The Tri-State Show at Portland is not just to look at lots of engines and have an annual meeting with friends, itís also a time to do a little work on engines and share ideas. One of our group was using a home-made gasket cutter which has been the subject of recent discussions on our internet mailing list, when someone asked for a description of the device.

* Itís a circle cutter only, made of hardboard near to 12'' X 12 '' with a center pin, upon which an arm will pivot . On the outermost end of said arm is a slot and a threaded hole for an Xacto blade and a set screw . You push the gasket paper over the center pivot pin and this will hold it steady and also index each successive cut . Set the arm down over the pin and start making circles.
Just remember to make the outside cut first!
It won't work too good on the steel reinforced stuff except for layout work. But itís a killer on paper and compressed material

* Cut the gasket out like using a compass. Adjust the arm to the ID, cut and you have a perfect gasket. Works best with round gaskets! You then need a punch to make the head bolt holes but if you dont a paper hole punch will also work. It is a lot less complicated than it sounds.

* After seeing the one at Portland, I bought a set of Trammels at a local wood
working store. I then bought a 14" bar of 1/4" X 1" stainless steel and BINGO--I have a gasket cutter that will cut a gasket up to about 26". I have about $30.00 invested it the whole thing.
The Trammels I bought simply have a pin on each of the legs. The pins are
replaceable--and VERY sharp. I've cut three head gaskets for my 16 HP Galloway out of heavy gasket material. I'm still on my first pin, and it is still very sharp!
It takes a bit of pressure to cut, and about 8-10 times around. It took me about 5
minutes to cut a gasket--14" od X 8 1/4" ID. They came out perfectly.

* This is a great set-up for cutting paper gaskets. I have a hard time cutting the head gaskets made from thick gasket material. I used a Stanley/utility knife before and had to bear down really hard and go around 3-4 times to get all the way through. Do you think this Exacto blade set-up would work for the harder, thicker, head gasket material? I wonder if the blade would hold up? Any tips for cutting that thick stuff?

* I used the thick gasket material for my Sattley. I roughly sized the material to fit
outside of the head. Then, I punched out the holes for the head bolts. Next, I placed the gasket down on the cylinder using the bolts as a guide. To reach the back side of the gasket to mark it, I tied a pencil on a rod. I was able to scribe the diameter of the cylinder on to the gasket material. Using a pair of tin snips, I was able to cut the gasket to conform to the pencil lines. I used smaller punches to make the cuts for the water passages.

* I like to use a router with a 1/4" straight cutter for circles over 6"dia. I made a
radius jig with a piece of sheet metal that's fastened to the router base. It had holes as needed. Wood screw the gasket material and the center pivot to a piece of plywood. Requires little effort. On tough stuff make several cuts.
* We use a "Walkers" brand gasket cutter at work with the average run of the mill
Stanley knife blade in it. Just keep going round till it breaks through (usually 5 or 6 laps on material 1/8" thick)
Because you pierce a hole through the middle, on wire/shim reinforced gaskets,you can scribe through to the wire on 1 side, turn gasket over and scribe through on this side then the tinsnips follow the scribe lines easily cutting through the wire giving a neat job.

* Thanks to everybody that responded to my gasket cutter query! What I've done
before is take a piece of notebook paper place it on the head and run my greasy finger around the edges of the head, bore, water ports, and bolt holes giving me an outline of the gasket. Then I cut out the paper template with scissors. I taped the notebook pattern to the gasket material and proceeded to cut around and around with the utility knife. It's hard to keep the knife in the same groove each time around. The next time I'm needing gaskets I'll make my own cutter based on the design suggested. Instead of the outer block being able to accept only the Exacto blade I'll add another bolt/knob to tighten in a utility knife blade. Thanks again everyone!!

* I've done a similar thing, but I use the piece of gasket material and a ball peen
hammer. Tapping along the edges of the cylinder, bore, water jacket slots, bolt holes, etc. Produces a lovely gasket and no cut fingers. Picked that tip up from an old gas engine "how to" book circa 1915.

