The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Iqbal Ahmed

Added to museum: 10/22/03

Winner, Joe Martin Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for 2012

Model Engineering Excellence in India

A model engineer working in unappreciated isolation in India works his way up to a win in one of the world’s foremost miniature machining contests and creates world class models

Iqbal Ahmed at work in his shop in Nagpur, India. (Click on photo for larger image.)

An early knowledge of how engines work

Iqbal Ahmed was born in Nagpur, India to a well-to-do family. His grandfather was in the insurance business, and when automobile insurance became mandatory for all drivers, his business expanded in the region. After claims were paid on cars, his grandfather would purchase the less damaged of the wrecks and renovate them for sale. He would hire mechanics to do the repairs, and young Iqbal was able to observe the repairs being made and to ride around in many different types of cars; all of which fueled his interest in engines and how things worked.

After Iqbal’s father took over the business the economic climate worsened, and in order to make ends meet he purchased a lathe and set up a workshop to do repairs. Since he had no experience running a lathe he hired a “turner machinist” to make parts. Iqbal was able to observe how this machinist made parts like bushings, screws and also repaired worn parts. When the machinist left the business due to even tougher economic times, Iqbal had no option but to leave his schooling and return to join his father’s business. With what he had learned from the hired machinist he was able to run the lathe and, after several years, also mastered other forms of machining using a “universal” machine. This machine allowed him to do milling, drilling, shaping, gear hobbing, indexing and other jobs using makeshift attachments. As his skill in precision machining increased, he expanded his capabilities from auto work into making parts for photo copiers and other delicate machines where repair parts could not be obtained anywhere in the country.

From machining for a living to model engineering for fun

Although he had never heard of “model engineering,” a friend of his knew of his machining talents and brought him some books on model making from England. His interest in model engines was inspired by these publications, and he scaled down some of the available plans to make smaller versions of engines he saw there. A number of these models are shown in the photos that follow.

The 4-cycle, 4-cylinder, water cooled, overhead cam, internal combustion engine he is now building was inspired by the repair jobs he used to see done on automobile engines in his childhood and by the engine reconditioning he later did himself. While he learned to recondition existing parts, to make an engine from scratch required a new set of skills and offered new challenges. Driven by curiosity and willing to experiment and learn, Iqbal has taken the project to an advanced stage of completion. The finished engine will require the making of over 250 individual parts that must all work together for the engine to run.

Working and learning with little outside feedback

Not having the nearby support of fellow model engineers, clubs or even the ready availability of many publications to help him, Iqbal has developed his skills all on his own. You will see from the variety of his work that he is willing to take on any challenge from extremely tiny steam engines to very complicated IC engines, and the test of his work is that these engines all run. You will also see from the photos of his shop that the tools he has to work with are not the most modern. This is an excellent example of the fact that craftsmanship comes from the craftsman, not from the tools.

Iqbal Ahmed (left) and his son Arif examine some of the early Sherline and other miniature machine tools in the Martin foundation collection during their visit to the Sherline factory in May, 2004. (Click on photo for larger image.)

A trip to America

In April, 2004 Iqbal Ahmed received permission and an engineering grant from the Indian government to visit the NAMES show in Detroit. Unfortunately, the tight timetable and slow diplomatic VISA process resulted in him not being able to arrive until a few days after the show. He came anyway and stayed with his nephew in Milwaukee before traveling to California with his son Arif to visit the Joe Martin and get a tour of the Sherline factory. He brought with him several of his projects for us to see in person and his two-day visit was a great learning experience for all of us. (Craig thanks Iqbal and Arif for a very tasty and interesting introduction to authentic Indian cooking at the Indian Princess restaurant in San Marcos.) After visiting the factory they were also able to tour the Antique Steam and Gas Engine Museum also located in Vista, CA before returning to Milwaukee. While in America they will also be driving to Washington, D.C. with his nephew Aasim before returning to India. He hopes to again be allowed to travel to the show next year, and this time to get the approvals in enough time to actually make the show.


Mr. Ahmed’s personal calling card and business card both feature small engineering projects. His personal card shows the “World’s smallest steam engine” for which he is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. (Click on cards for larger images.)

