad to say I found a fix.  Someone might have suggested this to me and if so, a thousand apologies, but I don't know where I picked this up...just know it here goes:

              Here is the fix for cracked Jensen cylinders, if crack is not too terribly big:

              1) run your engine WITHOUT cylinder oil for a run...letting steam purge the crack.  This won't hurt engine as water functions as a lubricant too

              2) when you have adequately cleansed the crack from inside out...pull piston to the end furthest away from crack

              3) while still hot, layer the crack with medium consistency CA glue (cyoacranalate or super glue)....I use it in RC plane work and found the medium stuff worked best...thin ran all over, thick wouldn't penetrate the crack...but medium worked it's way INTO the crack.

              4) if done while hot, the cooling metal actually draws the CA glue into the crack sealing it...just be sure piston is as far away as possible so as to NOT glue it in place from the inside out.

              5) fire up the engine again WITHOUT cylinder oil and check for leaks...if it is tight, congrats...if not, repeat same treatment.  Never needed more than two treatments on the worst of cracks and some have lasted 3 years of regularly firing them up without leaks...the stuff is almost better than solder because it will flow into the tiniest crevice.

              6) clean any residual CA off the nickel plated cylinder...I use an Exacto blade carefully followed by polishing with SimiChrome polish.

              Hope this helps...if you can't find medium CA at Walmart, try www. an online RC plane supply, they sell the three consistencies.

              13) Building a DC generator from a stepper motor

              When restoring and constructing my Jensen 51 replica, I needed a small but powerful DC generator I could incorporate into the design.

              I found the perfect thing on eBay in the form of something called a "
              Stepper Motor
              " with a ready made simple rectifier circuit made up of 4 inexpensive diodes.  eBay seller Peter Santa Maria has these for sale from time to time on eBay all wired and ready to go...look for seller name: PSANTAMA. 

              If you are like me you've never heard of a stepper motor, but with a bit of study I learned they are often found as surplus motors taken from defunct dot matrix printers.   The diodes cost pennies and are available from Radio Shack or online.

              Here's a pic of my PSANTAMA sourced stepper motor used as a DC Generator, going into hiding within my Jensen 51 project (it sits UNDERNEATH the paired Jensen AC generators).  Not the prettiest color, but heck, it's hidden in the finished installation.

              This setup is capable of 24 volts DC output when tethered to a high speed steam engine.  My Jensen 51 replica doesn't operate at super high rpms, but I am still able to power several DC lamps and a DC motor from the 16 volt output I do get.

              But how does it work? 

              Personally I don't have a clue, but good friend and more electrically savvy Mooseman studied it and concluded it might work as follows:  The stepper motor has multiple magnets...each magnet becomes positive in turn as the coil moves towards it and negative as it moves away.  The rectifier diodes strip off the negative part, making it DC, and the outputs are then simply summed.   Got that???

              Even if that didn't help, trust me, it works...go buy one or build one.  While not the most beautiful generator, it can be prettied up with paint or hidden like I did on my Jensen 51 project.

              You won't find a better solution for a toy steam engine DC power generator...I liked it so much that I made a standalone version of the same thing below.

              The diodes, circuit board and wiring is all hidden inside the wooden base above, a simple thing to do as it is two pieces of plywood sandwiched together...I just hollowed out a space on the lower piece to recess the electronic bits and screwed on a top of the same plywood with a beveled edge...lamp post is a Jensen spare I had on hand.

              To show the power of this little generator, in the following video it is tethered to a Jensen #5 (throttled down somewhat or it would blow the bulb!!).  Amazing generating capability about 2X the light you would get from a Jensen 15 generator, though the load on the engine increases by maybe 50%.  If you have the engine to drive it, give it a try!!

              CLICK HERE for an instant video

              14) Improving light output from a Jensen 15 Generator

              Several things can be done to UP the light output from a Jensen #15 cast iron or aluminum based AC generator

              1) make sure you have the right bulb...proper voltage/amperage bulb for these is called a GE14.  Jensen sells them or you can get them from Radio Shack...these generators just don't work right without that specific bulb which is the right combination of AC voltage and amperage.

              2) Clean the brass contact strip and the rotating piece it rubs against...I use Qtips with a bit of gun cleaning solvent...but any automotive solvent will do the trik...just don't drip on painted surfaces as it will ruin them.

              3) Check the tightness of the nut on the pos. wire beneath the generator

              Timeout for a check of your progress...lash it up to a steam engine (or spin the pulley with a Dremel tool and it's rotary wire brush...good quick tool for such checks).  If it lights properly, stop...don't mess with it any further.  If no change, go on to #4

              4) Remove the nut holding the positive wire from beneath the generator and check to be sure the gasket is properly isolating the pos. wire from the negative cast iron frame...I usually make new gaskets to eliminate this concern and make them double thick so when nut is tightened down it doesn't short things out.

              Timeout for another check to see if things are working now ...if not, go on to #5

              5) Remove the wire from the nut beneath, remove the bulb and push wire from the base up and out the belled lamp top.  Examine wire for any breaks, especially where it meets the bulb via a soldered on fiber disk circle.  It should be soldered such that the fine wires are splayed in a circle with a dab of solder in the center of the fiber disk...intent is for the pos. tip of the bulb to contact this dab of solder, but of none of the wire to contact the nickel plated walls of the bell.  If need be, remove the original wire and replace with new...I have used #22 wire from Radio Shack with good results.

              Takes a bit of fiddling to get that contact solder dab properly positioned and holding the pos. wire in the center of the fiber disk circle.  When finished, thread the opposite end of wire back down the belled part of lamp post and out the underside of cast iron base...snug the fiber disk circle tightly into the belled lamp portion and screw bulb back in.  Hook other end of pos. wire onto the screw and nut beneath ...again taking care it can't short against the negative cast iron base.

