I'm finally taking the plunge and diving into a steamboat project. For years I've been wanting to do this and for one reason or
another it's been put off. I was waiting for a good time to start this and now is as good as any. Isn't there an old saying about
kids like that? If you wait till you can afford them, you'll never have them? Or something like that? Same deal...
I secured a partially built Tiny Power M about a year ago that the original owner got so far into it and just quit. I backed up a
bit and reworked some things better to my liking and added some replacement components and put the little engine up in good
order. Still have some more to do to it. Actually, I doubt any engine builder would ever say their engine or any part of the
steam system is "done", thats all part of the hobby and fun. I got the new castings, quite a few of them actually, from Ronnie
at Tiny Power and he was very helpful and informative. He said that the engine having the Branson Mo. on the steam chest
predates it back to the 70's before he owned the company. It's close to being an antique engine already :-). It is a very well
thought out design and sure looks like it will be virtually trouble free and powerful for it's size. "Pop" Arnold did a very good
job designing it. It was nice that I could call up and order a set of drawings and all the castings and everything worked just like
it was supposed to. A real plus that everything is still available for it. Even got two HP-3 feedpump kits. They make a real nice
pump, are easy to machine and are a fun lazy Sunday afternoon build.
I have a machine shop here outside Detroit and we build CNC equipment and automation tooling for the automotive industry
and others. With lot's of tooling, CNC machines, fabrication equipment, capability and right in the middle of an industrial hub,
it's a perfect place to build a steamer. The shop is on the smallish side and will take some rearrangement of equipment to
make a hole large enough for the build.
I'm going to keep a running log of this as it's happening. There will be gaps in the process as regular shop work takes
precedence over this and progress will depend on how much free time I can find. So check back occasionally and I'll keep this
updated to where the project is the best I can.
At any point, if someone sees something I'm doing and has a "what the hell?", feel free to email me with a better suggestion at
email@example.com I'm open to any advice and look forward to your input.
Below is a pic of the "beast" :-)
Uddate 7-1-09 Have decided not to use the beast, and went for something else.
Click here to see the new intended engine to use with the new boiler.
Left: As you can see there are still some small issues to take care of like:
proper pins for the stevenson link, acorn nuts on the head and main bearings.
It runs whisper quiet on air and I can't wait to see and hear it run on steam.
Above: Something I just had to add was some victorian type engraving. Not
sure if I like it, but it's growing on me as I get more used to it and visualize the
engine in it's "engine room". I plan on doing some more on the shift lever
itself. I found a muzzle-loader on the internet with that pattern. Then took the
pattern into Bobcad and traced it out and converted the lines into toolpaths.
Then machined it with a V-cutter on one of the CNC machines. Hit it on the
buffing wheel and there it is. Took all of 5 minutes to machine, what some
gunsmith would have given for that a hundred years ago.
I don't have one yet, and not really sure how I'm going to get one. I need one for wood or coal, about 22-30 foot of heating
surface. I have a few options: Build one, Possibly an Ofeldt type or vertical tube fireleg type. Cut and machine all the pieces
and have it welded by a boiler shop. Or, get lucky and find one. Or blow a nice big hole in the checking account and buy
one complete. Time will tell how that pans out. If you have one and would like to sell it, drop me a line with pics at
Now have a boiler click on this link to go to the boiler page
It's funny how many turns a project like this can take. For many years I wanted a fantail open launch. They are the "classic"
steam launch. I wanted something with beam but narrow if that makes sense. Good graceful lines. It needs to fit in a garage.
Wouldn't look silly with a canopy, hard-shell or cloth. Have head room, but not look too tall for the boats length. Those are tough
parameters when proportional appearance is a bit of a priority. After much internet surfing and looking at the same pages over
and over through different paths, being referred, I decided I'd look at the "Salty" plans offered by Reliable Steam engine. It's got
the beam, about the right length, It's fantail, it's hard chined for sheet construction, but it's a tug. After getting the plans which
are very nice for the money, the more I looked and thought about the little tug, the more sense it made. It's lines are sure easy on
the eyes to anyone with a soft spot for traditional watercraft. The hull would be too gawky for an open boat and is definitely
relegated to the tug boat ranks. The pilot house is big enough not to be just cute and the engine quarters are actually large
enough for a few 6 foot berths along side. Definitely not a live-aboard, but would be fun for an overnight river trip. It's laid out for
plywood on frame construction. Now theres a problem for me, I already have one wood boat and not looking to upkeep and care
for another one. Don't get me wrong, I love em' Nothing like a wood hull under you, nothing else "feels" more like a boat. Not
anxious to start sculpting something this large out of polyester and fiberglass. I've read some stories about the cold-molding
process that makes me a bit apprehensive in going that route. Can be a real bear on some hull shapes it appears. Again, trying to
avoid breathing dust and fumes over multiple months of saga-like monotony. Fairing for days and sweating every dip and hump.
All things considered, I've decided to build this tub out of steel, just the hull. The deck and uppers will be wood and if I didn't tell
someone it was steel they would never know unless they went below. I have more metalworking experience and tooled up for the
same. No sawdust, no fumes, I'm liking it, time to don the hernia belt and go for it, or more modernly, "git' r' done".
