Tag Archives: cylinder heads

2009 Week 26 in Review

20Work continues on the Arthur Foss

This week, I continued to work on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington, working with OTM’s mechanic Crystal. We started the week with two big challenges to work on 1) make a tool to drive out the very stuck air-start valve, and 2) put the very heavy cylinder head back onto the engine.

I had to make a tool to get the air-start valve out. Back in 2005, during the very first session of Diesel Engine Theory, we pulled all the intake and exhaust valve cages out of the Arthur‘s engine. I wanted to pull all the air start valves in the head at that time, too, but they were really, really stuck. I decided that it would be best to take them out when we had the heads off, but I’ve been really antsy to start getting them out.

The day to get them out came on Thursday of this week, when I got to South Lake Union with the tool I’d made. It’s basically a cylindrical steel punch that I put up against the air start valve on the underside of the cylinder, and then wailed on with a ten-pound sledge hammer. It didn’t budge for a while – long enough that I thought “crap, I’m going to have to cut this [censored] out in pieces,” which I had to do with one of the exhaust valves back in 2005. But then I hit it some more and it finally came loose and popped out of the head, and I brought it back to the shop to clean it up. Whew.

hole for the air start valve in the Arthur Foss's number four cylinder head

Later in the week, we used a borrowed three-ton come-along to winch the piston back up into the cylinder, then set the head back on the cylinder. The come-along was a really great tool – I want one. I’ll have to put it on the Arthur Foss‘s wish-list, too.

I picked up a bunch more supplies, including water grommet material in two thicknesses. Then, I had to make a lot of calls and fuss over the head gasket because the manufacturer didn’t have the right material, but I finally got it.

There was also a lot of cleaning and painting all the individual parts. We painted the rockers and valve parts the usual Arthur white and painted the exhaust manifold with high-temperature paint. The TAP guys helped out a bunch this week with the painting – thanks, guys!

With all that accomplished, we were all ready for the next class on Saturday! But first…

South Lake Union party

The Friday Lake Union Park Working Group is still doing great things. On Thursday, they had a big party to “roll out” a new planning document that they all worked on. Lots of people showed up to see representatives from every group (like 20!) speak and everyone was really excited. I’m excited too – ten years ago, none of the different boat factions would even have been in the same room together, and now applauding for each other and finding ways to work together. Way to go, everyone!

Atlas-Imperials are not dead

The Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society just published an article in their quarterly rag the Sea Chest titled “The Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine, an Innovative Engine Built in the 1920s”. While this article gives the Atlas-Imperial diesels credit for being innovating and durable machines, the overarching theme suggests that the engines are gone for good.

I disagree.

Old Tacoma Marine Inc is here to show the next generation that heavy-duty diesels like the Atlas-Imperials are alive and well and still working as they were designed to do almost a century ago. The 500 or so heavy-duties from the four manufactures that I like the most are near-evenly grouped into four active categories by use: commercial, pleasure with a purpose, museums, and collectors. In all categories, the engines must function to fulfill specific duties, and these keep a small but diligent group of mechanics, engineers, operators, parts suppliers, curators, grant writers, museum program managers, and grey-haired guys who know everything all gainfully employed year-round. We’re a tight bunch who meet often and share stories and get their own tables at the tugboat parties or tractor shows.

This network of support and the great need for the engines to run is the reason this article is premature in writing of the death of these innovative engines, built to last from the 1920s and far into the future.

Underwater Surveys surveys the Lightship #83

A diver from Underwater Surveys did an underwater video survey of the Lightship #83 this week. He found that the hull is in about the condition we expected, with lots of aquatic growth – so much that it looks like a coral reef. I can’t wait to haul it out and clean all that off.

If anyone needs an underwater survey of their boat, let us through and we’ll patch you through to Underwater Surveys.

Indian Grave #3 running!

This week, I also got word that the Indian Grave Drainage District’s engine #3 successfully ran for about five minutes. I can’t wait to see them all working!

