Antique Gas Engine Bulletin Board


From the Smokstak Archives:

Briggs & Stratton

Where to start restoring? My son and I just purchased a B&S Model 5s to get started in the hobby and I also ordered a B&S repair manual last evening. We are at best "green" in the area of engine restoration as this is our 1st engine. All of the parts appear to be present on the engine and there are no cracks or broken pieces. I was amazed the muffler, breather & gas tank seem to be physically sound and not dented. The engine was sitting outside and I found the gas tank was about half full of water.. but still physically sound and not rusted through. (more) -- David

The Future of Our Hobby

Ten years ago when I first brought antique engines to the internet, I had a thought that this might be a way to introduce engine collecting to our younger generation. I worked for 23 years at a college, doing technical support in radio, television and computers. This placed me in and around the younger generation while I grew older and then retired. These stories remind me of when I "fixed" the family lawn mower and put the rod end cap on backwards, thus beginning my mechanical avocation. -- Harry

What to do about blow-by?

On my Jaeger, the cylinder was honed and the piston was put back in with the old rings (6 of them) and the engine ran well after the rings took a seat. After a few months of running occasionally, there is a noticeable amount of blow-by. I see no reason for this to start now, any ideas why? What can I do? -- Mac

Running Engines on Propane

I seem to have caught this propane bug that's been going around and I am toying with the idea of running my 6 horse M on the bottle. I think I can make a plate for over the compensator and plumb the bottle up there. I am hoping to be able to start the engine on gasoline and then after things warm up a bit and even out I want to be able to switch it over to propane. What I need to know is this: do I need to change the magneto timing to run on propane or will the same settings I use for gasoline work for propane? It occurs to me that propane engines don't run well with the timing advanced, but I am not sure. -- Joseph

How many engines are enough?

Hey everyone, I need advice. Three generations, my dad, my son, and I collect engines, steam, and tractors. My 8yr old son announced this week that he wants us to have 100 engines. We currently have 30 engines, 20 tractors, and if we really want to count them, a dozen letter style Briggs and a few Maytags. But I really think my son has caught the dreaded disease of Engine Fever! -- Ron

Engine Crank Handles - yea or nay?

After reading an earlier post about someone wanting a crank handle, I thought I would bring it up. I picked up a little 1 horse Mogul the other day and it came with a crank handle. Not really thinking much about the situation, I tried to start the engine on the tailgate of the truck and it spit back and threw the crank handle inches from my friends head. Well you might have guessed it the (widow maker) will not be used by me anymore on this engine. -- Denny

Ever Get Discouraged?

Has this ever happened to anyone? You buy a project engine that seems like it only needs a few things. But when you dig into it, there are about five times more things wrong with it than you ever imaged, and it stops being a fun project? -- Chris

Why slow running engines?

I was wondering why most people here talk about slow running engines, If it is slow running then it can not be belted to any thing can it? When I get my engine to run, I think I am going to let it run at its rated speed so I can belt it up to a pump. I do not see the point of having a tool made so that it cannot work as it was intended. Anyone want to explain why slow running is good? -- Mac Leod

Wet Compressed Air

I have just starting sandblasting a bunch of parts and my air supply is way too wet. I have two cyclone air separators in the line between my air compressor and my blast cabinet but it's still too wet. Now what do I do? How can I get very dry air without spending an arm and a leg? -- Joseph

Old Iron and Young Collectors

I have had two main hobbies over the years, radio control model airplanes and old iron. In the model airplane hobby it was a struggle to get the young boys and girls involved for several reasons; money, help from home. It seems to me it is the same in the engine/tractor hobby. At the show I saw a great many young visitors but very few that were involved in the display of old iron. It seems to me the same problem may be as in model airplanes, money and no help from home. -- Gene

Golf Carts and A.T.V.s

I belong to a club that has two shows a year and a swap meet. They allow exhibitors, vendors and the public to bring in golf carts, four wheelers and modern lawn tractors to ride around on. It has become a problem as attendance has grown and the exhibit and flea market isles have become congested. It has become almost impossible to navigate a larger than average tractor even on main roads of the show grounds due to the parade of golf carts. -- Dan

What got you started?