* Yes, this works great...generally use this procedure myself when the objects being gasketed are accessible and have good edges...and aren't aluminum. I also keep a set of bolts with an end sawed-off for sharpness that I use to punch the holes with. Align the gasket on the cylinder head, for example, and you can tap a nice clean hole just punching through the gasket into the corresponding hole in the head. It's a little tricky sometimes to position the punch just right, but you can usually dimple the gasket material with your finger enough to find the outline of the hole.

* I also do this. If I have studs sticking out of the cylinder (usually been the case), I start the first hole on the head. Insert a bolt. Do one on the opposite side. Insert a
bolt. Do that for all bolt holes. Then put the gasket over the studs and do the
remaining holes. Or sometimes I'll leave it on the head. Just depends on the
configuration of the various bits (water jacket, counterbore, etc.).

* Better listen to this, and cut the bolt holes first one at a time, and then the bore. Iíve been getting great service out of some serated tin snips. AND you neednít cut all the water passage out , a hole here and there usually works fine for show.

* Your advice on not cutting all of the holes may be good for the southern part of the country. Up here in Michigan I cut all of the holes in the lower half of the gasket to insure complete drainage for WINTER storage. I learned this the hard way by thinking I had drained the engine but the gasket held enough water to put a nice freeze crack in the head. Here in the frozen north take the time to cut all of the holes in the lower half of the head gasket.

* I've found that using a hammer on the outer and inner edge of the head works
fine, but when doing the holes for the studs I get a ragged cut, even with a peen
hammer. If you can find or have old balls from a bearing about the same size as the hole, and pounding on it, I get a much nicer cut. If you don't have a ball bearing, get a pipe nipple about the same dia. as the hole and grind a taper on one end down to a sharp inner edge. With the peen hammer, tap the hole area enough to mark the location of the holes. Then find a short piece of 4x4 and lay the gasket on the end grain of the wood.
Smack it a time or two and you got a hole. Note: The longer the taper the better it
will work. Because pipe is soft, you may have to sharpen it again in the middle of the

* With all the discussion on cutting out gaskets, I will offer mine. I measure the inner and outer diameter of the head, mark this on the gasket with a compass and cut out with a box knife. Then put the gasket on the head, and cut out one of the bolt holes with a box knife or a Exacto knife. I place a bolt in this hole, then cut out another one, and place a bolt in it. Now the gasket will not move and I proceed to cut out the remainder of the bolt and water holes, all the time using them as guides for my cuts. It dulls the knife blades, but provides accurate cuts and is a relatively quick process.

* I still have the tiny ball peen hammer my dad used for gasket making. For cutting holes in the gaskets I have to make I use a 3/8Ē push rod from a big block Chevy. Cut it in half and grind it like a fish mouth, touch it to a grinder at a 45 deg. angle. This gives two cutting edges at the very outside, put it in a drill and run it through the hole onto the gasket placed on a board. Makes a clean cut the same size as the hole - a hole punch can't do this. For larger holes a piece of proper sized tubing would work. The push rod material is very hard and holds an edge well.

* I have used EMT electrical conduit to cut round holes in gaskets. It requires less
grinding (thinner wall) to sharpen the end and usually is closer in diameter to
commonly used bolts/studs. With a reamer/die grinder you can grind the inside to
sharpen which gives a little more clearance to the bolts/studs just in case you happen to punch one or more holes just a little off center.

* Did you know that you can drill a hole in gasket material with a Forsner bit? It will look like a factory punched hole, you can even drill a perfect hole in a piece of news print if you desire.

Hopefully this information will help on the winter restoration projects. As I write this, we are preparing for our last show of 2000, the Christmas Toy and Steam Day at our local pumping station to which we take a selection of our engines. By the time I read it in print, weíll be preparing for the first show of the spring!

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