Diesel Engine Theory Session Four

Saturday morning, we all met on the Arthur for part four of the Diesel Engine Theory class. The first task was to move all the parts from my truck back onto the boat. We brought them all to the back deck to sort them out:

parts from the Arthur Foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

We did some more painting and cleaning and sanding, and cut grommets for the exhaust manifold:

cutting gaskets for the exhaust manifold

We also did some old Diesel Engine Theory standbys, such as the Washington Valve Dance (putting spring retainers on the valve stem), the Kerplunk Test (fitting the valve cages into the cylinder head; a “kerplunk!” sound is good, a “squish…” sound means more sanding), and annealing copper gaskets with heat and then cold water:

annealing a head gasket for the Arthur foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine.

Then we had another amazing lunch cooked in the Arthur‘s frying hot galley with the fabulous Chef Kim, who made cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and cayenne brownies. She also baked lots more of the amazing bread she made last week, and we all had tons of it.

Fresh-baked bread on the Arthur Foss!

After lunch, we did some more cleaning, then got the rod bearing back in. This was an excruciating job because the rod bearing is two big heavy pieces of metal that fit around the crankshaft. It’s tricky because you have to suspend the lower half while you get the upper half in place and the bolts through. I rigged up some braces to keep the pieces in place, then got into the crankpit while all the students maneuvered the pieces into place.

re-installing the rod bearing on the Arthur Foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine.

It was hard work (especially since the boat was hot and the crankpit full of solvent), but we got it done just a little after five. Next week is the last week of Diesel Engine Theory 2009; let’s hope we get it all back together in time!

Seattle Power Tool Races

The power-tool races were Saturday evening. I wish I could have attended. Hopefully next year.

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2009 Week 24 in Review

OTM Inc spent most of this week working on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington, but first:

Update on the Lightship #83

Following our successful preparation of a Preliminary Engineering Report two years ago, Northwest Seaport has asked OTM Inc to submit a bid to serve as project manager for the Lightship Rehabilitation. We assembled our project management team and had our first meeting at the Northlake Pizza Tavern to discuss how to effectively perform the duties outlined by the Seaport. The meeting went well (and it was $2/pitcher PBR night!) and we’ll have the bid in early next week.

More Restoration Workshops?

Brian, the Ocean Bay Marine Inc shipwright and OTM Inc shop partner, has been working with the Seaport on assorted projects since 2007, and he’s really interested in doing public classes like Diesel Engine Theory, only with wood stuff rather than engines. I met with him this week to talk about I got the engine programs up and running. Trouble is, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop programs like this. I told him to be patient and persistent, and offered to talk more any time. I hope he gets something going – the Arthur is a great boat for people to learn on.

Work on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington

The Shop is now plugged with Washington parts from the Arthur Foss. After last week’s exciting Session One of the 2009 Diesel Engine Theory Workshop, I loaded all the parts we took off Cylinder Four into my truck and brought them to Ballard to be cleaned, tested, painted, oiled, lapped, and set as needed. This includes the fuel injector, the intake and exhaust valves and valve cages, about half the intake manifold, some couplings from the exhaust manifold, the rockers and rocker arms, the push rods, and pieces of the water cooling system. Pretty much all of my work space is covered with Arthur parts, but it’s great.

Valve cages from the Arthur Foss

We spent most of the week getting all these parts stripped down and ready for the class to work on. Crystal, OTM’s mechanic, worked with me to clean engine parts, and she also serviced the Arthur‘s generator. I also hired on Sterling the future towboat captain to get ahead a little, since I’ll be heading out to Qunicy again next week.

We also spent a lot of time getting the cylinder head off. Following last week’s class, one of the head nuts just would not come off. We tried oil, fast heat, slow heat, paraffin, and hammers, but it wouldn’t budge – it destroyed two of the output drives for our big torque multiplier (don’t worry Brian, we ordered new ones). Then I talked with Dan, who said to get a slugging wrench from Pacific Industrial Supply (they’re in South Park now). I went and got the wrench and we strapped a comealong to it real tight, then wailed on the wrench with a really big hammer. It finally did the trick – the head nut came loose in about three blows.

using a slugging wrench to remove a stubborn head nut from the Arthur Foss's Washington

Even with all the head nuts off and a serious strain on the lifting straps, the head was not going anywhere. The engine is more than eighty years old and all the minor leaks and corrosion over that time had caused the head to become one with the cylinder and studs. Crystal and I had to use sawzall blades to cut through all the corrosion in the seam, then we hammered dozens of little wedges in to pry it loose.

freeing the cylinder head on the Arthur foss

After a lot of hammering, it finally came off with a little tiny “pop,” and we winched it up. The Arthur has the biggest size of cylinder that Washington Iron Works ever produced. Its cylinders have an 18-inch bore and are really, really big. We estimate the heads as weighing about 2,200 pounds. As we lifted the head off cylinder four, I pictured it as a wrecking ball until we had it secured it to the deck.

