Author Topic: An antique steel boiler  (Read 9274 times)

Offline Zephyrin

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An antique steel boiler
« on: May 02, 2017, 08:12:58 AM »
Here is an antique (model ?)  boiler received as a gift, undoubtedly rather old and rusted, made entirely out of steel, a very crude construction, of which I do not manage to trace the origin… nor the use.
It is large, about 3.3 litre (3.5 quart) and heavily built, almost 10 kg.
A thick steel tube of 160 mm dia, with bottom and top ends flanged and riveted by a line of large rivets, and crossed by 4 small flue tubes grouped in the middle of the end plates, obviously too small for an efficient boiler.
 
This boiler is simply inserted on a base made of steel too, posed on 4 nice forged feet, with a furnace’s door (broken, but that I have just repaired), with ample place for any kind of burner able to heat all this mass of metal.
Tapped holes in the tube and top end plate are well positioned to receive all necessary equipment for a “sterling” boiler.
 
What intrigues me, it looks crude and made by an amateur, able to pose large steel rivets (I had to change a rivet on the fire door, really a physical job).
I do not see how the sealing is carried out, apart from the rivets.

It is certainly not the boiler which I was dreaming about, but now I have it, and if recoverable, this piece could be appropriate for a large vertical steam engine I made 10 years ago, witch, up to now run only on air.

https://goo.gl/photos/qM5hn5UZSwkussRj9




Offline steam guy willy

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2017, 03:41:51 PM »
Interesting item and a nice project  love it .........

Offline zeeprogrammer

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2017, 11:11:59 PM »
That 'is' interesting.

It's really too bad that it's history is lost.
Carl (aka Zee) Will sometimes respond to 'hey' but never 'hey you'.
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Offline derekwarner

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2017, 05:11:31 AM »
Zephyrin....this is a very interesting old boiler...[the design however :old: may not really be all that crude] .........I am pretty sure I understand the method of construction however offer....

IMG_0521R
Underside View of Boiler with the lower base insert ring & disc to the boiler shell
a. 4 x vertical fire tubes - expanded or flared sealing
b. 4 x vertical boiler stays  - riveted or expanded sealing
c. the lower base insert disc is double riveted with every second rivet blind or countersunk externally to the boiler shell
d. the lower base insert disc ring is double riveted to the boiler shell

IMG_519R
e. Supporting base shell confirms 3 of [4?] longer rivets that would support a fire grate
f. the boiler top plate to outer shell construction appears to be the double riveted construction
g. you have identified M8x1 and M10x1 tapping's etc
h. the water tightness integrity from original construction would have been by mechanical metal to metal chalking between the boiler top & bottom plates to the shell

To test the boiler opens Pandora's box

Any engineer engaged to check & certify the boiler would need to
i. ultrasonic determination of the boiler shell wall thickness, together with the 4 x fire tube wall integrity so also the determination of the tube thickness. The boiler top plate & bottom plate thickness would also need to be confirmed
j. from this, boiler hoop strength calculations could be made.....[without material Grade nomination, a derated calculation would be applied] thus to confirm firstly a working pressure, then nominate a test pressure

If the boiler were for your own personal use and not for public exhibition, you could consider the following simple test
k. add a steam safety valve pre set to say 2 Bar to the boiler top plate + a filling port, a calibrated 6 Bar burden type pressure  gauge + a water gauge to the boiler shell

l. fill the boiler to ~~ 75% of the shell volume with water, and gradually apply heat [pancake ceramic burner] to the underside of boiler base ....... [see reference from Paul Gough Reply #9 on: Today at 11:28:00 PM]

l. To perform the hydrostatic test, fill the  boiler to 100% and bleed all air, then gradually apply heat to expand the volume of water.....thus easier to detect any leakage than with a small displacement hand pump which may not be capable of attaining  a pressure increase due to internal leakage

m. having a $20.00 digital pyrometer would be an asset in the constant temperature increase accompanied with the viewing of the pressure gauge

:Director: Stand back & see what happens................

Good luck.......... Derek  ..... :cheers:

NB...the above is only an assessment and not a recommendation in any form of boiler pressure testing procedure. Testing of any pressure vessel must be made in accordance with your Local  State or Government requirements 
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 12:08:51 AM by derekwarner_decoy »
Derek L Warner - Honorary Secretary [Retired]
Illawarra Live Steamers Co-op - Australia
www.ils.org.au

Offline Zephyrin

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2017, 10:34:34 AM »
Quote
It's really too bad that it's history is lost.

Zee : I feel exactly the same each time I have an old and rusted tool in hands, simply getting older?

Anyway, I guess that it is not too much to ask to this piece just a few steam up as a retirement !

