WW2 Merlin Piston Coin Dish / Ashtray




Introduction: WW2 Merlin Piston Coin Dish / Ashtray

About: I studied Maths and Computing, worked in an Operation Research department, retrained as a civil engineer, worked on site for some major projects. I'm learning to be a structural engineer at the moment! I've ...

This was made from something near to indestructable! It's made from a WW2 merlin piston. It was found in a field in Essex, likely from a crashed spitfire - you can see the dents in the piston from the impact.

It all very nice having a merlin piston sitting in your house, but I always think its much better if things can have a use too. 

4000 'official' ashtrays were made out of merlin pistons and sold in aid of the RAF (you can read more if you google "merlin piston ashtray"). So I thought that was a good idea, and that's what would become of mine - without the engravings. 

It can be used as a coin tray, or as an ash tray. It is perfect for an ashtray as you can hold your cigarette or pipe in the recessed connection points.

Merlin pistons aren't cheap, but you could use any piston you wanted and follow the same process!

Date Made: Feb 2013
Approx Cose: £70
Approx Time: 1-2 hours (depending on your tools)
Difficulty: Medium

Step 1: Acquire Piston

Like I said, this is from a WW2 merlin engine, so the piston wasnt cheap, but it came from ebay.

You can use any piston you want; buy it new, buy it scrap, or even turn your own!

Step 2: Strip Piston

You just want the piston head, so you need to remove the con rod, piston rings and anything else yours may have left over.

Depending on your piston, you may need a hydraulic press to remove the connecting 'wrist pin' from between the piston head and the con rod, or it might just be some circlips in a recess.

here is a video that covers both types: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4e7PNzbTzY

I don't have the right tools for the job, so got my local engineers to do it (as well as the following steps), hence why I dont have intermediate step photos. 

Step 3: Cut Piston Head

You need to cut the top off the piston head.

Ideally you want to do it halfway through the hole where the con rod was pinned.

You could do this with a disk cutter or something, but if you want a straight cut then you need a decent band saw.

Again, I dont have the right tools, so got my local engineers to do this.

Step 4: Polish

I decided that I would get the outside polished, but leave the inside mottled. 

This can be done with a dremel or some 'bigger' tools.

Again, I dont have the right tools for the job, and it was in the shop anyway, so my local engineers did this too. They actually did it by turning them in a lathe instead of polishing them.

Step 5: Enjoy

You can use it as I described in the intro, or you can use it as an ornament and tell people where it came from!!!



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    12 Discussions

    Very fun. I have a couple of similar ashtrays which were made by my uncle. He was at SHAEF headquarters in France, and worked in a department which was in charge of collecting captured German material. He had an assortment of DIY objects, (ashtrays bookends etc). he made out of German airplane parts.

    I have a picture of one that Daddy made, but I can't seem to attach it. obviously he was more clever than I. Would love to share if you can tell me how.

    1 reply

    if you are on a computer you should just be able to press the "add images" button below the comments box that you type in to. if you are on a tablet or phone, im afraid i dont know. if you cant do it, let me know and i will pm you my email and you could send it to me, and i will post it here.

    Took my breath away when I saw this--my Daddy made one in the 1950s. The photo with the pipe could have been taken in his den.

    2 replies

    I'm glad it brought back some fond memories. Do you know what type of engine he made his out of?

    Whoa, you're way out of my league on that one! All I know is that it was heavy! The grooves around the outside seem the same; maybe there were differences inside, but I don't remember ever turning it upside down to look at the bottom. I'll ask the Sisters and see if someone has it--I'll send you a photo, if I find it.

    yes, I recently got the opportunity to taxy in a lancaster bomber. It must have been something else taking off in one of those - not really knowing what the outcome was gonig to be!

    Very cool piece of history! The Merlin is the best sounding engine ever made in my opinion. What are you going to make with the connecting rod? :D

    2 replies

    I don't know, it's pretty buckled. I also have the top section of the head that was cut off. Not sure what to do with that either at the moment. Any ideas?

    You mean the part of the piston you cut off? I have no idea... Hmm, clock pendulum? Haha but even in that shape, it is seriously cool. I'm gonna have to start searching!