After that excitement, we spent the rest of the week cleaning more parts, until…

Diesel Engine Theory Session Two

Early Saturday, the Diesel Engine Theory class all met at the Shop.
We spent the morning cleaning parts using wire wheels, sandblasters, hot lye, needle guns, flapper wheels, belt sanders, hammers and chisels, acid baths, solvent, 409, rags, and fingernails.

cleaning the exhaust system with a needle gun

At lunch time, we all headed down to the Arthur for hamburgers and salad prepared by chef Kim in the sizzling-hot galley.

We spent the afternoon cleaning the bigger pieces still on the boat. We cleaned the piston with scrapers and flapper wheels, then cleaned out the piston ring grooves using a broken ring with a handle duct-taped to the other end. This gave us a tool exactly the right size and shape to scrape out all the gunk clogging up the ring grooves, and there were plenty to go around.

We also cleaned the threads on the studs that protrude from the cylinder. I decided that the best way to do this was to run the nut up and down the stud using lots of valve-lapping compound. This gritty mixture machines off the rust and dirt and makes sure to keep the threads the right shape. The downside to this process is that it’s painfully slow, but the students all did a great job – especially the TAP guys.

We also pulled out the rod bearing. The babbitt is cracked up, but not too bad considering that it’s been at least 40 years since it was last re-poured (and probably a lot longer than that).

rod bearing on the Arthur foss

We’re not going to have it re-done this time; a full chapter in one of my diesel repair books is dedicated to running on cracked bearings. It says that as long as there aren’t any holes in the babbitt larger than a dime, you should be okay. The number four rod bearing babbitt is mostly just cracked, with only one little hole that’s way smaller than a dime, so I’ve decided that it’s okay for now – especially since we run the engine so lightly these days We’ll plan on re-doing the rod bearings after we service all six cylinders.

Last and most tiring, we used the ball hone to clean up the liner. It was agony because our ball hone is 16″ and the Arthur‘s cylinders are 18″, so we had to swirl it around to get the liner cleaned and patterned correctly.

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2009 Week 23 in Review

Still scraping bearings

OTM Inc spent most of this week scraping and fitting rod bearings for the Indian Grave Drainage Pumphouse‘s Fairbanks-Morse diesels, and making some fine adjustments to the main bearings. I did this with much relief, after getting satisfactory results when testing the main bearings.

Report on the MV Tuhoe

Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s intrepid investigative reporter Jacoba took a field trip to see the Atlas boat MV Tuhoe in Kaiapoi, New Zealand. This neat old boat (the only Atlas boat we know of in the Southern Hemisphere) is an old cargo auxiliary schooner, powered by twin 6EM327 Atlas-Imperial diesel engines.

Atlas-Imperial diesel engine on the MV Tuhoe

Interestingly, the association that owns her (the MV Tuhoe Preservation Society) has a third identical engine that they use for parts. It sounds like they’ve put a lot of love into the boat and they have a lot of community support. Jacoba wrote up a great article about the boat that talks more about that:

The twin Atlas-Imperial engines of the M.V. Tuhoe rattle in well-tuned percussion as John Thompson, one of the ship’s chief engineers, eases on the throttle. The engine room is tidy, and the fixtures are color-coded with bright, glossy layers of paint to help newly-trained volunteers.

Read the full article

Arthur Foss Cylinder Four Overhaul begins!

I flew back to Seattle on Thursday night, just in time for the Diesel Engine Theory workshop on the Arthur Foss. OTM Inc runs this in partnership with Northwest Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union. We’ve been planning this session – overhauling cylinder four – for years, and getting ready for the class was stressful since I was in Illinois most of the month. I really wanted everything to go well despite only preparing over the phone, but I shouldn’t have worried too much.

The first session went very well. We had eight participants (a full boat!), including four guys from The Anchor Program (known as TAP) who’ve been doing a bunch of work on the Arthur. After coffee and introductions, we took a tour of the boat, oiled and greased everything, and ran the engine and both generators for a while. I got a lot of good questions and everyone was really interested in the boat and the engine and diesel engines in general.