Derek: Thank you for this detailed answer, you are right on all the points raised!
Indeed, the base plate seems to be riveted to an angle bent in circle, (I cannot do that, with 3mm steel , I’m not strong enough !) and then riveted to the boiler shell. The rivets appear to be hammered by hand  - this fellow was really beefy -   the force required (about 8 mm for the rounded head and 5mm stem) must be absolutely huge, considering the effort I did to replace an hinge and a rivet on the fire door…


As regard the burner, yes a coal grate and an ashes tray are easy to install, and I would like to have a go, but for now, a short run with a butane gas burner would be certainly an easier goal.…




Offline Zephyrin

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2017, 11:02:03 AM »
I thought I would get this overhaul wrapped in 3-4 days just by turning a few boiler accessories…but it was not so!

I did threaded bushings for the holes, then fill it with water (3.3 litre !) and tested the whole under water pressure, but no pressure at all, huge leaks from inside the brass flue tubes...
picture 1 :
I removed these tubes by drilling through them, with care to avoid that a tube fall inside the boiler !
photo 2
3 of them were cracked lengthwise, almost completely, hence the leaks !
photo 3
I rebored the end plates, and put back 4 larger copper tubes, by expansion, with 2 shop made cone plugs driven by a threaded rod and nuts.
Photo 4
My boiler with its new larger copper tubes on pressure test again, to my surprise, was now waterproof ! During the test 1-2 water drops were visible beyond 9 bar at the junction of the tubes with the boiler end plates, and no leak anywhere else on the boiler, pressure remaining stable at 8 bar (115 psi) for more than 30 min.
Maybe I might caulk these junctions with tin solder…
https://ti1ca.com/kbklpwuq-chaudiere-retubee-chaudiere-retubee.mp4.html

I realize now that the copper tubes are liable to elongate and dissociate from the bottom plates owing to the differential expansion between copper and steel upon heating; I wonder if these length constraints could be the cause of the longitudinal slits observed on the tubes that I just have removed, and as the same causes produce the same effects, could it happen again...

Anyway, I think it is conclusive enough to resume this overhaul, next step being steam production.

« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 11:10:51 AM by Zephyrin »

Offline Steamer5

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2017, 01:02:20 PM »
Hi Zephyrin,
 Nice boiler!
Well done on the fix, the guy who built it did a great job on his riveting!  On you weeps why not try re-swaging the tubes....gently...rather than soldering?

Cheers Kerrin
Get excited and make something!

Offline derekwarner

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2017, 02:05:09 PM »
Zephyrin.....well done :wine1:.......it is interesting to see such progress

1. the failed fire tubes appear to be from the red brass family
2. your replacement fire tubes being from copper is a far better consideration from a metallurgical/mechanical aspect
3. the expansion ratio between diameter to length for copper is greater than red brass
4. the riveting process would have been achieved with each individual rivet being  :Mad: hot or in a plastic state prior to installation and the forming of the head. The resulting cooling also assists in the closure of the mating steel surfaces surrounding the diameter of the shank of each rivet     

Digressing, copper firebox tubes in [5" gauge] model steam engines are silver soldered, and are approved under various boiler codes for use ~~ 100+ PSI working pressures

You may well find a local model steam train club with a boiler inspector will offer constructive comment, however such a person may decline to be involved....... that is without Drawings or specification

Derek  :cheers:
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Illawarra Live Steamers Co-op - Australia
www.ils.org.au

Offline paul gough

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2017, 11:28:00 PM »
Very glad you did a cold water hydraulic test before applying any heat, a must before applying any heat to an unknown boiler. From my reading on old boilers brass tube splitting was not unusual. From my experience with larger size 'model', (12 inch gauge), loco boilers which are mostly 10 to 16 inch dia. both class one, >100 psi, and class 2 < 100 psi, copper tubes do not pose any great problem if expanded into the tube plates properly, raising steam is done appropriately, i.e. slowly or 'gently' as an old fireman who instructed me over half a century ago used to say, until you have ten psi, then things can be pushed along. If the boiler is used for long periods, multiple hours, and frequently then some simple water treatment might be worth considering. A normal boiler washout/inspection regime should be upheld until you become familiar with sedimentation, scaling and any physical changes. Sorry if I am going over what you and experienced members already know, but I was a little concerned when one poster advised of a 'simple test' using a gas burner and stand back and see what happens, without mentioning the need for a hydraulic test first. We have many readers who may have little knowledge of boilers and advice regarding boiler testing needs to be thoughtfully done. Trust the little 'antique' gives you plenty of steam for your engines. Regards Paul Gough.

