Thursday, July 8, 2010
I always enjoy seeing how companies worked together to build equipment that handled a variety of tasks,this is an M Farmall probably built in the later 1930s or early 1940s that shows up occasionally at shows around here,it's fitted with a road grader attachment built by the Trojan co,it looks like a pretty nice setup although it wouldn't be real easy to take off and put back on.
I've had this B&S model A engine for almost a year and finally got around to getting it running.The engine was complete when I got it,it looked like someone had cleaned it up some a tried to get it running.When I got into it,the first thing that I found was that it was turning pretty tight,I found that the engine had been put together without a gasket that sets the crankshaft end play,so I made a gasket for that,the points plunger was sticking,probably from old oil so I had to get that free again.Once I got those things out of the way,I tried cranking it and found that the compression felt pretty low,I tried to start it a few times but it wouldn't even putt.I ended up taking the piston out and found the rings were stuck in the ring grooves from carbon,I was able to carefully and with the help of liberal amounts of wd40,I was able to get the rings free.Once I buttoned it back up,it didn't take to much to get this one singing again.To me these old engines are a testament to sound engineering,this engine was built in 1943.It's all cast iron,even the head shroud and blower housing,it weights about 75lbs and produces about 1 1/2 hp,that's probably the real reason why they last as long as they do,while they are a far sight better than the hit N miss engines that came before,they a far cry from the engines that power lawn equipment a such today.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Old machinery really amazes me,back in the early part of the 1900s gas engines were all the rage and in most cases were billed as labor saving devices but in the case of the log saw,I'm not convinced that that really was the case.I think the log saws were used mainly to section a tree after it was felled but a few of them were built with a blade that turned so that,I'm guessing anyway,they could be used to cut a tree.If you've ever seen one run they will cut a tree,there's no doubt about that but the time a labor needed to get it to the tree and set up to cut makes me wonder if it was worth it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
One of the reasons that I prefer vintage Bolens tractors over some of the other brands is there use of Wisconsin engines,they used engines from just about every small engine company but they had quite a few of there earlier models that used Wisconsins.Now if you ask people that have been around engines for a while about Wisconsin engines,you'll get a lot of different opinions,everything from love 'em to hate 'em.Wisconsin has been building engines since around 1909 or 1910,they started out building 4 cylinder engines that were used in cars,trucks and tractors.Stutz,Kissel,McFarlan,Brockway and FWD were a few of the companies that used Wisconsin engines.The Stutz/Wisconsin combination cars were front runners in the early years at the Indianapolis 500 and the early Stutz Bearcats used Wisconsin engines starting in 1914.In the 1930s they started building small engines and came out with the V type 4 cylinder that is still used on a lot of agricultural and industrial applications.The engines that they built from the 1930s into the 1970s were big hunks of iron,most weighed 100lbs or more,one of those sitting on a tractor frame does a pretty good job keeping the front wheels on the ground.Bolens was one of only a few companies that used Wisconsin engines and if you find one today,unless it's been sitting outside unprotected,it probably doesn't have much wear in it.I've heard of a few that sounded like they were used hard enough to show wear,were rebuilt and are ready for another 40 or 50 years.
Wow,it's been a while since I've added anything substantial here,I guess my minds already in summer mode!I've read a lot of information in the past year or so about gasoline,it seems to be a big issue for people running older engines and even some new engines.I've heard claims of vapor locking,I've seen a few mowers with rubber pieces in the carb that were turned into a gooey mush or eaten away completely and I've also seen quite a few mowers in the past couple years that the only thing wrong with them was bad gas.When I attended Briggs & Stratton service schools back 20yrs ago they were telling us then that gasoline was only good for about 30 days,after that it started to deteriorate pretty quickly,they recommended using fuel stabilizer and I've used it pretty much since then,especially on my 2 stroke engines because they do sit for extended periods at times.The oil companies do mix gas differently for different parts of the country depending on climate and population,bigger cities where pollution is an issue get a different blend than rural areas so this may not be as big an issue in some areas as others.So the next question is what to do about it?First off don't buy anymore fuel than you can use in 30 days time,if you do have fuel that's getting close or a little over,put it in your car and use it up that way and keep fresh gas for your mowers and other small engines.If for some reason the engine will be sitting for an extended period,use fuel stabilizer,I usually start adding fuel stabilizer for the last month or so that I'll be mowing for a season,that way it's completely through the system and I don't have any issues with starting come spring.One other thing that I've mostly read about is to use an once of Marvel Mystery oil per gallon of gas,I've never tried Marvel but I have used Klotz 2cycle oil with good results.It does lower the octane just a little but you can run mid grade or high test to if your worried about that,for the few extra cents of the cost of gas the benefits of upper cylinder lubrication and a little extra lubrication for the valves is well worth it.In these days of high cost service a little extra maintenance goes along way.
