machines which I have made, am making, or intend to make, and some other stuff. If you find this site interesting, please leave a comment. I read every comment and respond to most. n.b. There is a list of my first 800 posts in my post of 17 June 2021, titled "800 Posts"



Toyota Landcruiser ute with tipping tray, and tandem trailer, also tipping.
Another favorite farm photo. The ute and trailer would transport up to 5 cubic meters of rabbit manure. for fertilising the olives.
The trailer would not lift more than one tonne, so I changed the hydraulic hoist to a multistage 5 tonne unit. I have actually carried and tipped close to 5 tonnes of manure, but only on the farm. That load would definitely not be road legal. I also had to enlarge the hydraulic oil tank by welding on an extension.
Since this photo was taken I have also upgraded the suspension to take 16″ Landcruiser wheels.

Morning Mist at The Farm

A photo from 10-15 years ago, before the olive trees had blocked some distant views. The hills are the You Yangs. The buildings of Melbourne, 50km away, are just to the left of the pine plantation.
With the farm about to be transferred to new owners. I am feeling nostalgic. It has been a huge part of my life for the past 17 years.


When the tanks were moved, we found this fellow not very happy about the situation. The tank formed the roof of his burrow. But he made the best of it, by ignoring the lack of roof, and settling into his furrow, and poking his blue tongue out at us every time we walked near.
At least we did not discover the owner of the shed snake skin which was nearby. It was probably a tiger snake, and was very large judging by the size of his unwanted skin. Or maybe the blue tongue killed the snake. They reputedly can do so, although I have never seen it happen.


After breaking the planks used to as a ramp, we tried lifting the big heavy awkward plastic tank with the backhoe bucket, and the tractor forks. And it worked a treat. The truck was backed underneath, the tank was lowered, strapped on, and the truck was towed up the hill with the 4WD tractor. The tank weighed 1000kg, 4.4m diameter, 2.8m high, and was slippery and awkward. I had tried to get a specialist tank trailer, but was unsuccessful. So this was the next option.

I Love hydraulic POWER

As part of the farm sale, I had to remove 2 water tanks from the bottom of a steep slippery valley. The tanks were 2.8m high and 4,4m diameter, and weighed 1 tonne each. When full they hold 45 thousand litres of water each. i.e. they were big awkward and heavy, and easily damaged.
We pulled the first tank onto the truck tray, with a 4WD tractor. All OK, but the truck could not drive up the slippery track. Even with the tractor pulling the truck, it all came close to slipping off the track to disaster. Then my elderly farmer neighbour Des suggested using a steeper, but rocky track, and that was safely and successfully negotiated. Tank one placed in the top paddock ready for transport to the new owner.
The next tank was dug into the side of the hill, and required a couple of hours digging with a back hoe to free it enough to pull it free with the tractor.
We tried to pull it up the planks as per tank one, but the slope was steeper and the planks started breaking. So we used tractor hydraulics to do the lifting for us. See the next photo…


John & John having more fun.
I did say that there would be no baby photos on this blog, but he is, after all, my future apprentice

Beam Engine Column after turning, before plating


I still have not got the hang of this blogging stuff.
I tried to post 3 photos together, but wordpress accepted only the last photo posted.
So here is the first one in the series.
This is the casting of the beam engine column.
As you can see, it is roughly the shape desired. It was quite heavy, and had a very tough external skin which required carbide tooling to break through.


3 photos of the beam engine column
1. The casting, roughly the shape, with a very tough external layer
2 After turning, nicely shaped and shiny, but quickly develops surface rust
3. After nickel plating, not perfect, but not bad for a beginner. The nickel only plated those surfaces which had been machined. A few deep pits on the surface did not accept the nickel plating. I had conflicting advice about the adviseabilty of plating cast iron, but overall, I am quite pleased with end result. I might have overdone the electroplating brightener additive. One colleague called it engine “bling”.

