Hackaday is a big issue for my productivity: sometimes I spend hours watching videos of people with extraordinary manual skills who builds beautiful things.

My new obsession is the "Solenoid engine" built by Bryan Cockfield.

Bryan Cockfield is an electrical engineer by trade, working on high voltage systems in the electric power industry. Outside of work, you can find him tinkering with a variety of projects from solar panels to old Volkswagens.

Bryan's first engine

In a first post, Bryan built a simple engine with a single piston, based on this tutorial:

A solenoid engine is a curiosity of the electrical world. By all measures, using electricity to rotate something can be done almost any other way with greater efficiency and less hassle. But there’s just something riveting about watching a solenoid engine work.


For this build though he used a few tools that some of us may not have on hand, such as a lathe and a drill press. The lathe was used to make the plastic spool to hold the wire, and also to help wind the wire onto the spool itself rather than doing it by hand. He also milled the wood mounts and metal bearings as well, and the quality of the work really shows through in the final product.



The engine gains 3 other pistons

In the second post, Bryan describe us a second iteration of the project: the solenoid engine turn into a V4 engine!

We featured his single-cylinder build about a month ago, and since then he’s been busy with this impressive upgrade. The new engine features four cylinders arranged in a V4 pattern.

Obviously, the new project adds a lot of technical difficulties:

...this greatly increases the mechanical complexity. To start, he had to machine a crankshaft to connect all four “pistons” to a shared output shaft. He also had to build a set of cams in order to time the firing of the cylinders properly, so they don’t work against one another.