              Timeout for another check to see if things are working now...if not, go on to #6

              6) If still no improvement, there "may" be a break in the wound wire around the armature...inspect it carefully to see if anything evident.  If there is a break, it is fixable with solder but difficult.  Another check at this point is to twirl the pulley and feel if there is a definite polarity to the, pull can be felt that is stronger in one spot than 90 deg to it.  If magnet has lost it's magnetism by demonstrating NO force field when hand spinning it, the entire unit can be shipped to Jensen with prior arrangements and it can be re-magnatized. 

              Hopefully the process above will get you going again...usually it's the wrong bulb, oily crud under the contact points and/or a loose/shorted wire at the nut beneath.

              15) How to properly package steam engines to survive shipping

              You have just won that beautiful engine off eBay, you naturally expect it to arrive in same condition it appeared in the photos.  If you advise seller of the following, your odds of success will go up dramatically.  I have received dozens of shipments properly packed...but I TOLD seller how to do it:


              1) Drain all water from boiler by taking out whistle/pressure valve on top and shaking it upside down...spin flywheels to eject any water in the lines or cylinder. Remove chimney, whistle, fuel tray (or cord) and pressure valve from engine and package them wrapped separately in their own bag, to avoid potential of poking thru boxes and also scratching engine or vice them in with the engine in it's original box if one comes with it.

              2) place engine in it's original box with loose parts in a bag, (or use a proper sized box if original is gone) fill loose space within the box with foam noodles/peanuts or balled up bubble wrap so this box won't collapse.

              3) place this box inside a larger outer shipper box nested in more foam noodles. This way the outer shipper takes the rough handling in transit and NOT the inner box and contents. Be sure there is a good layer of foam noodles surrounding the inner box so it doesn't move within the shipper. Seal the outer shipper box well with packing tape on top seam, bottom seam and all flap edges. Include sender address and shipper address on the outer box top.

              Offer to pay the seller a bit more for the packaging steps listed above, noting it always makes for a happy buyer and seller and reduces likelyhood of damage and returns...this last bit puts the seller on notice that if you are not happy with condition of item due to poor packaging, you will put the burden back on him.

              Pay with PayPal whenever possible as it gives you an option to get your money back for damaged goods...takes them 4-6 weeks to process a claim, but the one time I did make such a claim I got all my bid money back (but had to pay return shipping to send item back).

              Try to avoid paying for insurance if is almost worthless and very difficult to file claims half a world away. Here in the US it is very difficult to prove postal service did the damage in transit vs. poor packaging. Better to invest a bit more money in the best possible packaging and skip insurance, you won't regret it.

              I have sent instructions like 1-3 above to at least 10 sellers in the past 2 years. I offered an extra $10 USD (=5 GBP) to offset any extra packaging cost. NO seller would accept my offer of this extra money and ALL complied with stellar packaging. I think most sellers are happy to do it right...they just often need to be told what right is !!!

              16) Repairing the Heating Element on an Empire B-31 Engine

              This is pretty Dec. '07, I was contacted via email by an Erik Quackenbush who kindly offered a set of instructions and a neat diagram for how he repaired the heating element on an Empire B-31 vertical.   While I have repaired several of the horizontal blanket heaters on Empires, I've never had the need to fix a vertical and have had to send several inquiring folks away without any help.  

              Per Erik's instructions and illustration, it appears very doable to me...but safety must be observed when working with 110 volts AC, water and metal...especially considering these engines were built 70-80 years ago!!! 

              Erik added a disclaimer to his explanation and I'll climb onboard saying "attempt this at your own risk".   This info is provided as an example of how one steamer did the job.  If you fry yourself in the process, our humble apologies...just use good sense and hopefully that won't happen.  If my B-31's heater ever gives up the ghost, I will give this a try myself.

              Erik gave me permission to publish this and I give him full credit and appreciation for taking the time to it is:

              Repairing the Heating Element on an Empire B31 Toy Steam Engine
              by Erik Quackenbush         


              If your heating element isn't working, it's because the electricity isn't successfully flowing from one side of the plug to the other. To fix this problem, you need to keep two things in mind. In order for the heating element to heat, the electricity running through the element needs to be able to make a continuous loop, and the electricity needs to be contained to this loop. It's simpler than it seems.

              Diagram A is more or less what you should see when you remove the bottom cover of your engine. The heating element is a circle pressed up against the inside of the boiler. In Diagram B, we see that in order to contain the electricity flowing through the element, there are thin layers of mica stone to insulate it. These layers of mica, while stone, are flexible, so they can be bent into the circle shape needed. Holding all this to the boiler are two metal braces held in place with wedge shaped pins (see Diagram B and Step 1).

              There are two metal leads which come out of this assembled circle. Though not shown in the diagram, these leads should also be sandwiched in between two layers of mica as well for insulation. These leads attach to two nuts. These nuts hold the leads to a screw post (Diagram C now), which theoretically allows the electricity coming from the plug to enter the element. The insulators on this assembly keep the electricity from leaving the path and going into the base of the engine.

              The element itself (Diagram D) is composed of a filament (think of your normal light bulb. Electricity enters the wire loop in the light bulb, and the wire lights up, and also heats up before leaving the other side. Same principle here, only there's no light being created, just lots of heat.), and a layer of mica to wrap the filament around. The metal leads attach at each end of the filament.

              So, following the path of the electricity, the electricity enters one side of the plug, goes down the screw post to the heating element lead, through the filament, up the other lead, through the other screw post, and out the other side of the plug. That's the path. We need to make sure the electricity is able to follow that path, and only that path.

              Ok, now it's time to try and fix the darn thing.

              The first possible problem is easy to discover. If you plug the steam engine in, and you touch any part of the engine other than the plug and get shocked, you have a short. That means the electricity has found a way to leave the path it's supposed to follow. The way to fix this is similar to how to fix the usual problem, which is that the electrical path has been broken somewhere.