Redgum steel press

Showing the 80 degree steel knife edge, and the 90 degree V groove in the redgum.
The folded steel is in the foreground


Maybe that’s what I meant with the “Interregnum” post.
This is a 20 tonne hydraulic press, bending 3mm steel.
Nothing too special. Except that the anvil is made of wood.
The bar is 45×45 steel, machined to an 80 degree edge, and that steel bar is pushing into it with all of 20 tonnes. And at the end of it, a nice 90 degree fold in the steel, an not a mark or a dent in the redgum. Redgum is amazing.
I used the wood because I did not have a piece of steel large enough to hand, and I knew from past experience just how tough this wood is. Our house rested on it for 80 years (wooden stumps, changed for concrete due to under ground rotting.)

Another photo follows to show some details.

Toolrest for Grinder -2

At least most of the wine ended up in the glass this time.


This contraption is a toolrest for a benchgrinder. it was an early project when I started metalworking-machining, and was made mainly on a milling machine, and lathe.
The tool to be sharpened on the grinder (lathe cutter, chisel, screwdriver, saw blade etc) rests on the top platform. The top platform can be adjusted to any angle in 3 dimensions, using the brass handles. The 2 brass knobs are to present the work to the grinding wheel, and are graduated in thousanths of an inch. Sounds complicated and it is.
Designed by Harold Hall, with plans and instructions in his book “Milling, A complete course”.
The wine glass is for scale only. Although the level went down during the photography session. Must have evaporated.
I have nickel plated several components of this tool ,because of surface rust.

Boiler for steam engine

Just a bit more finishing on this boiler.
At the chimney end there is now a removable cover to provide access to the smoke box (the round aluminium cover with the brass lever nut), and a sliding door to provide access to the firebox.
You can just see the Bolton 7 engine behind the boiler. They are both sitting on a marble shelf above the fireplace in our living room. I was amazed when SWMBO said that it could live there.
My 18 month old grandson loves to be lifted up to the “teamengine” so he can turn the flywheel.

Beam Engine steam pipes made and installed

Originally posted on johnsmachines:
As you will see in the later pictures of the beam engine, I have changed the steam delivery pipe arrangement 3 or 4 times, and I am still not entirely happy. I do like the copper pipe, smooth bends, and brass flanges. But getting the path locations so they look correct and functional is quite […]

Bolton 7 Gunmetal castings

Castings used to make the Bolton 7 engine. These are a hard wearing brass alloy called gunmetal. The next post is a picture of the cast iron castings.
Part of the expertise in making these engines is the technical challenge of accurately machining these lumps of metal.

Bolton 7 Iron castings

A lot of people who see my engines do not know what castings are, so here is a photo

John in Istanbul

The chain of the Golden Horn.
At least 600 years old. Forged by hand.
ancient or at least medieval, metalworking

Roller for applying herbicide

The roller is 2000 x 400mm. The herbicide is pumped from the tank through a soaker hose onto the roller, and is applied to the unwanted grass via the roller. There is almost no drift of herbicide. The ATV can be driven up to 10-15kph, so it is a very time efficient method, and uses minimal chemical by the direct application.

Backhoe Grab

Another view of the grab.
I made a 2d cardboard model of the grab, with drawing pins at the joints to make sure that it would work, then drew it using CAD, then welded it up.
It works fine, and can pick up surprisingly heavy items.
It is attached to a JCB 3CX backhoe. It would benefit from a coat of paint….

Beam Engine Steam Pipes, variation number 3

The inlet steam pipe was moving a little, being pulled by the governor lever, so I made a new inlet pipe, running it along the base, and silver soldered a bracket to the base to support it. It is more rigid, and I think that it looks better too. The Nitto air line fitting in the foreground, is a custom made fitting, to join the 0.25″ steam pipe to the air compressor line. It was made on the Boxford CNC lathe.

This is how I spend my Saturdays

John and John having fun.

Bolton 7 Boiler changes

The steam exhaust from the Bolton 7 now exhausts into the fire box, and ultimately up the chimney. I am not sure if this will work well. Concerns that the exhausted steam might interfere with the gas flame. Wait and see when I next fire it up! But that will not happen until I make and install a displacement oiler. Another week or two.


