Design Evolution Of The FRIEND Engine

Air-cooled Friend engine

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6190 Keller Ave., Newfane, New York 14108-9508

Head and crank views of the early air-cooled Friend engine. Note that the 1908 line drawing at left shows a pump base separate from but bolted to the engine base. The circa 1910 photograph at right gives a view of the head, carb, and new pump brackets cast as part of the engine base. Note the belt coming off the flywheel to the cooling fan.

Friend Manufacturing Company of Gasport, New York, will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary in 1995. Maker of the Friend gas engine, this company continues to design and produce advanced spray systems for agricultural pesticides application. The engines and sprayers today are a far cry from the early models that began to appear around the turn of the twentieth century. Claiming to be the first commercial venture in the application of gasoline powered engines to high pressure spray pumps, Friend designed and successfully marketed some interesting machinery.

Friend's first commercial engine for power spraying is a bit of a mystery. The air-cooled engine, according to the preface of a company sales catalog of 1910, was first developed in 1900 and put into production in 1901 with the making of one engine powered spray rig. Two units were made in 1902, six in 1903, and 14 in 1904. The 1910 Friend sales catalog carries photographs of the air cooled engine but the photos are not sufficiently detailed to give an understanding of the complete design, especially with regard to the ignition system. The piston travel was horizontal. The gas tank was mounted directly over the cylinder. A flat belt driven by the single flywheel powered a fan mounted on the side of the cylinder head, roughly similar to Ideal or New Way cooling fan mounts. A piece of Friend stationery dating to 1908 carries a print showing the rear of the air cooled engine and companion pump. The engine base is similar to later water-cooled engine bases, but without the cast-in pump brackets. The pump is clearly seen as a distinct and separate unit with its own base bolted down to the same floor as the engine base. The general design of the pump is the basic design that will continue to serve Friend for over thirty years.

By 1910, the separate independent pump base had been eliminated with special brackets cast into the engine base to support the complete weight of the pump. Friend catalogs rated the air-cooled engine at 2.5 horsepower. The era of the Friend air-cooled engine lasted from 1901 to sometime prior to 1915. Despite its longevity and apparent success, I think that demands for increased pump pressure left the 2.5 horsepower engine under strength. Cooling problems may have exacerbated the utility of Friend's first commercial sprayer engine. Also, by as early as 1907, it may have faced stiff competition from its younger sister. By 1907 and probably before, Friend was making a water cooled, open crank engine with a very tall, slab-sided water hopper. Younger, stronger, more powerful than the 2.5 horsepower rating modestly assigned to them, the Friend water cooled had arrived to dominate the next thirty years of Friend engine technology.

Friend open hopper water cooled engines showed three major periods of design transition, although the design changes were not radical. The modifications can be summed up by this word formula: open crankcase; hinged crank cover; closed crankcase. The first 'auto marine' water cooled Friend engines had a fully exposed crank and connecting rod.

The two main bearings were not symmetrical, the flywheel bearing being a bit larger, more robust, and tapped to secure a grounding spring to the timing eccentric. On early engines of this type, the connecting rod was made of bronze. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this engine was its fairly large, markedly rectangular water hopper: a box of cast iron with a large rectangular hole in the bottom to bolt onto the head and a smaller round hole in the top to take water. The coolant capacity of the water hopper and head was about 4.75 gallons of liquid, perhaps reflecting an on-going concern about over-heating at the high speeds necessary to build up pressure in the spray pump. From examining old Friend catalogs and corresponding with Friend owners, I surmise that the earliest open crank water cooled engines had a companion spray pump with its own independent base, as did contemporary air-cooled units. Early water-cooled engine bases carry only tapped bolt holes, with no other special provision for the attachment of a heavy cast iron pump.