              I found the path in my engine broken in 3 different locations, so I'll take you through a few steps, which are what I went through to repair my engine.

              Number 1: Sand or polish the plugs. If the electricity isn't directly touching metal to metal, if there's crud in the way, the electricity won't even enter the path. That was the first problem I found, so I fixed that by cleaning the plugs with some fine grit sandpaper. Easy.

              Number 2: If it's still not working, you should check the heating element leads (Diagram C). Remove nut 3 from the assembly, and see if the leads are intact and making good contact with nuts 2 and 3. Again, sand or polish all surfaces to remove grime. I found that one of my leads was broken. Since I didn't have the capacity to create a new one, I just made sure when I reassembled it, I took the remaining stub of the lead and had it firmly tightened between nuts 2 and 3 to ensure that the metal path stayed continuous.


              Ok, so now we've checked all problems down to the element itself. Like I said, the element works a lot like a light bulb, so after too long, it burns out. What this means is that part of the filament weakens and breaks. In order to make the electrical path continuous, we have to repair this break. Time to remove the element.

              In Step 1 in the diagram, you see that the first thing required is to remove the pins holding the metal braces in place. They're old and probably rusty, but they're just held in with friction, so a little work with a pair of pliers, maybe some WD-40, and you should be able to wiggle them out. Patience. After removing the pins, you can take out the braces.

              Step 2 in the diagram is to begin to remove the layers. Be very careful with the mica when removing these layers. It's just thin stone and fairly brittle, so be gentle and slow. Remove the mica layers to expose the element, then remove the element itself. Again, pay attention to how the mica layers are set up. Note that the insulating layers of mica are taller than the element itself. This keeps the filament from contacting the boiler itself, or anything else metal (both of which would cause a short).

              After removing the element, which should now look kind of like Diagram D, check the element over for any breaks. Mine looked a lot like Step 3. I had a simple break near the end of a loop in the element. Once you've located the problem, it's time to fix it.

              There are probably a thousand way to fix this. Here's how I did it. I found a little bit of metal (part of a clock spring in my case). I don't know what metals are proper or not for this, but it will have to endure high temperatures, and it needs to be conductive. Clock spring steel seemed like a good choice to me. Whatever you use, make sure it's clean so it will have a good contact. It also needs to be flat, so it can be compressed back in with the rest of the layers by the metal braces. I took this piece of metal and folded it in half, then bent it around and pinched it tight over the break with a pair of pliers (see Step 4). One thing to make sure of is that the piece of metal only bridges the single part of the filament you need bridging. If you bridge more than this, the electricity will follow the path of least resistance (your fix), and part of the filament wouldn't heat up. This will lead to an inefficient heating element. It will still work, but it will be slower to boil the water.

              Once this is done, start reassembly. Use your notes or photos to make sure the mica layers go back on in the right locations, and keep an eye out to make sure you're containing the electrical path with the mica. Once it's all back in, put the metal braces back into place and tap the pins back in (Step 1 reversed). Make sure that the leads are lined up with the screw posts as well so you can reconnect those.

              When you think you've got a continuous and contained electrical path, put the cover plate back on and try firing it up again. Once plugged in, check the base and boiler to make sure they haven't become charged (Do not grab the boiler. If you're going to do a hand check, always check for electricity with the back of your hand). If they are you have a short, and need to disassemble to find out where the insulation isn't insulating.

              It took me several tries to get it working again, so don't get discouraged. The two basic principles I've laid out here (continuous, contained), are really all there is to it. The success of having that little thing finally fire up was completely worth it. My engine is an early production run of the B31 with a solid flywheel, so there may be some slight variations in how your engine is assembled. Just remember the principles, and try to think it through. I hope this has helped out some in your adventures, and good luck!

              17) Sourcing a NEW heater for an Empire B-31

              As with the instructions for REPAIRING an Empire B-31 noted under #16 above, I have had another fellow steamer contact me in Nov. 2008 about a source for an entirely NEW heating element that will fit this type of engine.  This is a significant finding and I'm going to lay in one of those heaters ASAP as a backup for my own B-31.  Steamer "Dean" shared the following:

              Website located in Ohio carries a heater style with the item code M-16893.  This heater has the a 1 1/2 inch I.D. and is referred to as the "1 1/2 wide style-1 fiberglass leads".  It is priced at $22.81 including shipping (Nov. '08 pricing). It is best to call them at the phone number listed on the website to order, and Dean notes they are very nice people to deal with. This place will sell one at a time whereas others selling this type have a $50.00 order minimum.   Dean notes they also sell various flat heater styles that might be applicable to other steam engines.

              Again, thanks Dean for sharing this...I know from emails I get that finding a source for Empire heaters is a big need of folks trying to bring these babies back to life.

              18) Standalone boiler to run small to midsize engines

              Not rocket science here, but I have had several questions about the boiler I use to run small to midsize engines that don't have their own boilers.  Simple answer, I removed a Jensen 25 boiler, electric heater and firebox from it's original metal base and mounted it on a wooden base.  I cut the steam line in such a way that there is an outlet now just beyond the steam line's regulator valve. 

              The firebox was painted black just because I don't like the original pink.  I've connected a 3/32" I.D. silicone steam line to it that works well under steam pressure.  The other end of the line connects to an inlet nipple on an engine...and you are in business.

              Tip...if you have a "hole" rather than a nipple for an engine steam inlet, this same approach will work by simply putting a short section of brass or copper tubing inside the end of the silicone tubing.  Then just "thread" the silicone tube into the engine steam inlet...the metal tubing within provides compression resistance and it will make for a steam tight seal.