Any model engineers traveling to Nagpur, India, which is near the center of the country, or anyone who wishes to share an interest in model engineering with a dedicated modeler is welcome to contact Mr. Ahmed. He can be reached by e-mail at He is always more than happy to share his interests in machining and model engineering with visitors. Model engineering is not a well-known hobby in India and he hopes to make it better known by getting articles about his work published in local and national publications. Though Iqbal makes his living with his machine tools restoring classic cars and doing gunsmithing and other machining jobs, his spare time is spent on the same machines making the tiny projects he loves.

Sherline owner Joe Martin (left) and marketing director Craig Libuse (right) present First Place and Second Place awards and prize money to 2007 Machinist’s Challenge contest winner Iqbal Ahmed. Consistent effort and constant improvement moved him from 3rd to 2nd to a win.

Sherline Machinist’s Challenge Contest entries take First and Second Place in 2007

In 2001 Iqbal Ahmed entered the Sherline Challenge contest with a small steam engine and boiler that did not place highly.  In 2004, his small brass lathe with electric motor took 3rd place. In 2005, his 4-cylinder internal combustion engine took 2nd place. In 2007, he dominated the contest, winning both first and second place with his tiny scale models of a Sherline 5400 milling machine and a Sherline 4000 lathe. These machines were not only a clever choice for popularity with the show-going public who did the voting, they were superbly made and equipped with accessories like chucks, a rotary table, tilting table and mill vise with rotating base. This places Iqbal in the company of some of the best model engineers in the USA and some former winners of the Craftsman of the Year award with his contest win in the Machinist’s Challenge. Iqbal’s winning entries are shown at the bottom of the photo section below.

Iqbal Ahmed (right) donated his miniature Sherline lathe model to Sherline owner Joe Martin for placement in Mr. Martin’s Museum of Craftsmanship. The lathe is now on display in the Foundation’s Vista, California facility. The award was made at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Toledo, Ohio in April, 2007. Accompanying the small lathe is a scroll documenting the presentation.

Iqbal Ahmed wins award of excellence for his model of the historical 1886 Benz Motorwagen


Many people from the automotive media gathered for the presentation of this prestigious award. (Click on either photo to view a larger image.)

On January 29, 2011, Mr. Ahmed was given an award by the Central India Vintage Automobile Association for the construction of a beautifully executed model of the first vehicle to be powered by an internal combustion engine. This special award was given in honor of World Automotive Day. The model is especially significant because Iqbal was able to duplicate even the function of the engine, doing all the castings, machining and assembly himself. The model was a further challenge because he his machine shop was limited to only a small Sherline tabletop milling machine. On this he did all machine work, even making a special fixture so that he could do jobs that would normally be done on a lathe. Photos of the construction of this significant vehicle can be seen near the bottom of the photo section below.

Video of the engine and vehicle in action at the 2012 NAMES show can be seen here:

Iqbal Ahmed and his model engineering projects

(Click on photos to see larger images.)
Iqbal Ahmed is seen here using a vertical mill table on the lathe to bore a series of holes in a block. The large tools are used to make both full size engine parts and tiny model engine parts.
In 2001, Iqbal sent one of his model steam engines to be entered in the Machininst’s Challenge contest sponsored by Sherline at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Detroit, Michigan. He received a certificate for his outstanding efforts and for having the entry that came from the farthest away.
Typical of the demanding auto work that taught him his machining skills, here Iqbal manufactures from scratch a camshaft for a Peugeot SRD diesel engine. The original camshaft had been lost and none was available for comparison, so this one was built without specifications or dimensions based simply on his calculations from the rest of the engine. The engine ran with excellent results. Rare is the machinist who would take on such a challenge, and rarer still is the machinist who could successfully pull it off.
Model Internal Combustion Engine

This tiny 4 cylinder overhead cam engine is Iqbal’s current project. Seen here is the engine block with pistons installed and the head removed. The tiny camshaft leans up against the cylinder head.