Offline derekwarner

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2017, 11:41:11 PM »
Thank you Paul....you are totally correct in the application of a hydrostatic test prior to a steam test

With such a large volume ~~ 3+ litre, most scale hand pump displacement would not compensate for any internal or external leakage

I will go back and revise my text to nominate filling the boiler to 100% and bleed all air, then gradually apply heat to expand the volume of water.....thus easier to detect any leakage [my choice of 'see what happens' could be mis construed as inappropriate]

Derek
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 11:48:42 PM by derekwarner_decoy »
Derek L Warner - Honorary Secretary [Retired]
Illawarra Live Steamers Co-op - Australia
www.ils.org.au

Offline paul gough

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2017, 01:17:55 AM »
Derek, Glad you understood where I was coming from.

Zephyrin, Looking again at your pictures of the boiler, it reminded me of a very similar design and size, might have been 8 inch Dia., I came across for sale here in North Queensland some years ago. It was from the 1930s and was said to have come from a butchers shop, (boucherie). I cannot remember what it was used for, but this may have been a time when there was no electricity available, not uncommon in remoter rural areas here at this time. The chimney and firebox on yours appears to be 'older looking' and ornate in its design but I wondered if it might have been something similar and not a 'model'. If the boiler plates etc. seem very thick for their size and there is any possibility this boiler might date from before 1900 then there is a very slight chance it is a wrought iron one, which would make it really 'antique'. Any thoughts about its age and use??? Regards Paul Gough. P.S. The tiny tubes might indicate it had a gas burner.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 01:27:00 AM by paul gough »

Offline Jasonb

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2017, 08:00:04 AM »
This boiler looks to have such a small heating area - only 4 small firetubes and the bottom plate that given its unknown state I would be tempted to cut out the bottom plate and fit a new copper boiler inside the shell with far more tubes. Staop teh new boiler say 25mm short of the existing top plate and then the heat from teh new tubes can go up the old chimney.

This will give a boiler that is going to produce enough steam to run that engine, easy to coal fire and be safe yet still look like the old antique

J

Offline Zephyrin

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2017, 09:07:16 AM »
Hi,
Thanks for all these inputs...
Jason :
I fully agree that the flue tubes (even the new ones) and heating area are too small for an efficient boiler, and if I fail to run my engine, doing a new copper boiler inside is a very good suggestion to save the day. However, removing cleanly that bottom end plate is not what I call an easy job...
Paul :
This is exactly what I'm asking. I have no info on the origin and the use of this boiler; and I'm not sure if it is a "model" , which would have been much lighter, as compared to genuine ancient model boiler made by Radiguet for example.
I have got it 3 weeks ago for my 70th birthday, and I love it.

It looks like worked by a blacksmith in its dark shop, the coal forge glowing red with the blower, the young companion with a two handed hammer...

I did more than 20 boiler, from tiny to small, 0.1 to 0.5 litre, "conventional" ones, with silver soldered copper tubes, mostly for gauge 1 & 0 locos ; therefore swaging copper tubes in a 10 kg piece of iron is a great change.
 
I did a heating test with a small camping butane burner and 0.5 l of water in the boiler; it take about 30 min to get a decent jet of steam...
but as far as I remind my camping days, this delay to get a boiling soup is not unexpected.

Offline paul gough

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2017, 09:35:10 AM »
Francois-Marie, Please be sure your little boiler is of no historical interest or value  before doing any major changes to it. It had brass tubes, which indicates might be very old. If so, even the old brass tubes would be worth keeping. A few photos and some enquiries at an appropriate museum might provide some answers.

I am very sorry I did not take a photo of the 'butchers boiler' so you could compare. I think you are correct about a blacksmith, the work on the 'firebox' has the appearance of a blacksmiths work, I love the feet on it. To me the fact that it has very small brass tubes, is all riveted with thick material and appears to be very old provides enough reason to be careful. I am even wondering if this boiler was for steam, maybe it was a small hot water boiler that could deliver the water under low pressure, I am guessing, but there were such things to sit on top of solid fuel stoves.

Does the boiler have fittings/bushes for; a water level sight glass, safety valve, etc??? Regards Paul Gough. P.S. The boiler barrel looks to have a different patina/colour than the chimney or the fire box, do you think this might be the case, it might be a newer section.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 09:43:46 AM by paul gough »

Offline Zephyrin

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Re: An antique steel boiler
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2017, 10:13:07 AM »
Quote
Does the boiler have fittings/bushes for; a water level sight glass, safety valve, etc??? Regards Paul Gough. P.S. The boiler barrel looks to have a different patina/colour than the chimney or the fire box, do you think this might be the case, it might be a newer section.
Yes Paul, the boiler have many tapped holes for accessories, water gauge, clack valve, pressure valve etc, all exactly were I would drill them, I have nothing to plug or redrill, hence my conclusion that it is a steam generator pretty good for my engine and not kind of expresso machine !

as regard the patina, I'm pretty sure that the outer part of the barrel has been fully sandblasted. It was given to me by my brother, which does have a sandblaster, and people which have one, they sandblast everything around.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 10:27:59 AM by Zephyrin »