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Steam Stationary Engines, Traction Engines Antique steam engines, their boilers, pumps, gauges, whistles and other related things that make them run.

Steam Stationary Engines, Traction Engines

Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump


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  #21  
Old 06-15-2019, 02:57:58 PM
Power Power is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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Originally Posted by OldJalopy View Post
Don't want to pump grease into the shell.
You use a CLEAN grease gun filled with water. They are inexpensive. Once the boiler is full, with no air, it takes very little to bring pressure up. What I like about clean grease gun is that pressure is very controllable. Using pressure washers and high pressure pumps does not give control I would want. If pressure regulating device fails, boiler can be over pressured in an instant, causing expensive damage.

That won't happen with a grease gun. Each piston stroke will bring pressure up a very small amount. It takes a lot of pumps. Nothing can go haywire and overpressure boiler. The boiler can slowly be bought up to test pressure.

I am not sure about your sequence. "found everything over .250 but not real sure because of rust. I know the next thing is to hydro-test" All rust, scale and dirt has to be removed before proceeding.

To operate a pressure vessel in most jurisdictions, or at most shows, it must be insured and inspected by the insurance company inspector, the city inspector or both. Company I worked for installed some boilers in California. They were very strict. They required permits, lots of documentation, and inspections before pressure vessel could be put into service


Usually, the first thing is to open up the boiler and thoroughly clean everything. Not only will the authority having jurisdiction require clean water & firesides, but any rust or scale that comes loose during operation can damage equipment being fed from the boiler. Once the boiler is properly prepared, the water & firesides are inspected. The inspector goes around with his little hammer, sounding any suspect areas.

When I was involved in boiler testing, hydro was last thing done on cold boiler. The next test would be to remove gags from safety valves, drain to normal water level, fire boiler, and verify correct setting of safety valves.

Last edited by Power; 06-15-2019 at 03:33:08 PM.
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:20:00 PM
Odin Odin is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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Originally Posted by OldJalopy View Post
Well, that got a lot of attention...............I was just guessing on the 300# figure. The old c 1921) steel boiler doesn't appear to be in too bad of shape, I gird-checked the inside shell and found everything over .250 but not real sure because of rust. I know the next thing is to hydro-test and guessed at 1 1/2 times original working pressure, which I also guessed at 150#, so OK make it 225#. Water is not going to blow up so I'm not worried about that, just wanted some ideas or source for a suitable pressure pump. Don't want to pump grease into the shell. I've asked a couple of men in my area to come by but they haven't had a chance to visit yet. I don't even know if the boiler is worth saving but I'll keep moving ahead, slowly....
Pressurizing this boiler is last on the checklist then. This boiler must first be inspected visually inside and out, looking for any cracks or corrosion pitting. There must not be any scale or loose rust inside or outside.

Then it is given an ultrasound test, following a prescribed grid determined by your regional boiler inspector. The goal here is to determine what the plate thickness was originally, and what the thinnest location on the shell is.

A safe MAWP can then be calculated from the UT results, and a hydrotest performed to that MAWP + margin.

Finding somebody local to walk you through the process would be highly recommended at this point, as most parts of the world have legal formalities to observe in addition to practical safety matters.

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Originally Posted by Vanman View Post
Interesting. So, in some instances a boiler need only be tested to 1-1/4 times rated pressure?? That seems like a TINY safety margin!
If all goes well, the boiler will never ever exceed its MAWP, as the safety valve will be sized properly to its capacity and completely stop the pressure from rising further once it opens.