Exercising the Arthur Foss's AC generator

Part of any workshop we do with Northwest Seaport is the Galley Program, where we use the boat’s galley and especially the diesel stove to make lunches for everyone. Chef Lia prepared the best and possibly the most tacos ever cooked in the Arthur‘s muy caliantá galley:

After lunch, Dan gave his Diesel Engine Theory lecture, which was even better than last time. He brought along a lot of parts to illustrate his points, along with dire warnings to not damage the injector tips!

Crystal examines an injector tip

After the lecture, it was time for the big moment: taking the engine apart and fixing it. I’d gone and gotten a lot of tools while preparing for the class, so I divided the students into two groups. I set one group to taking all the jewelry off the head, and the other group to taking the access panels off the bottom of the engine and getting ready to take the rod off the crankshaft.

George takes apart the cooling system

Now, I bet a bunch of you reading this are thinking “holy cow, he just let a bunch of students start taking stuff apart and he wasn’t watching them like a vulture watches a dying horse?” Well, heavy-duties like the Arthur‘s Washington come all apart pretty easily with socket wrenches and screwdrivers, but there’s a lot of hardware that has to be taken off. All the students were really doing was turning wrenches, but if you’ve never taken apart an engine before, you learn tons from just turning the wrench and seeing how it’s all put together.

By the end of the day, we had cylinder four nearly all stripped down. We got stuck on one head nut just as five o’ clock rolled around, so we left it like that for the night. I’ll have a lot more to report about the class next week, so stay tuned!

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Last Chance for Diesel Engine Theory ’09

Hi Diesel Fans — we have one space left in our 2009 Diesel Engine Theory class and I know that one of you wants it.

We’ll be taking apart and servicing cylinder 4 on the Arthur Foss here in Seattle, starting this Saturday the 6th of June.  This is your chance to be a real diesel mechanic — just like your heroes at OTM Inc — for five whole days:

Northwest Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats have set up easy online registration here, and you can pay online or in person.

I better see at least one of you there on Saturday.

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2009 Week 5 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week at OTM Inc, we cleaned all the cylinder heads and installed them on the Catalyst‘s engine. We used compressed graphite head gaskets, which is what they were running on for the past 10 years. I haven’t seen these used on any other engines, but they sure sealed well, so we made replacements and bolted them down. The good side is that they are easy to make and they seal really well. The bad side is they are not reusable, since they compress a lot. Copper may still be cheaper, since copper head gaskets are reusable.

Once the heads were torqued down, I checked piston height by placing a little lead ball on the highest point of the piston. Then I cranked the engine around to smash it, then mic’d the ball to get the piston-to-head clearance. I did this without any shims under the rod foot, then subtracted the .125 from the results to get the required shim thickness for each.

Then, I installed the valves. Beforehand, I performed the kerplunk test with every valve in every hole and found some needed adjusting to pass. In the end, there was only one that would not pass the test, but in only one hole. All the cages and holes have little variances that are hard to spot, so nothing substitutes the kerplunk test.

Parts for the Pago Pago crane barge

Dan got a call from the folks who run the Atlas-Imperial-powered crane barge in Pago Pago, Samoa. They needed some spare parts, so Dan cleaned up some of our spare injectors and head gaskets and sent them off. I hope we get some pictures of the engine soon.

Scanning away

OTM Inc has been receiving lots of request for digital copies of vintage diesel manuals and catalogs for the Atlases, Washingtons, Enterprises, Fairbanks-Morses, and other old engines. We’re working furiously to fill these requests, and have set Katrina up with our new scanner. We’ll start getting them up to the web soon!

New things on the web!

We’ve launched the first upgrade to the website: a sortable table to browse old engines with! If you’ve visited the Old Tacoma Marine Inc website to look at old engines before, you probably noticed that you could view engines by size & specification, by region, or by use. This system was sort of clunky, and we’re doing away with it and using a fully dynamic sorting table instead.

What does that mean, you ask? That means that when viewing the master engine list, you can have it sort by size, owner, original use, current use, name, model, serial number, location, and more. Check it out here — click on the grey boxes at the top to sort by that column heading.

