Spirit Fired Boiler

My intention with the miniature traction engine is to use a spirit fired boiler. When I say spirits I mean methylated spirits. This is a clean and simple way to fire a boiler. The tank is easy to make, the burner can be tricky to get right, but there are some great references that will help. My initial development and learning is with the small vertical boiler.

boiler making - K N Harris

K. N. Harris

One of the first references has to be K. N. Harris, “Model Boilers and Boilermaking”.

I’ve had this book in my collection for quite some time and had forgotten all about it until a friend suggested I should get it and have a read.

This is the bible for model boiler making and should be the first book you read on this subject. It covers all aspects of boiler design and manufacture, as well as fuel, burners and running a boiler.

boiler design spirit burner

I used inspiration from the section on spirit burners for my design of a burner and fuel tank for the small vertical boiler.

The needle valve inside the fuel tank is a great design that means you don’t have to worry about leaks around the needle thread.

Roger Loxley, “Steamlines Article”

This article has been updated and published online by Roundhouse Engineering, “An Introduction to Spirit Firing“.

General Points

Some general points that I will add to as I learn:

  • flame size is proportional to wick size
  • cotton wicks burn away if the fuel runs out
  • ceramic wicks are the best – you can burn high temperature ceramic matting from kiln suppliers

annealing copper tube

I use a benchtop methylated spirit burner as an open flame to solder, anneal copper and it’s useful for lighting / relighting a gas torch.


boiler endplates and tubes

Steam and Methylated Spirit Consumption – calculations targeted at the design of my miniature traction engine and in particular the boiler and engine.

Methylated spirit or denatured alcohol is used in a number of camping stoves and so there are a lot of online articles discussing the amount of fuel you should carry for a given number of days.

Leave a comment