Introduction: Small Engine Lamp

I have wanted to build a V̶8̶ V12 engine coffee table since I first saw one on Top Gear. My livingroom workshop is not equipped to handle such a large project but I was inspired to make something from a small engine.

When the user turns the crank it raises the piston which presses against the switch. Voila!

Step 1: Disassembly and Cleaning

  • Disassemble your motor and clean every part thoroughly. If you have access to a sand blaster then use that. If like me, you don’t have a sand blaster you can use alloy wheel cleaner, dish soap, wire brushes and steel wool to clean the parts.
  • This motor wasn't seized but it was on its last legs. Don't murder healthy motors. Go after the old ones. They are easier to find because they smell bad and they can't run away as fast so they are easy to catch :)

Step 2: Cutting and Sanding

  • My motor had a convenient flat section on the back to keep it square. I used the rig made from a cardboard tube shown in the above picture to ensure the cut line was perfectly parallel to the table.
  • I cut the motor in half with a hacksaw.This was surprisingly easy. The alloy was very soft but there was steel cylinder insert in the middle. It only took 30 minutes to cut. If you want to make this step easier you can go back in time and work out more often so your arms don't get tired.
  • Mount emery cloth or a cut up sanding belt to a board using spray adhesive and sand out the saw marks. Don't worry too much about a perfect smooth surface at this stage. The objective is just to get it flat.

If i had access to a lightsaber or a machine capable of cutting this for me I would have used it. However, I advocate learning how to use hand tools before moving onto machinery and power tools. It's important to be well practiced with hand tools in case one day you need to cut an engine block in half and all you have is a hacksaw. No problemo ;)

Step 3: Painting and Sanding

  • After scuffing up the surfaces mask off the areas you don't want to be painted. Using quality paint is essential. I used Krylon Dual Paint and Primer. With good paint and proper surface prep a separate primer isn't needed. Use numerous thin coats over many days to build up a good layer.
  • Mount some wet and dry sandpaper to a board to sand the paint off the flat faces.
  • Finish with several layers of clearcoat.

I lost track of how many layers of paint are on this motor. There must be at least 20 thin layers. I can be impatient when it comes to letting paint and glue dry and I have caused myself many setbacks by not letting things fully cure. It helps to have more than one project on the go at once so you don't get too wrapped up in the excitement of one project and move forward too quickly. Plus, the more projects you do, the more awesomer you are :)

Step 4: Wooden Components

  • Once you have figured out how you would like your lamp to be configured you may need to cut some wooden components to use as a base or as mounting points for the light fitting.
  • I made some spacers from aluminum pipe and assembly bolts.

Step 5: Leather

This step is entirely optional. I could have just finished the wood and skipped this step but I decided to give it a try.

To wet-form leather you will need:

  1. Hammer and nails / staple gun
  2. Sharp knife
  3. Vegetable tan leather
  4. A form to mould the leather around
  5. A base to nail into
  6. A tool with soft round edges to form the leather. I used a letter opener sanded smooth.
  • Start by soaking the leather in warm water until it drowns. When the little bubbles stop it is ready for forming. This should only take a minute or so.
  • Form the leather gradually around all the edges with the smooth tool and put a nail or a staple in place as you progress.
  • Place in the oven at its lowest possible temperature (mine was 175f/80c) for 10-15 minutes until it starts to dry and then reform the leather over the wood. Repeat once or twice and leave in a warm place overnight to ensure all the moisture has gone. i used a cable tie as a band clamp to keep everything in shape.
  • Cut off the excess and use contact adhesive to glue the leather to the wood. Dye the leather with a colour of your choice. I didn't have any leather sealer or finish so i used furniture bees wax (works great).

I could make an entire Instructable for wet-forming leather but instead I will refer you to Ian Atkinson's youtube channel. He provides exceptional instructions for great projects. He is a step above many other leather workers. He is able to design projects and figure out problems. He doesn't just make projects found in old leather working books… he creates using all the skills he has learned over the years and transposes the information into new products using a modern teaching medium.

This is his Ian's wet-forming video:

Step 6: Wiring

  • I butchered a Walmart lamp to get the fitting, rod and lamp wire.
  • There are many ways to wire this lamp. I considered soldering, crimp splice connectors, terminal block etc. After many hours of head scratching trying to find an efficient method i realised that both the switch and the lamp wire were 18 AWG and i had a IDC splice connector for 18 AWG. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
  • I cut and dyed some leather to use as wire clips with some assembly bolts.

Splice Connector:

Step 7: Assembly

  • Now for the really fun part. Assembly!
  • To hold the rod in place i drilled through the top wood/leather piece. I then used a thread cutting screw as a tap to thread the rod. This allowed me to use a break-off screw to hold everything together. The rod also holds the switch in position when the piston presses against it. The tight wiring on the back stops the switch from moving forward.
  • This engine block was full of very convenient ¼” x 20 threaded holes which made assembly bolts the obvious choice to hold everything together.
  • I also scavenged a rubber grommet from the Walmart lamp which helped to finish off the base nicely.

Now enough lampoonery. Go and motor along with some more enlightening endeavours!

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