22 Years of Hit & Miss

Hit & Miss Engine

Content Tools

2165 Carroll Southern Road Carroll, Ohio 43112

It all began in October 1970. A junior in high school, I was working after school as a gopher for Steinke Tractor Sales, an Allis Chalmers dealership in Eaton, Ohio. One autumn afternoon, while on a service call, I spotted a potential working piece of art. Buried in a corner of a barn among some straw and rusty iron was an Ottawa Log Saw. Having attended a couple of gas engine shows, I knew I might like to tackle a project of my own one day. That Ottawa was a potential project. I asked the farmer if he would be willing to part with the engine and to my disappointment, he said no. Several weeks later I was back at his farm on another service call. Persistently I asked him again if he would sell it. Again, he said no.

Within a week of my second service call, the gentleman met me at Steinke's and told me I could tow the engine off for twenty-five dollars.

The following Saturday afternoon, with my 1953 Studebaker pickup truck, I loaded up my Ottawa log saw. After removing the straw and debris from the engine, I began questioning the wisdom of my purchase. After all, I had spent a whole week's earnings on a pile of rust and cobwebs, with no knowledge of what an Ottawa log saw should look like. It was all the farmer and I could do to load that 400 pounds of rust and cobwebs into my truck.

Upon examination at home, I found that my dream engine had no gas tank, and both running boards were rotted and broken. Thankfully, all the mechanical parts were present. However, the engine didn't run and, to my best estimation, hadn't run in twenty years.

After one week of tinkering, which included tearing the magneto apart, I was able to get the Ottawa running, but the engine didn't have enough power to run the saw, so I began to experiment with the timing. That proved to be a grave mistake. Once, while cranking it over, I forgot to retard the timing and received a mouthful of hand crank as the engine fired before top dead center. Bruised and discouraged, I placed my project in storage.

Winter of 1971 arrived and I figured it was time to try again. After a couple of weeks, I was able to keep the engine running while engaging the clutch. A real breakthrough! Now it was time to show off my success. With an audience of one, in a confined garage, on my knees behind the running engine, I engaged the clutch. To my horror every, time the pittman arm rotated, the entire assembly hopped back and forth and pinned me against a wall. Again bruised and discouraged, I placed my project back into storage.

I graduated from high school and spent four years touring the world with the Marine Corps as a crew chief aboard a CH-53 helicopter. By 1977 I was back . home leading a fulfilled life, except I had one loose end. The Ottawa was still not completely restored. After several weeks of tinkering, I was ready to tear the Ottawa down and paint. But before I made that major step, I wanted to be sure the engine was mechanically sound and able to fulfill its purpose. Finally I was going to saw a log! The moment of truth had arrived. I secured the saw to the log, cranked the engine and engaged the clutch. After cutting about one inch into the log, the decayed running boards snapped, causing the blade to pinch in the log. The clutch didn't slip and the engine began to oscillate back and forth destroying itself. I watched helplessly for what seemed to be eternity until the engine finally died. Once again, back in storage the Ottawa went and I continued my life.

In 1982, I got married, but my life was still not complete: the Ottawa sat unfinished in a corner of the garage. I tinkered a little bit here and there and even painted the engine, but because of the price of a new gas tank and the fact that I couldn't find oak boards the correct size, the Ottawa went back into storage yet another time.

Finally, in 1986, I found the oak boards I needed. Doyle Brower, a friend, offered to cut the boards free of charge if I'd finish the restoration process. I agreed. He cut the boards and one month later I was back in the military and the Ottawa was back in storage.

Fall of 1992 arrived and the Ottawa was still unfinished and weighing heavily on my mind. It had been six years since I last worked on it. During those six years, my family and I moved three times. To simplify moving we placed my Ottawa in the care of my father who stored it in his barn.

Our final move was in July of 1991. I spent a year organizing my barn and in August of 1992, decided it was time to finish the Ottawa. We always wondered why the seat cushion on my father's garden tractor was thinning. I found out why when I tore the engine completely down. Every piece of the cushion was in the cylinder sleeve. My Ottawa had been serving as a mini-mouse condo! The cylinder sleeve was never intended to be used as restroom facilities. The urine had pitted the wall of the sleeve, but this time I was not going to be defeated. I sandblasted all the parts and repainted the engine. I finished the running gear to proper size and dimension. I poured new babbitting in the engine and in the pittman arm of the saw. I also ordered a new gas tank. My determination was rewarded because everything went back together smoothly.

After twenty-two years of hit and miss, my Ottawa log saw is completely restored and sits among twenty-five other engines I've restored along the way. Now I'm complete, until...