A recent move from a house with a roommate to a one bedroom apartment left me with the realization that I could do whatever the hell I wanted for furniture. As you can see, I fully exercised that right and decided to make an engine block coffee table.
The engine is a 327 out of a ‘67 Chevrolet. I bought the assembly from a guy on craigslist for $150, it came with all 8 pistons and connecting rods, the crankshaft, cylinder heads, and a box of all the rest of the bits that make the aforementioned parts a whole.
This is what it looked like when I got it. I was warned by the seller that it would need some machining to get back into running spec, which was why I actually chose the engine in the first place. I didn’t want to take anything out of commission that could be easily made road worthy again. It was pretty greasy and had a good amount of surface rust. I had to do a bit of dis-assembly, which turned out to be a bit easier than I’d thought. I’ve done a lot of work to my own car, but never torn apart an engine, so it was a good hands on experience.
I tried to clean it up with a few different cleaning products to get an idea for how long it might take if I did it by myself. Started off with some simple green and a rag and realized that was in no way sufficient to clean the block that was almost half a century and who knows how many miles old. After that, I went to the store and got some oven cleaner and a wire brush. This worked out pretty well on the pistons, but still left some baked on carbon even after multiple cleanings. This led me to the decision that I wouldn’t have the time at all between work and moving to get it done in time. So, I loaded it up in the back of my car and took it to a media blasting facility. Below is the before and after.
At their recommendation, I had them thermal clean the block and four pistons (I believe it involved baking the thing in an oven to break all the crap loose), glass bead blast it all, and then satin clear coat everything. The block is cast iron and is pretty susceptible to rusting, so I wanted to make sure it’d retain it’s looks after the blasting. Turnaround was about two weeks and I paid $150 for the service.
After I got it back, I test fitted everything just by sliding the pistons into the cylinders. The pistons had to be trimmed on the edges (not sure of the technical term for what that piece is) so the guys in the machine shop at work helped me mill a bit off to get them to sit exactly at a 45 degree angle. We didn’t have time to do the exact math, so we just milled off about 1/8th inch at a time and used an angle finder to find how much we had to take off on the rest.
Next up, I had to figure out how to mount the pistons to the deck of the engine. This was a tough one for me because I really don’t have many fabrication tools and definitely not a welder. Talking to the guy who dresses our engines at work and the guys in the machine shop led me to decide to drill and tap some holes in the deck, so the pistons could be removed if need be.
We somewhat free handed this part, measuring up a certain amount and center punching, through the connecting rod, where the holes would need to be. Made sure everything lined up, and got to work. I used some bolts I found at the hardware store that fit through the connecting rod, with a big enough head to not slide through, but also enough to not interfere with them sitting flush against the mounting surface. The bolts cost me something like $2.50.
I realized that the whole thing would sit pretty low and needed to be propped up. I looked at some furniture legs, but didn’t really want to mess with drilling and tapping holes again, and as I was leaving work one day I found a small pallet that fit it perfectly.
Finally got a look at it all here, I made sure to get it in first thing when I started moving all my stuff in to get a feel for how it would look in my new place.
I still needed to figure out glass now that everything else was sorted out, so I went to a glass and mirror place. The guy there took into account how the weight of the glass would be over the four pistons and the corners, and made the suggestion of a 24 x 36 inch piece of 3/8 inch tempered glass with a half inch radius on the corners. The turnaround here was about two weeks again, and cost around $180 for the custom cut.
Rundown of price:
- Engine block and everything that came with it - $150
- Thermal clean, media blast, and clear coat - $150
- Glass - $180
- Bolts - $2.50
- Stain for the pallet - $7
Total - $489.50