Friend Manufacturing Company may have moved in the direction of a water cooled multi-purpose farm engine while its air-cooled model was still in its infancy. Certainly by 1907, the 2.5 horse water cooled engine was in production. Its base was marked by pleasing curves that swept from floor to crankcase and main bearings. Several bolt holes in the base did not mar its stylish lines, more pleasing than those of most of the better established competition. But the early engine/pump interface of both the air-cooled and the water hopper engine proved to be too weak and unstable. By 1910, the air-cooled engine had its base modified by the addition of integrally cast pump attachment. The streamlined base of the water-cooled open crank engine was modified in the same way. The water cooled Friend engine base of 1910 became decidedly asymmetrical with the addition of heavy cast iron pump brackets and braces running across and up to the main bearing. A jack-shaft tunnel with lower shaft bearings stuck out like ears from the sides of the once delicate, upswept base.

It would appear that by 1910, Friend's dream of a sprayer engine flexible enough for general farm use in the off-seasons was slipping away. Even the newly designed pump attachment brackets were not a complete success, although the design continued to the end of the Friend single flywheel engine pump era. Despite the ruggedness of the brackets, engine bases across the entire production span into the 1930s exhibit cracks and welds where brackets yielded to the stresses and strains of pump upon engine. The period of the open crank Friend engines seems to have spanned roughly the period 1905 to 1914. Company serial number lists show a gap in production from some point in 1914 to some point in 1917. Serial numbered production resumed in 1917 with a new number scale and a letter prefix to designate model type, starting at A101. This was the original water-cooled 2.5 horse engine. Beginning in 1919, the same engine model was recorded using a 'BX' prefix at serial #BX5000. Prior or during 1920, Friend re-rated this engine to 3.5 horsepower. By 1923, BX engine horsepower was scaled up to 4 HP.

In 1910, Friend introduced a new larger engine, a 3.5 horsepower model originally called the 'Western.' Carrying the same 4 inch bore and 4.5 stroke, but larger flywheel, this engine was a beefed up version of the open crank water cooled engine introduced some years earlier. This slightly improved engine had some practical design changes. It had a more pleasing but massive square shaped hopper, a flywheel two inches wider in diameter and so heavier, an impressive multiplex lubricator, and a new feature a cast iron crank cover hinged at the rear. The front end of the crank cover was bossed and drilled for a bolt hole to secure it to the engine base.

The cover, when closed, still exposed the crankcase on the sides to the invasion of dirt and water. Perhaps rather than designating this feature a 'crank cover,' it should more accurately be represented as a 'crank guard.' Its function seems to have been threefold: to keep human body parts out when cranking, to keep the lubrication contained to the crankcase, and to keep dirt from entering the crankcase and exposed cylinder. No other major function was served. The main bearings were still separate issues, doing their job of keeping the massive single flywheel and crank in right alignment with the headless cylinder. The era of the hinged crank guard Friend appears to have lasted only a relatively few years, about 1912 through 1914.1 have two of these engines, both dating to 1913. Their serial numbers are prefixed by an 'X.' As indicated above, the Friend serial number list ends in 1914 and resumes in 1917 with serial number X3025 representing the 'Western' engine.

The years 1914-1916 must have been exciting years at Friend. The economics of World War I may have limited Friend's production as well as markets. This time was used to re-design and standardize their engines. Another factor may have been the shortage of farm labor during the War. A labor shortage may have induced Friend to bank on the profitability of increased mechanization of agricultural spraying.

At some point in 1916, Friend revolutionized the agricultural pesticide spraying industry with the introduction of its 'New System' sprayers. The 'New System' was built around a then remarkable invention: the spray-gun or 'spragun' as Friend first spelled it. The spray-gun was a hand held wand less than three feet long, which used high pressure to blast spray up and through to the very tops of fruit trees. Prior to this, pipe lengths fitted with nozzles, awkward and heavy, were stuck up in and around the trees by the luckless applicator perched high on a tower fastened to the swaying spray rig as it moved through the orchard. Endorsements poured in to Friend expressing wonder and satisfaction at the ease and efficiency of the 'New System' and its spray-gun.

