My 11 year old son and I just finished working on a "finger engine", the
plans for which were shown in The Home Shop Machinist of a couple of months
ago. My son used the mill, lathe and drill press (with my supervision, of
course) and had a blast making this cool little item.
I'm wondering anyone can point me to other projects appropriate for kids. I
know there are kits/plans for steam and other types of engines, but have no
experience with them and don't know how they differ.
Any web sites/books/companies I should check out? Suggestions are welcome.
I don't have plans, but I do have ideas. If you get a book of mechanisms, one
which includes interesting gizmos to translate circular motion into linear
motion, or one where two linear surfaces can move but are constrained to be
parallel, or even a really cool one like the one a metal shaper uses, which
translates rotary motion into linear motion slow forward quick back, adjustable,
then make up some drawings and start making up little simple machines turned by
Several years ago, I had a book "Mechanical Marvels in Wood" and built a few
of them. Was very interesting. Most of the items could easily be made from
aluminum. Don't know if it's still in print, but may be worth trying.
There's a whole magazine of nifty projects that comes out quarterly
called "Make", most contain at least SOME metalworking. O'Reilly puts
it out, so it's not cheap, I've run across it at both B&N and Borders.
Last one I got had a really simple two-"cylinder" Stirling engine made
from tomato cans, pop cans and copper plumbing parts. Not beyond a
youngster's capabilities and no heavy metalworking equipment required.
Another source is Lee Valley's reprints of some old Popular Mechanics
books. Pre-70's Popular Science magazines are another source of
projects, if you can find a library that still has bound paper rather
than microfiche. Downside of those is that usually there's at least
one part that was required that the author supplied, casting or other
bit, that couldn't be substituted without a whole lot of trouble.
Another possibility: A cylinder on a vertical shaft, 1" above and 1" offset is
another cylinder on a horizontal shaft through an upright, with a crank affixed
on the other side. Five holes in each cylinders, with five L-shaped "pins" in
the holes linking the cylinders. Turn the crank and both cylinders rotate, with
the five pins moving in and out. Pointless but fun to watch. Ok, not pointless.
Sorry for the poor description, but I'm sure someone knows where to find plans.
Thought I'd chime in here since Stan brought up a great source of
I have an extensive collection of old Popular Mechanics,Popular
Science, and Science and Mechanics mags. They all have some neat
projects in them but the PM Shop Notes (like the Lee Valley reprints)
are mostly shop tips & tricks, and tool construction.
For a good collection of the PM projects, checkout the Popular
Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encylopedia. I got both of my sets , in
Excellent condition for ~$10 each (book rate shipping is real cheap
too). There are atleast three printings, and the 1950's ones are the
best IMO. Popular Science also has a similar set of books.
The "Elbow" steam engine is one PM project I've wanted to build for
some time but have never gotten around to it. ( always seem to be
involved in more "serious" work). I know I saw a scan of the article in
one of the yahoo groups I belong to, but I have no idea which one.
Anyways the yahoo groups are a great source for plans and projects.The
plans are usually in the file section. Heres a list of some that I
frequent (or used to frequent ):
Also, "Boy Mechanic" is in public domain and freely available through
the Gutenburg project.
Hope its helpful to you and your son,
Peter Grey wrote:
You MUST cease and desist in the activities at once!!! Don't you know you are
abusing your child?? For God's sake he could get hurt, and worse yet he may
learn something useful and be able to use it later in life. You must stop these
On a lighter note.........
Might I suggest Guy Lautard's Bedside Reader series. Not only do they contain a
few neat little projects, but they also contain alot of good information in
short story form. If the kid is really interested he'll probably find them
useful and better yet will help out his reading skills along the line.