Immortal Hercules Drag Saw

Restoration of 1921 Hercules drag saw proves it is no mere mortal

Luke Kissell Drag Saw

Luke Kissell and the completed (and running) Hercules drag saw.

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Hercules Drag Saw
Hercules Corp., Evansville, Ind.
Year: Mid-1921
HP: 1-1/2
Governing: Hit-and-miss
Serial number: 254252 Type E
RPM: 550
Ignition: Webster low-tension magneto
Original cost (in 1922): $74; extra blades, $4.45 each

In September 2004 I was showing a few engines at one of my local shows when a man approached and looked over my display. After a while he started asking a few questions and asked if I was interested in purchasing any more engines. Of course, he had my attention.

Apparently, his late father had owned some engines and now his mother was interested in letting them go. I took the man’s name and number and later called to arrange a meeting time.

When I arrived, I found several items sitting outside or in outbuildings that were in various states of disrepair. I looked everything over, made an offer and his mother accepted.

One of the items sitting outside was a Hercules drag saw. At least, most of it was outside. The engine and chain-operated saw drive were mounted on half-rotted wooden rails with wheels. The ratcheting log winch was found in the ground by the engine, rusted and stuck. The drive chain, sliding blade mount and saw blade were not with the engine. A subsequent search of outbuildings turned up the missing parts. Luckily they were in great shape, protected from the elements.

After getting everything home, I removed all the parts from the wooden rails. Since the handle ends of the rails were rotted off, and probably not original to the saw, I made new ones based on my experience with other saws. The new ones were made out of sawmill maple that was cut, planed and shaped to size. They were primed with two coats of white paint and then painted with three coats of New Holland Red tractor paint. Between coats, work began on cleaning, stripping and priming the metal parts. The engine had been restored before, so everything needed to be taken down to metal.

Disassembly of the engine revealed that it was in very good shape for being outside and just required a good cleaning and some rust removal.

The clutch was a different story. It consists of a flat milled surface on the flywheel, three thin metal discs and a pressure plate. The plates were rusted and partially pitted. I cleaned them on a wire wheel and then skimmed some J-B Weld over the pitted surfaces. When the J-B Weld had cured, I sanded the discs smooth on a belt sander.

The fuel tank had the normal dried-up gunk in it. The tank was removed from the engine and then cleaned by dropping square-headed nuts into it and adding denatured alcohol. I let it sit for a couple days, occasionally shaking it around. Then I emptied it and rinsed it out.

The unusual mixer needed disassembly and internal cleaning. According to Mr. Glenn Karch, this engine has a “drag saw mixer.” It has an internal round plate valve (like a Lunkenheimer), which prevents fuel from going into it except when the intake opens. Therefore it will not flood when the saw is propped on an angle against a log. This mixer is an earlier style, having a football-shaped opening and no choke plate. Mr. Karch also said some saws used a drag saw mixer and some did not.

A new check valve, engine decals and a new brass magnet band for the Webster magneto were obtained from my friends Bill and Linda Starkey at Starbolt Engine Supplies.

The magneto was cleaned and painted and a new pigtail lead was installed. The final touch was to put on the new brass band and bolt it to the newly painted magneto bracket.

A new pitman arm needed to be made. Since the original was missing completely, I again relied on past experience and made a new one out of maple. It has slots cut in the ends to tighten them and oil holes above for lubrication.

The engine was painted Kelly green and striped with medium red paint.

Everything on the log winch was reused except for the chain and mounting bolts. Teeth were made out of iron T-bar stock and attached to the underside of the rails, near the handles, so they can bite into the log when the winch is tightened.

The saw operates as good as it looks now. I would like to send special thanks to Bill and Linda Starkey for the parts and Mr. Glenn Karch for sharing his expertise of Hercules equipment.

Contact Luke Kissell at 1323 Tannery Hill Road, Westminster, MD 21157 • (410) 857-5213 • 

Learn more about Hercules gas engines in these related articles:
History of the Hercules Gas Engine Co. 
1921 1-1/2 HP Hercules