It appears that the era of the closed crank engine began with the introduction of the New System. Friend Manufacturing Company had standardized its two open water hopper engines into the same exterior shape, using many common parts. The 3.5 horse engine was denoted by a serial number prefix 'A' (later 'BX'). The old Western 3.5 HP 'X' model bridged the period but became the 4 HP 'DX' model prior to 1920. Friend records are not available for examination to research the dates and shapes of design changes in this exciting period. Even if such records were available for examination, design changes might not be easily found. The people who made the company successful as a business were engineers, machinists, salesmen, laborers, mechanics, and administrators but probably not very good historians. Had they been good historians, there probably wouldn't be as much Friend Manufacturing Company history to research!

The third and longest period in the history of Friend engine evolution began with the introduction of the 'New System' sprayers in 1916. The redesigned engines got a more squat water hopper with a narrowed rectangular neck where the hopper bolted to the cylinder head. Bronze connecting rods became a thing of the past. The opulent 4.25 by 2.25 inch by quarter inch thick cast brass identification plate attached to the rear of the engine base was replaced by a thin sheet brass tag attached to the water hopper. About 1914 a governor had been added to the engine. The governor was driven by a bull gear that also operated the jackshaft to the pump. The bull gear was driven by a small gear located on the crankshaft just inboard from the massive single flywheel. The governor used linkage rod to operate the throttle butterfly of the Schebler carburetor. The major engine design change was the closing and sealing of the engine crankcase.

By 1910 both the air-cooled and the water-cooled Friend engines had special pump mounting brackets cast into the engine base. This crank-on view shows the pump (right) attached to the engine base. Note the extended crankshaft. Remove the pump, add a belt pulley, and other powered farm chores can be done by the multi-purpose Friend engine.

The new crankcase cover unit bridged the upper main bearing caps with a semi-circular cast iron crank cover that not only bolted down to the engine base at the bearings but also around the circumference of the lid. Paper gaskets between the cover and engine base also acted as shims for the bearings. The cover was solidly built in order to serve its function as bearing carrier for the crankshaft off balanced by the single flywheel. 'Friend Manufacturing Company' and 'Gasport, New York' were cast into the top of the cover, the first time such identification appears on the engine independent of the brass nameplate located on the flywheel side of the water hopper.

Many examples of these closed crankcase engines bear evidence of a continuing design problem for Friend: engine overheating. As early as 1920 a cast iron cylinder with a horizontal axis running from the flywheel side through the water hopper to the pump side was installed inside the water hopper. This novel feature was an attempt to treat the overheating problem apparently characteristic of Friend engines hard at work. The cylinder, sometimes finned, sometimes smooth, was actually an ingenious radiator. It cooled the water in the engine hopper by circulating the material from the sprayer tank through the pump, thence through the water hopper and out the spray gun, taking some of the engine heat with it. Not all engines had this feature, as I have seen engines with and without an internal cooler in the water hopper. It is unclear whether Friend engineers initiated the idea, or if it originated with some local blacksmith blessed with 'Yankee enginuity.' Clive Merritt of Newfane remembers his father, a machinist, custom making and installing (perhaps retrofitting) homemade internal water coolers for local growers who complained of hot Friend engines.

According to Bob Kelley of Friend Manufacturing Company, records show that the last sprayer using a water cooled, open hopper 'auto-marine' 4 horse 'BX' was built in 1928. In 1931, production of the 5 horse 'DX' engine ended. The last DXA engine was assembled into a spray rig in March of 1939. At 6 HP, it was the last of the line of open water hopper single flywheel auto marine engines by Friend. A thirty-nine year tradition came to an end. In the transition period from heavy duty single cylinder flywheel engines to modern lightweight air-cooled or multi-cylinder radiator-cooled engines, Friend spent a few years offering the Stover engine to customers still wanting the old model of flywheel power plant. As time passed, the old Friend one-lungers were pragmatically retired to the hedgerows, or parked on top of the farm dump; dragged off into the swamp or sometimes nostalgically relegated to the far corner of the least used barn. In many cases, they did not surrender easily. Despite its end of production in 1939, the Friend single flywheel engine still served its purpose well into the 1960s on many farms and, even today, may continue to pop and bark away, flinging poison at the enemies of perfect fruit on some farm or other.

