Getting Started With Steam—It’s Not Plug and Play—Part II

Once you have purchased our Special Steam Package and done your homework, you will fall into two categories: (1) those who think they have the capabilities and are willing to try and (2) those who make excuses and are unwilling. I.e., you can decide to become a "steam nerd" or simply remain a couch mechanic (a term coined by one of our customers).

If you think you can, you can.
If you think you can’t, you’re right.—Henry Ford

This article is devoted to those who think they can.

First, you can no more become a "steam expert" in a single day than you can become a "computer whiz" in the same amount of time. You must pay your dues.

Second, "paying your dues" means you must learn by doing. No one ever became a steam expert just by reading books and watching videos. However, we may be able to make your "learning curve" a little less complicated by outlining the following steps for you.

1. Buy the Special Steam Package.

2. Study the materials. Watching the videos several times and reading The Basics of Steam Engineering more than once will help.

3. If you intend to use a steam system as a backup power source, buy How to Build a Remote/Off-Grid Power Generating System.

The next two steps are where we separate the armchair engineers and the couch mechanics from the men who are serious.

4. Make up your mind as to which category you fit into. If you are not serious and are more inclined towards pontification as opposed to performance, go no further.

5. Buy a steam engine (deduct whatever you have paid for any of our steam books, prints, or videos from the price of the steam engine).

6. Buy or build a boiler.

7. Install a steam line from the boiler to the steam chest (valving sytem) with a hydrostatic oiler for lubrication. How hydrostatic oilers, steam injectors, fusible plugs, and other devices work is explained in the Pawnee Steam School Textbook.

8. Put water in the boiler. There must be at least two ways to get water into the boiler, such as a hand pump and a steam injector.

9. Start a fire in your boiler’s furnace.

10. When you have steam, open the valve from the boiler to the steam chest. Your steam engine will now be running. What you will now have is a "total loss system" (the steam exhaust will escape into the atmosphere) which is not very efficient but what you will have is a system that works.

11. Now decide whether you want to progress either upstream or downstream of the flywheel. Let’s assume you want to proceed downstream and install your off-grid power system.

12. That decision being made, go to Aubuchon Hardware and buy an emergency fan belt that can be fastened together and install it in the groove cut in the flywheel of our steam engine.

13. If you haven’t ordered How to Build a Remote/Off-Grid Power Generating System, now would be a good time. If you already know how to wire a truck alternator to a bank of batteries, install an inverter (our recommendation is an Army surplus inverter, usually available from Surplus Center, which can be had for less than $100), and wire the inverter to your terminal box, excellent. Do it.

14. Assuming you have successfully completed step #13, you will now have a functioning off-grid power system, even if it is a "total loss" system. Now install your condenser, hot water tank, return lines, and the rest. These are explained in the Home Scale Steam video and there is a schematic in The Basics of Steam Engineering.

15. If you run into trouble, there are steam nerds and electricians as close as your telephone. Call them. Ask them. Unlike the computer system you just bought, you will not be forced to talk to some character in India when you get stuck. A lot of these people live right next door and are more than willing to help and advise.

16. Stand back and admire what you have accomplished. At this point, now that you have built a working system, should you so desire it, you are now a dealer for Mike Brown Steam Engines. Send us a photo, a description of what and how you learned, and we will put you up on our website.

Getting Started With Steam—Part I

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This page was updated on 5 November 2011