              19) Checking Safety of an Electrically "fired" steam engine

              Whether new to an electrically heated engine or an old hand, there are a few electrical safety checks that should be done on every or newly acquired.  This is especially needed with engines that are old, as the electrical connections can fray, heaters can short out and either not work or electrically charge the metal of the engine...NOT something any of us want to experience.

              Good steamer friend John Reid (fellow Indiana resident), was kind enough to put down his thoughts on how to properly test for electrical safety and permit me to share them here.  It goes without saying that such checks should be done on an UNPLUGGED engine...a few minutes spent on day one of ownership can save heartache down the road. 

              Click hypertext below:

              Checking Electrical Safety of an electrically "fired" steam engine


              20) Key Thread sizes on Jensen Boilers

              Just capturing this info here as folks ask it and I'm forever trying to find it myself, thanks for those who contributed this:

              5/16 x 24 is the thread size of all Jensen whistle and safety valve openings in the tops of 2.5 inch and 3 inch diameter boilers

              12-32 is the thread size of the holes in the boiler face on older boilers with the external sight glass blocks using hollow steam screws (use a #13 drill to start the hole if soldering a square of brass over stripped out holes in boiler).  Same thread size for the hollow steam "Banjo" screw that holds down the steam line on top of the boiler.

              6-32 is the thread size of the holes in the boiler face on the very earliest boilers with external sight glass blocks that do NOT use hollow steam screws...instead these screws are solid

              1.175" x 28 TPI is the thread size for the large, round porthole style sightglasses on the face of Jensen boilers made since the early 1960's

              1/4-18 NPT is the thread size for 660 watt Hotwatt immersion rod heaters used on newer Jensen 3 inch diameter boilers since about 2005.  These come with the male thread built in and screw into a female bushing pre-soldered into the boiler rear

              Jensen Hex-key sizes:
              5/64" hex key fits all timing/crank set screws and the flywheel set screw on #55 & #20 engines.  Also fits #8 - 32 set screws

              1/16" hex key fits all pulleys and flywheels other than the #55 # #20 engines.  Also fits #6 - 32 set screws

              21) Making large Jensen Porthole Gaskets from Teflon

              Every so often a fellow steamer comes up with a very clever means of doing something I've struggled with...such is the case with making teflon "porthole" gaskets for the round sight glass window on a post 1960 Jensen boiler.  These boilers require two sight glass gaskets, one beneath and one over the round sight glass itself, all held in place with the screw in retaining ring. 

              Teflon works beautifully for most gaskets and smaller sizes are easily cut out with simple metal punches. Boiler sight glass gaskets however, are too large for punches.  This has left many of us trying to cut them freehand with Xacto blades or scissors, often with lousy results and/or sliced up fingertips.

              Enter fellow steamer Mark, of Mark-One SteamWorks in Canada who kindly created the following "how to" video showing just how easily this can be done and done well...Jensen steam fans thank you sir !!!

              CLICK HERE for an instant video

              Teflon can be found in sheet form on eBay...look up eBay seller:  materialmaster5 and order his 0.025" thick non-adhesive backed teflon sheeting...about $10 USD for a 6"x18" sheet delivered. 


              22) Make a steam tap from a whistle

              Sometimes we have a solo engine we want to feed steam to.  Usually this requires a standalone boiler to supply the needed steam feed. 

              Another option is to modify a whistle so a boilered engine can do double duty.

              This was simple enough to do...slit a short piece of brass tubing and slide it over the top of the whistle, down over the normal whistle hole.  Solder this bit in place to seal that opening.  Now drill another hole higher up on the whistle top and solder in a short piece of brass tubing.

              Now thread that modified whistle (a Jensen in this case), into the boiler you want to tap into, add a feed line of silicone tubing and with a turn of the handle, you can feed steam to another engine by itself or run both engines simultaneously if your boiler has the capacity. 

              I used an older Jensen whistle in my parts bin, but even a new one will only cost about $12-15 USD, so it's still a cheap alternative to keeping a standalone boiler for those solo engines.


              Here's this steam tap feeding a steam hungry turbine.




              23) Adapting a PM Research Whistle to fit a Jensen boiler

              If you are like me, you have admired the PM Research whistle (model SW-4) as about the best you can buy commercially for use on a toy or model steam boiler.  The tone is wonderful and construction very robust. Problem arises however when you want to make it fit a given boiler's need to buy or make some sort of adapter.  As received from PM Research, the whistle comes with a female base 1/4-40 thread (1/4 inch diameter/40 threads to the inch).

              In my case I wanted to mount this whistle on a Jensen, all of which come with a somewhat obscure female 5/16-24 threaded (5/16 inch diameter/24 threads to the inch) whistle hole in the boiler top.

              I solved the mismatch by ordering from PM Research both the whistle AND a $2 USD 1/4-40 x 1 inch pipe nipple. This fits the PM whistle perfectly.  To make it fit the Jensen whistle hole, I took an old Jensen safety valve (SV), removed the moveable post with spring, and drilled a 1/4 inch diameter hole from the top into the SV about 1/4 inch deep (too deep and you can bugger up the 5/16-24 male threads).  I cut the PM 1/4-40 pipe nipple in two with a Dremel cutting wheel, tapped the smooth end into the freshly drilled hole in the SV and soldered it in.  Voila, a perfect adapter. 

              Even if you had to sacrifice a new Jensen SV, they are not that costly at $12.  Still cheaper than trying to hunt down the proper dies to make an adapter from scratch.  

              Same approach should work for ANY brand of engine if you can sacrifice a spare SV.

              Photos below should clarify what I did:

              Jensen safety valve part soldered to pipe nipple

              PM Whistle with adapter made from Jensen safety valve and pipe nipple

              Finished PM Whistle and adapter in place on my Jensen 51 Replica


              Jensen safety valves & how to replace springs

              Over the years many of us have experienced weak SV's (safety valves) that sizzle, leak or pop off at lower pressures than we desire.  I hope to show how Jensen SV's have changed over the years and how any of them can be rebuilt AND the pressure can actually be "tuned" to a number you want from 12-25 PSI.

