Project frustrations

Online conversations from


Content Tools

Has this ever happened to anyone? You buy a project engine that seems like it only needs a few things. But once you dig into it, there is about five times more wrong with it than you ever imagined, and it stops being a fun project.

I just got the flywheels from my 5 HP Bulldog back from the sand blaster, having decided to spend a few dollars and save some time. I found the hub was repaired, and three of the spokes are cracked at the hub, and one where it meets the rim. All this after taking four months to have a new mixer made because the one with the engine was wrong, rebuilding the magneto and igniter, having about $400 worth of miscellaneous machine work done, buying over $200 in parts and building a cart out of 2-by-6 white oak. The guy that sold it to me said, 'It should be no problem getting it running ... just needs a few springs and nuts, and she'll purr like a kitten!' I guess I'll have to look into finding another flywheel (fat chance) or getting another one cast and machined. I guess I should have saved my dimes and bought a completed engine. - Chris

- Chris, I've found out this hobby has 'peaks and valleys.' You have to experience the lows to enjoy the highs. Someday you will have an engine to be proud of. - Dave

- What size are the flywheels? I ask because I know where there is a pair of them on an old ironworker. If I remember right, they're about 24 to 36 inches across. I'm not sure about the shaft size, but they have nice spoked wheels. They sat on top of the machine to run the gear drive. I figure they weigh at least 130 pounds each. - Roger

- I know what you mean. Sometimes I get so aggravated that I ask myself, 'Why do I even do this?' Then I take a break from my aggravation and start up one of my engines, and say to myself, 'This is why!' There has been more than once that I've bought a restorable engine, put more money into it than it's worth to get it restored, then end up selling it to get something else. I guess in the end, if you get what you want out of it, it's worth the time, aggravation, busted knuckles and $$$. - Tanner

- While working on my drill engine, the cord pulled out, and at the time I had no idea how to replace it. I put it down, wondering why I even bought the darn thing. I walked over to my Jaeger and tried to start it - no fuel. I had some two-stroke gas, leftover WD-40, old whale oil and motor oil. That was some of the best fuel I have ever used; it did not foul the plug, the engine ran cooler, one pop and it would get right back to speed, and with the 3-inch steel exhaust pipe, it could make real nice smoke rings. I certainly could not run that concoction through a new 4-stroke engine. After 30 minutes of great smoke rings and funny smelling exhaust, I felt much better (not because of the funny smelling exhaust), and was glad to have another project. -Mac

- Just run your own small business and try to deal with some of the public who are obviously educated far beyond their intelligence level. You will be glad to work on your engines that won't tell you how to do the job. - Ed

- Chris, when the seller said, ' ... a few springs and nuts and she'll purr like a kitten,' that should have been enough to start alarm bells going off that you were being taken. In other words, it should have told you, I need to take a closer look at this thing before I buy any kitty litter. Don't be so anxious to buy engines, as I was when I first started collecting 23 years ago. I was gung ho to buy anything that even looked like an engine, and of course the sellers could see me coming and I learned a lesson the hard way a time or two.

For the most part, engine dealers are honest and up-front with their answers to your questions about the actual condition of what you are buying because they want your trust and repeat business. But, once in a while you will run into a 'pet store' operator with 'kittens' for sale. This is a good hobby, so don't let a few bad eggs spoil all the fun and lasting friendships of honest people it can bring. - Joe

- Just a silly idea, but why don't you have the flywheel welded? There has to be an old-time welder in your area that could braze the cracks up and make them good as new. - J

- I have bought many a project and been discouraged once I started on them. Case in point: a 1940 John Deere H that I bought thinking after a little tinkering it would be okay. It needed a block, pistons, head and all the bearings, etc. I will say the seller did not know much about it and made no comments as to the condition, other than it was all there. It's now finished and running, and that's the fun of this crazy addiction to old discarded stuff. This little project cost me many $$$$, and a lot of heated discussions with my significant other, but it all washed out in the end. - Denny

- Thanks to everyone for their kind words. I wasn't getting discouraged with the hobby, just with this particular engine. Joe was right that I was too eager and probably did not look at this particular engine close enough. Lesson learned. I guess I'll put it off to the side for now while I look into either getting the flywheel repaired or having a new one recast. - Chris

- Yeah, just put it aside for a while. You're not on a schedule, it's not a job, and you're not doing this to make money (I hope!). Like the last guy said, consider having the hub welded and braze up the spokes. Old repairs are a part of an engine's history, and I see nothing wrong with our own (good) work adding to it. A replacement flywheel will come along when it is time. Most of us will never own the best example of our particular engine (s) anyway, so just relax and do what you can with what you have. - Brian

- I wouldn't sweat it Chris. As far as I'm concerned, in this hobby, you win some and lose some, just like any other. Granted, there are lots of honest sellers and dealers out there, but once in a while you run into the occasional scumbag looking to dump a money pit. It happens whether its engines, cars, etc. In all fairness, maybe because of all the paint on those flywheels, he didn't know they were cracked. I would set it aside and wait until a replacement one comes along. - John

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 50,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of websites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.