STEAM

Getting started with steam! What appears to “throw” most people who want to “get into” steam is the boiler. Filling a boiler, firing it up, and watching the pressure gauge, sight glass, furnace and the rest seem to intimidate a lot of people. You can take smaller steps.

First, you can simply plug compressed air into the opening for steam. Compressed air will make the engine rotate and illustrate the principle.

Second, you don’t have to start with a full-fledged boiler. You can use a pressure cooker from K-Mart (about $80.00) as a boiler. You’ll only get about 15 psi of steam pressure and the steam won’t last very long but you will have made it work. Most “steam experts” (or people who consider themselves such) frown on such a “shortcut” but we’re after results, not public approval.

Third, now that you’re familiar with pressure from compressed air and a small boiler, all you have to do is “scale it up.”

If you later decide to order one of our steam engines, deduct whatever you have paid for any of our steam books, prints, or videos from the price of the steam engine.

Our engines are shipped assembled, ready to run. All you have to do is apply pressure. Filling a boiler, firing it up, and watching the pressure gauge, sight glass, furnace and the rest seem to intimidate a lot of people.

You can take smaller steps:

  1. You can simply plug compressed air into the opening for steam. Compressed air will make the engine rotate and illustrate the principle.
  2. You don’t have to start with a full-fledged boiler. You can use a pressure cooker from K-Mart (about $80.00) as a boiler. You’ll only get about 15 psi of steam pressure and the steam won’t last very long but you will have made it work. Most “steam experts” (or people who consider themselves such) frown on such a “shortcut” but we’re after results, not public approval.
  3. Now that you’re familiar with pressure from compressed air and a small boiler, all you have to do is “scale it up.”

If you later decide to order one of our steam engines, deduct whatever you have paid for any of our steam books, prints, or videos from the price of the steam engine.

Once you have purchased our Special Steam Package and done your homework, you will fall into two categories:

  1. Those who think they have the capabilities and are willing to try
  2. Those who make excuses and are unwilling. I.e., you can decide to become a “steam nerd” or simply remain a couch mechanic (a term coined by one of our customers).

If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you’re right.—Henry Ford

This page is devoted to those who think they can.

First, you can no more become a “steam expert” in a single day than you can become a “computer whiz” in the same amount of time. You must pay your dues.

Second, “paying your dues” means you must learn by doing. No one ever became a steam expert just by reading books and watching videos.

However, we may be able to make your “learning curve” a little less complicated by outlining the following steps for you:

  1. Buy the Special Steam Package.
  2. Study the materials. Watching the videos several times and reading The Basics of Steam Engineering more than once will help.
  3. If you intend to use a steam system as a backup power source, buy How to Build a Remote/Off-Grid Power Generating System. The next two steps are where we separate the armchair engineers and the couch mechanics from the men who are serious. 
  4. Make up your mind as to which category you fit into. If you are not serious and are more inclined towards pontificating as opposed to performance, go no further.
  5. Buy a steam engine (deduct whatever you have paid for any of our steam books, prints, or videos from the price of the steam engine).
  6. Buy or build a boiler.
  7. Install a steam line from the boiler to the steam chest (valving system) with a hydrostatic oiler for lubrication. How hydrostatic oilers, steam injectors, fusible plugs, and other devices work is explained in the Pawnee Steam School Textbook.
  8. Put water in the boiler. There must be at least two ways to get water into the boiler, such as a hand pump and a steam injector.
  9. Start a fire in your boiler’s furnace.
  10. When you have steam, open the valve from the boiler to the steam chest. Your steam engine will now be running. What you will now have is a “total loss system” (the steam exhaust will escape into the atmosphere) which is not very efficient but what you will have is a system that works.
  11. Now decide whether you want to progress either upstream or downstream of the flywheel. Let’s assume you want to proceed downstream and install your off-grid power system.
  12. That decision being made, go to Aubuchon Hardware and buy an emergency fan belt that can be fastened together and install it in the groove cut in the flywheel of our steam engine.
  13. If you haven’t ordered How to Build a Remote/Off-Grid Power Generating System, now would be a good time. If you already know how to wire a truck alternator to a bank of batteries, install an inverter (our recommendation is an Army surplus inverter, usually available from Surplus Center, which can be had for less than $100), and wire the inverter to your terminal box, excellent. Do it.
  14. Assuming you have successfully completed step #13, you will now have a functioning off-grid power system, even if it is a “total loss” system. Now install your condenser, hot water tank, return lines, and the rest. These are explained in the Home Scale Steam video and there is a schematic in The Basics of Steam Engineering.
  15. If you run into trouble, there are steam nerds and electricians as close as your telephone. Call them. Ask them. Unlike the computer system you just bought, you will not be forced to talk to some character in India when you get stuck. A lot of these people live right next door and are more than willing to help and advise.
  16. Stand back and admire what you have accomplished. At this point, now that you have built a working system, should you so desire it, you are now a dealer for Mike Brown Steam Engines. Send us a photo, a description of what and how you learned, and we will put you up on our website.

See the system using the Mike Brown 1 Horsepower Steam Engine set up at
the
 Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Amherst, Wisconsin June 18 – 20, 1999