Right now, it’s only live on the Washington Iron Works index, but stay tuned for sorting tables for all the engine manufacturers. We at Old Tacoma Marine Inc are committed to bringing you the most up-to-date and easily accessible information about the antique diesel engine world.

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2009 Week 2 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week on the Catalyst, we finished up the main bearings. Last week I talked about fitting in bearings and strain testing them and how it takes a long time, but they’re finally done. Whew. Next up are the rod bearings, then the pistons.

An update on the David B

As some of you may know, the David B suffered some damage in last month’s big winter freeze. I’ve been on the phone with owner Jeffery a lot, since he’s trying to figure out how to best fix it.

One of the fixes that Jeffery already did was to replace a chunk that blew out of the cylinder head. The cylinder head is curved, so the replacement had to be on that same curve to be effective. He could have hammered a flat piece of steel to the right shape, but that would have taken forever to get it the right shape and curve. Instead, Jeffrey took a 16-inch pipe that had the same radius as the cracked head and cut a piece out of it that matched the hole in the cylinder head, and stitched it together with a bunch of screws.

He did a really good job – I hope that the rest of the repairs go as well, and that the David B is cruising again soon.

Old Tacoma Marine Art Show at Caprice Kitchen

At the end of the week, I spent an evening at Caprice Kitchen helping set up an old engine art show. We put up ten art-quality prints of some of our favorite engines, including the Catalyst, the Arthur Foss, and the David B.

Stop by and check it out!

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2008 Week Four In Review

Maris Pearl Work

The retired tugboat Maris Pearl and its Enterprise diesel engine is a long-time customer of OTM Inc. This week, I resealed the oil tube in the No 1 cylinder on the starboard side. Water is still dripping into the crank pit on No 1, and the easiest and most likely way to fix it is to reseal the oil tube. Let’s hope it works. Here’s the Maris Pearl’s engine with the starboard access panel removed from No 1 cylinder:

Later in the week, I met with Bob Shildwalker to see about replacing the control head in the Maris Pearl’s Enterprise. It currently has an Ingersoll-Rand control head, which uses a teeny little air control motor to shift the camshaft. Since it’s so small, there’s a small possibility that it could hang up and cause the tug to get stuck in forward or reverse. It probably won’t, but I want the engine to be as perfect as it can be. I heard that Bob has a spare control head manufactured by Westinghouse that uses a big air ram to shift the cam:

Westinghouse control head suitable for Enterprise diesels

This makes it more reliable, as well as easy to use. I met with Bob to ask first if all the control head pieces are there and second if he would sell it.

The answer to both questions was no. Not only is the control head missing many pieces, but Bob said that he already sold the Red Cloud and everything on it to Rick Hamborg. This is unfortunate, since I think that with a little research I can make the missing parts and get the control head working again. Last year I installed the same device on a DMG-6 Enterprise and had a lot of fun learning about it while restoring it. I’ll try again soon. For now, though, it remains with the Red Cloud in Everett.

Cylinder head for Arcturus

Dan and I were cleaning out the storage locker and came across a 9″ x 12″ cylinder head, which would fit the yacht Arcturus‘s Atlas-Imperial. Since his engine is still sea-water cooled (and subject to the corrosion damage that can destroy an engine if not kept under control) we thought we’ll offer the head for sale to him first.

Cylinder heads for Catalyst

I’ve been meaning to hunt down the extra cylinder heads for the Washington in the Catalyst for a while now, as I know that the former owners had some made a few years back. This week, I spotted an advertisement in the Boats and Harbors rag for “Washington Engine Parts”. I immediately thought “Wait, there’s Washington parts out there that I don’t know about?” Since Washington Iron Works stopped manufacturing parts around 1980, they are hard to find and most of the collectors have already contacted Dan or I.

I called the foundry and machine shop at Texas Empire Motors Inc that placed the ad, which was for 8″ x 10″ cylinder heads. He said he has one old head, three new ones, and all the patterns needed for casting more. He was very anxious to sell the whole lot and sounded disappointed when I told him that there is only one potential customer in the world (as the Catalyst is the last remaining 8″ x 10″ Washington engine that we know of) and they may never need the spare heads. But, I wanted to see what he would let them go for, so I should see an offer in the mail soon.

Meanwhile, the Catalyst‘s current cylinder heads are looking great:

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