The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Phillip Duclos


Added to museum 12/12/13

A respected model engineer who lives on through his published projects

Phillip Duclos (Click on photo to view a larger image.)


Phillip Duclos was a shy and very private man, which means this will be a hard biography to write. Photos of him are almost non-existent, even within his own family. He and his brother Maurice were both highly skilled toolmakers, and Phil was also an avid model engineer. He is best known to the model engineering community through the fine articles he wrote that were published in magazines like Live Steam and The Home Shop Machinist in the 1980's and 1990's. Joe Rice was the editor during the time of those articles, but he states that he never once even spoke with Phil on the phone or in person. The articles would just arrive in the mail, pretty much ready to publish, and checks would be sent to his address. Phil provided his own photos documenting the build, and they were always of the same high quality as his prototypes. His family notes that Maurice was known to be the better writer of the two and was probably involved in the writing of the articles, although the articles are all credited to Phil as the author.

Making a living in ceramics

Phil was born in Little Falls, MN on March 14th, 1912. His family later moved to the Los Angeles area and he attended Narbonne high school in Lomita, CA. Phil was the third of four children. He had a brother Maurice and two sisters.

We were not able to learn any more about his early training in machining, but in the 1950’s he started a ceramic company in Mira Loma, CA called Loma Products. Like many clever craftsmen, Phil preferred to make things himself rather than buy ready-made items when he could. For their ceramics company he designed and built his own kiln to fire the ceramics. He even built his own printing press to print their company literature! Some of the products made by his company are still sought by collectors today.

In retirement, a legend in model engineering

When he retired in 1974, he moved to a shop in a remote area in the high desert of Riverside County near Hesperia, CA. When he passed away in 1994, his brother Maurice took possession of the prototype engines Phil had built and written articles about over the years. A few years ago Maurice also passed away, and the Root family (Phil’s niece Dorlene) thought enough about preserving his legacy to see that the remaining engines were purchased from the estate to be put on public display in the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum. At the end of 2015 the estate was finally settled and the engines are now on permanent display at the Craftsmanship Museum in Carlsbad, CA.

Lost engines

Some of the engines documented in the articles Phil produced have not been found. For example, the “Topsy Turvy” engine, the “Six-cycle Oddball” engine and the “Whatzit” engine were not among his possessions when his brother Maurice passed away. However, the “Maverick” hit-n-miss and the “Fire Eater” engines are among those now on display at the museum. These have been documented in magazines and some are reproduced in the Village Press hardbound book The Shop Wisdom of Phillip Duclos. Joe Rice notes that decades later this book is a continued good seller and was recently reprinted for the 4th or 5th time.

If anyone has any personal stories about Phil Duclos or photos of him, please contact the Joe Martin Foundation. We would be glad to be able to fill in more data about his history.


Here are several examples of Phil Duclos' work:

(Click any photo for a larger image.)



Hit-n-Miss Engine

This twin flywheel hit-n-miss engine exhibits the solid design and excellent craftsmanship for which Phil Duclos was best known. It is similar in design to a documented engine he called the "Odds 'n Ends" engine. It utilizes the curved spoke flywheels that he covered in a build article on page 115 of his "Shop Wisdom" book. Phil later published an article about "the smallest hit-n-miss engine" that featured essentially this engine built at 1/2 size even though this 1" bore engine is already pretty small.

Engines courtesy of George and Dorlene Root



Unfinished Hit-n-miss Engine

Nothing is known about this single-cylinder IC engine except that Phil appears to have been working on it before he passed away. It features an unusual governor arrangement with a long pivoting arm to actuate the valve.


Single-cylinder OHV Engine

This engine does not appear to have been documented with a build article. Two external pushrods activate the overhead valves on this single-cylinder IC engine.


Hit-n-Miss Engine

Originally misidentified as an Odds-and-Ends engine,
this is a scratch built 1" bore engine made without castings.
(updated 2019.11.7)



1/4 scale de Havilland Gipsy Inline Aircraft Engine

This is based on the 1927 design for an aircraft engine to replace the Cirrus in the de Havilland DH.60 Moth biplane. This model is based on the early upright engine of 350 cubic inches. Later models were designed to run upside down. They were in regular use up to and through WWII and still power vintage aircraft today.


Victorian 1-cylinder Hit-n-Miss Engine

This richly decorated red and gold engine is equipped with a water radiator tank and a fuel tank raised high enough to provide a gravity feed for the fuel to the carburetor. It is displayed on a gloss black base.



Gearless Hit-n-Miss Engine

This is a simple but elegant hit-n-miss engine with a governor in the center of the flywheel.



"Fire Eater" Vacuum or Atmospheric Engine

This 1" bore, 1-3/4" stroke single-cylinder engine is often called a "flame licker" engine. An alcohol flame is place outside a valve opening on the cylinder. When the valve opens and the piston draws back, the flame is drawn into the cylinder. The valve then quickly closes, the gas inside burns the oxygen and cools, creating a vacuum. Atmospheric pressure then pushes the piston back, and the flywheel carries the cycle through to start again. Though it doesn't produce much power, it can run at up to 1100 RPM. Proximity of the flame to the valve opening is what determines engine speed.


"Maverick" Hit-n-Miss Engine

This engine was featured in a series starting in the September/October 1995 issue of The Home Shop Machinist magazine. It has a 3/4" bore but lacks some of the features usually found on a hit-n-miss engine. For example, there is no water jacket to cool the cylinder, nor are there air cooling fins. Gears have been eliminated and the exhaust valve cam is mounted directly onto the crankshaft. There are no piston rings and the flywheel can be mounted firmly onto the crankshaft without the aid of a keyway or broaching tool. Lubrication for the piston is provided by adding 2-cycle motor oil to the fuel. It was designed as a simple, inexpensive motor made from easily obtainable materials.



Stuart #9 Horizontal Steam Engine

This handsome engine appears to have been built using castings from Stuart in England. It appears to be a Stuart #9 engine, finished in the usual elegant Duclos fashion with a black crackle finish on the cast base and fine painted and polished surfaces elsewhere.

"Hula-Hula" 6-cylinder Radial Steam Engine

This unusual 6-cylinder radial steam engine is made up of six oscillating cylinders that turn a central crankshaft. The brass fitting at the right is to hook it up to an air line, as it's much cleaner and easier than finding a steam source these days. This engine remains with Phil's family.

Oil Can

Not all of Phil's projects were complicated engines. The beautiful simplicity and fine finishes on this oil can show his skill as a metalworking craftsman.

(Click on image to read article.)

Home-made Camera

Phil also designed a film camera that he made from some old camera parts along with his custom built components. This article in Popular Photography magazine from September, 1945 shows the broad extent of his interests and engineering skills. He even won a prize with one of the photos taken with the camera.

Above Photos: Jim Harting


A recent discovery...Four more engines

These four engines by Phil Duclos recently came to light. One is an unfinished 6-cylinder "Hula-Hula" radial engine that looks like it might have been a prototype or experimental engine made while Phil was finalizing the design. The red one is a finished and painted hit-n-miss engine similar to the "odds and ends" engine he designed. The smaller hit-n-miss and the smaller yet steam engine have not yet been finished with Phil's usual beautiful polished and painted finishes. It is possible that he was trying to see how small he could make the hit-n-miss design and still have it run.

The last four photos document two of the above mentioned hit-and-miss engines. They are now also on display in the Craftsmanship Museum in Carlsbad. Though they look very similar, if you compare the size of the quarter in each photo you can see the unfinished engine is much smaller than the red one. The person who received these two engines did not know their history, but was kind enough to return them to the family to be a part of the permanent collection.

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