The exact amount of overpressure is subject to some discussion among people familiar with boiler engineering, as it has been discovered that repeated exposure to pressures above 1.5x MAWP can actually cause an otherwise healthy boiler to become permanently distorted or develop cracks that might eventually lead to an unsafe condition or condemned boiler.
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:51:15 PM
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20 Reeves Highwheeler 20 Reeves Highwheeler is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I just wanted to show Old Jalopy what a boiler pump looks like. I've always installed the hose in the drain or blow down piping. I hook a garden hose on the opposite end of the pump, where the valve is. Close the dome valve, remove and plug the opening where the pop valve goes. I always have a small warming fire in the firebox. Warm water isn't as destructive as cold water (or so I'd always been told). Like everyone has stated, when the boiler is full of water (it doesn't compress) it takes very few pump strokes to pressure up a boiler. Gary
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:56:09 PM
OldJalopy OldJalopy is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

Many thanks for the valuable information, most helpful. I wire-brushed the inside shell and removed light surface rust, looked through the hand holes and didn't see much loose scale or heavy rust. Lot of loose rust, scale collected at the very bottom (mud ring?) so I vacuumed, blew out with big air compressor and used a strong magnet attached to a bent wire and removed a few pounds of old rust/corrosion. Stay bolts looked solid and not too pitted (to me). I'll try the new grease gun method to hydro the tank, sounds like a good solution. Hopefully I can get an expert or two to come have a look before I go too much further.
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Old 06-16-2019, 02:21:04 AM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

If one is just trying to determine if a boiler is worth investigating further, a simple way of hydroing it is to put a female garden hose coupling on the boiler, and connect straight to the hydrant. Most places, water pressure will be in the 45-60 psi range, not enough for a full-pressure hydro test, but enough to see if any major leaks are present. No pumps need to be built, just an in-line valve for the hose to control the water going in. If the vessel passes this level, then it's worth gearing up for a more official test.

I do use a small pressure washer for hydro tests, I built an adapter to get from the changeable wands to 1/4" NPT. It only pumps 3 gpm or less, so with short squeezes of the trigger, I can inch up the pressure as slowly as I like. I usually test to operating pressure only, not a lot of benefit to going much beyond it.

Hydro only tells you what exactly it tells you... the boiler held X pressure at Y temperature on Z day. It doesn't tell you thickness, corrosion, encrustations, or anything else beyond mechanical tightness. Passing a hydrostatic test does not automatically equal "safe".

As for your staybolts, if threads are visible the full length of the bolt (every bolt), that's a good sign. If the threads are gone on some or all, then the pitting is reducing the working diameter of the bolt, and it's time to start measuring and doing math to see if there is enough left.
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Old 06-16-2019, 12:58:04 PM
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M Zeigler M Zeigler is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump


Just had the annual Inspection done on our Peerless last week in Pennsylvania, this year the hydro & U/T were due also,

Pa. requires the hydro @ 125% of MAWP, every 5 years or at the inspectors request, U/T every 3 years, and the visual. The inspector required the hydro pressure to be held for 10 minutes minimum.

I used an older hand pump and it worked just fine, years ago I watched a few guys using a pressure washer to pressurize a U style Peerless, they rolled the crown sheet right off of the stay bolts @ 2300# PSI. What they were thinking I have no idea.

No issues with the inspection, all good to go for another year.

,Mike
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Old 06-16-2019, 04:17:45 PM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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Originally Posted by M Zeigler View Post


I used an older hand pump and it worked just fine, years ago I watched a few guys using a pressure washer to pressurize a U style Peerless, they rolled the crown sheet right off of the stay bolts @ 2300# PSI. What they were thinking I have no idea.

No issues with the inspection, all good to go for another year.

,Mike
Smart- best thing is by hand.

Piston hand pumps are very controllable. Always make sure gauge{s} are accurate at test pressure. No sense inadvertently going higher.
When above MAWP, I like to bring pressure up slowly, bring back down slow. A few extra minutes can save some grief. The inspector is not inconvenienced because he usually arrives after boiler is at test pressure.
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Old 06-16-2019, 06:17:43 PM
OldJalopy OldJalopy is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I see all you guys talking about a hand pressure pump; where do I get one, who sells them, what do they look like? Wish I was smarter.
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Old 06-16-2019, 07:36:40 PM
Power Power is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I told you- for one time use, go buy a grease gun & clean it in case there is any residue inside. Cheapest hand pump I can think of. Very controllable. Easily make many times required pressure.

