A Tale of Two Engines

Diagram of a 27 engine

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26 Mott Place Rockaway Boro, New Jersey 07866

I have always liked old engines and machinery, having been introduced to them by my dad at the Kutztown Folk Festival about 20 years ago. Over the years I have acquired a number of them in various states of repair.

I learned how to rebuild and restore them the old fashioned way, that is by taking them apart and putting them back together myself. It was not easy. My first attempt was nearly my last. It was on my fifth birthday and my grandpa had left his brand new rotary lawnmower in the backyard on its side. I saw it and asked him if I could 'fix it'. Figuring I could do little harm with no tools, he said yes. (He had removed the blade to sharpen it.) He did not remember that he had left a screwdriver, a hammer and a pair of vice grips on his workbench nearby. Well I found them, went to work and 'fixed it' just fine. Needless to say Grandpa was thrilled with the job I did. After 25 years I still have the only salvagable part left the carburetor. I have been repairing engines ever since (with some help early on) with much more success.

My latest restoration project began with the arrival of the March-April 1983 issue of GEM. I was glancing thru the Wanted section when a For Sale ad caught my eye. The ad had been placed by Stewart B. Sisk of Antler, North Dakota. He was selling two IHC-McCormick Deering type M 1 HP gasoline engines.

Because I had just finished fixing a 1932 engine of the same type, I decided to inquire into what kind of shape they were in and how much he wanted for them. I figured I could use mine as an example to fix them up since it was in good original condition.

The reply from Stewart was quick in coming both engines were stuck and missing some parts. However, he added, parts from both engines might possibly be used to make one usable engine. The price was right, but the big problem was getting them from Antler, N.D. where he was, to Rockaway Boro, N.J. where I live. Stewart solved that problem by locating a trucking firm willing to carry them for $32 per 100 pounds, if we knew the weight and put them on a pallet. We didn't know the exact weight (and still don't) so we took a guess at 500 pounds for the pair. It must have been close enough, because after a couple more exchanges of information and a mailed check, they were on their way by April 8th.

The engines took two weeks to get to N.J. and another day of calls to locate them as they had been re-routed in transit. I had to go to a trucking depot in Parsipanny, N.J. to pick them up, a trip of about ten miles. The workers all laughed when they saw my 1950 IHC L-120 pickup truck, but the laughter stopped after the engines were loaded in the back and the bed did not sag one inch. They didn't know the L-120 is rated at ton, and besides I've had 2 tons on it with no problem.

When I got them home I was so worked up that I took both engines off the tailgate by myself.

Both engines still had their original ID tags and serial numbers so I looked them up and found that they were built in 1927 and 1928.

As soon as I got them into my garage I went to work taking off almost all of the easily removable parts including the heads and flywheels on both engines. Because both engines were about an inch deep in gunk and old grease, the exteriors were not rusty at all, and even the flywheels came off with a tug after the pins were pulled. All of the parts were set aside in separate areas to be worked over later. (See picture 1) This was done to ease the cleaning operations and to make the main pieces as light as possible so I could move them easily to my work area.

The main piece consisted of the stuck piston, cylinder and block assembly with the attached connecting rod and crankshaft. These I stood up on end with the open cylinder bore looking up. A block of wood under the connecting rod inspection port (hand hole) and the flat part of the base made a pretty stable stand.

Both engines had stopped with the piston about 2/3 of the way down the bores on the compression stroke. I sprayed WD-40 around the piston and then filled the bores with my 'bust it loose stuff. I make the solution as follows: 1 cup gasoline, 1 cup kerosene, 1 half-pint can Liquid Wrench, and 1 cup Type F automatic transmission fluid. Put in a half gallon closed container and shake lightly to mix contents. This makes enough for 1 engine operation. Please if you use this mixture, keep it in a closed container and don't use near an open flame. It lights pretty fast when first mixed and it smokes when heated. Also use in a well ventilated area.

I should say now that there are some differences between the '27 and '28 engines and since they both needed about the same amount of work I decided to restore them both. The first thing was to have two valves made up for the '27 engine as the originals were missing. RDF Heads of Pompton Plains, NJ. did the job for me. Next I wrote to Ed Deis of Orwell, OH for all of the obvious missing parts. This included the long and short governor rods, the governor yoke or shoe for the '27; the magneto rocker and valve springs; fuel pump rockers (they are different) and more. After the note to Ed, I wrote to George Wilson of Rice Lake, WI about 2 different fuel pumps. Next was a call to Wally Steding of Ford Dodge, IA for the carburetor fuel pickup tubes and throttle shafts. He also had the Venturi to go in between the upper and lower carb sections (a hard item to find) as the originals being made of zinc had disintegrated. A phone call to Bob Whitaker in Greenfield, IN located a Wico EK magneto, and last but not least a note to Starbolt Engine Supplies in Laytonsville, MD for a pair of fuel tanks was successful.

