A Boy and his Baker

A Boy's First Gas Engine makes for a Good Father/Son Project


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In 2003 was our son Devin's first trip to the fall Portland, Ind., show. As you can imagine, any 10-year-old would have been excited to miss school to attend this show. Prior to the trip, he decided it was time to pick out his first engine - and finding "his" engine in the swap area was high on his agenda. Once we finally arrived and set up in the Stationary Engine List area, it was time to see all the treasures in the swap area. My wife, Missy, and I had a little chat with him beforehand and explained the size of the sale area, the amount of items there, the variety and the importance of seeing everything before making his choice.

We were about halfway through the area and Devin had gotten a little ahead of us. Next thing we knew, Devin was running back to us all excited saying he's found his engine and we have to go buy it now! I tried to calm him, saying we needed to go check it out thoroughly before making a decision. Devin promptly replied that he had already done this and that the engine turned freely, had compression and there were no cracks in the hopper. My goodness, he had been listening!

We arrived at Nebraska engine dealer Larry Lucke's trailer and the engine was exactly as Devin had described it. He had picked out a little 1932 Baker Monitor upright, a 1-1/4 HP pump jack engine.

After paying for the engine, and with some help from my friend Dallas Cox and his golf cart, we had the engine back to the SEL area.

Collectively, the SEL crew worked on the engine for a couple of hours and voila! The little engine ran! She was pretty worn out from years of farm work, but she was running and this made Devin so proud.

It was our intent to restore the engine and have it ready for the 2004 Portland show, but other priorities, combined with the amount of work that ultimately had to be done to the engine, forced us to aim for the 2005 show.

The Fun Part

Shortly after we got the engine home, we began taking it apart, cleaning, sandblasting and priming all the parts. We also began assessing all the parts that would have to be repaired. Nothing was broken, but this little engine sure was worn out. One of the first things we had to do was chuck the piston and clean up the ring grooves. Once this was done we ordered new custom rings from Niagara Piston Ring Works Inc. in Corry, Pa.

Then we moved on to the block, serial no. 43784. We made new brass bushings to support the camshaft and added oil seals on the outside to keep the oil mess down. Once we had the bushings in, a little measuring revealed that the top, where the cylinder mounts, was not parallel to the camshaft. It was out about 0.007-inch, but a little milling corrected this.

When we had it running at Portland in 2003, it leaked profusely around the hand hole access in the crankcase. This opening simply wasn't machined right at the factory and some more milling corrected this, too.

Joe Prindle, a noted Monitor expert and organizer of the Baraboo, Wis., show, had sent Devin some factory literature. From that literature, we learned that the piston centerline was offset from the crankshaft centerline to reduce side thrust on the power stroke. But how much offset? With some careful measuring and some geometry/CAD work, we determined the offset was 3/4-inch. That much offset was quite a surprise.

While we were measuring, we determined the babbitt mains were worn enough to warrant re-pouring them. Several things need to be aligned correctly on a Monitor when pouring new mains: The crankshaft has to be parallel to the cylinder mounting surface, parallel to the camshaft, and exactly 5 inches away from the camshaft for proper meshing of the gears. It seemed the best way to assure we poured them accurately was to make a fixture.

When we were sure the fixture would do its job, Devin melted the old babbitt out. It's important to pass the craft of babbitt pouring on to the next generation. Once the Babbittrite (babbitt putty) was in place and everything was hot, Devin poured his first bearings with a small ladle. He was a little nervous with the hot metal, but he did it.

The only thing we didn't repair ourselves was grinding the throw on the crankshaft. This was left to Standard Crankshaft in Charlotte, N.C. It took about 0.007-inch to clean it up and get it round again.

Once done, this meant the rod babbitt insert would no longer work. I figured there was no chance of finding an undersized insert, so we just made a mould and cast the insert right onto the rod and cap. Once poured, we bored it for a 0.004-inch clearance to the crankshaft with a 1/8-inch shim for future wear.

There were still a few mechanical details to complete, such as making new intake and exhaust valves and reaming the worn valve guides in the exhaust valve cage and the cylinder. The exhaust valve was simple to open up from 5/16- to 3/8-inch. Reaming the intake valve guide to the same 3/8-inch proved to be more of a challenge. To assure perfect alignment with the intake seat and exhaust cage taper, a special reaming fixture was made to guide the reamer. The fixture was bolted in place and we reamed the intake valve guide true again.


In conjunction with the engine work, we began working on wooden rails to go with the set of Rock Island trucks we had picked up at Tri-State's 2004 spring Swap and Sell in Portland. SEL member Richard Fink came up with a nice piece of oak that we sawed into rails for the cart. Local cabinet maker and engine buddy Clayton Ballard and his son David helped us plane, sand and router the details on the edges.

Once they were ready for finishing, Devin stained and polyurethaned the rails to make them look nice.

In late July we began assembling the engine and got some paint on it. We built a pump assembly in early August from PVC pipe and a foot valve that fit up inside the pump. We began putting the whole thing together on the cart and got it done about a week before the 2005 Portland show. Devin and his engine had their debut at the 40th anniversary of Portland. We've got the engine running slow and it pumps water at a nice, leisurely rate. It's great to have youth involved in the hobby and it's important that we pass our passion for old iron on to them.

Contact engine enthusiasts Curt and Devin Holland at: 209 Wynnchester Road, Gastonia, NC 28056; (704) 853-2992; curt@imc-group.com