A Mysterious Cement Mixer

Obscure Kent cement mixer poses more questions than answers.

Kent mixer

Rick guesses his Kent mixer was produced in the early teens since the Novo engine powering it carries a Hildreth tag. Novo engines were produced under the Hildreth Manufacturing Co. name before the company was re-organized in 1912.

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Rick Monk of Brownstown, Mich., loves to collect and display Novo engines - and the equipment they powered. So, when fellow engine buddy Joe Kelly contacted Rick about a Novo-powered continuous-pour cement mixer he had stumbled upon in Bangor, Maine, Rick jumped at the chance to add another piece of equipment to his collection.

But when he displays the odd-looking mixer at engine shows, people scratch their heads, wondering just what this particular Novo is powering. Oddly enough, not one person has recognized it as a cement mixer, and nobody has been able to tell Rick anything about its manufacturer, the Kent Machine Co. of Kent, Ohio.

'Nobody even knows what it is,' Rick says. 'I've never met a single person who knows what it is out of the five or six shows I've taken it to. Old-timer concrete guys say they've never seen one. I fully expected to meet someone at the Portland (Ind.) show who knew what it was or something about the company, but I never did.'

Remarkably, Rick's Kent mixer seems to be the only one known to exist, and it's just a matter of luck that Rick ended up owning it. Rick and Joe got to know each other through an old-engine Internet site and from a couple of meetings at the Coolspring Power Museum, Coolspring, Pa., and Joe just happened to think of Rick when he saw the Kent. In October 2002 during a vacation that took him through Canada, Rick drove to Bangor and picked up the mixer, repaying Joe the $700 that Joe spent to buy it from a Bangor engine club.

The mixer was in rough condition, Rick says, and looked nothing like it does today. 'The sheet metal was all rotted out, the mixing hopper was gone and the whole thing was just plain rotted out from sitting out in the weather all these years,' Rick recalls. 'The good thing was all of the cast iron was still intact. Because all that was there, it was just a matter of cleaning it up and working on the sheet metal.' Rick did have to make one link on the back table, plus the bottom of the clutch shoe and the auger housing was rotted out, but all of the bolts except for three unscrewed without breaking. The mixer also included an engine housing, but it's not yet restored.

Likewise, the 3 HP Novo engine that came with the mixer wasn't in terrible shape, either, although its surface looked pretty rough. The engine had definitely been used a lot in the past, but it could have been worse.

When Rick disassembled the Novo engine, he noticed a third of the piston was broken off around the skirt. However, since the broken skirt didn't keep the engine from running, and since the engine and mixer's working days are long past, Rick left the piston as he found it. All that Rick did to the Novo was rebuild the fuel pump to make sure it had a good, steady flow of fuel, and he honed the cylinder - the rest was cosmetic. 'This whole (engine) unit was in excellent condition,' Rick adds.

Rick's father, Kenneth, 74, did most of the sand blasting and painting as caked-on cement covered a large portion of the mixer and engine. 'He's got a little more patience on that painting stuff than I do,' Rick admits.

How It Works

To understand how this Kent mixer operates, first consider the three hoppers set on top of the mixer frame: Sand is added to the large hopper closest to the engine and concrete mix to the middle hopper. The engine is connected to a direct-drive clutch that in turn engages a table positioned underneath the hoppers. When engaged, this table oscillates parallel to the mixer's base, allowing sand and concrete to fall into the mixing tray below. Mixing controls on the side of the containers determine the amplitude of the table's oscillation, which determines how much material falls into the mixing tray.

The last hopper holds rock and works similar to the first two containers, but the table underneath oscillates perpendicular to the mixer's base. A water-intake valve is connected to the rock container to control the addition of water to the mixing tray located at the belly of the mixer. Once all the materials are fed into the mixing tray, an auger in the mixing tray mixes and pushes the prepared concrete toward the back so it can be continuously dispensed.

'I've had people tell me the same style of paddle and auger is still used today in commercial cement factories to mix concrete,' Rick says.

The key feature of this cement mixer is its ability to continuously mix concrete in the same proportions simply by adjusting the mix controls and adding the raw ingredients. Other mixers of the era simply mixed individual batches, relying on the operator to measure out the correct proportions each time the mixer went empty.

Rick isn't interested in using his mixer to make concrete, however. This finely restored piece of equipment served its purpose for decades and is also one-of-a-kind. Now it's been retired for display purposes.

'I've never used it to mix concrete, too much work has been put into it to do that!' Rick says.

Rick figures his Kent mixer was probably built some time between 1910 and 1913, considering the Novo engine is a Hildreth model, which means the engine was manufactured prior to 1912 when Hildreth Manufacturing Co., Lansing, Mich., was reestablished as the Novo Engine Co.

Steve Barr, a friend of Rick's and a fellow engine collector from Downers Grove, Ill., owns an advertisement dated to 1913 - the only know reference to the Kent mixer - that gives credence to Rick's guess.

To learn just exactly how old his mixer is and how many were produced, Rick contacted the local historical society in Kent but received absolutely nothing useful about the firm. In fact, his search for more information about the Kent Manufacturing Co. has stalled completely. 'The historical society wasn't able to tell me anything,' Rick sadly admits. 'I'm hoping GEM readers will know something about it.'

That's how his mixer stands today. Unable to find any information about his mixer, Rick's stuck with wondering the obscure history and specifications about his Kent mixer. In 2004, however, Rick plans to take his engine to about five or six gas engine shows, so hope still remains that someone will finally recognize the mixer and give Rick some much-needed information about it.

Rick Monk is looking for more information about his Kent cement mixer. If any one has information, contact him at: 24146 Kraft Place, Brownstown, Ml 48174; (313) 378-5759; rgmtruck@aol.com

Novo Mud Pump

Always on the prowl for Novo-powered equipment, Rick Monk added a Novo mud pump, produced in the late teens, to his collection in 2000. Purchased from old-engine buddy Alex Stevens at the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pa., the pump came with a 3 HP Novo vertical engine - the same model of engine that powers the Kent cement mixer. And just like the mixer, this pump came out of Maine, as well.

The Novo pump was essentially in good shape: the only items that needed replacing were the rubber plungers. In fact, the same weekend that Alex sold Rick the pump, Rick had it working at the Apple and Arts Festival in Delmont, Pa. Rick returned to his shop in Dearborn, Mich., with the pump and put the finishing touches on it. All that needed done was to strip it down, prime and paint it. The cart base is an original Novo that came with the pump, but Rick made the wheels.

Now, Rick uses the pump for demonstrations - its first time was at the 2003 Hudson Mills Old Power Club Show in Dexter, Mich. Rick says the pump does a great job. In fact, the little mud pump can dump upwards of 5 to 6 gallons per stroke.