Monday, May 3, 2010
In the late 1960s Wisconsin and Tecumseh started using SSI ignitions and,I believe that it led to the early demise of a lot of old garden tractors.They only used the SSI for a couple of years and they weren't supported by the manufacturers for very many years so once the SSI ignitions started going bad they were obsolete and some of the engines weren't built so that you could go back to an earlier ignition system.A couple people have found work arounds for the Tecumseh and Wisconsin SSI and they can be found pretty easy on the internet but they really aren't easy or cheap so it doesn't make sense to use them on every old GT.In the case of the Bolens 1256,there is a replacement ignition called the HET that replaces the factory stator and upgrades it with a newer style ignition that uses an automotive type coil.If you have an older 1256 that's still working ok be careful if you ever have ignition problems,the problem with the ignitions on those tractors,as well as any other Wisconsin engine that used the SSI,was that the ignition was somewhat backwards compared to most other ignition systems,people see the automotive coil and figure they can hotwire the ignition and it ends up burning up either the stator or module,the modules can also be destroyed by stray battery voltage through the ignition switch.The 1256 tractor is a tractor worth fixing because of the hydrostatic drive and the hydraulics that are used to lift attachments but the HET ignitions are almost $150.00 so unless you can get a pretty good deal on the tractor,if the SSI is bad,it will set you back a few bucks before you ever start with anything else that the tractor might need fixed.
There are still a lot of good,usable garden tractors from the 1960s around yet,if you have the knowledge to fix them yourself a lot of them were parked because of simple things that went wrong with them and people just wanted something new.The Bolens tractors from the 1960s were actually pretty easy and relatively cheap to keep running if you understand points and condensor ignitions.I've found very few that had bad magnetos,most times the only thing wrong with them is that the points are dirty or corroded or there is oil in the box where the points are that won't let the points get a good ground.Anytime that I clean points on an older engine,I take them out and file them to get a new surface on them,then before you put them back in the engine,use some contact cleaner to clean the inside of the box out good to be sure there's no oil residue.Put the points and condensor back in and set the points to specs but before you put the cover back on,take a dollar bill and run it through the points to clean the surface again,the material that the bill is made of works better than anything to clean the points.If by chance you do find a magneto ignition on a Wisconsin engine with a bad magneto,it's very easy to switch them over to a battery ignition using a coil and different ignition switch so even if you have a bad ignition,all is not lost.
One of my preferences in old iron is Bolens tractors,Bolens is one of the oldest manufacturers of tractors.In the 1920s Bolens started building 2 wheel,walk behind tractors that were built to replace the horse on smaller farms,especially vegetable farms where cultivating was done on a regular basis.After WWII they were bought out by the Food Machinery Corp,FMC and they started building ride on tractors.They were pretty crude compared to some of the bigger tractors being built by Case,IH and John Deere at the time but they were a cheaper alternative for people that only farmed a few acres and didn't want to do it with horses.My oldest operating Bolens at present is a 1964 Husky 900,I use it mostly in the winter to move snow,it's never given me a problem starting,even when the temperatures are zero or below.It's moved more snow than just about any other vehicle that I own and compared to machines built in the past 30years or so,it's simple to work on.I also have a model 12A walk behind from about 1945 with a Clinton engine on it,I've had the engine running but I still need a few parts for the drive on the tractor itself.
I've decided to use this blog space to pass on somethings that I've learned over the years and especially about restoring old engines and vehicles.Most of my schooling has been trial and error or the school of hard knocks and I always appreciate someone else knowledge,when I can find it on something that I'm working on.I've been working on engines since my teenage years,mostly most any small engine,Farmalls and Chevys but I've also rebult Cummins,Cat and Perkins diesels and worked on a lot of other American made engines over the years,hopefully I can pass on something useful.