Another view of the small 4 cycle gas engine shows the pistons removed from the block. You can see connecting rods, valves and many other hand crafted components.
A detail shot of the engine block itself. The hand gives a better idea of the small scale of the engine.
The cylinder head with valves in place
The tubular intake and exhaust manifold
The crankshaft has three main bearing journals.
The overhead camshaft
An early stage of the engine block seen from the bottom. The pistons, crankshaft and flywheel are in place but the outside form of the block has not yet been machined.
Iqbal brought the not yet finished engine along on a trip to the Sherline factory in the USA in May, 2004 where I was able to photograph it  in it’s current state of finish.
With the pistons, rods and piston rings laid out in the foreground, the engine is seen from the other side. Amazingly, all the parts of this engine were made on only a lathe, as at this time he does not have a mill.
With the valve cover tilted up you can see the single overhead cam shaft and valves. A quarter dollar in the lower left gives a reference to size.
Another side view shows the case better.
Front view shows cam belt.
This view with the crankcase removed shows the crankshaft and bottom end of the engine.
Another view of the bottom end of the engine. The black and blue parts were anodized on the same lathe that built them using the engine to generate the electrical current needed for anodizing.
Model Lathe

A few weeks before the NAMES show, Iqbal stopped work on the 4-cylinder engine and designed and built this lathe as a contest entry for the Sherline Machinist’s Challenge contest in Southgate, MI. The entry took third place, narrowly missing fist place by only 26 votes. Like the engine above, it was all made on a lathe and took only about two weeks to construct.

Mr. Ahmed made all the components including the chuck and gears on only his lathe. This lathe represents a combination of the designs of several lathes he has owned over the years.

Stationary Steam and Stirling Engines

A selection of Mr. Ahmed’s steam engine models is displayed at a local show in India.

Three different sizes of “Victoria” steam engines are displayed together: small, very small and “micro.”
A model of a “Mary” beam engine from the 19th century.
A small working boiler provides steam power to this very small “Victoria” horizontal engine.
A very small vertical engine gets its steam power from a boiler even smaller than the one above. This model was shipped to Detroit and entered at the 2001 Machinist’s Challenge contest, where Iqbal Ahmed’s work was first seen by an American audience. This tiny engine actually runs on steam power from the attached micro boiler, but safety regulations prohibited the actual use of live steam at the show in Detroit.
A small “Victoria” steam engine
Iqbal’s smallest “Victoria” fits easily on the palm of his hand.
The largest of Iqbal’s “Victoria” horizantal stationary steam engines is still pretty small as steam engines go.
A 1/16 scale steam powered road roller called the “John Fowler” measure about 14″ long.
Modeler John Ponsonby traveled from England to see Mr. Ahmed’s engines. Here he admires the “Mary” beam engine. Iqbal welcomes the visit of any model engineers traveling to India and loves to share his experience in modeling.
This view of the “Victoria” horizontal engine shows the alcohol burner under the boiler which provides the steam power to drive the engine.
Here the “Victoria” horizontal is shown in action with the flywheel spinning.
Iqbal’s “thumbnail” working steam engine weighs just 1.72 grams.
This twin-cylinder Wetzel features horizontally arranged pistons with cam action and valves system in the shaft and the air passages drilled through the body.
Electric and  Steam Locomotives

Displaying some of his versatility, here Iqbal shows an HO electric locomotive, track and signals he made.

Iqbal built this 0-6-0 live steam locomotive called theIndian Glory.
Here Iqbal takes his grand-daughter Shahana for a ride in reverse.
Test running the Indian Glory tank locomotive No. 30646.
The first trial run with a full load shows the pulling power of this little engine. Five adults and two children are being pulled along behind it.
  Another live steam engine recently completed by Iqbal Ahmed is the Fairy Queen. Of it he says, “I built a 5-inch gauge live steam locomotive. The main feature of this locomotive is that it has been crafted from only a 4 x 6 photograph taken from a full-scale locomotive without any drawings, plans or sketches. I just saw the real locomotive at the Rail museum in New Delhi India, took the photo and kept in mind every detail. The full-scale locomotive is still running with the Indian Railways and is featured in theGuinness Book of World Records as the oldest running locomotive in the world.”
This 0-6-0 tank locomotive is almost completed in this photo. Based on a scaled down version of the Indian gloryshown above, it is a 45 mm scale engine.
Local children examine the 0-6-0 tank locomotive model.
The finished 0-6-0 tank engine is shown in comparison to the size of the Indian Glory after which it was modeled.
  The tank engine is tested with compressed air. It is capable of hauling the weight of an adult and child, as can be seen here with Iqbal himself aboard for the test.
South African Railways Live Steam Locomotive
  The firebox and boiler of the locomotive begin to take shape.

