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When I want hard boiled eggs, I boil them in a pressure cooker. If you haven't tried cooking eggs this way, you're missing out. The other morning, to help cool the eggs faster and to speed up releasing the pressure from the cooker, I removed the little pressure regulator on top of the cooker so I could safely open it to remove the eggs. Watching the steam and hot air shoot toward the ceiling, it also reminded me of seeing a Hero's Engine design once when I was interested in Stirling Engines. For about 2 or 3 years now, I've wanted to build a Hero's Engine.

I also wanted to build one of these in order to show it off to my kids. So I decided to build my first Hero's Engine last weekend. (Hero's Engine is also known as an Aeolipile. It's a very cool piece of machinery...even if Hero never really built one!)

So last Sat morning, I got busy and started. Having just experienced an unpleasant week at work, it was also a perfect way to get my mind off my job and on something else. I built this in about 2.5 hours - now if I include the amount of time drove to and I stood around in Home Depot looking at all the plumbing parts, TOTAL build time is more like 4 hours.

Step 1: Parts

If you use my design, some of the odd parts you're going to need are:

  1. A bearing (see pic). I dug this out of an old roller blade wheel. You can buy a bearing just like this at Home Depot, but they are way overpriced. Look online, or get some old roller blades at Goodwill.
  2. A 3/4" x 1/2" brass fitting - female to female. (Home Depot sku number is 098268624892)
  3. 3/4" to 1/2" brass reducer fitting. (I don't have this part number)
  4. Toilet Bowl Bolt Kit and Nuts (I don't have part number.) This can be found at almost any hardware store.
  5. 3/32 x .014 brass tubing (or similar). I already had this laying around, but I remember I got a package at Dick Blick for a few bucks.
  6. Sterno chafing fuel (used for camping or for keeping food warm). I bought mine years ago at a camping store for about 3 bucks per "candle". Keep them sealed and they last forever.

Other than these parts, the rest of the build is done with 1/2 inch copper pipe and fittings. Total cost of parts, not including the copper pipe (that I already had laying around), about 10 bucks.

Step 2: Be Safe

First and foremost be safe. You need to use fire for this project. Very hot fire! If you don't know how to sweat pipes, you probably shouldn't use this project to learn. Start somewhere else. Get someone who knows how to sweat pipes and have them teach you. You don't need to be great at it (I'm certainly not!) but you need to be able to completely seal the engine. Any leaks, and the engine won't work.

(BTW Have you ever watched a plumber sweat pipe? You don't need to be THAT good for this project, but wow is it cool to watch! I'm always amazed and think to myself, "Why am I'm using so much solder when I sweat pipe?!")

Last but not least, have these (see pics) right by you when you sweat pipe - A fire extinguisher and a bucket of water (note: it doesn't need to be clean water!).

A general contractor I used to work for always, always, always made me keep a bucket of water and fire extinguisher whenever I'd sweat pipe on any of his jobs. I'm glad he did. It taught me to do the same every time I sweat pipes now on my own, I grab a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water!

I'm lazy, so I use mapp gas. You don't need to for this project, propane would work fine.

Use lead free solder. Use solder that would normally be used safely for drinking pipes.

Step 3: Build the Engine

You need to cut about a 5 inch piece of 1/2" copper pipe. You're going to cap this piece and essentially seal it. The caps have vents in them which allow the steam to come out at a high velocity, creating "thrust" and causing the engine to spin.

The order you should go in is 1. Cut a 5 inch piece of copper pipe, 2. Cut two pieces of brass tube - these will be your vents 3. THEN attach the vents to the caps, 4. Then attach the 2 caps to the pipe.

If you try out of this order, I think you might have trouble getting the vents perfectly set.

See pics and notes in pics.

Step 4: Attach the Hanger

Now you need to carefully attach the hanger. . You're going solder the toilet flange bolt to the center of the engine. This will become the hanger.

Keep it as centered and as perpendicular as possible. Be precise. The better you work here, the less wobble you'll have and the smoother then the engine will run.

Now it's starting to take shape. The hard part is over!

Step 5: Build the Stand

I won't spend a lot of time describing this. It's pretty self explanatory. Just remember to get the height correct for your heat source.

