Gadget Freak Jr.: Homebrew Jet Engines

In an aerospace and mechanical technology trilogy, we bring you videos of homebrew jet engine projects including one made via 3D printing.

Alexander Wolfe

October 27, 2011

2 Min Read
Gadget Freak Jr.: Homebrew Jet Engines

Here's a trio of curated content from around the Web, showcasing videos of homebrew efforts to construct small jet engines. Two are made out of repurposed junk, while our cutting-edge first example is a student engine created using a 3D printer.

One would think such an engine, built by students in a Jet Engine Manufacturing Class at the University of Virginia's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, would melt. However, as Professor David Sheffler notes in this YouTube video, it's a demo engine. "We're using compressed air, instead of having an actual flame in there that would burn up our parts," he says.

The model is a dual-concentric turbofan. It's got a high-pressure compressor spun by a high-pressure turbine, and a low-pressure turbine spinning the fan up front.

Under-$100 engine
Our next example is an oldie but goodie, in multiple senses of the phrase. It was designed by Dave Chovanak in 1965 when he was a student at Nevada Southern University. In the YouTube video, he says it was made with $85 worth of junk parts, including components drawn from a flower vase and Hoover vacuum cleaner, and has bearings made out of copper plumbing fittings.

The engine, called "The Rebel," is said to weigh 5 lbs. and deliver 8 lbs. of thrust. It spins at 35,000 rpm at maximum throttle. Unfortunately, the video doesn't show the completed engine or its operation.

The finished engine can be seen in Chovanak's Photobucket stream (click on the image below):


More pictures of The Rebel are located here.

Test-stand turbo
Our final video is a rudimentary jet engine constructed out of a turbo off of a Continental TSIO-520. The latter is a conventional piston aircraft engine from the early 1960s, made by Teledyne.

It's mounted on a test stand and, when lit, is satisfyingly noisy. However, it doesn't seem to deliver a whole heck of a lot of thrust. This one was uploaded to YouTube by kyleandellenb, with editing by Jonathan Santhouse.

For further reading:

Go to our Gadget Freak archives by clicking here.

Editor's note
Gadget Freak Jr. is an effort to broaden the range of projects we showcase by scouring the Web universe for interesting and relevant material. We'd like your opinions on this first offering, and we also welcome your contributions. Please write to me at [email protected].

Credits: A complete story on the U. Va. student jet engine, written by Steve Rousseau, first appeared in July on Popular Mechanics. Our embedded video was obtained from YouTube, to which it was uploaded by Boricualn1707.

The info on the Dave Chovanak $85 "Rebel" engine was drawn from the video and the description posted on Batygoldfly's YouTube channel. The picture of Chovanak holding the engine comes from Dave's Photobucket stream.

About the Author(s)

Alexander Wolfe

Alex is Content Director of Design News. Previously, he was Editor-in-Chief of In his more than two decades in the electronics and mechanical engineering sectors, he has served as Managing Editor of Mechanical Engineering magazine and written for, McGraw-Hill's Electronics magazine, and IEEE Spectrum. He spent the 1990s at UBM's Electronic Engineering Times, where he broke the nationally known story of Intel's Pentium floating-point division bug in 1994. Alex has appeared as an industry analyst on CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and MSNBC. He's a frequent panelist and moderator at industry conferences and holds a degree in electrical engineering from Cooper Union. He can be reached at [email protected].

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like