Added 9/11/12

In the absence of a large milling machine, a lathe is configured to bore the holes in the top of the boiler.
The front of the boiler and the steam cylinders are mounted to the locomotive’s frame. This photo gives a good idea of the scale of the project.
  Shown here are the drivers (left) and the trailing truck (right) with leaf springs in place.

Seen from the bottom side, leaf springs for the trailing truck are secured in place.

Updates will be added as Mr. Ahmed continues to make progress on this fine locomotive.

Contest Winning Model Machine Tools

Miniature Sherline Mill

This tiny model of a Sherline Model 5400 milling machine took top honors in the 2007 Machinist’s Challenge contestat the North American Model Engineering Society Expo held in Toledo, Ohio in April. It features a functional rotary table with chuck mounted to a tilting angle table. On the left of the mill table is a miniature Sherline mill vise with rotating base. It is all mounted on a wood cabinet with a pull-out drawer that reveals additional tools for adjusting the mill. After finishing third in 2005 and second in 2006 in the contest, Iqbal was finally rewarded with a win in 2007.


Miniature Sherline Lathe

Iqbal also made a tiny working model of a Sherline Model 4000 lathe which took 2nd place in the 2007 contest, giving Iqbal a sweep of the top two places. In the 16-year history of the contest, no single entrant has ever taken both first and second in the same year. After the contest, Iqbal donated this lathe to the Joe Martin Foundation for display in their Craftsmanship Museum in Vista, California, where it now resides. The second photo shows the lathe on display in a glass case in the museum lobby along with other significant or interesting miniature lathes past and present.
Other Projects


A friend brought Iqbal a broken ignition key to a Rolls Royce when he was unable to find a replacement key blank for it. Iqbal obtained a solid key blank and, using a Sherline mill, machined the precise splines and grooves to exactly match the broken original, putting the fine car back in service. Though not particularly exciting, this is a good example of some of the more practical things that can be done with small machine tools.

The second photo shows Iqbal Ahmed next to the Rolls Royce that is now back on the road thanks to a new custom ignition key.



1. This Coomber rotary engine was made entirely on a Sherline mill, including the round parts. The “engine” is actually inside the flywheel.

2. No details were provided on this interesting looking “Elbow” engine.

3. The Coomber and Elbow engines are shown together.



Iqbal says of this project, “A doctor approached me to make a functional mechanical human heart pump mechanism consisting of a pump piston/auricle and Ventrical valves to demonstrate the function of a heart to students.” With his workshop closed and lathe unavailable due to the poor economy, he decided to turn out parts in his kitchen using his small Sherline mill in the horizontal configuration to act as a lathe to make the round parts. He says, “I turned out the required parts with great accuracy and success.”

Iqbal once again demonstrates that a good model engineer will figure out a way to make the needed parts with whatever equipment is available

1/4 Scale 1886 Benz Motorwagen

The 3-wheeled Benz Motorwagen was the first application of an internal combustion engine to a motorized vehicle in 1886. The bench seat accommodated two people side by side and it was steered with a tiller rather than a steering wheel. Prior to this a few vehicles had been powered by steam, but this was the beginning of the end for horse-drawn transportation.

Here we see the drive unit under construction on Iqbal Ahmed’s 1/4 scale working model.