I was thinking it would be kind of nice to read about what got you interested in old iron? In 2000 I went to the Pacific coast dream machines show, old cars being the reason for going. While there I saw some of the old engines that were on display and once a few were running I had to have one. What a great sound! Well I started looking and came across many old engine sites that were good for learning about old iron. I went to a swap meet looking for an engine and Stover CT3 is what I found. -- Mac

Magneto Prices

Has anyone checked out the prices that magneto's are going for? Am I crazy? I guess with more people getting into the old engine business, there is a big demand for mags. It's unreal the prices some of the mags are going for. Anyone else have any opinions on this subject? -- Pat

Insurance on Engines and Tractors

I was talking to my insurance agent today concerning insurance on my engines and tractors. And as I understand it, If you think your homeowners insurance will cover them, you are probably wrong. She said that since they are antiques and cannot be easily replaced, they are not insured under my home owner's policy. Surprise! She said that she must secure a policy with an underwriter that specializes in heirlooms, wine collections and other irreplaceable things. -- Mark

Old Engine Torque

I was just curious to see if anyone had ever figured out the foot pounds of torque an old engine would put out, compared to modern day engines. Say like, what would a 225 H.P. Fairbanks Y put out compared to a modern day 225 H.P. V-8, or any two engines of the same H.P. for that matter. This just crossed my mind and I was wondering if anyone had ever hooked up an old engine to an engine dynamometer. -- Tanner

Original Condition

I was talking to an engine buddy the other day at work about his "original" engine. The more he talked the more un-original it got. Seems the only original parts to the engine are the block, head, flywheels, and timing gears. He made up a new piston, connecting rod, valves, and on and on. This made me start to wonder, where you draw the line on what's considered original. -- Paul

Preserving Original Paint

I saw a previous post that alluded to methods of maintaining or enhancing the original finish on the old engines. I also saw in the archives where linseed oil could be painted on, but other than that I can't seem to find much. What might some of the other methods be and what is the best? I'm looking forward to another long winter in the shop. -- Baggsy

Why won't he sell?

I first saw this "Sandwich" engine in 1976 when it was hauled home. It hasn't been moved since and it is sinking further down in the dirt. The owner still won't part with it, saying he plans to run it someday. You've got to admire him for not giving up hope, but it's too bad he won't cover it up. -- Rusty

Ford Model T Buzz Coils

Could someone tell me how to check a Model T Coil before I go to all the trouble of soldering some clips on the post? -- Benny

Water or Antifreeze

I've been to several engine shows so far this summer and noticed some guys use antifreeze in their cooling hoppers. I was curious if anybody had any thoughts about the advantage or disadvantage of using water versus antifreeze in hopper cooled engines. Also, if water is being used, should the hopper be drained after each run? I don't know if this affects the proper cool down period of the piston and cylinder, but I always drain my engines immediately after they have been used. -- Mike

Automotive Paint vs. Spray Cans

Can anyone tell me if automotive spray paint (i.e. Centauri) has any advantages over spray can paint? Also, which is the best brand of spray can paint to use for resistance to gas and heat? I'm not set up for a spray gun, so I'll likely be using a spray can for my Witte. -- Chris

Welding Cast Iron

I took the part, 'V' grooved the two broken sections, and MIG welded them together. Ground and filed off the excess, and got the machine running again. A week later, it's still holding up! Mind you, I wasn't a bit fussy about doing all this because time was of the essence. I just had mild steel wire in the MIG welder, using 75%-25% argon - CO2 gas. -- Al

Low Tension Magneto Starting

I have a really nice barn fresh Associated that has loads of character that it has gained through the years. It runs great, but it's a real bear to start. I would like to start it with a battery and coil and then switch it over to the mag. My question is, should I install a 2 way switch (SPDT) to switch between the mag and ignitor? -- Al