              First, four basic examples of Jensen SV's (oldest to the left/current to the right).  All are 100% brass (except the one with an O ring).

              I have previously replaced the spring on the leftmost (easy, threaded shaft and nut was used then) and the right is new as recv. from factory.  The ones in the middle show thinner brass wire Jensen once used.  This thin wire suffers metal fatigue over the years and should be replaced with new brass spring, available inexpensively from Jensen.  One SV shows an O ring around the top part of moveable shaft...this may have been from the factory or added later in is a quick and easy way to raise PSI letoff pressure as it puts more tension on the spring.  The O ring trick is OK...but they don't last long before cracking in my experience.


              The spring is the part that controls release pressure...below I have compressed the spring on a weak SV in prep. for it's removal.  Most Jensen SV's retain the spring by a slightly crimped spot on the end of the moveable shaft.  This spot must be ground down enough with a Dremel or file so that the retaining washer and the spring itself will slide off...just a little off on both sides of crimp will do the job.  

              DON'T put the crimp in a vice and try to squash it back to round...I tried it and the shaft tip crumbled ...better by far to file or grind the crimp down just enough.

              Here the dead spring and washer have been removed after grinding down the shaft tip a little...this spring was so weak it actually broke in wonder it wouldn't hold any steam pressure!

              Next photo shows a brand new replacement spring from Jensen next to the dead spring just removed....notice the new spring is considerably longer and of heavier brass wire.  If put on the shaft in it's as received length, the spring will bump PSI release to about 25 PSI vs. more typical 12-15 PSI on factory finished SV's.

              Here the shaft is being drilled for a short piece of brass retaining wire that will be put on after spring and washer.  A Dremel tool with fine drill bit does the job nicely.


              Full length spring has now been placed onshaft, washer added and a short piece of brass retaining wire slipped in the drilled hole.

              Finished SV with new spring and new added retaining wire, wire wrapped in "S" fashion around the shaft.  Wire can be easily removed for "tuning" or adjusting the length of spring.


              I personally like my SV's "uprated" to a 25 PSI level.  Putting the spring on exactly as received new will accomplish that.  If you prefer SV to blow off at a lesser pressure, run the engine once to see where SV release occurs, then disassemble the SV again and cut off one full turn of brass spring wire...reassemble.  Fire up and PSI release should be a bit lower.  Repeat as desired until you hit the sweet spot you are looking for.

              I'm not sure why Jensen's replacement spring all seem to come long and strong...but it does give the steamer the option of high or lower PSI release.

              24) Making a Jensen Repl. Decal

              Before starting, you need a good photo or scan of an actual Jensen decal to print out from a computer.

              1) order some water slide decal paper off eBay (search for words "water slide decal")...there are a number of offerings.  You want the clear stuff vs. white...then find cheapest vendor price with shipping for 5 sheets (usually the minimum anyone will sell you).  Oh...and you need a functioning ink jet printer that prints color.

              2) When water slide decal paper is received,  Follow directions that come with it...but basically you put it in the printer and print the highest quality setting you can using your photo of a Jensen decal.  If you want multiple decals, set your printer to do that.

              3) Set the printed page aside without smudging it...let it dry well.  After 15 minutes, trim off the section of the decal paper with your Jensen decals.  Spray the decals with a few coats of polyurethane spray varnish or acetate spray meant for art work.  Multiple coats are best and not so much the stuff runs.  Let dry well overnite.

              4) Trim a few more pieces off the decal paper with scissors (clean stuff, not part with spray on it from step 3)...cutting them each about 1 inch x 3 inch.

              5) With a good quality gold metallic spray paint, spray the cut off bits of decal paper from step 4, spraying the shiny side.  Set aside to dry overnite.

              6) Next day...trim the Jensen decals carefully with scissors to make individual pieces...trim about 1/16 inch from the outer red line on each decal.  Use really good scissors.  Set these aside.

              7) Next day...trim the gold sprayed bits carefully with scissors, so they will fit UNDER the Jensen decal and be completely covered by it.  You want the gold decal just slightly smaller than the outer edge of the red line.  What you are doing is forming the gold underlayment for the upper Jensen decal...part one if you will.  You must trim it so the Jensen decal completely covers it...but don't make it too small.  This is one of the really fiddly parts...too big and gold will show outside the Jensen decal and not look right...too small and there will be a gap of gold when you overlay later with the Jensen decal.  I have found that unless one makes a two layer finished decal, the gold from an ink jet printer is just too whimpy...the metallic sprayed gold looks great if you go to this extra step.

              8) With everything trimmed, you should have several gold pieces and several Jensen pieces.  Get a dish of warm water with about 1/2 drop of dishwashing detergent in it (like Dawn).  Stir the dishwashing soap in the water for good dispersion.

              9) Have your wood Jensen engine base clean of dirt/oil and ready to receive it's new decal(s)

              10) Soak a gold decal in the warm water for about 90 will begin to lift off the which point you grab the backing, lift it from the water and position the gold decal where you want it on the wood base...gently slide the gold decal onto the wood base and work out any bubbles under it.  This is akin to applying decals to a model airplane when you were a careful not to rip the decal, they are very delicate.  When gold decal is in place, bubbles are worked out to the edges...lay a paper towel over it and gently blot without moving the decal.  This is just to press it down a bit and soak up excess water.  Give it about 15 minutes to sit untouched.

              11) Soak Jensen decal in the warm water as done in step 10...slide it on top of the gold decal such that the outer red line conceals the gold and it looks "right" and smooth/pat with dry paper towel.  When all looks good, let it dry overnite.

