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Kohler Generators Restoring, maintaining and operating vintage Kohler generators.

Kohler Generators

1951 Kohler 350M21 350 Watt Generator Set #154768

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Old 03-31-2019, 12:13:48 AM
sbbloom69 sbbloom69 is offline
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Default Re: 1951 Kohler 350M21 350 Watt Generator Set #154768

I should probably run my own 350M21 thread, but I've said it all here.

I'm at a cross roads with the little Kohlers. All three run now. Two run really well. I'm sure I'll get #2 sorted (low compression, low power).

I really don't need 3 of them, but at 70lbs, they are so hard to ship. I think I'll restore the best one. Change the gaskets, prime and repaint, really spiff it up. The other two? We'll see.

I think I'll off-load my Gillette C-12 1250 watt, and probably my Craftsman / Generac 4.2 kW (1998 vintage). I have two perfectly running Onan 305 CCK (3.5 kW) that will see me through any problem. Having no semi-conductors, they Onans and the Kohlers are extremely reliable, even through an EMP (I do a LITTLE doomsday prepping, but not to an extreme).

Now, I'd give damn near anything to get a project Kohler 1A21. Talk about coolness factor. But, project sets are few and far between now.

Thanks for all the help. I can't believe I had two unrelated, yet related problems (broken coil wire, then the reversed points cam sleeve).

Is there a source for the AC slip ring brushes, and the DC exciter brushes? I suppose I could cut down brushes from the hardware store in a pinch.

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Old 03-31-2019, 12:25:39 PM
Vanman Vanman is online now
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Default Re: 1951 Kohler 350M21 350 Watt Generator Set #154768

No problem, your sets are certainly relevant to the thread.

I don't know. It's OK having three. At least they're safe for now. I'm thrilled to finally have one. If another showed up close by and cheap, I'd probably have to have it. But they are sort of novelties. Mine won't even run a mini-fridge. They have very little overload capacity. If I added a cap in parallel with the fridge it would probably work. But they certainly could have their uses. My computer and telco equipment runs fine on it, along with a few bulbs. It ran the angle grinder surprisingly well. I just turned down the speed on the grinder so it would take less power.

I have two 1A21s and a 1E21H (emergency plant in a housing) and three more DC plants of the same type ie Model D or similar. These Kohlers are my favorite, and I love 'em. But none of them are really very good. I've had signs of life from three, with a thread going on one of them. One will likely never run again (rotted out with rust on the inside) but beautifully original on the outside. Other two are pretty rough too. These usually come up in other corners of the country besides ours.

Don't know about brushes. I believe there are still companies that specialize in them though. Unlikely to ever find originals, but you never know.

From looking at your photo of the three, I'd combine the best parts to make one nice original one, then restore the one that's in the worst condition. You can restore them as many times as you like, but they're only original once.

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Old 03-31-2019, 03:41:48 PM
sbbloom69 sbbloom69 is offline
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Default Re: 1951 Kohler 350M21 350 Watt Generator Set #154768

Two of the three have brass tags riveted to the Kohler tag or the brush end bell with LASL and a serial number. LASL was the 2nd formal name for Los Alamos: Los Alamos Science Laboratory. Today its Los Alamos National Laboratory. That might have some significance in the future. The lab usually bought commercial items in fairly large quantities, and many times with specific customizations. When I looked up the serial and spec number for my 1963 Onan CCK, it didn't seem to fit any of the common models, and was in the "custom" group. I haven't tried to match the serial numbers on the Kohler with any history to get an exact date of manufacture.

One of the old ham radio operators (now SK) I met after I first moved here and got my ticket (probably 2002) said these little generators were part of a packaged set of equipment at satellite Civil Defense fallout shelters around the Los Alamos area (Los Alamos was a juicy target for many years). These shelters each had one or two of these generators, an AM/Shortwave receiver (he mentioned 3 Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, and National), lights, maps, radiation monitoring equipment, and tinned civil defense food / water. He said these were maintained from about 1950 until "the early 60's" probably 1964. The LASL designator was in use from 1947 until about 1981. Our ham radio club got a lot of this equipment in the 60's and 70's when it was declared surplus/salvage. Mechanically, everything was in very good shape (preventive maintenance labels with dates, clean oil, etc). However, all three engines had the governors messed up. I suspect someone thought the governors should be set like the typical Briggs. These Kohlers are backwards from the Briggs. All three of them had the governor shaft catch hooks messed up. Maybe that's why they ended up in the club basement (itself a former CD shelter).

Do you happen know when each of the carbs was in use? All of mine have the Carter N carb, with the idle and main adjustable jet, without the inlet fuel strainer. From the photo, you can see that my oil-bath air cleaners (transparent plastic with yellow cleaning and filling instructions still legible) are still intact. My Kohler 350M21 Operator's / Maintenance manual shows the Tilotson carb. Maybe they were both used equally, or perhaps the early ones had one or the other.

Anyway, I'm going to mull over your idea of taking the best of the three, unmolested, and making one original one, then restore the other one or two. I'm still amazed what it took for me to notice the backwards points cam on #3. I was considering taking the Bendix ignition off #2 and putting it on #3. Now I don't have to.

One last comment. I have the same love affair with old outboards. I've resurrected a couple of old British Seagulls. Again, i'ts interesting how they were designed, compared to the typical old Evinrude or Johnson. Another topic...

I'll look for your 1A21 thread. I'd love to find one, just for the coolness factor.

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