I had to laugh at the, "... and ate a lot of Altoid Smalls that month" part!
It's not unusual for discoveries to me made independently, even simultaneously. Scientific history is full of examples. I will say that it is a matter of record that I was using aluminum for putt putt engines, recorded in this instructional video and elsewhere in the series, sealed with epoxy without silicone, a very different design than yours.
It's wonderful how no single person has all the ideas. The variations are what keep things moving and interesting.
I liked your explanation about momentum making the water piston overshoot its equilibrium. Very well put.
] On Behalf Of William Abernathy
Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2011 5:49 PM
Subject: Re: [pop-pop-steamboats] Make Magazine Vol 28
I have no question that Joe's posting was due to enthusiasm, not malice, and I ascribe and offer no ill intention to him for posting it. When Issue 29 is on the stands, I will turn a blind eye to any reposts, but I am a freelancer and not an employee or agent of the magazine, so you're on your own if they find out.
I've just wrapped up an interview with the editors (them intervieing me), and that interview should be up this week. With that interview should be a link to the boat in action at:
At the time I gave this interview, my recollection of the course of events with this article was different from yours. As I remembered things, I was warned off of aluminum diaphragms because they could not be easily or cheaply soldered. I honestly thought using JB Weld and aluminum can stock in this configuration was my own idea, and this is the recollection that's going to be reflected in the interview.
Reviewing the group files, I do now note your June 7 suggestion to use epoxy, albeit for a different application (the sciencetoymaker "folded soda can" plan, which recommends hi-temp silicone glue), so I apologize if I stepped on any priority there or failed to recognize your contribution. The rest of the design I consider novel (as far as any of our "footnotes" on the original invention can be so considered) insofar as I'm using an aluminum soda can diaphragm in a way that I have not seen anyone else do.
The issue with boiler depth may just have been one of dumb luck. (Bear in mind also that this is the Altoid Smalls tin, not the full-sized tins you may be more used to seeing.) I wanted to work with "found"/low-cost/easy-to-source materials. Though I have a roll of .003" brass stock, I could not source this material at either the local hardware store or the local hobby shop, and I could not recommend casual Make readers run out to order a $15 roll of brass sheet to make one toy boat. Folding the Altoid tin more or less in half (vertically) obviously reduces the volume substantially, and I folded it inward to give good mechanical support to the diaphragm, top and bottom, irrespective of the JB Weld's bond. The JB Weld holds the whole thing together, but the basic structure helps it along. I went through about a dozen failed "rough draft" engines, and ate a lot of Altoid Smalls that month. This one came together on deadline around July, and I was starting to pull out hair trying to document it, test it, and get it ready for prime time.
How long this engine will last is a question of time and care. JB Weld, as I note in the article, breaks down around the same temperature as solder, if not a little higher. Eventually, if the JB Weld does not fail, the boiler will rust out (another advantage of non-ferrous boiler designs). It's by no means an heirloom, but it is a great place to give people an introduction to this fascinating type of steam engine, and hopefully bring a few moments of low-budget mirth to some families this holiday season.
I hope to see a few new faces around here as a result of the article.
I'll be happy to answer any more questions as they come.
Slater Harrison wrote:
> Congrats on the Make article! I do subscribe and I read your piece:
> nice work. I think we're all cheering you on. When someone makes more
> accessible these devices we all love, and creates some ripples, all
> boats will rise!
> As for the PDF Joe put up, there is no question that it is a clear
> violation of copyright-albeit well intentioned. That said, you have
> benefitted from being part of this cozy, informal forum. For example,
> the general idea to use an aluminum soda can, and then use epoxy
> instead of solder, was gotten from a member of this forum, freely shared.
> So perhaps you could treat us to a video of your boat running, or some
> behind the scenes commentary about developing it, in lieu of the
> copyrighted article. I know that I tried making traditional pop pop
> engines with my students-quite shallow, not deep like yours--but the
> flame still overheated the epoxy and made leaks. I am wondering if, by
> using that tall altoid can, the heat is farther away and the vertical
> wall radiates out enough heat to not cause leaks. If so, that's
> brilliant and my hat is off to you. Also, bending the edges in rather
> than out was a smart move.
> By the way, my e-mail filter is capricious. Despite approving the
> Yahoo forum, I usually find the posts weeks later-if at all-in my
> filter. So if I don't respond to something specific it's not intentional.
> *From:* email@example.com
> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] *On Behalf Of *William
> *Sent:* Saturday, October 22, 2011 11:47 AM
> *To:* email@example.com
> *Subject:* Re: [pop-pop-steamboats] Make Magazine Vol 28
> Joe: I don't mean to be a meanie, but could you please respect Make's
> copyright on this one, at least until the next issue hits the stands?
> I wrote the article, I haven't even seen a print version of it yet,
> and you've already put it up online. I have no financial interest
> either way (been paid already) but the folks at Make ought be able to
> make their living too.
> As for Altoid tins... The magazine doesn't have any cross-promotion
> deal with them or anything like that. It's just that those little tins
> are so darned handy...
> andor_99833 wrote:
> > this quarter's make magazine (makezine.com) is on toys and games.
> i've uploaded a pdf article (poppop.pdf)on making a poppop boat.
> > the make people tend to use alot of altoid cans as raw materials.
> > joe
> > petersburg, ak
> William Abernathy
> Berkeley, CA
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