The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship presents the award for

Metalworking Craftsman of the year, 2001

George Luhrs,

Mr. George Luhrs of Shoreham, NY has been selected to receive the Martin Foundation craftsmanship award for 2001. The award will be presented April 29th, 2001 at the NAMES show in Wyandotte, Michigan.

The following biographical information was provided by George Luhrs and his wife, Barbara. In addition to winning last year's Sherline Machininst's Challenge contest and the Metalworking Craftsman of the year for 2001, George is not taking it easy on the competition. He is preparing a new entry for the 2001 contest in Wyandotte, Michigan. Anyone visiting the N.A.M.E.S. show should make it a point to stop by Sherline's booth to see what George has prepared for this year. We are sure you won't be disappointed.

George Luhrs has been building engines of all sizes for most of his life. As a kid, he worked on all kinds of models, including free flight and "U" control airplanes, model boats and model cars. He fixed and rebuilt small engines and, as a teen, worked on cars. In order to do these things, he learned how to use many tools, including the machine shop equipment needed to make and repair parts.

George worked his way through school in a machine shop. His education consisted of a degree in mechanical technology, which prepared him to be a metallurgist, a tool and die designer, draftsman, machine tool operator and mechanical engineer, all of which he has used both in his business and with his hobbies.

Soon after he graduated, George decided to set up shop in his own basement. For over 35 years until he retired 2 years ago, he was self-employed in the machine shop industry. At first he manufactured parts for aerospace corporations, and then did design and research and development work for several private firms. He has also designed and built unique machinery for a few local companies. He considers himself fortunate to have been able to earn his livelihood doing what he enjoys most.

Over the years, when his shop machines were not tied up with customer work, George would build models of engines and also many pieces of miniature apparatus, such as a drag saw, washing machine, cement mixer, water pump, grinder and others, to show how the engines were used. His hobby equipment consists of the same full-size industrial machinery that was used for the machine shop business. He designed and built all his own specialized tooling used to make the parts for his model engines. This includes gear cutting, miniature bolt making and special cutters.

George has had several specific goals in mind over the years. One is to build running gas engines smaller and smaller. Both their size and getting them to run reliably is a challenge, and that challenge is what keeps his interest. Each time he has achieved a goal in one size, he tries to make the next one even smaller.

The smallest engine he has designed and scratch built so far is a 1/8" bore, 5/32" stroke, single cylinder, four cycle, overhead valve, sparkplug ignition engine. It runs, but he is still trying to get this one to run as well as all the others. The four cylinder, four cycle ignition engine which won first place in the Sherline Machinist’s Challenge at the N.A.M.E.S. show in 2000 was designed and built from scratch.  It took over 600 hours to complete. For the 2001 contest, George switched to a radial design and created a 5-cylinder aircraft engine with 1/4" bore and stroke which took first place for the second year in a row.

Until the 2000 contst, all the engines George had designed and built were single cylinder, four cycle engines. Last year’s challenge was to build a small multi-cylinder four-cycle engine and have it run reliably. This year's 5-cylinder radial expanded his range even further. All his engines are overhead valve sparkplug ignition engines. They all run using homemade coils for make-and-break ignition and miniature model airplane type coils to fire the sparkplugs. These are mounted in battery boxes or in the base of each engine so as not to distract from the engine itself. The sparkplugs he makes for these engines range in size from ¼-32 thread for the large engines, 6-40 thread for the mid-size ones and 2-64 or 0-80 threads for the smallest engines.  

George accepts his plaque and check from Sherline representative Craig Libuse for being selected as the Joe Martin Foundation Metalworking Craftsman of the year, 2001..

George’s other goal is to show that there are still people who make things from scratch; that is, no kits and no castings. Most importantly, he wishes to promote model building as a hobby to the younger generation by passing along as much knowledge as he can to anyone who is interested in learning. Toward this last objective, he has done a fair amount of work as a guest speaker to encourage interest in the hobby at his local grade school, the Boy Scouts, model airplane clubs and many live steam club meets. He also participates in numerous antique car shows each year and always displays his engines along with either a 1930 Pontiac or a 1960 Maserati. Many times the small engines generate more interest than the antique cars.

George has recently spent time tutoring a talented newcomer to model engine building named Jared Schoenly. When they first met, Jared was just ten years old, but he already had an incredible amount of knowledge of small engines. Over the past nine years he has spent time visiting my George and his wife to learn more about engines and get some hands-on experience in George’s shop. He has eagerly absorbed all George can teach him, and now at age 19 he is an honors mechanical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. He will soon be entering his own scratch-built engines in shows and contests and hopefully taking what George has been able to teach him to a new level. His parents also work to encourage the hobby and have put on the Cabin Fever Exposition in the Pennsylvania area for the past six years. The show is rapidly increasing in attendance, which is helping meet George’s goal of seeing new people enjoy the challenge of miniature machining.

NOTE: Mr. Luhrs’ models have been featured in many magazines including Strictly I.C., Modeltec, Fine Scale Modeler, Live Steam, Radio/Controlled Model Cars and Great Scale Modeling. Photos of his projects can be seen on his web site at  



of George's Work

(Above)  Two views of the 4-cylinder engine that won the 2000 Machinist's Challenge.

(Below) The display base of the engine included a second engine completely disassembled to show all its pieces.

This Stover engine is another of George's many projects.

(Above four engine photos: Thomas Oversluizen)

For the 2001 Contest, George designed and built a display made up of three 5-cylinder radial aircraft engines. Two are assembled and one is shown with all its parts laid out in the background. It took first place again. 

Craig Libuse Photo

© 2001 The Joe Martin Foundation