“ICE LIZARD” (Feb, 1940)

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by L. B. Robbins

AIR minded, ice-boat and mechanically-inclined fans: here is something to arouse your imagination and ingenuity—an air propelled ice-boat using a washing-machine engine for power and capable of good speed and breath-taking thrills. Let’s build a fleet of these “Ice Lizards” for the height of the skating season and give the populace something to talk about.

The body consists of an outrigger plank 5 feet long, 2 inches thick and 6 inches wide. To this are bolted two pieces of 2×3 finished stock, on edge, fanned out on the outrigger 2 feet, 9 inches. At the stern they are beveled to fit together, and bolted. The length of these 2×3’s should be such as to make the total length of the craft 6 feet, 6 inches over all. The outrigger forms the bow and the pointed end-is the stern.

Next, plank over the body from the bow-to within about 2 feet of the stern, with light matched boards. At the extreme stern end of this deck mount the seat. An old bucket seat from a discarded automobile will be just the thing. In lieu of this get hold of any single driver’s seat from the auto junk-yard and tip it back about as shown, shimming its front edge up with triangular shaped pieces of wood under each side.

The two runners and the rudder are shown in detail. The latter should be made somewhat narrower than the runners to compensate for the additional iron-work below the body. By doing this the body will be supported horizontally on the ice. All three blades can be fashioned from sheet steel and measure 15 inches long. The front and bottom edges must be ground to a V edge and ground sharp. The rudder has a hole drilled somewhat forward and above center to which is pivot-bolted the fork in the bottom end of the rudder post. This latter can be made from 1/2 inch pipe with the top end filed square and drilled for a pin. A rudder post bearing is made from a length of %-inch pipe driven through a hole in the stern joint of the side pieces. Screw two wooden triangles to the top and bottom of this joint and then secure the bearing in place with pipe lock-nuts above and below. The height of the stern above the rudder can be adjusted by the collar adjustment on the rudder post as shown. The tiller is shaped and dimensioned as indicated and cut from flat steel. Drill a small hole in each wing and fashion a square hole in the center to fit and pin over the top of the rudder post.

The runners, as before stated, are the same length as the rudder but wider. To the top edge is bolted a suitable length of channel iron which in turn can be bolted to the under side of the outrigger at each end. These are also V shaped and ground to a sharp edge along the bottom and front.

The steering-bar consists of a piece of hard wood a foot longer than the body at a position in front of the driver’s seat, as shown. It should be pivot-bolted to the center of the body and its ends connected to the tiller by taut drawn steel wire. Small turn-buckles may be inserted if desired, to true up this steering system, as it is important that this be strong and easy operating during speed sailing.

For braking purposes a simple drag is resorted to. This is a boomerang shaped piece of flat bar steel, taped at one end for the handle and the lower end ground to a point to dig into the ice. A slot should be cut in the center of the deck just forward of the seat and an oak block bolted below and to one side. The brake is then pivot-bolted to the block through a hole drilled in its bend. A spiral spring is then inserted between a hole near the point and the under side of the deck to hold the point off the ice. To brake it is only necessary to pull back on the brake handle and the point digs the ice until “lizard” comes to a stop.

Lastly, securely fasten two wooden foot-rests to the under side of the body and below the steering-bar as indicated. This allows the driver to rest his feet on these boards and at the same time press along on one side of the steering-bar or the other and direct the course of the craft.

The power-plant consists of a 1/2 h. p. utility gas engine such as can be taken off of washing-machines, or other home appliances. Any good 1/2-h. p. engine will do so long as it turns up 1,700 to 1,800 r. p. m. These have a kick-starter and the newest models are equipped with starter and battery for a small additional cost. This engine is belted to a reduction pulley and jack-shaft to which is fastened a 4-foot, 4-inch wooden air propeller with a 2-foot, 6-inch pitch.

First choose an oak block 12 inches long by 6 inches wide by 2 inches thick. To the top of this mount two 3/4-inch pillow blocks as indicated and bore a hole in each corner for a 3/4-inch pipe. Bend the four pieces of 3/4-inch pipe in the shape indicated. The feet are threaded to floor flanges and the tops fit up in the corner holes in the oak block with lock-nuts above and below. The finished standard should bring the jack-shaft about 2 feet above the deck and its feet should spread to within a few inches of the sides of the deck. Front clearance of two or three inches should be allowed for the propeller from bow. Bolt the flanges to the deck and the propeller can then be fitted to the front end of the jack-shaft. The V pulleys, jack-shaft and V belting used can be purchased at any chain store selling the popular makes of homecraft power tools. As shown, 3/4-inch shafting is specified throughout.

Bolt the engine to the deck, shimming it up if necessary to fit the belt over the engine and jack-shaft pulleys and then allow it to come back so pulley is reasonably taut before bolting home. As time stretches the belt this slack can be taken up by readjusting the jack-shaft block height by means of the supporting pipe lock-nuts. The engine speed control and switch (as well as electric starter controls in the late models) can be extended back to the driver’s position and fastened in any convenient location. The exhaust should be led aft by a long flexible hose lashed to one side of the body.

If thought necessary, the builder can build a front and side screen wire protection for the propeller. While of low power, it might easily prove dangerous nevertheless and a screen hood would be an added safety factor. Even side, tail and head lights can be added with only a little additional wiring. Your starting battery can be used to provide the lighting power. Thus, night driving over the lake will provide its own thrills.

In starting the “Ice Lizard,” jam the brake into the ice, start the engine and let it warm up. Then release the brake and the craft will pick up speed in a few seconds. Make wide turns and for quick stops cut the engine and jam the brake down hard.

Three or more “Ice Lizards” will provide plenty of ice sport this winter. Pepped-up engines, sharp runners and racing props might enable you to drive the old boat at fancy speed.

  1. Richard says: February 9, 20092:16 pm

    What could possibly go wrong..?

  2. Myles says: February 9, 20093:24 pm

    Washing machines had gas motors? You had to pull start your washer?

  3. Charlie says: February 9, 20095:29 pm

    Myles: I think wrote exactly the same thing when I first saw a go-cart powered by one. Actually the washers were kick started.

  4. StanFlouride says: February 10, 20091:39 am

    Yes, I agree with Richard- the placement of the spinning prop in front of the driver adds a certain thrill, no?

  5. Roger says: February 10, 200911:50 am

    Before the rural electrification movement, there was no power lines, and thus no electricity to a large portion of this country. Appliances were powered by small gasoline engines, which could then be found in salvage yards for many other projects. After rural electrificaton, a great deal more of these appliances were salvaged for parts, as more and more households replaced the gasoline powered units with new electric units. I had an Uncle that described all the things he had made in his life (on the farm) from old appliance engines, and transmisions, as well as old Model T’s that were plentiful in junk yards during his teen and early twenty years.

    Here’s a link to some of that history. http://www.greatachieve…

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