2000 N.A.M.E.S. Show and the

George Luhrs Wins...Persistance and Craftsmanship Finally Pays Off!

After finishing in Second two years in a row, George finally moves up to the top spot.

By Craig Libuse


After finishing in second place to Wilhelm Huxhold two years running, George smiles big as he receives his first place trophy and the winner's check. His running, micro-sized 4-cylinder aircraft engine was designed and built with great skill and was strikingly displayed as well.

Dateline: Wyandotte, Michigan, April 29, 30, 2000

After announcing his retirement from the contest last year, Wilhelm Huxhold assured that there would be a new winner this year for the first time in three years. It came as little surprise that the runner up for the past two years, George Luhrs of Shoreham, New York moved comfortably into that top spot. George's tiny, running 4-cycle engines have long been a favorite of the 4-cycle engine-builders at the show, but many of the spectators were swayed by the larger and easier to view craftsmanship displayed in Bill Huxhold's superb steam engines. That is not to say that George was without competition this year, because a number of entrants have moved their skill levels up a notch with each year's contest. We even had another Novice entrant who finished very well with only the second project he has ever built. Winning this contest is not easy, but George's skill has finally been rewarded with a first-place plaque.

George also built another very fine single-cylinder, four-cycle engine that finished fifth place in the final voting. The combination of finishing in the top spot and also winning fifth place meant that he repeated his title of last year as being the top money-winner in the contest, even though he did not win first place then. It pays to read the rules, as each entrant is entitled to enter two separate entries. George is prolific enough in his model building to be able to field two potential winners each year.

The voting in this contest is done by the spectators at the North American Model Engineering Society's exposition in Wyandotte, Michigan. Each spectator who wishes to participate is given five tokens and asked to place them in cups next to his or her five favorite projects. They are asked to spread their votes over their top five choices. With a varied range on interests among the spectators, all projects won votes, and there were a couple of close calls, as only one vote separated 5th and 6th place and 7th to 9th place was only a 4-vote difference. 10th and 11th were also only one vote apart. First place was not close, however, as George received more than twice the number of votes as the next best finisher. Sherline puts up $100 in prize money for each entrant up to 25, so with 15 entries, there was $1500 in prize money available. We would like to encourage more entries next year so that the maximum $2500 could be available to the contestants.

Spectators admire the entries before dropping their votes in the red cups. Circled is George Luhrs' winning aircraft engine. The display base contains all the parts for a complete second engine.

Robert J. Merva takes second in his second contest...

Last year was Robert Merva's first shot at the Machinist's Challenge and he finished a very high third place. This year he moved up a spot with his 1/4 size Nanzy hit'n miss engine. It was very small and was actually running for a good portion of the show on Saturday. It ran so quietly, Joe Martin wasn't sure it was running when asked by a spectator. When he picked it up, it made a very quiet "ponk" sound and sent the flywheel spinning once again, much to Joe's surprise. It is quite a feat of craftsmanship just to get one of these engines to run, but to have one as small as this one run so smoothly for such a long time attests to the quality of work that went into it.

Jim Clark presents the second place trophy and check to Robert J. Merva of Latrobe, PA for his very small, running hit'n miss engine, the Nanzy.

Two views of Bob Merva's beautifully finished Nanzy engine. (Click on either photo to see a larger image.)

First-time entrant David Butler finishes in third place

David Butler of DeForest, Wisconsin put his project on display for the first time and took home third place honors. His miniature band saw showed amazing attention to scale and detail and obviously attracted the attention of many of the voting spectators, who could immediately recognize what it was. His home town, DeForest, Wisconsin may ring a familiar bell with some of you, as it is also the home of former Joe Martin Foundation "Craftsman of the Year" award winner, Jerry Kieffer. David is a machinist friend of Jerry's, and Jerry got him interested in building the extremely small parts needed to build a tiny machine like the little band saw. It definitely helps when you can learn from a master, and David has learned his lessons well.

David Butler had to leave before we could get his picture, but here is his entry. The band saw stands less than 5" tall. It remains unpainted, so you can see that no mistakes were covered up with filler. Though it looks like a perfect replica of the large casting used to make the original, no castings were used in the model. (Photo submitted by David Butler)

Karl Schwab takes 4th with a steam outboard motor

Karl Schwab is another former entrant who has improved his best finish with this year's entry. Last year he finished 9th with a very nice Dickens toy steam locomotive, but this year he has moved closer to the top spot. His 2-cylinder steam powered outboard motor showed lots of imagination and skill and was obviously popular with the spectators who did the voting.

Karl Schwab receives congratulations and a check from Sherline representative, Jim Clark. Karl made a substantial move up this year finishing fourth after last year's ninth place finish.

Here is Karl Schwab's 2-cylinder steam outboard. Plans for this motor were reprinted a 1981 magazine article that was originally printed in 1933. That probably explains why the plans call for lower unit gears "from a radio tuner" and a boat deck made from a section of stove pipe. These items might be a little harder to find around the house now than they were in 1933.

