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My first project complete (MLA-17 Diesel)

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  • My first project complete (MLA-17 Diesel)

    I've been a lurker for a while and haven't really had anything to post. Now that I have completed my first project I thought it would be a good time to share.

    Introduction: I am a computer programmer with an interest in many things mechanical including model engines.

    I've done fabrication including Oxy/acet welding, Mig and Tig. I'm also a fairly skilled auto mechanic. I had never touched a metal lathe or any lathe for that matter up until I bought my 9x20.

    I've always wanted to learn machining and finally took the plunge about about 1.5 years ago. I have a cheap harbor freight 9x20 lathe and I learned a few lessons prior to purchasing my milling machine. I bought a Bridgeport J-head mill and powered it with a VFD. I wish I had gotten a better lathe but you don't know what you don't know. I will probably upgrade in the future.

    This is a MLA-17 model diesel. I purchased the plans from

    Metal Lathe Accessories

    link to engine running video: running 1

    running 2

    Thanks for looking!

  • #2
    Very nice results. It is the machinist, not the machine.


    • #3
      hey that looks great - and it runs to! good job.


      • #4

        Nice job, thanks for shareing, the mla-17 is on my do list; watch your knuckles adjusting the contra piston!
        Les H.
        The Impossible Takes Just A Little Bit Longer!


        • #5
          A couple of observations and lessons learned during my build:

          Most of these are novice things but since "I are one" these are things that stuck out to me.

          1) Pay attention to the revisions included with the plans. I ended up making the intake and contra piston twice.

          2) Make sure you leave enough material to chuck/hold the part for machining operations.

          3) Never use a drill press to drill a hole unless you know your drill press is acurate and perpendicular to the table! DOH!

          4) Make sure you have that cylinder positioned correctly before cutting the slot in the cylinder for rod clearance! DOH! DOH! DOH!!!!!

          5) If you have never attempted threading with a single point tool practice first. I hand ground my own threading tools on a bench grinder out of 1/4 inch HSS. What an experience to save the least!!! Aluminum on aluminum will bind and never let go!!! This was mentioned in the instructions and I almost got it stuck. Man that was close!!!

          6) when indexing holes check and recheck before drilling.

          7) Don't try to start the engine without at least a thick leather glove on. I tried a chicken stick but it didn't feel comfortable. I used a welding glove (thick not Tig (thin) glove). That prop thwacked me in the nuckle several times and I have to say I am really glad I had the glove on.

          Note: The engine runs great forward or backward! There were several times I flipped it forward and due to the charge in the cylinder and the position of the contra piston it popped back and ran in reverse. I just let it run the full tank out since it wasn't important to me which direction it ran and I just liked to watch it run.

          I have a pretty good collection of neat looking metal parts that are useless. Just another way of saying I made a "few" mistakes along the way.

          Thanks for the help most of you never knew you supplied to me. This forum has been a great resource and continues to be!


          • #6
            Originally posted by jadecy

            I have a pretty good collection of neat looking metal parts that are useless. Just another way of saying I made a "few" mistakes along the way.
            I keep a small collection of what I think of as my "high buck paperweights" in the top of the toolbox just so I don't lose touch with humility.

            Nice looking job, and thanks for sharing the pictures and the experience.
            "People will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time they will pick themselves up and carry on" : Winston Churchill


            • #7
              I dont care how many "extra" parts you have left over, the words "first project" and looking at the pictures do not compute to me --- very nice work...


              • #8
                Great work....

                Thats a very nice result for a first project, my first DOZEN projects were nothing that nice. It sounds like she was just coming up in the power band towards the end of the second clip. Have you put a tach on the prop to see what she is turning.
                James Kilroy


                • #9
                  Heck, all I've got to do is look at my SUCCESSFUL projects to keep in touch with humility. I try not to look at my scrap pile too much...

                  Very nice little motor there.
                  Master Floor Sweeper


                  • #10
                    Hi J

                    Very impressive "first project" !

                    How many hours have you spent on this fine looking engine. ?

                    What kind of fuel are you using ?

                    Thanks for sharing both the engine pic's and video and also your "lessons"
                    Mogens Kilde


                    • #11
                      Very impressive.

                      All those "prototype" parts are part of the learning curve. While at Names this Spring a friend, who was in our group, said that he felt like a first year apprentice when seeing the models on display. We all have to start somewhere and you have set the bar pretty high.

                      The same one I am building is in "WIP" (work in progress). Keep on getting sidetracked with machinery aquisitions and building tooling.

                      All the best.



                      • #12
                        Wow, what a sweet little engine and the diesel is really intriguing on something that small.



                        • #13
                          Answers to a few questions:

                          I did not have a optical tach to to check RPM. I was just thrilled it ran. I've run about 9 tanks of fuel through it before mouting it for display.

                          The video clip is of one of the later runs. One of the earlier runs (not on video) I cranked the contra piston in, leaned it out and it cleaned up nicely and ran pretty smooth.

                          The carburetor works pretty well put is a bit touchy. I made a few mods on mine to make it work a little better. I may redo the carburetor later with some items I have in mind but the design works fine for basic running.

                          I am running it on model diesel from: FHS Model Fuel price list

                          I had to buy 4 quarts so if anyone needs a quart let me know. I bought their plain bearing diesel. The total for the 4 quarts (1 quart cans with metal plug in new cans) was $53.94. The cans are labeled "Ethyl Ether and Kerosene" and the side label is marked with my name Mfg. For: Doug Cvelbar By: FHS Supply Co. Inc.

                          The Allenuts for the head were a little hard to find too. I opted for an E-Bay (Buy it now) auction and bought a box of 100 for $20 + $6 shipping = $26 total. I don't know what I'll do with the rest of them yet but they are neat little nuts.

                          Most of the time I ran the engine I ran it pretty rich at a farely low compression and boy did it spit out a lot of oil. When I ran it with higher compression and leaned it out a bit it ran much cleaner.

                          According to the post mark on the plans I received them July 18th 2006.

                          I know I have at least 100hrs in the build. Probably more I just don't keep track of my hobby time. I started building it before I bought my milling machine. I also have a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old girl so my hobby time is limited.

                          Thanks for the kind words and replies,
                          Doug Cvelbar


                          • #14
                            As a kid I had a couple of model diesel engines (I guess that is why I got this one!!!) and used to make up my own fuel: 1/3 each of ether, kerosene and castor oil. It is so long ago that I can't remember where I bought the ether but I think it was at the drug store. I wonder if one can do that now.



                            • #15
                              I used to mix up my diesel fuel from castor oil (motorcycle shop) and car starting fluid. IIRC car starting fluid is a mix of ether and kerosene. Seemed to work pretty well.
                              Last edited by Ausserdog; 09-11-2007, 02:53 PM.

                              Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!