The primary teardown and parts research took about two days, the ordering another two. On the fifth day I started cleaning the loose parts down to bare metal. These I primed and first-coat painted and set aside. At this time I found that one of the flywheels from the '27 had a cracked spoke near the hub and was slightly bent. I didn't think that the bend was too serious but the spoke had to be repaired. I took the flywheel to a local gas station to see if they could repair it but was told that they didn't have the proper equipment to make the repair. On my way out an elderly man asked me what the wheel was for and I told him. I learned that he used to work in a blacksmith's shop and he could fix it for me. When I asked how much it would cost he said, 'Just let me see it run when you get it finished.' When I got it back the wheel was as straight as an arrow and you could not tell which spoke had been repaired after I primed and painted it. Now comes the hard part. I mopped out the remaining stuff in the cylinders and set the blocks back on their bases. By the way, this is the way I get most of my stuck pistons out.

The two stories differ from this point on so I will tell you about the '27 engine first as it is more typical of what I find in a stuck engine.

Restoring the '27

On the sixth day I looked in the bore of the '27 engine. It was in pretty good shape above the piston so I honed it with a medium stone hone to get out the surface rust. It cleaned up very quickly. Next I removed the connecting rod cap and the Babbitted bearings. I placed a 1 inch diameter piece of type L copper tubing over the crankshaft journal (see diagram 1). Then I placed a 3 inch diameter round by 1 foot long piece of oak in the bore, after again spraying the piston crown with WD-40. I hit the wood with a five pound hammer and the piston moved about 1 inch further down the bore. Again I honed the exposed cylinder and sprayed in some of my 'stuff' which I had put in an old oilcan. I then placed the fly wheels on the crankshaft and put in the pins or keys lightly. I aligned the connecting rod with the crankpin journal by placing a piece of inch diameter copper tubing about 8 inches long on the upper connecting rod cap bolt and letting it rest on the copper on the journal (see diagram 2).

After turning the crankshaft gently as far as it would go in the direction opposite normal running, I pulled the flywheels over hard as if to start the engine. When the crankpin hit the connecting rod the piston would be forced to travel up the bore. In this case the piston and rod flew clean out of the cylinder and onto the floor, luckily without damage, on the first try.

Do not try this yourself until the piston has moved with the wood. On the type 'M' engines, or any other engine with a cylinder sleeve bore, if the piston is stuck fast, the sleeve may move before the piston meaning much more work. On a non-sleeved or very tight sleeve bore you may damage or break the crankshaft with the torsion supplied by the flywheels if the piston is stuck tight. Please make sure the piston moves at least a little bit with the wood. This method works but you have to give it a little help.

I don't recommend this for an engine with a weak connecting rod or a badly pitted bore as it may cause breakage if you are not careful.

I use copper on the crankpin and cap bolt to protect the parts from direct steel to steel contact. The softer metal will deform before damaging the steel. The babitt bearings are removed because they will not stand up to this kind of abuse. By the way, the bearings on both engines were in very good condition, only needing a slight adjustment to take up the play. Another note here, I have seen too many people melt down a perfectly good bearing by making it too tight. If you take out a shim and the engine gets stiff to turn, put it back. Rather to run loose and adjust later than to have to pour another bearing.

The cylinder was honed with a fine stone for its entire length and it cleaned up pretty well showing only slight wear and some minor pitting from the rust. The piston cleaned up like new with steel wool and the rings although stuck looked pretty good too. A little 'stuff freed them right up.

I took the flywheels off again and proceeded to clean all the mouse nests out of the hopper and to scrape off about 2 inches of accumulated grease and grime that had been gathered over the years. Remarkably the original stencil work was still in good shape on the skid. I cleaned and primed the block and quit for the night. It took about 18 hours of work from initial look over to first coat of paint. The next day I gave the block two coats of paint and reassembled the rod and piston to the crank and block unit. I then second-coat painted all of the small parts that had been removed earlier, and re-installed most of them also.