In the earlier video showing this engine running with steam, there could be heard a knocking noise. Last weekend I did a tear down to identify and rectify the problem. I found 3 separate issues. First the con rod big end was a bit loose, and required some tightening. Then I found that the threaded join between the piston rod and cross head was a bit sloppy, so that was also tightened, then pinned so it will not move again. (see photo). Finally, and of most concern, the 3 bolts holding the cylinder to the bed were loose, allowing the whole cylinder to move slightly. I think that this movement was what was allowing the piston to hit the cylinder cap in use, causing the knocking. I replaced the BA screws with metric 5 cap screws. Much stronger. Much more permanent. And no more knocking.

Steam Chest Uncovered

I removed the steam chest cover in order to attach the steam supply pipe.
The photo shows the sliding valve (gunmetal) and the valve rod which is moved by the silver coloured rods at the sides.
One of the steam ports is visible underneath the sliding valve.
The photo also shows the 6 steam chest studs which hold the whole thing together.

Beam Engine steam pipes made and installed

Machining the flywheel

Almost Finished Beam Engine

Beam Engine castings

shipment 1 of 3

The castings and plans were supplied by E&J Winter, Sydney, which is now owned and managed by Kelly Mayberry. He has a well established web site with catalogue, prices etc, and he is very interested and helpful with queries during the machining of the castings.
I believe that the castings come from various small foundries around Sydney.
The plans for the 2 engines which I have made so far were drawn up many decades ago, and are rather frustratingly in imperial measurements. So the first task when I receive a new set of plans is to convert all of the measurements into metric units. Then I have the plans laminated, because they get a lot of handling in the dirty greasy conditions of the workshop. Another item on the plans agenda is to make photocopies of the intricate details on the plans, and magnify them x2. I find this is a great help for my rather dodgy eyes.

Beam Engine Governor Gears

The bevel gears on the plans looked rather difficult to make. Finished gears were available from the castings supplier, but on ordering, no, they had not had them in stock for a long time, and even if they were available the cost would be $a254.
So, I tried another option which was successful.
I ordered some angle grinder gears from China, cost $5 per pair, machined new centre holes for brass inserts which fitted the shafts, used Loctite to glue the inserts, and broached the keyways into the brass inserts.

The photo shows the larger gear unmachined at top, and bored ready  for the brass insert at bottom.
The gears were too hard to machine initially, so I put them through a couple of cycles of heat to red hot and slowly cooling, and then my carbide cutters worked…. just. I did not want to risk my expensive broaches however, and that was one reason for the brass inserts. The other reason was to remove some of the angle grinder features from my antique looking model.
The angle grinder bevel gears have curved teeth, which would not have appeared in 1880, but you can’t have everything. It does make them very silent.

Beam Engine Parallel Motion

A close up shot of the parallel motion apparatus which I made for the beam engine. Designed and patented by the famous James Watt in the 18th century. A complex apparatus which is fascinating to watch in action. Its function is to keep the piston rod precisely centrally in line with the cylinder, despite the circular motion of the beam end.


I am currently making this engine. It has actually progressed beyond this photo, and is now complete except for the steam connection, installation of control valve, and painting. It is a Bolton No 12. Based on an engine and pump from near Maitland NSW. The original was rated at 16hp. This small version has a […]

Boiler and engine incomplete

Gas fired 4″ boiler Bolton No 7, double action, single cylinder stationary steam engine. I will download  a video of the engine operating on steam, soon.  Keep watching.

Backhoe grabber

OK. so this is a photo of a gadget which I made few years ago. It is a mechanical grabber which bolts onto a backhoe arm and bucket. Seen here picking up a 5 meter I beam which must weigh 200-300 kgs.
The grabber is very useful for picking up heavy, big, prickly, dirty, rubbish and other farm stuff. Good for grabbing fence posts and pulling them out of the ground.
I wish I could say that I invented the idea, but alas….