Make sure you build the stand so your engine spins freely and doesn't hit the stand!

Note: I used a Sterno Cooking Fuel Candle. You don't need these but they work great.

Before you move on, this would be a good time to clean the engine and the stand off really well. The flux is nasty, sticky, etc. You don't want to bring it in your house in this condition. I scrubbed mine with scouring powder. It came out nice and shiny.

Step 6: Assemble the Engine on to the Hanger

This part can be tricky. Look at the pics and notes in the pics.

Step 7: Fine Tuning

After I got it assembled and ran it, the only thing that happened was steam pouring out the vents! No movement.

I realized my vents were too big. So I had to solder them down. The key is to get the holes on these vents as small as possible. You want the steam to come out at a high velocity.

Do not seal the vents completely - you need to get water in the engine via the vents. Make sure you have a pinhole size at the end of the vents. Small is good here.

Step 8: Final

Before your first run, disassemble the engine from the stand, now find a small container of water and draw up some water into the engine. How to do this??? you ask! This is the fun part. Take the engine, and pretend it's a straw. Suck up some water through one end. Use about 1/2 ounce to 3/4 of an ounce of water.

Do NOT let this run dry while it's over the flame. If it stops spinning because it's out of fuel, blow out your flame, then let it cool. If you allow it to overheat, your solder joints could start failing.

My first successful attempt with about 3/4 of an ounce of water allowed it to run for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Note: It will spew a bit of water at first while it spins up, before the water inside starts boiling and producing steam.

I haven't tried yet, but I'm thinking of using two chaffing candles side by side to get it to really spinning fast.

If you build this I hope you enjoy it like I have! Please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for improvements.

Step 9: ADDENDUM - Making It "faster"

Well, one of the comments from my kids was "Dad, can't you make it faster?"

And basically the design with the tube in the horizontal position (as one of the commenters below noted) doesn't allow me to fill it with much water. (I liked the suggestion of using a t connector). And as another commenter posted, the water is getting flung to the ends of each pipe by virtue of centrifugal force. So...back to the drawing board.

Step 10: Vertical Engine Parts

Liking the idea of a larger reservoir, I decided to build another engine more with a vertical design instead of horizontal design. Holding the engine is no problem - I have the frame already built. As you'll see, the challenge now is how to mount the vents.

I used:

  • 2 inch pipe caps
  • 1 small piece of 1 inch pipe.
  • I used 1/16th inch copper tube for the smaller vents (got this at Dick Blick).

Step 11: Drilling the Vent Holes

I wanted to use 3 vents. So to make them uniform, and equally placed around the engine, they need to be placed 120 degrees apart. (You'll remember some basic geometry from grade school, a circle - or a round pipe cap in this case - has 360 degrees. Divide that by three and you get 120).

At first I tried eyeballing it. Bad idea. Then I decided to make a small "jig" if you will, out of a piece of paper. I measured a piece of paper EXACTLY the circumference of one of the caps. Then folded it in half 2ce to get perfect thirds. Then I wrapped that around my pipe cap and marked it off. This is as good as you need it I think - I got it pretty darn close.

Step 12: Soldering the Caps, the Bolt, and the Tubes

This was the hardest step and a real PITA. If you try this, just don't be in a hurry with prep.

Flux everything, get everything in position. Then solder it all at the same time.

Step 13: Engine Running - and It Is Faster!

Step 14: And Even Faster...supplementing With a Butane Torch!

Just for fun. I'm using a butane torch along with chafing fuel. This is right at start up, so there is water remaining in the tubes from I filled the reservoir. This causes water and steam to spew out. It's loudest at this point too and makes it a bit more exciting.