              12) Next day, with a small artists paint brush, coat the finished decal with a layer of liquid polyurethane varnish, satin finish type...this is to protect the new decal from scraps and abrasions in use, they are very delicate and need this protection.  Set aside to dry.


              25) What is the right water for use in our boilers?

              Short and must be clean and as free of minerals as possible.  Minerals like calcium in "hard" water will coat boilers with a film and over time can build up inside boilers, block or coat sight glasses, clog steam lines and ruin whistles.

              Some options:


              1) Tap water...not recommended unless you live in a very "soft" water area as there is a good chance you will introduce minerals into your boiler


              2) Rain water/melted snow...OK...just filter it thru a coffee filter to remove any dirt


              3) Dehumidifier water...OK...likewise, filter to remove any dirt


              4) Purified water...sold for drinking...not recommended, may be clean and pure...but still can contain natural minerals from the source


              5) Distilled or deionised water...typically sold by the gallon at places like Walmart.  I personally use only distilled water which I get at Walmart for under $1 dollar a gallon


              BUT...there is much debate about the safety of using "deionised" water and it's rumored impact on the metal of boilers.  To put this concern to rest, a scientist friend from the steam forum I frequent has put together the following and I reprint it here with his permission.  Thank you Dave!


              Distilled vs. deionised water for toy steam engine use by Dave S. from Jan 2012

              "I'm afraid there is all sorts of highly inaccurate information floating around on the internet regarding both distilled and deionised water.

              I'm a professional biomedical scientist with 8 years experience working in a medical laboratory and use deionised water (via ion exchange) every day.  I'm totally familiar with the purification technology and its chemical properties and biological effects.  It’s no different from steam distilled water,  just cheaper to produce on an industrial scale.

              As others have correctly stated the label says do not drink because the manufacturing facility will not comply with regulations for the production of food products.  Deionised water also has a much longer shelf life than bottled mineral or tap water.  Bottled water for drinking will have an expiry date.  This is because over time some of the plastic molecules dissolve into the water and these can have biological effects.  As deionised water is not intended for drinking it can have a much longer shelf life but will become unsuitable for drinking over time.

              It’s worth noting that distilled water IS deionised water.

              Deionised water cannot ionise metal (and thus dissolve it e.g in a metal pipe) to any appreciable degree.  Quite often the "dangerous" properties of deionised water are just the properties of any water taken completely out of context.

              Distilled and deionised water are absolutely fine to drink.  I've often seen information on the internet saying that deionised water is dangerous (Kevin's WHO report).  People get all the mineral ions they require from food and only those on very poor diets could be affected by the absence of them in deionised water.  It’s a bit like saying potatoes are dangerous because if you only eat potatoes you'll end up with nutritional deficiencies.

              Deionised water does not "leach" ions from your body if drunk in normal amounts.  All suitable drinking water drunk to excess can be fatal by changing your bloods osmotic potential, about 8-10 litres in a day should do it (tap or deionised).  It also wont burst cells in your throat or have any other crazy effects.  Distilled water is sold for drinking and this is usually water in its purest form.  If it had any dangerous effects it wouldn't be sold".

              Hayco Cord Restraints

              Most restorers of Jensen electrically heated engines must struggle to get the cord off or on given a tough little plastic thing called a "Hayco Cord Restraint".  While there is a proper tool to insert and remove them, most of us must make is how I do it using needle nose vice grip pliers:

              1) install cord thru the chimney stub leaving plenty of excess on the firebox side for final wireup...BUT, strip the cord ends if needed before this step as it's hard to strip short ends (as I have found out!)

              2) slip the 2 part Hayco over the cord to the outside of the chimney stub

              3) slide 2 part Hayco as far into the hole in the chimney stub as you can, compressing it with fingers

              4) carefully compress Hayco with needle nose vice grips from outside the chimney stub, until the smaller part compresses into the cord enough that the whole thing will slide into the hole...once in the hole, let go of the vice grips and voila, it expands a bit and cord is held tight

              5) same technique of compressing the two parts of the Hayco together with vice grips will reverse the process and remove the works from the chimney stub.  Just be careful with the vice grips to NOT chew up the Hayco plastic too much.  Wrapping a little electrical or duct tape around the jaws of the vice grip will save the Hayco's plastic finish

              That is all there is to it...2 minute job once you have done a few.

              Making replica decals

              To be honest with you, I couldn't charge enough to make decals as it is a fiddly process in part because of how I do it...BUT, I will give you the tools to fiddle yourself.  It is NOT hard to do...just a multi step process. 

              I don't have a stash of them...when I need one, I make it up as follows:

              1) order some water slide decal paper off eBay (search for words "water slide decal")...there are a number of offerings.  You want the clear stuff vs. white...then find cheapest vendor price with shipping for 5 sheets (usually the minimum anyone will sell you).  Oh...and you need a functioning ink jet printer that prints color.

              2) When water slide decal paper is received,  Follow directions that come with it...but basically you put it in the printer and print the highest quality setting you can of a close up photo of a Jensen or other brand decal.  Having this file is key to a good finished result.  If you want multiple decals, set your printer to do that. 

              3) Set the printed page aside without smudging it...let it dry well.  After 15 minutes, trim off the section of the decal paper with your Jensen decals.  Spray the decals with a few coats of polyurethane spray varnish or acetate spray meant for art work.  Multiple coats are best and not so much the stuff runs.  Let dry well overnite.

              4) Trim a few more pieces off the decal paper with scissors (clean stuff, not part with spray on it from step 3)...cutting them each about 1 inch x 3 inch.

              5) With a good quality gold metallic spray paint, spray the cut off bits of decal paper from step 4, spraying the shiny side.  Set aside to dry overnite.

              6) Next day...trim the Jensen decals carefully with scissors to make individual pieces...trim about 1/16 inch from the outer red line on each decal.  Use really good scissors.  Set these aside.