I took the offset table and reworked it for the steel construction. Drew it all up in BobCAD and it allows me to look at all the
chines in 3D and make sure they flow properly. No hiccups or surprises. I'll build the keel from 3/8" Hot Roll 1014 plate, the same
type of steel as the rest of the hull. The frames will be cut and lap jointed from 1/4" X 2" HRS. The chine stringers, this is where
I'm in question. After much searching and thought, I think I'll leave a notch at each joint and use 1/2" round HRS. Some folks use
use flats bent longitudinally, some use 1" diameter tubing. I'll need to experiment. Any ideas anyone? The skin will be 1/8" steel
plate. The deck members which are just straight will be 1-1/2 X 1-1/2 X 1/8" angle. The hull will weigh somewhere around 1200
pounds, water-skiing is out. It's a tug, If I get 5 knots I'll be tickled.
At left is the 3D drawing of the
frames to check the flow of the
chines and keel. One
miscalculation here in steel
construction could mean a real
&#*@ to straighten out. The fantail
is not depicted in this view.
It's great we have software like this
available to us nowadays. This can
be rotated dynamically for views in
all directions, rendered as a solid.
Could even build a toolpath
strategy and machine this from a
block. Saves building models, or
like I would have done without it,
Hope like heck it comes out ok..
Below and to the right is the "other" boat. An 18 foot 1964 Chris Craft Cavalier. It
has a V8 327 Chevrolet. The original running gear. It's undergone many
restorations and metamorphosis over the 17 years that I've owned her. I just re-did
the upholstery 2 years ago. It has a Bosse' burl dash. A little higher lift and duration
cam and sounds like it would blow all the water out of the lake. A little bigger bite on
the prop. The windshield I couldn't find, so I made one from stainless steel and
Lexan. Huge job, now I know why that guy gets 3-6k for one in California. Shes a
real sweetheart though. Gets used, stays in the water all year, pulls skiers, boat
rides, races... loves to outrun the spaceships they refer to as "boats" now. Here she
is at her first boat show.. And she likes her fuel like a good sailor likes his rum..
Back to the Steamboat...
First steps of actual build...
The only pattern I can see necessary at this point is for the keel. It's a good way to see how big she'll be when built and get a better idea
of how much space I really need for the job. First step is get 3 sheets of 1/4" luan plywood and join them together tightly with duct tape
to layout on. In the pics below it shows the process. Will definitely need this to burn out the keel and get it's proper shape. We build
CNC equipment, so it was considered to build a CNC plasma table. It's not something I need on a regular basis, so patterns and
acetylene it is.
Above to below going clockwise: First I laid the sheets end to end and
taped them securely to prevent them shifting around during the layout
process. After I got it laid out from the LWL line, I west system' the
pieces together with strips to keep them secure, removed the tape in
the splice. To the right shows the template completely cut out and after
a bit of fairing along the edge, I'll have a good template to use. The
small tab on the top of the stem in the pic below is for a bollard. I'll let
the 3/8" X 2 plate extend through the deck, drill a hole in it for the
crossbar. Encase it all in wood to look traditional. I have a peeve about
bollards and lift rings that aren't attached to the keel. The whole boat
should be able to be cabled up from two points should the need ever
arise. Thats one thing no boat owner wants an opportunity to test. I
may even burn a winch eye for trailering into the leading of the stem as
well, will save having to add one later.
Below and to the lower right: The keel pattern looking aft. And a view of the one of the drawings I'm working from. With a glimpse
of the completed boat.
Time to clean the torch tip and order some steel... Steel ordered and coming in
Wed. Have enough to build the whole frame less the skin.
I'm back to work on the hull. Got a little break now as I'm waiting for more steel to come in.
If I haven't mentioned it above, The whole hull has been scaled up now by a factor of .1 or 10%. Instead of 20 feet long, it is now 22 feet
long with an 8' beam. This called for a whole new pattern, and quite simply, a few clicks of the trackball in the CAD program.
So I tossed the old pattern and made a new one.
Here it is. It laid in the floor for a few months and got a bit soiled but it is still dimensionally accurate.
*Note* Some of these pages lack a bit of continuity, they were written and added to over a long period of time. They appear a bit
contrdictory in some places. I'm not a fibber, I just change my mind a lot :)
Lofted the whole thing out from the CAD screen. Then used a homemade margin scribe to trace the inner profile
of the keel.
The next step was to start laying the sections of the keel out on the pattern. The stock is 3/8" X 5, so I used a
piece of 5" wide plywood to determine how long each piece could be. I'm allowing the steel to protrude 1/2" past
the outside profile of the keel.
The information contained on these pages is not a how-to, rather a "What-I-did and am doing" series or log. The author is in no way
teaching how to build boats, or advocating that anyone should follow his lead. These pages should not be used in any way as a
construction or instruction article to emulate, and if you do so, you do so at your own risk.
This is an experiment that may or may not work.
Also, the author is a mechanical designer, machinist and fabricator with over 30 years experience, this is in no way an entry level
project. Many necessary aspects of this build in regard to safety and structural integrity have been left out of these pages to condense
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