I spent part of the day Saturday in Gratz,PA,Gratz is a small town in northern Dauphin County,it's along rt.25 which runs between exit 112 of I81 and Millersburg in a valley called the Lykens Valley.The first time I ever drove through the valley was in the late 1990s hauling coal out of Hegins.There really isn't much to see in the 30 some mile drive from I81 to Millersburg but that's kind of my point,it's one of the few areas left in PA where you can drive for an hour or more and not see a McDonalds or Walmart,actually other than a few convenience stores,there really aren't any chain stores in the area.Gratz isn't famous for much of anything except their fair and the annual consignment sale that benefits the fire company and the local Amish Parochial schools,the latter is what brought me to Gratz as it has annually for the past 3 years.It's the home to quite a few Amish and the hilly farmland in the narrow valley works quite well with their farming practices.One of these days I'd really like to drive the whole length of the valley and checkout the town of Millersburg which is the site of,I believe,the oldest operating ferry on the Susquehanna which is still the only way to get from one side of the Susquehhanna between Sunbury and Clarks Ferry.If you ever get an urge to go for a nice Sunday drive through an area of PA that hasn't been commercialized this is a really nice ride,just watch out for the horse and buggies.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Mom and Dad were race fans for as long as I can remember,many a Saturday night was spent at a race track ,Evergreen,Dorney Park,Reading,Selingsgrove,Nazareth including the big track,I saw one of the last races run at Langhorne and one of the first Race of Champions races at Pocono on the 3/4 mile oval,my brother and I went to one of the last races held at Reading before they turned it into a shopping mall.I'm happy to say that I got a chance to see most of the finest racers that PA had to offer on both dirt and asphalt.It's been a few years since I've spent that much time at a track,I still enjoy listening to them on the internet occasionally and once in a while watching a race on tv or the internet.Oh I watch Nascar some but dirt is where my heart is and always has been.The last few races that I have attended were World of Outlaw late model races or Dirt modified races and they had a pretty good turnout but I don't think the tracks are doing as well today as they were 30 years or so ago and that's a shame,racing is one of the few sports where drivers only get paid if they perform well,at least until you reach the top tier of the sport.I've made a lot of friend through racing over the years and it's always good to see the ones that I remember as kids racing go karts that are still racing today,if you have a track around you,check it out sometime,you might find some friends there.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Back in the early days of the 1900s gas engines were all the rage,they were using them for everything.Maytag started building engines around 1910,the first were engines that just sat beside a wood tub washing machine and ran it with a flat belt.Around 1920 they started building washing machines with an engine instead of an electric motor and a few years later started building washing machines that would run on electric or with a gas engine.This is mine,actually I have 3 right now but this is the only running one,they also had attachments for grinding meat,churning butter or making electricity.
The picture in my header is one of my prized posessions,it's a picture of my GGrandfather,Sam P Smith with his family and team.I'm figuring it was taken around 1910,the little guy,with the dog is my Grandfather Ralph Smith,he was born in 1901 and I figure he's about 8 or 9 when this was taken.It was taken on the farm in Nescopeck where I grew up.Actually I only have a digital copy of the photo,the original is stored safely in Mom's safe.I see pictures at auctions and flea markets all the time that should be in someones posession but it seems like too few people care about old black and white photos any more.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Last night I picked up a 1950s vintage AM radio at an auction,I got it home and plugged it in and I think it transported me back a few years.I've always loved radios,mostly for the music but I've played with CBs and weather radios and even listened to shortwave a little.That old radio still works pretty good and it got me thinking about growing up in the 1960s and riding with Mom and Dad in the car,coming home late on a Saturday night.Most cars in the 1960s still only had AM radios and they really weren't much to listen to during the day but usually about 6:00 in the evening the smaller stations would start singing off and after about 9:00 the big stations with the 50,000w transmitters would crank them up,you could pick up stations from miles away.If we were on the road on a Saturday night,we were usually listening the the Wheeling Jamboree from WWVA in Wheeling W.Va,it came in great from anywhere in PA,not quite like HD or satellite does today but hey,it was all we had.I believe as a kid I listened to a lot more radio than watched TV and while AM radio isn't like it used to be,I still enjoy going back in time sometimes.