              7) Next day...trim the gold sprayed bits carefully with scissors, so they will fit UNDER the Jensen decal and be completely covered by it.  You want the gold decal just slightly smaller than the outer edge of the red line.  What you are doing is forming the gold underlayment for the upper Jensen decal...part one if you will.  You must trim it so the Jensen decal completely covers it...but don't make it too small.  This is one of the really fiddly parts...too big and gold will show outside the Jensen decal and not look right...too small and there will be a gap of gold when you overlay later with the Jensen decal.  I have found that unless one makes a two layer finished decal, the gold from an ink jet printer is just too whimpy...the metallic sprayed gold looks great if you go to this extra step.

              8) With everything trimmed, you should have several gold pieces and several Jensen pieces.  Get a dish of warm water with about 1/2 drop of dishwashing detergent in it (like Dawn).  Stir the dishwashing soap in the water for good dispersion.

              9) Have your wood Jensen engine base clean of dirt/oil and ready to receive it's new decal(s)

              10) Soak a gold decal in the warm water for about 90 will begin to lift off the which point you grab the backing, lift it from the water and position the gold decal where you want it on the wood base...gently slide the gold decal onto the wood base and work out any bubbles under it.  This is akin to applying decals to a model airplane when you were a careful not to rip the decal, they are very delicate.  When gold decal is in place, bubbles are worked out to the edges...lay a paper towel over it and gently blot without moving the decal.  This is just to press it down a bit and soak up excess water.  Give it about 15 minutes to sit untouched.

              11) Soak Jensen decal in the warm water as done in step 10...slide it on top of the gold decal such that the outer red line conceals the gold and it looks "right" and smooth/pat with dry paper towel.  When all looks good, let it dry overnite.

              12) Next day, with a small artists paint brush, coat the finished decal with a layer of liquid polyurethane varnish, satin finish type.  Set aside to dry.


              This all seems kind of complicated, but it really isn't, I just tried to describe it in enough detail you can do it without fail.  I imagine by now you understand why I don't make extras for sale...I couldn't charge enough to make it worth the trouble.  BUT, when it is your own engine, hours of such fiddling seem worth it.

              Removing Jensen spiral firebox nails

              Mr. Jensen Sr. was a brilliant engineer, but occasionally he took a wrong step and implemented a bad idea.  One such idea was to use smooth headed spiral nails to attach black fireboxes to their wooden bases...a thankfully short lived idea, but plenty of engines have showed up bearing these nails.  It may well have sped up production vs. using slotted screws. 

              Unfortunately, decades later when the likes of we collectors try to restore such fireboxes and bases...we are doomed to struggle to remove such nails.  I have 12 Jensens now and the only one I have not restored has those darn spiral nails.  Most folks try and pry them up with a butter knife from the inside of the firebox trying not to crush the wood or bend the firebox lip...often doing both.

              Well, it took another Dane to figure out how to correct the error of Mr. Jensen's ways.  I give full credit to steam friend Jan from Denmark for the following idea.  In a few words...just take a Dremel tool and an abrasive cutting wheel, put slots in the nail heads and then unscrew prying!!!  How cool is that!

              Here are four pictures Jan sent me showing his handiwork in progress:

              First...the right tool and the abrasive cutting wheel

              Cuts made in the nail heads...take care not to cut into the firebox

              Simply unscrew

              Voila...the cursed little nails can be removed and replaced with proper single slot screws

              Jan, thanks for sharing!!!

              Nickel plating with a Caswell Kit

              I bought a Caswell kit for under $40 via and have finally figured out how to make it work well. 

              Here are a few of my learnings:

              1) Caswell Kit documentation refers to a 4.5 volt transformer with it...but mine came with 1.7 volt transformer for some reason and it did not do the job.  I checked with another steamer who has a Caswell kit as well and he confirmed he had the 4.5 volt transformer.  I plan to ask Caswell about it, but since I had a leftover 4.5 volt Sony transformer from some now long gone gizmo...I swapped the leads and I was in business.

              2) If you find yourself doing what I did and using another very conscious of (+) and (-) leads on the transformer...mix them up and nothing seems to happen (I did...switched and then it worked).

              3) For little stuff like screw heads, safety valves, whistles and the like...I found a glass "jigger" about 1/4" full of solution, set in a dish of hot water and kept hot on a small coffee cup warmer worked great.  Temp of the nickel plating solution makes a huge difference...when warm the plating is almost instantaneous...not warm it works poorly if at all.  If the plating peters out and seems to stop, dump out the solution and add have likely depleted the nickel content at that point.

              4) Items to be plated must be very, very clean.  I found cleaning with Dremel wire brush followed by denatured alcohol and finally distilled water worked well.  Handle parts with fresh gloves to avoid fingerprints which will not plate.

              5) Little "wand" thingy they give you works wrap some of the cotton bandage material they supply around the end, held with a loose rubber band enough to let the bandage stuff soak up the solution, then just sort of paint it on gently...making sure the end of the metal wand itself does not touch the object being plated...only the bandage material.  When done, the wand/bandage can be rinsed in distilled water, pat dry with paper towel and left out to dry for next time...I used same bandage piece several times.  I will get a roll of the stuff at the drug store however as Caswell only give you enough for wrapping wand 2-3 times.  It looks like simple thin cotton cloth.

              6) Once item is plated...drop it in a dish of distilled water until you are ready to dry and polish.  As they come out of the plating solution they are kind of dull grey.

              7) Polish with Dremel brass rotary brush which brings up a gleaming nickel finish quickly, but don't over polish because the plating is thin...if you polish through it you can always redo the plating steps.

              8) That is about it...great way to replace chewed up screws with new brass ones that have been nickel plated like originals.  Have a "bald" spot on that nickel plated boiler?...this setup will make it blend right in with the remaining nickel finish.   I am told that the "nickel sulfate solution" can be purchased by the gallon via eBay, but for awhile the 8 oz. bottle that came with the Caswell kit will do what I need to do.