An external boiler. Sorry for the missing word. I accidentally forgot to type boiler. My bad.
An external boiler. Sorry for the missing word. I accidentally forgot to type boiler. My bad.
You could always neck the piping up at the bottom to a larger diameter, as a reservoir, and have a small set screw in the top that could be removed to re fuel with water, or use a swivel pipe for the hanger linkage and have an external with a small mechanical pump to add more water (maybe powered by a certain hero engine?) to the boiler. Just a thought.
<p>Very clever design. I enjoyed the comments too. If your threaded rod was a pipe you could install a reservoir above with a check valve that would allow fluid ( l like the idea of different liquids). As the steam pressure began to fall off the liquid above would flow into the steam chamber. This pressure would close the check valve and the steam would cause it to spin again. To harness the energy a gear could be soldered on the top of the steam chamber. This would allow you to create an alcohol solar powered lawn mower. </p>
<p>I wasn't sure how you soldered the nozzle pipes into the end caps, because there were no pop-up text boxes on most of those slides. I wonder if making the thin pipes straight with closed ends, and then drilling tiny Dremel-sized holes in them would work. I guess they have to go a fair way into the end-caps so that as the engine spins and the water gets thrown outwards, it doesn't come out of the pipes.</p>
<p>I drilled my holes JUST the right size to not allow the vents (small tubes) to turn. I mean, I wanted them to be a very tight fit so I didn't have to worry about hold them in place while I soldered them. Dremel holes would work if you don't have a drill or drill press. Copper is very soft and easy to drill - it's easy to OVER drill too, so be careful. </p>
Thank you very much. I shall try this out.
<p>Thanks to everyone for the comments! This has inspired me to get on here more and post some more stuff.</p>
<p>This is nice. But who is using an aeolipile(hero engine) today, this is not practical, even a regular steam engine almost not been used today. If I was use it, only in a class room.</p><p>If you want to make a cool upgrade, you can make a steam car using the engine. I don't know what's your knowledge in mechanics but you can find a lot of information online - An aeolipile was used 2000 years ago for this purpose. Good luck ;-)</p>
<p>Correct this isn't very practical today. <br> But of course that's not why I built one. I don't plan replacing my <br>lawnmower engine with a Hero's engine. It's just a model. And using <br>it in the classroom is a great idea. (Note to self, offer to show it to <br>my kids science teachers.)</p><p>But I do like the idea of a steam car! Thanks, my wheels are turning - pun intended!</p>
Drill holes for vents higher - less water sputtering, and you can use more water (for longer run time)<br> I am also considering a reservoir at the centre point of the engine, below the hanger. Adaptors to 3/4&quot;copper from 1/2&quot; on either side. I could just substitute 3/4&quot; for the whole length, but 3/4&quot; centre &amp; 1/2&quot; at either side &amp; nozzles at the ends will look much cooler.
<p>Yes, this also made me think a better design (more vertical vs. horizontal) would be better. </p>
<p>This is so cool! And documented perfectly too. Very nice work all around!</p><p>*cough* <a href="https://www.instructables.com/contest/exploresciencecontest/" target="_blank">https://www.instructables.com/contest/exploresciencecontest/</a></p><p>*cough* <a href="https://www.instructables.com/contest/burnit/" target="_blank">https://www.instructables.com/contest/burnit/</a></p><p>*cough* <a href="https://www.instructables.com/contest/makeenergy/" target="_blank">https://www.instructables.com/contest/makeenergy/</a></p><p>All that coughing . . . I think I'm coming down with something! :)</p>
<p>Hmm...interesting. Thanks for sharing your cough with me! :)</p>
If you put some sort of nozzle at the end of the vents you could probably get that thing spinning pretty fast the only problem I see with actually powering something with one of these is not enough torque
<p>Right...see my Addendum step!</p>
Built something similar ages ago in grade school, only not as refined. Used soda cans punctured with a nail that went around a wooden carousel. For heat I suspended the bottom half of a soda can filled with kerosene under each engine. These things burnt long, hot, and fast. Of course I do not recommend my method of build, and am currently rethinking my childhood and lack of supervision we kids had back then.<br><br>Anyway, great looking build and ible!
<p>When I was originaly researching before I made the build, I found an old &quot;Mr Wizards World&quot; demonsration similar to yours! </p>
