How Its Made: Desktop Radial Engine

My journey to building a desktop radial engine was a challenging one, but one I am very happy I completed. I went into this project with very limited machining skills and only classroom knowledge of design for manufacturability and assembly. I knew the aesthetic I wanted to achieve, but doing it through new mediums would be my challenge.

I started with hand sketches of the general shape and some basic ratios that had to be achieved within the cylinders/pistons. The process then moved to a full CAD model that I was able to generate drawings from and the machine shop could use for tool paths. Unfortunately, this file got completely corrupted towards the later stages of the project and I did not have time to redo it. As such I have no images of the computer model.

I began the manufacturing process with stock materials that I got from a local supplier. Everything had to be machined from scratch. For the more complex parts, the ITLL machine shop used their CNC to create the profiles and I came in and finished the part on a hand mill/lathe. The more simple parts were made from scratch on the mill/lathe.

I assembled the project as each component was made. While the end product seems to be made from very few parts, there are actually 120 screws holding the whole thing together. I tried to hide the majority of these so it wouldn’t be so obvious and I think I was successful in the goal.

Once the cylinders, pistons, and crank arms were done I was able to spin the motor and test it. Everything worked perfectly and I was elated! However, once the timing system was completed, things started to take a turn for the worst. As I’ve discussed in my other posts, the timing system is what has caused the engine to not work. I know a solution, but without access to a machine shop or the time, the actual implementation will have to wait. I look forward to the day I’m able to make it work.

All told I was not only able to achieve my desired aesthetic, but I also learned a new, valuable, skill. Even though the engine doesn’t work and am still super proud of my work and ready to begin my next project someday.

Pictures for the project and process can be found on my website under “Projects” at .


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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Joseph Graff
    May 5, 2016 12:04 am

    It sounds like you learned a lot from this project, being that you put so much time and effort into it, and it definitely shows in your final product. I wish I could have seen this in action at expo! I’m sure it’s just as impressive as it looks in pictures. Do you think you would want to build more engines like this now that you’ve done it once?

  • Kevin Martin
    May 4, 2016 5:29 pm

    120 screws! Holy cow, that’s so much!

    You put a ton of work into this project, and it shows. You should be really proud of how this all turned out!

    Hang on to your hand sketches- having examples of sketches-cad-final project progression is an awesome thing to put on your resume!


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