SMALL WONDER


| May/June 1988



# Picture 01

405 N. Clinton, Wenonah, New Jersey, 08090

A. D. and I were impressed with the work we had seen so far, but we were not prepared when Jim pulled out the dividing head he had made himself. (Photo #7) Jim first designed and built the dividing head to cut teeth in the wooden gears of a clock he was making. The housing is made of hard wood with a metal dial disc, which has holes spaced in order to select the desired divisions required for a variety of projects. He did not have the facilities to make a dividing head out of metal. When he needed one, though, Jim improvised his way out of the problem by once again using available materials and tools to accomplish the job.

By late 1980 Jim had completed the engine and pump and was ready to tackle the boiler. He first had to locate materials. He tried to buy copper from wholesale and retail houses, but they would not sell him anything less than a sheet, which was ten times more than he needed. Finally a friend of his told Jim he had some four-inch,. 109 copper pipe for sale at junk price. Jim bought the pipe, slit it, and used it to construct the engine's vertical, fire tube boiler. The boiler was completely constructed using this . 109 copper, with the exception of the half-inch copper pipe used for its twenty-two tubes. The boiler is fifteen inches high and nine inches in diameter, and all joints and seams are silver soldered. The engine is equipped to burn wood or coal, but in order to protect onlookers from fly ash, Jim has outfitted it with a propane burner. (Photos #8-13 show steps in the construction process, including the hundreds of rivets and cap screw holes required to fasten the boiler's many parts.)

In order to bend the variety of different parts necessary to construct the boiler, and later the boiler trim, Jim needed a hydraulic press. He priced twenty-ton presses at about $1400 and decided he could not afford one. So he made his own using two by six inch oak for the frame and a six-ton hydraulic jack for applying pressure. He also made all of the male and female wooden dies needed to bend copper and brass to the exact dimensions required for different parts of the project. (Photo #14)

At this point A. D. and I were not surprised it took Jim ten years to complete the Idella model, and thought that was a remarkably short time considering all the tools he had made for the project. As Jim said to us, 'It'd take three times as long to make something because it would take twice as long to make some thing to make it with. There's what consumes the time. Of course there's a lot of 'em (tools and jigs) you use 'em, and then you go and scrap, tear 'em up and make something else with 'em. But you take all of the cutters and all of the different types of tools, and all the jigging you have to make. That's where the greatest amount of time is. You can buy a certain amount of tools The rest of it you've got to make.'

Jim completed the boiler in mid 1981 and for the next six years devoted all of his free time to assembling the parts, making the trim, building the aluminum frame, suspension, rear fire box and decking, and the hundreds of other small jobs necessary to complete the engine. It took Jim three attempts to finally settle on a way to make the copper dome for the pump. When he tried to draw and reduce the .109 copper, it began to crack. When he tried to stretch the material, it became too thin. Finally he flattened two pieces of metal and made a wooden die in the shape of half the sphere of the dome. By carefully hammering the copper he was able to make two complementary, dish-shaped halves, which he then matched to within .001 tolerance. He silver soldered the halves together in order to make the five-inch sphere. (Photo #15)