Thermosyphon Cooling Tank

I'm using a screen cooling tank on a 17 HP Ruston engine, running slow and not under load. I have tried a belted pump but the engine would not warm up. I have the bottom of the tank higher than the water level in the block of the engine. After it comes out of the engine, the water has to go up about 38 inches to the screen. Is 38 inches too much of a rise from the top of the cylinder to flow to the screen cooling tank? -- Terry

Smooth Engine Part Surfaces

After visiting the Coolspring power museum in Pennsylvania a few years back I noticed that most of the engines there looked like they were rust pit free. I was wondering what they do to them to make the parts look so good and smooth, do they resurface the parts or put some kind of filler on them, or just a really good thick primer? - Tanner

Engine Prices and Stories From Yesterday

Most of us have probably picked up an engine over the last couple of years for free or next to it, but I was wondering about some of those engine purchases made back in the 40's through the early 70's. My dad remembers that he didn't buy an 8-10 horsepower screen cooled Mogul on a cart for $60. He thought it was too much money for an engine because at the time, $5-10 would buy most any engine. I would sure like to see that engine in his barn! -- Mark

The Art of Scraping Babbitt

Scraping babbitt is something that I never got to see or do. I'd like to hear from the people that have done it and how it's done. I have bought some tools that I believe to be scraper tools and they look like files with no teeth. -- Kevin
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About Capacitors in Ignition Systems

A capacitor stores elect power just like a battery. If a circuit path is connected to the plates it will discharge thru that path. If the voltage polarity is reversed it will recharge to the oposite polarity. How can you tell if its good? -- Ralph Leonard

Seating Piston Rings

I just rebuilt a 1914 12-25 Avery engine (MY tractor) and the sleeves are new, new over-width step-cut rings for which I re-grooved the pistons, new wrist pin bushings , new valve stems and guides... -- Craig

Two Cycle Motor Oils

I started using AMSOIL 2 stroke oil at a recommended mix of 100:1. It ran very well all summer till last week. I have all my firewood cut for the season and had a bit of chainsaw gas (40:1) left over so I dumped the remainder (about a quart) into the tank of the motorcycle which I am guessing had about a gallon of the 100:1 mix gas in it... -- Marty

What's the Best Bearing Grease

I'd just like to know what you guys use for grease on your main bearings. The grease that I'm currently using is too thin and the bearings heat up. I believe the grease is just being flung out of the bearings, and no they not too tight, they have three to four thousandths clearence. Thanks in advance for the advice. -- Andy

Magneto Madness

It seems I own more engines that need magnetos, like Websters and Wico EKs, than I own that have the correct mags. It also seems to me that the cost of these are now more than I paid for the rest of the engine, and these are common mags. And, then you may have to buy the bracket, rebuild kit, etc. In the long run, are there more magnetos than engines, less magnetos than engines, or exactly the right amount? -- Bill

Showing BIG Engines

I always wanted a big engine and I've seen lots of them at the shows. Boy oh boy! They always make great showpieces! When I had a chance to buy this one (F&M 15hp Z) I had that happy feeling you get when bringing home an old engine. After a while I began to understand that the bigger the iron and the more weight, the harder it is to work on. I'm gonna have to make up my mind to either put it all together (maybe on a skid) or trade it off for something smaller? The other thing that has my emotions mixed, is it is a Fairbanks & Morse and thats my favorite. Anyone else feel this deep about their old iron or am I just carried away? -- Fairbanks Kid

Universal Generator

Do any of you guys have a schematic, or maybe a manual, for a Universal Model D 3KW generator, circa 1918? Also who can do a good job of re-varnishing & baking the windings? This unit appears to be in good condition but the wrapping is dried out and cracked, and I don't want to risk damaging anything when I run the engine. It hasn't been run since the 20's. I'm assuming that the original wire was covered with either a cotton wrap or varnish, shellac, etc and that the insulation is still intact. The coils are covered with what appears to be cloth tape and I haven't removed any of the covering. Should the complete coil assemblies be soaked and baked as is, or is it best to rewind the coils with newer wire? -- Harvey