How much pressure can a grease gun produce?
Grease Gun Pressure.
A high-pressure manual grease gun is designed to deliver from 2,000 to 15,000 psi. Applying too much pressure while greasing will damage the bearing seals, which rarely handle more than 500 psi.
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Old 06-16-2019, 10:35:15 PM
Jim Mackessy Jim Mackessy is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I'll second Power's grease gun suggestion, not as slick as the $350.00 pump we borrow, but it will get you there. As for the smarts part, you were smart enough to come ask the good folks on this forum for tips and info, and that's plenty smart enough!
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Old 06-16-2019, 11:14:48 PM
Odin Odin is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I'm not convinced of a grease gun's ability to pump water directly. The plunger and valve arrangement inside the ones I've had apart doesn't seem like it would work properly on thinner fluids than grease.

That said, it should be plenty possible to come up with some sort of grease trap that would be flooded with water as part of the hydrotest preparation and able to trap an entire tube's worth of grease gun grease. Like so the grease gun will indeed produce significant pressures without making too big of a mess of the boiler.

But there should be plenty of options for hand pumps as well. After all the check valves to handle water at pressures below 200 PSI where most of our steam engines operate at aren't that difficult to come by.

A thought: Use an automotive brake master cylinder and a couple of check valves. All of which could be obtained for scrap metal prices and would offer reliable positive displacement with full manual control. Would just have to mount the cylinder solidly with a lever and handle to control its motion. I know those brake cylinders can handle a substantial amount of pressure no problem, it would just be a question of does it seize up after one use due to having water instead of oil inside.
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:18:33 AM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

Manual pumps are easy to figure out... two check valves, one in, one out, both in or above the operating range. A cylinder, a plunger, a packing gland, an arm to operate the plunger. Area of plunger end (r squared x pi) and length of lever arm vs. psi desired.

So, a 1/2" plunger would have a face of .25" x .25" x 3.14, or .19625", call it .200 square inches. Therefore, a lever arm that is (tip to fulcrum) 10x the distance from plunger to fulcrum would generate 5 psi from 1 lb of force. Pumping a boiler to 150 psi would require 30 lbs on the lever. How many pumps would depend on the size of the vessel, and how big of an air bubble might be trapped in it from sitting out of level. Varying the length of the lever or the size of the plunger will change the results.
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Old 06-17-2019, 09:01:49 PM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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I'm not convinced of a grease gun's ability to pump water directly. The plunger and valve arrangement inside the ones I've had apart doesn't seem like it would work properly on thinner fluids than grease.
Actually, It works quite well.

Anything capable of hand pumping over 2,000 psi has to be tight. I have used clean grease gun full of water to test water filled air compressor tanks. If pressure does not go up quickly, there is still air in whatever is being tested- Bad. Depending on how much air, and what pressure, if tank fails, could be a lot of energy quickly released. I stop test and get air out.

When test completed, if you unscrew grease gun barrel, can see plunger in head. I blow what I can dry and put a couple drops of light oil like 3 in 1 in chamber to lubricate it and check ball, so they do not rust. I used to unscrew check ball housing, which is the part where hose attaches, blow that dry and oil it, but getting lazy.
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Old 06-18-2019, 12:15:49 PM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

Soloman boilers built riveted boilers, to test them they would pump them up to 450 pounds, leave them for awhile and see if there was any weeping. They built lots of boilers and that did not damage any of them.
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Old 06-18-2019, 03:17:00 PM
Pete Deets Pete Deets is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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Originally Posted by OldJalopy View Post
... I know the next thing is to hydro-test and guessed at 1 1/2 times original working pressure, which I also guessed at 150#, so OK make it 225#. ....
OldJalopy, forgive the emphasis but if at all possible Please Don't Guess!. While you were cleaning the outside of the boiler there should be a group of numbers stamped in the shell and they are usually near and above the firedoor. Have you seen any? There will hopefully be one that will say something like "MAWP 100" or 150. That will be your operating pressure.