Novice entry finishes 7th overall with less than a year's experience

Graham Hollis walked into Sherline's plant less than a year ago with a friend to look at machines. A native of South Africa, he is working in the U.S. on a 6-year work program, and he brought with him his interest in model aircraft. He saw an ad for Sherline tools in a model helicopter magazine and thought it might help him build the parts he needed for a helicopter he had in mind. He bought a lathe and mill, Joe Martin's book Tabletop Machining and got a few minutes basic instruction from Joe. He went home and read the book cover to cover and started immediately making parts. His first project was from the plans provided in the back of Joe's book that were reprinted from Modeltec magazine for a very small and simple steam engine called "Millie". From there he skipped to the 5th project. He read Joe's comments there that said "If you can build this Little Angel hit-n miss engine from Bob Shores excellent plans and you can get it to run, you can consider yourself a machinist." Right then and there, Graham decided he wanted to be able to call himself a machinist, so he ordered the plans. He finished the engine in time for the contest, and, after a few phone calls to Bob Shores for advice, he got it running. He then disassembled the entire model and put a fine polish on every part, making it a thing of beauty to behold. Since the top Novice finisher's votes are doubled, Graham actually ended up taking home the third highest cash prize.

For those who think it takes many years to learn to make a project this complicated, take a look at the photo below and keep in mind that Graham took on this engine as only his second project and built it. When he brought it by for us to take to the show for him, Joe took one look at it and agreed that he could not only call himself a machinist, but a "superb machinist"!

Graham Hollis, presently of Yorba Linda, CA built this beautiful "Little Angel" from plans by Bob Shores as only his second project. (See our "Resources" page if you'd like to order plans.) For his third project, he has begun one of Bill Smith's skeleton wall clocks. Graham is definitely not intimidated by taking on a big project, and is willing to put in the work to finish what he starts.

1999 entrants and their projects

George Luhrs, Shoreham, NY--4-cylinder, 4-cycle miniature gas aero engine (running, 1/4" bore, 5/16" stroke)

Robert J. Merva, Latrobe, PA--1/4 size Nanzy hit'n miss engine (running)

David Butler, DeForest, WI--Scale model bandsaw

Karl T. Schwab, Warren, MI--Steam powered two-cylinder outboard motor

George Luhrs, Shoreham, NY--4-cycle, 1-cylinder gas engine (running, 7/16" bore, 5/8" stroke)

Forrest B. Atkinson, Madison, WI--Solenoid motor, electric coil type cylinder using a corned beef can

Graham Hollis, Yorba Linda, CA--Little Angel hit'n miss engine (running) (1st Place, NOVICE division)

Edward H. Bashauer, Greenacres, FL--Low-temp (Sterling) vehicle

Bert de Kat, Troy, Ontario, Canada--Oscillating Steam engine (1/16" bore)

Dick Saunders, Manchester, IO--Miniature dual-face town street clock

Bert de Kat, Troy, Ontario, Canada--Oscillating balance wheel toy

David Bowes, Aurora, Ontario, Canada--2-cylinder "huff-n-puff" steam engine

Graham Taylor, Livonia, MI--Radius cutting tool

Larry Lamp, Leesburg, IN--Cannon puzzle

Matthew J. Russel, Mendon, NY--Nut inside a cube machinist's challenge

Sherline wishes to thank all the entrants for their fine work. We hope it will inspire others to take their modeling to smaller and more intricate levels. We hope you will be back next year with another entry. Try to encourage your friends and club members to join the fun too.

Bert de Kat's "Oscillating executive toy" is an example of the clever and unique thinking that goes into some of the contest projects.

Enter the Machinist's Challenge yourself in 2001

There is no entry fee. Sherline makes available $100 in prize money for each entrant up to the first 25, so a maximum of $2500 in prize money can be available. We hope next year to see at least 25 entries so that the full total of $2500 will be up for grabs. Start making plans to get a project together for next year's show. Call 1-800-541-0735 for details or watch this site. There are a few minor changes to time available for voting in next year's contest, but the project rules will remain unchanged. Our goal is simply to show the interesting and fun things that can be built with a few cents worth of material, good miniature machine tools and a bit of skill and imagination. Novice entrants (less than two years experience building metal projects using machine tools) have a chance to score double prize money as Bruce Roland did in 1998 and Graham Hollis did this year, so don't let the quality of some of the entries intimidate you. If you are just starting out, you can still build a good project. For '01, think big and build small!

Results of past contests











More on the show...

When viewing Jerry Kieffer's work, it helps to have plenty of light, a magnifying glass and good eyesight. At the show, he demonstrated the abilities of the Sherline lathe by drilling .006" holes in the end of a .010" shaft.

Sherline's owner, Joe Martin was at the show. Here he demonstrates cutting gears using the mill with the table driven by a stepper motor controlled by Sherline's new CNC linear controller. It is "daisy-chained" with a CNC rotary table to cut a complete gear with the push of one button. Joe also spoke at one of the seminars on the processes used to design and produce precision miniature machine tools for today's market.

More Awards

Joe Martin, head of the Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship, presents the award for "Metalworking Craftsman of the Year" and a check for $1000.00 to William R. Smith.

Master watch- and clockmaker William R. Smith won the 4th annual Joe Martin Foundation's Metalworking Craftsman of the Year award. Visit the page highlighted above for more details on Mr. Smith and his projects.

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