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4 comments

New Hope for Steam Power: Tank Etching and Electrical Work

Posted January 20, 2010 11:36 AM by Old_School

Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I began this project. My only prior experience was the small engine I had built previously (and described in this series) and some self-taught motorcycle maintenance. Neither, however, can fully prepare you for the realities of working with steam power. It's powerful, dangerous stuff and can get out of control uneasily unless you've done your research and included all the necessary safety devices to keep things in check.

Safety First

Most important among these devices is a pressure relief valve, which automatically vents the system when the pressure reaches a pre-set point. There are also heat- resistant valves and tubes. The annoying reality, however, is that it isn't easy to find plumbing fittings that are rated for this kind of service. Home Depot and Lowe's don't exactly cater to the steam vehicle crowd, and I wound up doing dozens of hours of research on material properties and specialty shops in order to find what I needed. (But I'll get into that at a later date.) To continue my progress then, I decided to go ahead with restoring the frame and peripherals.

Cleaning and Lining the Tank

The next step was preparing the electrical system and former gas tank for their new roles. The cheap tank that I got for this project was a complete charity case. Most of the paint was displaced by a thick coat of rust, and the multiple dents in the surface had reduced its capacity by at least a half-gallon. It was cheap and solid, however, so I lined the interior with a water-proof polymer to prevent rust, sandblasted the exterior, and spent over two weeks spreading and sanding body filler.

As a brief FYI, it is extremely important to use the correct acid for etching the inside of the tank before lining it. This is necessary both to clean out the rust and give the material a clean and rough layer to adhere to. I mistakenly used muriatic acid (dilute hydrochloric acid), which later caused the polymer layer to completely peel off. When etching steel, be sure to use phosphoric acid, which is available from Tractor Supply Company as Milkstone Remover.

Powering the Pump

After restoring and mounting the gas tank, I needed to address the electrical system. I wanted to use an electric water pump as the boiler feed, so I needed to build a suitably robust system to handle the strain. Originally, I wanted to build a 12-volt system that recharged from the motor's alternator, but unfortunately the XL185 uses an incompatible 6-volt system. Luckily, the pump I chose would take over an hour and a half to deplete a standard motorcycle battery. So I built a total-loss system instead, using spare Honda handlebar controls as the pump and light switches.

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Participant

Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1
#1

Re: New Hope for Steam Power: Tank Etching and Electrical Work

01/29/2010 9:56 AM

This is awesome!! I'm new to CR4 and I'm glad I found this or I wouldn't have signed up :P. I just read all your posts and this sounds really awesome, can't wait to see the final product. And please feel free to put details on the designs of even the small stuff... Keep it up, I'll be following and just be careful you don't kill yourself on that bike lol

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Commentator

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 61
#2
In reply to #1

Re: New Hope for Steam Power: Tank Etching and Electrical Work

01/29/2010 10:47 AM

Glad to hear you're enjoying my project. It definetely helps keep me focused whenever I get positive feedback about it!

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Guru

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: "Springwood", North Tamborine Mountain. Qld. OZ.
Posts: 837
Good Answers: 28
#3

Re: New Hope for Steam Power: Tank Etching and Electrical Work

03/21/2010 7:01 AM

I guess you don't want to know about it now, but, there is a proprietary Motorcycle Tank Repair Kit from POR15 (Google) , out of New Jersey USA, which gives you all of the things you have just gone to the trouble to source yourself. Cleaner, etch, and urethane coating.

Here in OZ it's : www.por15.com.au

Excellent products. Have used them hundreds of times.

I'm really interested in why you chose to steam a motorcycle. Because you can??

Where are you up to now?

After I read ( totally came to it by accident) your first post I have thought about it quite a bit and it really is possible to do what you're taking on.

I'm speaking to you as an auto engineer now. You used propane for the first experimental fuel. What's you goal with that?

Cheers for now,

Stu.

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"Nothing, is as it seems." Dr Wally.
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Commentator

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 61
#4
In reply to #3

Re: New Hope for Steam Power: Tank Etching and Electrical Work

03/21/2010 8:22 PM

I've heard of POR 15, I was gonna use it next time, but i had a can of leftover Kreem to use up first. You can look at my later posts to see what stage I am up to in the project, and yes, I am doing it mostly to prove that it can be done. Thanks for the interest!

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