Tips, Ideas, Etc.


The display of finished engine projects on an attractive base can add significantly to the overall result by providing a contrast in material and color which focuses attention on the engine itself.  In addition a good stable base adds some protection for the engine, and a steadier platform for actual operation. The term "base" in this context does not refer to the metalic base onto which the various engine engine components are mounted, but rather a hardwood or even a plastic sub-base onto which the entire project can be mounted.

Aesthetically speaking,  the warmth of a finished hardwood base makes for a nice contrast against the cold metal of the engine. Poplar, Oak, Maple, or whatever you can find will work. A couple of coats of stain, and several applications of clear gloss polyurethane finish will protect it against moisture and the oil used for engine lubrication.

UHMW polyethylene can also be used though it doesn't offer nearly as many color choices or the warmth of wood. It is however, impervious to moisture, oils, and even most solvents and it can be machined to add decorative edges  just as wood can.

Whatever material is chosen, I generally try to mount from the underside of the sub-base, drilling and tapping into the underside of the metalic engine base just far enough to hold it firmly but not breaking through so that the mounting hardware is totally hidden.

As for sources of materials, home improvement stores often carry various project boards in varying widths and thicknesses. I prefer using  red oak because it is usually available and has a good tight grain that machines and finishes well.  I use a chamfering bit used for edging cabinet tops which seems to work well, but this is a matter of personal preference. Any router and decorative edge bit will work.

Sometimes ideas just present themselves too !!  On a recent trip to the home improvement store I came across some already machined but unfinished oak ovals typically used where stair handrailing butts into a wall. They were a perfect size for some smaller engines and required only sanding and finishing (see the pictures below). Much easier that cutting and routing an oval from scratch.




While precision machining is integral to the proper operation of model engines, a little time spent in finishing (once the machining is done) goes a long way towards showing off the model to best advantage. With many components made of softer metals like aluminum and brass, not only do machining marks show up, but even small scratches seem to be amplified. This is especially true if you don't plan on painting the finished model. In achieving that level of finish several things can help, and there is no getting around it....time and some elbow grease are needed.

First of all a good hard flat work surface in critical.  This can be a piece of steel plate  (preferably ground), a granite surface plate, or even a section of countertop with laminate on it so long as it is flat and smooth.

Second, a supply of 320 or 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper seems to work best. For very small parts even 600 grit may be helpful. Simply place the paper on the work surface making sure the space between them is free of any shavings or metal particles.

For square or rectangular parts, work them in one direction across the paper with sufficient pressure to keep them flat. This is critical to to getting an even finish, keeping edges square, and to avoid rounding corners.  Repeat as long as needed on each face of the part, until any tool marks, burrs, scratches or dinks are eliminated and a matte appearance is achieved

For round parts....shafts, flywheels, or anything that you would generally machine in the lathe, mount the parts in the lathe chuck and using CAUTION, hold the fine grit paper against the part and let the lathe do the work for you. Greater care has to be taken with close fitting parts so as not to remove too much metal....for example a finished piston already sized to a cylinder's bore. For items like flywheels this is useful not only for the OD of the part but for the faces as well, and will impart a nice rotational finish to the face rather than a linear unidirectional cross grain on what is obviously a round item.  These procedures should be done only with all cutting bits removed, plenty of clearance around the part, and an awareness of any spokes that might grab the paper, or even worse....fingers!!!

For both square and  round parts, once the fine grit paper has been applied to your satisfaction, small pieces of fine to very fine Scotchbrite will finish out the matt finish very nicely and even come back later to polish out any light scratches that may have come from normal running and handling.