After dinner, I installed the fly wheels, head, oiler, and the grease cups. Last to go on were the carburetor and the governor linkages, and by ten that night I was ready to try starting it up. I use Valvoline SAE 40 oil on the piston and running gear, and some old paraffin base Texaco water pump grease my grandpa gave me on the greasable bearings. The engine was stiff to turn over but it was not binding anywhere. After filling the carb with gas and priming the intake a little, I gave the flywheels a yank and to my mild surprise it fired right up. After putting on the decals and doing a little touch up work I took this engine to our club's engine show where it was sold. The compression was down a bit, but I think if the engine is run for awhile the rings will seat in and the situation will improve.

On to the '28 Model

Restoring the 1928 was a totally different ball game. Where the '27 restoration went so smoothly, Murphy's law struck with a vengeance on the '28. If something could go wrong, it did.

First the new fuel pump was defective and had to be sent back for a replacement. Next the governor shoe Ed sent me was for an earlier (1923 and back) model and wouldn't fit, so back it went. The flat belt pulley hold down bolt wrung off and it took me four hours to remove what was left to get the pulley off. In cleaning the small parts down to bare metal I discovered some worn items I had overlooked before in my initial look-through. More calls to Ed!

Last, but by no means least, after getting all the small parts ready for reassembly, I went to work on the stuck piston. I honed the cylinder and sprayed it just like the '27, but something just did not look right. I got out my droplight to take a closer look and sure enough something wasn't. Someone in the past had tried to free the stuck piston by beating directly on it with a small hard object. Big mistake!! The whole crown or top of the piston was stove in and fractured but was still in place.

Well, at this point I couldn't lose so I went ahead with the same removal procedure as I used on the '27 engine. I got a different result. On the first shot with the hammer all the broken piston crown pieces went flying out the rod inspection port and the wooden block was firmly jammed throught the head of the piston against the connecting rod top end and wrist pin. Nuts! Oh well, back to the drawing board. After plenty of cussing and thinking, I decided that the wood block was not going any further as it was, so I'd beat on it where it was.

After about 20 whacks it had moved only a quarter of an inch. I took a chance that the piston would move before the cylinder sleeve and tried the flywheel inertia part. It only moved the piston about ' out. Back and forth this went on three times and the total movement was still a little over an inch. Now I was really getting mad so I got out my Oxy-Acetylene torch and heated the cylinder through the hopper. Finally, after 4 more rockings in and out, stuff soakings, and another hone job I got what was left of that poor piston out. (see picture 2)

I gave the cylinder a final hone job with the fine stone and found that after all that work the cylinder was in excellent shape. There was virtually no wear and no pitting from the rust. I took my bore gauge and found that there was only about .002 taper (almost unnoticeable). Again another call to Ed Deis for a piston and ring set. You should have seen my phone bill!

Anyway, while I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I primed and painted the block and reassembled as much as I could (see picture 3). It took four weeks for the parts to get here and only five minutes to install.

It took me three hours of final assembly and touchup work before I was ready to fire this one up, too. The compression was so good that I couldn't pull it over unless I held a valve open. I finally used my IHC 3 HP engine hand crank to turn it over. Now after four turns and two badly scraped knuckles, (the handle is longer than the radius of the flywheel so your hand raps the skid as the engine turns) it fired up. Boy did it smoke! I let it run a little while to burn off the excess oil, and the smoke cleared right up. Now it is easier to start but the compression is still excellent. As a final touch to this restoration I located an NOS IHC spark plug made by Champion to work in this engine.

It is finally finished (see picture 4).

The paint I use for my IHC type 'M' restorations is made by Krylon, and the color is Forest Green. Krylon has two Forest Green paints, an early and a late. The early paint has the pigments listed on the can itself, and the later has the list on the plastic lid. It is the later paint that you want. This is because it has more blue pigment in it making it very close to the original green in color.

If anyone out there in Engine Land needs assistance in repairing or restoring their old iron, please feel free to drop me a note or a phone call. I am usually home at 201-627-2392 after 6 PM Eastern time.

That wraps up my story. Besides the 1928 IHC McCormick Deering, I also own a 1919 IHC International M 3 HP kerosene engine with the rare undershot igintor (the hundredth engine built by IHC that year), a 1920 IHC International 1 HP kerosene, a 1922 Hercules 5 HP with Webster ignition, a 1928 Stover KA 2 HP, a 1924 Fairbanks Morse 1 HP, a United 1 HP year unknown, as well as several Maytag singles, twins and some B & S engines.