As far as hydro pumps, a quick look at EvilBay shows this one https://www.ebay.com/itm/12L-Hydrost...UAAOSwZtlaHLvE which looks like a copy of the Ridge Tool Co. pump I have or this little fellow https://www.ebay.com/itm/Hydraulic-P....c100005.m1851 . Either of these will give more than enough pressure and if the boiler is tight with no trapped air they will pump up quickly.

As Jim Conte noted, a very light fire is also useful for doing a hydro. The Case Traction Engine Manual says that a light straw fire can be placed in the firebox but be prepared to pull it out or snuff it to check the rise in pressure.


I'll also echo that if possible wait for experienced hands & eyes to help you Steam Safely .............PD
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:08:37 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

NOTE! If you use house pressure to check your boiler - check the pressure at the spigot FIRST. Yes, most homes on wells are around 60 PSI Guage, but municiple systems are different! For instance, Roseland NJ has 140 PSI Guage into the home! My parents used to blow the 150 PSI safety on their hot water heater at night when town pressure would creep up to 160 PSI I ended up installing a pressure regulator on their water inlet. The town of Denville NJ also has high pressure - all homes are fitted with reducers. If they fail, a lot of water damage occurs. The town of Rockaway, where i live now, has 110 PSI from the street, and it can hit 130 at night when usage is down! Check it out BEFORE you hook up!
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Old 06-18-2019, 06:51:16 PM
OldJalopy OldJalopy is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

Many thanks for the last two posts, exactly what I was looking for. I'll get the pressure tester, check the house water pressure and stumble ahead..............
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:16:23 PM
Ryan Williams Ryan Williams is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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Soloman boilers built riveted boilers, to test them they would pump them up to 450 pounds, leave them for awhile and see if there was any weeping. They built lots of boilers and that did not damage any of them.
I don't want to side track things but I just want to clarify that there is a difference between a boiler builder testing a boiler to such a high pressure compared to the average hobbyist checking their 100 year old boiler.

A new boiler will be pumped up to 2-3 times its MAWP for specific reasons. The first reason of course is to check for leaks in the newly manufactured vessel. The next reason is to stretch, push, and settle the boiler plate into its final resting place. The plate will have stresses in it from rolling, bending, forming, welding, and etc. This is effectively stress relieving it. Also, the high pressure test is used to demonstrate the everything was manufactured appropriately and will perform to a multiple times safety factor as designed.

A hobbyist should never use more than 1.5 times MAWP because it causes unnecessary fatigue to the metal and may cause the boiler to age more rapidly. The high pressure can cause shifting and forming that is not desirable after initial construction. We want boiler conditions to be as consistent as possible in order to prolong its life. The changes and spikes accelerate the aging process. I'd encourage anyone with the free time and the spare money to go to their local community college and take a class about metallurgy. It is very informative and very relevant to our hobby.
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Old 06-19-2019, 01:43:44 PM
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

I would be interested to see pictures where shifting occurred or even cracks were caused by less than 350 pounds of pressure.
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Old 06-19-2019, 02:19:43 PM
GreasyIron GreasyIron is offline
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Default Re: Pressure Test the Boiler? Pressure Pump

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I would be interested to see pictures where shifting occurred or even cracks were caused by less than 350 pounds of pressure.
I imagine it a very rare occurrence for anyone to target a hydro pressure that causes slight deformation rather than an error causing definite damage.

Still, fatigue is real; around half of steel's tensile strength, permanent - even if not visible until failure - changes are occurring.

Not a perfect analogy, but you can think of it like bending a wire back and forth until it breaks, the first few bends you might not see or feel any difference, but keep going, and you'll have it in two soon enough.
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