Ottawa fun

Ottawa Engine

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12234 Harris, Carleton, Michigan 48117.

Oh my God! Is that for real? Looks dangerous. Would you look at that! Some people just stood there and shook their heads. These are just some of the things that people say and do when they see the Ottawa drag saw in operation. I even had one fellow accuse me of making it myself until I showed him that Ottawa book. He could not believe that a company would build that thing and sell it to people.

I am a member of two engine clubs: the newly formed Southeastern Michigan Antique Tractor and Engine Club, and the Early Engine Club of Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Some of the people that come to our shows are not your typical engine show goers. For some of them it's their first time. So when they see an engine sitting there running, that is one thing. But when they see a drag saw in operation with everything moving back and forth, going around and shaking all over like a big wet dog, well, that is something else! Most of the grown-ups just look and do not believe what they see, but the little kids love it almost as much as the Saturday morning cartoons.

I bought this engine a couple of years ago from an ad placed in GEM. Lou Walker from Belding, Michigan, had the saw for sale. On a cold winter day a friend of mine, Skip Swim, and I decided to take a day and go to the west side of the state just to look around and get out of the house for a while. I gave Lou a call to let him know that we would be stopping in for a visit. The engine that I went out to look at was a Waterloo Boy, but I came home with the Ottawa instead. Isn't that the way things work in this hobby?

Lou had about a dozen engines I looked at. I really started thinking about the drag saw. When I was young, my brother and I would cut wood by hand and then buzz it up with our old John Deere B. I thought that he would get a real kick out of the Ottawa, so I decided to look it over real good. When we removed the cover from the water hopper, OH NO! It was full of water and frozen quite solid. We then decided to run the engine and check it over for any damage. Lou gassed it up and started spinning it over. It popped a few times. When it started, it ran a few times then backfired, ran backwards a few turns then backfired again and stalled. When this happened, something flew off the engine and hit the wall. We said, 'What was that?' We looked around and found that one of the ears from the bolt-on crankshaft counter weights had snapped off. We removed the counter weight, started and ran it until the water was hot. No damage was done.

Lou said it was the most complete drag saw he had ever seen. All the attachments came with it, the drag saw, buzz saw and the tree falling attachment. Then he pulled out an original copy of the Ottawa drag saw advertisement book complete with the original mailing envelope. That did it! I wanted the Ottawa. We settled on a fair price. He even threw in a crank handle I needed for one of my other engines. This made the deal even sweeter. We loaded everything and headed for home. It was well after dark when we arrived so I just left everything in the truck and unloaded it the next day after work.

After it was unloaded, I was all excited. This was the first engine I had bought that ran when I got it! So I decided to start it up. When it started, it began jumping around and backfiring like the first time it was started at Lou's. And the same thing happened again- the other counter weight ear flew off. But this time I was not so lucky. On the way out, the ear somehow knocked off two teeth from the camshaft gear. I was not too upset because isn't that the way things usually go with this old stuff?

When the weekend finally came, I looked over the damage and decided that it would have to be repaired at a later date. I was right in the middle of putting on the final coats of primer on an engine that I wanted to spray paint the following weekend. So not much time could be spent on working on the Ottawa. But somehow before that weekend was over, I removed the camshaft, brazed it up, hand set and fitted two new teeth on the gear and put it all back together. When I went to try and start it with the camshaft timing set correctly, I could see what the trouble was. The ignition timing was way off. It would fire way after top dead center, almost halfway down the power stroke. The engine would start and run but had very little power. So I figured out what had happened. Someone that did not truly understand camshaft and ignition timing moved the camshaft gear ahead a couple teeth to make up for a weak magneto trip spring. That was why it was so hard to get started. After making up some shims for the weak spring and setting the ignition timing along with some other minor repairs, I ran the Ottawa at shows all summer long in its original condition.

The last show for the Ottawa was in October of 1989. Throughout the '89 show season I looked for hardwood to make new rails. This was the hardest part of the whole restoration. At the Domino Farms Show, the fellow running the saw mill cut the wood that I needed. Through that season I made repairs to the engine and saw. When I started to restore it, most of the hard work had already been done. I just couldn't wait to remove the cylinder head and look inside. You engine people know that feeling. The restoration repairs needed only a few new parts, new valves and guides, one piston ring and fuel line check valve. That's all! The only thing I changed from the original was to install a muffler. With that short straight pipe, it was even too loud for me. I had a lot of fun in the 1990 show season with the Ottawa all fixed up and painted. I think I enjoy it as much as the people who come to the shows.