Show Fees for Exhibitors

What does everyone think of the practice of show committees charging the demonstrators an entrance fee? Does anyone else have a problem with this? We, as exhibitors, are the entire reason that the general public comes to the show. The spectators come to see the engines (for a dedicated engine show, anyway). Yet many events choose to charge US so that we can become the attration of the show. Doesn't that kind of sound like the New York Yankees having to each buy a ticket before every game? When I ATTEND a show, whether it's a an antique car show, or an engine show, or any other spectator event, I expect to pay some form of an admission fee. But when I am a demonstrator, it just seems disingenuous on the part of the show committee. Am I out of line on this one? -- Tim

Grumpy Old Men

Ok, how many of you have had this experience? You find an engine or tractor or some old piece of iron that you want and the old man who owns it won't give or sell it to you for a million bucks, even though it is sitting out in the junk pile, (he probably forgot it was even there.) He says he'll get it running or restore it someday. -- Tanner

Rationalizing Engine Purchases

After being in the hobby for any amount of time, it becomes common practice to peruse the classifieds in a quest for more stuff. At first we tell ourselves that we are only looking for that one last part to complete our current restoration project. -- Tim

Magnet Charger for Magnetos

I would like to build a magnet charger like the one John Rex wrote in the January 1989 G.E.M. article. I've wanted to do this for years but never could find a source for the wire needed. It takes 40#`s (preferably 2 20# rolls of #10 gauge heavy Formvar magnet wire. Where could the average man pick up some of this? -- Jim


I need some expert advice on my maytag twin. I have replaced the old spark plugs, checked the contact for proper gap (.20), cleaned the inside of the flywheel and magneto, inspected the plug wires, and tested it per the instructions found in the owners manual. No spark. I was told that it had spark when I bought it, so I feel the problem might have occured when I took it apart. I admit that I am a novice at this and may be missing something obvious. Any suggestions? -- Tom


I have two Waterloo style engines, a Gault and a Majestic. They both make the water in the water hopper bubble on the compression stroke. I have put a new head gasket on the Gault and it still leaks when it is running, but I have not done anything to the Majestic. Neither of them have any cracks in the heads that I can see, but the old head gasket on the Gault showed a bad spot that was causing the leak. Now I cannot get the new gasket to seal completely either. How can I get the head gasket to seal or is there a proper procedure for this? -- C. Props


After having my share of engines and other equipment, I think it's time to start having items running with my engines. I am sure they were used to power a lot of items, but I don't know what they could be. Please help me with some names of equipment that might work on my engine trailer. -- Ken

Getting Started Collecting Engines

I would like to get a hit and miss engine. I know little about them, but am pretty mechanically inclined. I would like your advice on how to get started. I do not have deep pockets, so I am looking for one on the low end, price wise, but would like it to be running. I feel like I could restore one, but would feel better if I knew it ran first. How should I go about getting started in this hobby? -- Hal

Ice Cream Churn

Can some one tell me if the ice cream churns hooked to the hit & miss engines were made for those engines or is it a conversion of some sort. If a conversion, please explain how as I would like to set one up. I have the engine already! -- Alvin

Rust Removal

Everyone has their own concoction for loosening rusty parts and any help would be welcome! My preference is Kroil brand oil as it has always seemed to be the best. Situation: I have two needle valves rusted in place on a carb. and have been soaking them for over a month. No results? I'm afraid of putting too much tension trying to force them to open with fear they might snap off? -- Fairbanks Kid

Parking at Shows

It has been brought up with our club and some others about the parking of exhibitors vehicles at shows. I would like your opinion on whether or not we should be allowed to park next to our engines or have to park in the parking lot that is almost always all the way across the grounds from our displays. -- John

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