<p>Hero's engine was our insignia arm patch when I was in the Navy. Boilers were eventually phased out and replaced by gas turbine engines, but to this day I can still recall the smell of bunker &quot;C&quot; crude oil, and being spit on by angry valve packing glands. 600 p.s.i., 850 degree superheat, doing 30 knots flank speed on a tincan destroyer- ahh, the sweet days of youth, thanks for the memory.</p><p><a href="http://cdn.uniforms-4u.com/pf/48264/big-u-us-navy-e7-boiler-technician-blue-rating-badge-3701.png" rel="nofollow">http://cdn.uniforms-4u.com/pf/48264/big-u-us-navy-...</a></p>
<p>Very cool! I love that patch!</p>
<p>First thought ..Instead of soldering the ends down why not thread them and use BBQ jets .They come in different sizes .</p>
<p>Hmm...that just might work too. </p>
<p>i assume it forces steam out of the tube to create the mechanical energy</p><p>is there any way to refuel the water while it runs, like with a venturi injector</p>
<p>With my design, I admit refueling is a pain. You have to wait for it to completely cool, otherwise you'll burn your lips! </p>
<p>I came up with a crazy idea while watching his good project.</p><p>If you paint in black, or cover with aluminum foil and put it in the sun, through a large magnifying glass or mirrors heated only by the sun without using fire.</p><p>You may have to expand its base to give you more sun, using a grid of copper pipes, but it would be nice if it worked with sunshine. right?</p><p>Perhaps many people in the world would use it if it were large-scale solar.</p><p>Thanks for sharing, please excuse my English translator use, I am from Uruguay.</p>
<p>I like this idea! (I was in Argentina and Paraguay BTW. Met some nice people from this area including Uruguay.) I made a solar oven once out of cardboard and aluminum foil. I wonder if the engine in the center of the oven would run.</p>
<p>I found myself in the very beginning of the instructable to be very frustrated. You can't assume that everyone knows what the heck a &quot;Heroes Engine&quot; even is in the first place. It would have been better if you were to tell what the darn thing is and what it does and what it's used for, before going into how to build it. That's the whole reason I came here to check it out, hoping to find out what in the world it was. You go off on how to build it, but I don't even know what it does. Why would I want to build it?</p>
<p>Stevencinstrfme, my instructable and my method of describing how to build one may not be for everyone. Sorry you were frustrated. </p><p>Also, re: your question &quot;Why would I want to build it?&quot; That's probably only something you can answer. In fact, I'm not even sure why I wanted to build one. This got me thinking a bit about myself. I don't know why I do the things I do half the time! In this case, I think I built a Hero's Engine because I thought it would be fun. And it was!</p><p>In any case, thanks for sharing. </p>
<p>i'd be interested in seeing this done with rubbing alcohol....the holes should be small enough and there should be little enough oxygen that there wouldn't be a flashback and since alcohol vaporizes at a much lower temperature than water you might get even more &quot;steam&quot; pushing the engine and i'm sure it looks extremely cool with fire coming out of the ends</p>
<p>I like this! I'll try it. I have some 190 proof alcohol I use for after shave! I'll try both!</p>
<p>what is heros engine?????</p>
<p>Go to google or some other search engine and type in &quot;Hero's Engine&quot;. </p>
<p>You might try using a T fitting where the bolt is and a cap at the bottom to act as a tank to hold more water so it can run longer.</p>
<p>I was thinking the same thing. Also, this would keep the liquid over the heat source instead of being flung to the ends from the centrifugal force.</p>
<p>Harposrepair and Ksucatz. Thanks for the comments...they got me thinking on a better design!</p>
Oops...just read further...Harposrepair already suggested a reservoir
Oh yeah...Thanks...looks like fun.
<p>You might try working some cheap (think ebay) 3D printer extruder nozzles onto the tips to control the output. They come in a variety of sub-mm sizes.</p>
<p>Very cool!</p>
<p>Cool project for demonstrating steam power.</p>
<p>what?? just brass? no electro plasma collector?</p><p>lovely contraption though</p>
<p>Doing this! Thank you very much.</p>
<p>Very nice, jgeepers. As to utility, it's an engine! It's utility is manifold, not at least for instruction. I'm always keen to see various steam engines made and operating, this is a nice and simple build. Thanks</p>
<p>Very steampunk!! Looks beautiful!! Nice instructable.</p>
<p>Interesting project and nice job documenting it. Thanks for sharing. Don't pass up entering the contests as suggested by the cougher below. </p>
<p>Great job! keep up the good work!</p>
<p>Good on ya! I have all the items to make one. Will give it a go.</p>
<p>it have any utility?</p>

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