              Replacing Jensen firebox rivets (eyelets)

              Steam friend Tom’s technique for installing Jensen Eyelet Rivets on fireboxes. 

              First off, Jensen eyelets are not like pop rivets, they look like the one in the middle below.  You will need a nail and nippers as shown, plus a pop rivet tool as seen in video that follows

              Use the nippers and pinch the rim, not the flange, four times spaced out equally around it.

              These make week points which aids in splitting without deforming.

              For rivets on the sides of Jensen Fireboxes

              Now line up the holes in the metal you want to connect and push the rivet through the holes from outside to inside.  This puts the flange on the outside and will look better. Put the nail through the rivet from the inside to the outside.  The head of the nail will be pulled tight against the rivet and will make it split where you pinched the metal in the rivets neck.


              Once you have the rivet and nail in place you will need to get your rivet gun and while holding the nail/rivet in place and inserted into the gun, slowly squeeze the handle while watching how the rivet splits inside.  Remember that these are not POP RIVETS, squeeze just enough to curl the split rivet and snug the pieces together.  It might take a few tries but they'll look great.


              Here is a finished rivet applied to the side of a Jensen firebox to retain the metal sheet inside. Neatly done with no paint damage!

              For rivets holding down the boiler straps on Jensen Fireboxes:

              You will need a longer nail and a cylindrical spacer.  Most rivet guns do not fit in that close and you have to have it flat to work properly. Here's a drawing to show how it’s done.

              Lastly, a video should make it crystal clear.  Thanks again to steam friend Tom who came up with this…hats off to you sir!


              CLICK HERE for instant YouTube video by Tom, showing how it's done

              Stripping Jensen Pink Painted Fireboxes

              You have probably seen numerous comments/complaints about the pink paint on Jensens burning off/turning dark colors etc. (flame fired).  A post 2005 made 3" boiler won't suffer the same fate because it is electrically fired and the heating element is inside the boiler much like the element on a home hot water heater.  Your pink paint should stay pink!

              BUT, if you would like a truly unique, beautiful looking firebox and are willing to do a couple of hours work...try this:

              1) unscrew the boiler and firebox...separating them so firebox is completely detached along with it's chimney stub

              2) chemically strip the pink paint and clear plastic coating off the firebox, chimney stub and chimney using any good paint stripper...will take several applications

              3) be careful not to scrape the finish, using nothing but very fine steel wool and maybe a plastic spatula to remove the "goop" that results from the stripping process.

              4) run the pieces under hot water in the kitchen sink to remove the last of the "goop" using the steel wool to get into the grooves for any stubborn bits.

              5) you will be rewarded with a copper plated firebox that is absolutely stunning in appearance...the way Jensen offered them in the early 1960's. Yes...the steel firebox is plated with copper which has the overcoat of paint/plastic.

              Only hitch in this whole effort is removing the cord from the chimney base...this is a pain in the you know what as you must compress the black plastic piece that surrounds the cord where it passes thru a sharp sided hole in the chimney stub.  There is an electricians tool for doing this effortlessly, but most of us just use vice grips from the outside, compress and pull the plastic piece out still crimped on the cord.  No need to remove it from the cord as when you are done you will just compress it again and put it back in the hole it came out of.   Only thing left is to disconnect the electrical element that goes in the boiler and reconnect it after the stripping is done.

              You might just be thinking....damn I don't want to mess with a brand new engine and that is a valid point...being electric the paint won't spoil, but it will remain pink for life which many find objectionable.

              Please note...if your engine is electrically fired/used and the boiler has the underslung blanket heater CAN strip the paint, but it will be more difficult as it's been baked on from use.  If your engine has been flame fired...this process won't work period as paint and clear plastic coating over it has been burned onto the metal.  Only option for this situation is to strip the firebox, sand/wire wheel it as best you can and paint it with high temp black paint.  It will look fine, but you just can't get that copper plated steel firebox that lies under new original paint.

              Cutting Boiler Gauge Glass Rod with a Dremel Diamond Cut Off

              Steamers are often confronted with an eBay or other steam engine purchase only to find a glass tube on the boiler face is missing or broken off...tubes are a delicate item, especially if bumped in a poorly packed shipment.  I've also broken them just tightening the retaining nuts to try and stop a leak.  If your seals are shot, refer to an earlier item (click here) in this Restorer's Toolbox for how to replace seals before trying to replace the glass tube.

              First task is to find replacement glass...eBay is a good source if you know the outside dimensions which can be taken from a broken piece of the tubing or in worst case sort of reverse engineered from the holes in the retaining nuts.

              With glass in hand, I have previously used a sharp file edge to draw across the tube at the right length scoring the glass, then with gloves on, hold tubing either side of the score and flex it a bit.  It will usually break clean at the score (usually).  Heating the end of the cut glass in a torch flame will remove the sharp edges that can cut into new seals. 

              The file/score/flame technique works...but I just learned of a new approach that is quicker, cleaner and worth sharing.  Steam friend "Jim" in Australia just shared this on the Mamod Forum we belong to and I asked him to let me share with others who turn to the Restorer's Toolbox from time to time.  Most of us own a Dremel tool or similar.  You just need a diamond cutoff wheel either included with the tool or easily found online or in a home improvement store.  Wear eye protection and if doing it indoors a dust mask would be prudent as the glass dust is not healthy to breathe.  I personally would just step outdoors with eye protection still...but let the dust blow away.  I would still wear gloves as glass tubing can shatter and kind of ruin your day if holding bare handed should that happen!  You can polish the cut edges a bit with the same cutoff wheel, just use the flat part of the wheel.  

              This technique is so easy you will wonder why none of us thought of it sooner.  Again, thanks to Jim for sharing. 


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