I'd like to share a few comments and observations that I have made that may interest readers. There is evidence that Friend designed the early open crankcase water cooled engines to enter the general purpose farm engine market. Engine #279, shared by Clay VanHoy and Jamie Smith of Statesville, North Carolina, is the earliest Friend engine that I know of. It is an interesting engine in that it has the typical single flywheel, but no cast-in pump brackets nor jackshaft bearings or shaft tunnel. It is graced by a rather attractive and symmetrical engine base. The base is bored and tapped with some holes that appear to have been used to mount the pump directly to the base before the use of the brackets for that purpose.

Morris Bridge of Batavia, New York, owns Friend engine serial #547similar to Clay/Jamie's, but with two flywheels and a belt pulley. I own Friend engine #704, made in 1910, the year of Friend's 'new improved' engine with pump attachment brackets and engine base cast as one unit. The base of my engine is identical to Clay/Jamie's and Morris's engine, except that mine has the cast-in pump brackets, lower jack-shaft bearings and tunnel, while theirs do not.

In 1910, Friend advertised both the 2.5 horse air-cooled engine and the improved 2.5 horse water cooled engine like my #704 engine. I believe that the first water-cooled engines like Clay/Jamie's and Morris's were specially designed multi-purpose farm engines. These engines were primarily for spray pump operation, but also for other farm chores as needed.

Good evidence comes from the back cover of the 1910 Friend catalog. Friend salesmen used customer endorsements widely in their marketing. The back cover of the 1910 catalog carries an endorsement by a G.D. Simpson of Orleans County, New York. In a letter dated January 26,1910, Simpson writes:

Dear Sirs: Having used one of your 'Friend' Power Spraying Outfits for three years, I deem it no more than your due to express to you the absolute satisfaction and pleasure in owning and using so reliable an out-fit.

I have yet to have it balk on me through any fault of the engine. I have no difficulty in keeping 100 to 150 pounds of pressure with four of your large nozzles in operation, with engine running at moderate speed. I have used it in sawing wood, running a heavy 30 inch saw, sawing oak sticks

Having seen this endorsement, I examined the whole catalog more closely for a definite statement that Friend engineers were trying to market spray rigs whose engines could do double or triple duty on the farm. On page ten of the catalog I found it. After a long discussion as to why the Friend sprayer was the best to be had, the sales pitch for alternative farm use begins:

The outift must also be constructed so that any part can be quickly and easily detached from the main body of the machine by the use of a common S wrench, making it possible to use the engine in connection with the jack for operating deep well pumps, and with a pulley on the engine shaft, enabling the operator to do light work around the farm, such as sawing wood, cutting feed, etc.

Any doubt that in its early years, Friend wanted a multi-use engine, is removed upon examination of a 1914 Friend operator's manual. Inside the front cover is a paragraph headed 'For Power Work.' The paragraph gives detailed information about the proper removal of the pump from the engine in order to install a belt pulley on the pump side of the crankshaft. Helpful technical writers of 1914 further cautioned in the Friend Power Sprayer manual dated November 1, 1914:

Have the size of the pulleys such that a good lively speed of engine can be maintained. Do not try to saw wood with a dull saw that needs setting. Do not try to grind feed with dull burrs. Do not try to cut feed with a cutter that smashes fodder. Use ordinary small boy intelligence and the power of the engine, if properly operated, will surprise you.'

