Bob Verhaeghe, Merritt, NC firstname.lastname@example.org
How I got involved with miniature engines, my old 4 Stroke Engine Story.
This engine was given to me by the designer and builder, Kurt Beaukamp, in 1942 when I was 7 years old. Mr. Beaukamp and my father, Victor, were active members in the Detroit Model Power Boat Club. I believe the engine was built in 1935. Back in those days, one couldn't just go to a store and buy an engine....one had to build them. My interest in engines grew from watching my dad and his friends build their engines to run model boats. It was agreed between Mr. Beaukamp and my Dad, that the old 4 stroke was an ideal engine for me to learn more about engines and how to run them.
What this engine has taught me.....
When my Dad was around, I was allowed to run the engine, while it was C-clamped to my little workbench. It taught me the difference between rich and lean, advanced spark, retarded spark, etc. I can remember learning quite quickly that one doesn't start an engine by hand with advanced spark! This engine does kick. (One needed to know this when hand cranking a "Model A", too!!) Running it at night in the dark, and watching the exhaust with the fire that comes out during advanced and retarded spark was a lesson in how valves can be overheated. The day came when I wanted to show a friend how I run the engine and it wouldn't run. The plugs needed cleaning and the points needed cleaning so good spark could be re-established. I didn't know about this until my Dad showed me how to do that.
Sometime when I was about ten years old, and demonstrating the engine to a friend, I was showing him how easy it was to start it. I failed to C-clamp it to the workbench. It started right up and fell to the floor and damaged its beautiful hand-carved wooden propellor....And again, with my Dad's help, we carefully glued the wooden propellor and used it as a pattern to make a cast aluminum propellor. This was a lesson in making up a sand mold, heating and melting aluminum in our old coal furnace. He even made me shovel the coal and bank it in the furnace to do this. After we poured the aluminum and removed the new propellor from the sand mold, he said, "There you are, now finish it." Now that was an experience at 10 years old.
As I grew a little older, I found some interesting and unusual ways to use the engine. I can remember installing it on my bicycle to see if it would pull me. I mounted it on the handlebar basket. I really don't think it worked too well, but I was the talk of the neighborhood, riding this bicycle. Another time, I mounted it on the front end of my sled. A friend and I went down to the lake to try it out on the ice. I learned a lot about prop wash, and getting gasoline on my hands, in my face, in cold, freezing temperatures, while laying on the sled. Also the prop picks up snow and adds to the discomfort. It wasn't very effective with me on the sled, but we tethered it to run in a circle without anybody on it, and found out that was fun to do. We spent many hours enjoying ourselves. Starting and running an engine in cold temperatures was the lesson learned here.
In the mid 50's, I tried to develop a better ignition system, trying to get away from the problem of dirty points. I made an adaptation to the old engine, but it wasn't too successful, so it was restored back to the original timer and points. Some day, I may try it again, but I really hate altering the original engine.
When my own sons were showing interest in engines, the Old 4 Stroke again came out as the teaching tool. I showed them how to start and run the engine, just like my Dad taught me. They, too, learned about rich and lean, advance, retard, etc. They spent many hours running the engine, showing their friends, too. It was about this time that my Dad and I built a small go-cart for my sons. We mounted the old 4-stroke on the back and used a belt drive. The boys were the hit of the neighborhood, giving rides around the block on the sidewalk. Top speed was about as fast as one could walk, but they thought it was FAST and COOL!
Along about 1967 the engine was getting tired and needed a major re-build. I made a new cylinder for it, a new cam shaft, and other minor details. The engine still has its original crank shaft and ball bearings and has been restored with all the other original parts. I still use this engine to demonstrate at different events. Last year, my grandson visited from Colorado, and at 8 years old, got his first "lesson" in engines.
This marvelous old engine has many more years of teaching engine basics to those who may be interested. Not bad for a 67 year old hand made antique....The Old 4 Stroke Engine!
Copyright 2002, Florida Association of Model Engineers and engine builder as noted above, All rights reserved.