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Bronze for a small steam engine

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  • Bronze for a small steam engine

    I want to build a small steam-powered Tonka truck from some old J.R. Senft plans.
    It calls for a bronze cylinder, main bearing, safety valve and lubricator, and bronze wheel hubs.

    I've found bronze round at online metals... nothing at Industrial Metal in Los Angeles, besides ingots.

    The bronze parts work with brass and stainless steel parts.

    Guys, I really want to do this as close to plans as possible. So, should I get the bronze round?

    Is there an alternative?


  • #2 may also have bronze rounds.

    I'm not exactly sure what your question is. If you "really want to do this as close to plans as possible," what's the debate about getting the bronze?

    If you're asking "Is there a workable alternative, because bronze is expensive," then you might consider cast iron as the cylinder material. Bronze would have the advantage of not rusting, but functionally, c.i. would make an excellent cylinder.
    Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
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    • #3
      I was looking for a small piece of bronze lately, and found good prices at at Enco - and, of course, FREE SHIPPING. (code: RN36FS)

      Frank Ford


      • #4
        Material selection

        Looks like a neat project. Just looked at the picture of the finished truck. The photo is published in Village presses Steam and stirling book 1. The book however does not include the plans.
        Where did you get the plans I would be interested in a set for my own collection. I have a couple of similar tonka trucks siting next to my engines. Bronze round stock is not hard to come by. MSC likely has it and mcmastercarr stocks it in sizes ranging from 1/2" to 7" diameter Enco carries diameters up to 3 1/2 . I built MiniKin witch is also a James Senf design and used brass instead of bronze. It has something over 60 hours of run time and seems to work fine.
        I cant imagine needing very large diameters fo this project.
        Good luck
        Ad maiorem dei gloriam - Ad vitam paramus


        • #5
          Sorry for not being clearer...

          I don't know a lot about which metals work best with each other.
          The suggestion of cast iron was exactly the type of response I was after. Thanks.
          These instructions are from 1974, and I thought there might be something better than bronze to use. Yes, I AM a bit ignorant.
          I didn't know that bronze was easy to get, since the places I tried didn't have exactly what I was after. I need bronze bar stock, too, and McMaster has it.
          Thanks for the Enco link, too.

          I built the tiny steam engine in the plans completely out of brass (just for a goof), and it works fine. I realize that it would not wear well if were used regularly, so I want to do the whole project out of the right material.

          There is so much for me to learn. I drool over the .60 Crusader plans in The Home Shop Machinist. Drool. Building an IC engine is a major goal of mine.

          But... baby steps first.

          Thanks for the replies,


          • #6
            Tin Falcon,

            I did a search a while back, and someone responded.
            Let me scan these plans, and try to get them to you.
            Maybe I can E-Mail them to you.

            It may take a few tries, but this thing is so cool, I'd love to share-


            • #7
              Most any of your local bearing supply houses will have or can order Bearing Bronze for you. It comes in 13 inch lengths around here.


              • #8

                I'd go with cast iron. I guess the corrosion resistance of Bronze would be nice, if you needed it, but with Bronze costing at least 5x the price of cast iron, I'd resign myself to a nice coat of oil or paint and call it good.




                • #9
                  Take a look at bronze bearings and sleeves. You might find some of appropriate dimension that can be shaved down or bored out to match your plans. And these things are cheap. McMaster-Carr has a large selection.
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                  • #10
                    When I first got into the machine business I needed some navy brass and after checking the specs, found out that the brass sprinklers that the neighbors were changing was the same metal, I rounded up a bunch of them and melted them down to the shape I needed, now I have all the brass I need