After the introduction of the 'New System' sprayers in 1916, Friend catalogs no longer mention any use of Friend engines other than spraying. However, the idea of a flexible use engine design may have lingered. Those who have seen Friend engines will be familiar with the single flywheel. However, unless one has had the opportunity to observe many engines of the closed crankcase period, it might not be apparent that Friend engine crankshafts came in various lengths. Some crankshafts terminated in a section that extended approximately two inches beyond the pumpside main bearing. This 'short' crankshaft terminated under the pressure vessel of the spray pump and served no apparent purpose. However, other engines carried a crankshaft that was substantially longer, extending 5 to 7 inches beyond the pumpside main bearing. On some sprayer models, a sleeve was fit over this extended portion of the crankshaft and directly connected to the spray tank agitator. On other models, the agitator was linked to the jackshaft eccentric inside the pump's scotch yoke. Extended crankshafts can be found on all size Friend open water hopper engines.

This extended crankshaft, as it happens, is long enough for mounting a good sized belt pulley. One engine that I purchased was so rigged. This leads one to hypothesize that such a design may have been deliberate on Friend's part, so as to give the promise of flexibility to an otherwise special purpose engine. Again, Friend Manufacturing archives are not available for research to test this hypothesis.

The extended crankshaft offers a modern day possibility that some engine collectors have taken steps to implement the addition of a second flywheel. Those engine collectors who really appreciate a smooth, slow running engine and are not slavish to historical accuracy, will understand the Friend engine owners who add that second spinner. The mass of the additional wheel slows the engine down, makes it bark along at a very slow and steady rate. But it confuses people unfamiliar with Friend engines.

It would have been impossible to mount a second flywheel on a post 1910 engine and still use the pump. But remove the pump, and it is very possible to make a double flywheel general purpose engine, if one has an extended crankshaft engine. Premeditated design for maximum engine flexibility and marketability or pure coincidence? Who knows? It is the stuff that makes engine historiography entertaining and occasionally bothersome.

A few words on Friend's horsepower ratings over the course of their open and closed ('Pony,' 'CX,' 'EX' models another story) water hopper engine production run. It appears that the company re-rated the horsepower of each of their engine models as years went by.

The original water cooled open hopper engine started life as a 2.5 engine. By 1920, as the 'BX,' it was rated as 3.5 HP. A 1923 catalog rates the BX at 4 HP, and its lifespan ended in 1928.

The 'Western,' introduced about 1910 was initially rated at 3.5 HP but, by 1920, was re-named the 'DX' and described as having 4 HP. Three years later, in 1923, the 'DX' is listed at 5 HP. The closed water hopper Friend 'Pony' 2 horse engine, introduced in 1912, later became the 'CX' model. Between 1920 and 1923, Friend introduced the larger 'EX' closed water hopper engine at 3 HP.

Sometime in the late 1920s, Friend reshuffled its whole line of flywheel engines. The 5 HP 'DX' became the 6 HP 'DXA.' The 'BX' was restyled the 'BXA,' probably at 5 HP. Its production ended in 1935. The closed water hopper 3 horse 'EX' reappeared as the 4 horse 'EXA.' The 'Pony' or 'CX' engine disappeared along the way. About 1929, Friend Manufacturing Company began to offer customers a small spray rig equipped with a 2.5 horse Stover flywheel engine. The end of the line for Friend designed engines came in 1935 for the 'BXA' model; March 1939 for the 'DXA' and April, 1939 for the 'EXA' models.

One last observation. Almost everyone who contacts me concerning Friend engines asks: 'What color should it be?' The answer is 'silver colored.' Whether it appears on the printed cover of the 1910 Friend catalog, or under all the grease on the engine base, the only color that I have observed on Friend engines from 1910 to 1936 is silver. As far as the rest of the spray rig is concerned, I have seen early sprayers with medium green ironwork and red painted wooden tanks and wooden accessories. But, again, the engine is always silver in color and there is no apparent additional pin striping of any type. If anyone has good data to the contrary I would be most pleased to hear from you. If you have a Friend air-cooled engine for examination or for sale, please call me! Until my next story, good luck to you and your Friends.

A 1905 Niagara County, New York, directory gives one of the earliest known views of Friend Manufacturing Company's air-cooled engine with attached pump. Note that the pump has a single piston unlike later models that carry double pistons, one either side of the scotch yoke. In later years, Friend will boast that it produced a total of 22 powered sprayers in 1905.