A wheel hub accepts the first of many spokes needed.
The drive mechanism parts are seen here.
A rather large boring head is attached to the Sherline mill in the horizontal position to bore a hole in the side of the engine casting.
Drive parts and a fully spoked wheel hub sit in front of a photo of the full-size Motorwagen.
Brass castings and some of the patterns to make them can be seen here.
A wheel with all the spokes in place and the assembled engine and drive are seen here. Part of the start of a  wheel rim is on the right.
Iqbal Ahmed demonstrates the ability of his Sherline mill to make round parts with a special fixture he developed. By rotating the mill’s headstock to a horizontal position he is able to use a cutting tool mounted on a rotary table.
The nearly completed engine is seen in the foreground, while an acrylic pattern for the flywheel is in the background.
A close-up shows the tooth shape of the bevel gears of the drive.
The acrylic pattern for the flywheel casting next to a 6″ caliper gives a good size reference. The curved spoke shape is a characteristic of the big flywheel on this particular engine.
Linkages are connected as the engine and drive unit near completion.
Another view of the engine and drive.
The engine is mounted onto a test stand, flywheel attached and is made ready to be test run for the first time.
As you can see by the blurred flywheel spokes, the engine is now running. This is known to engine builders as the “first pop”—always an important day in a project like this.
Iqbal Ahmed adjusts the idle during a low speed test run.
The engine during a high speed test run.
The partially complete chassis can be seen in this photo as spokes are being assembled into the wheels.
The motor is assembled to the chassis. In this photo you can see the leaf springs on the axel as well.
This sepiatone photo of the finished vehicle captures the vintage feel of it. It could easily be mistaken for a photo of the original in full size. Very few originals exist in full size, but in 1986 on the 100th anniversary of it’s invention Mercedes Benz commissioned the production of a short run of reproductions. These can be found in museums around the world, but to our knowledge, this is the only running 1/4 scale model.
A black and white photo from a different angle also gives a vintage feel to the model.
A pretty little model looks wistfully at the Benz, but she is still too big to go for a ride.
A front view in black and white.
Rear view in black and white.
A sepiatone with small admirer. In the background is a vintage 1944 Matchless motorcycle.
For the grand unveiling, a special stage and curtain was prepared.
The model is seen here with the trophy and a photo of one of the full-size Motorwagens.
A large graphic poster was used behind the presentation to commemorate the award.
The rich oak of the seat harks back to the wagon-making roots of the early auto industry.

Our congratulations to Iqbal Ahmed on this outstanding achievement in model engineering.


Iqbal Ahmed displays his model Benz next to the NAMES show poster. In the second photo Iqbal and his son Arif are seen at the table where they displayed their model during the 2-day show.

Iqbal found a last minute sponsor and was able to attend the 2011 North American Model Engineering Society(NAMES) Exposition in Southgate, Michigan in the Detroit area. The Benz Motorwagen model they brought with them was given featured exhibit space by the NAMES group and noted as one of the farthest traveled entries in the 22 years the show has been held. Below are some additional photos taken at the show against a white backdrop to show more of the model’s fine detail.
Here Iqbal’s son Arif holds a pattern  from which the cast flywheel was made. Another pattern for part of one of the pulleys is also displayed.
Iqbal Ahmed is joined at the Joe Martin Foundation booth by five more of the world’s finest craftsmen. From left to right are George Luhrs, Wilhelm Huxhold, Louis Chenot, Jerry Kieffer, Iqbal Ahmed and Richard Carlstedt.

The model Benz Motorwagen is also featured in a page of its own in the Model Engineering Masterpieces section of the web site, where you can learn a little more about the history of the original vehicle.

horizontal rule

1896 Ford Quadricycle Engine

Video of the first run of the engine:

Video of the engine running:

Henry Ford was working on a self-propelled vehicle at the same time as Carl Benz . His Ford Quadricycle had four wheels unlike Mr. Benz’s tricycle layout but Mr. Benz put his on the road first. In 2013, Iqbal Ahmed has started work on a 1/4 scale version of the engine from the Quadricycle.
  The engine is a 2-cylinder horizontal layout that produced 6 HP in the full-size version.
The engine takes shape.
  Shown here are a piston and the long connecting rod plus some of the ignition and other parts.

(Photo 1) Piloted valve grinding fixtures are used to grind the valve seats.

(Photo 2) Unusual dual breaker points for the ignition system. (See photo below for breaker assembly in place.)


Iqbal Ahmed assembles the engine on the floor of his shop.


The engine assembly is coming along in 1/4 scale but not at 1/4 speed. Remember, this is not a kit. Each and every part has to be made by hand.

(Progress to 4/28/13)



   July 31, 2013—The chassis is taking shape and the motor is installed. Like the slightly earlier Benz, the Ford version uses a tiller type steering arm, but is among the first to apply an internal combustion engine to a more stable 4-wheeled platform.
  Details can be seen of the motor mounted in the chassis.

More photos to come…

BMW Ignition Component
  Iqbal Ahmed is shown at work making tiny precision parts to get a BMW ignition switch working while using his large but familiar lathe.
  Inside the ignition key housing is a complicated casting. The rather crude silver part is the BMW casting, while the bright brass part is the machined replacement made by Iqbal.
  Shown here is another view of the two parts and the final brass part fitted into the BMW ignition switch. One more fine car is back on the road thanks to Iqbal’s machining skills.

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