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Terrors of Timing

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The signs of winter surround us. Our current engine projects have been reduced to small two-stroke engines that can be worked on indoors, rather than the big engine projects that must be accomplished outside. The season's last big sale, the Sodbury Sortout, will have come and gone by the time you read this, and I won't be surprised if my collection grows a little bit more - just to tide things over until the weather makes playing outside a pleasure again!

Internet thread topics are settling back into the normal pattern of 'help!,' 'what's this?' and 'how do I?' This month's topic is from the 'how do I?' variety and concerns a problem that came to light at one of this summer's antique engine shows.

I own a 1905 Model C 5 HP vertical Stover, and my buddy purchased a Model C vertical Stover this year at the LeLand Hauser auction. When my buddy's engine runs, it throws oil out around the openings on both sides of the crankcase. The engine is doing this because it's missing two cast iron cover plates that go on both sides of the crankcase. My engine has the same kind of parts, so I told him I'd remove and send the parts to him so he can cast them for his engine.

I easily removed the plate opposite of the timing gear side, but I have to remove the flywheel, flywheel weights, timing gear and the upper half of the main bearing to get the other plate off. I'm reluctant to remove the flywheel with the timing gear until I'm sure I know how to get it back in time. I've cleaned the large timing gear but haven't found any timing marks. Could anyone who owns an older Stover please tell me what - if any - timing marks I should look for on the timing gear and crankshaft gear?

The first response was very simple and straight forward.

Just make your own marks.

I thought about that, and if I can't find the original ones, I'll do just that.

The next response was more detailed, and a great help to anyone with a timing problem.

Few things can give you as much grief as an old timing mark that wasn't put in the right place! A lot of shade-tree mechanics put their own marks on things and don't do it right. I have taken engines apart that had several marks on each gear, and none of them made sense. I'm sure some guys are nodding their heads as they read this, going 'Yup!'

Timing an engine like a Stover is pretty straightforward. Even if the engine has nice timing marks, it's best to see if the igniter and exhaust valve really are timed right. Just because something was assembled a certain way for the last 50 years doesn't mean the last guy who pulled it apart put it back together right. Time and time again, I've seen engines that just barely ran and had been that way for a long time.

The exhaust valve should open just before bottom-dead center (BDC) and close just past top-dead center (TDC). This is the only critical adjustment to make on the engine. The igniter trip also can be moved up or down on the pushrod a bit.

I haven't taken my vertical Stover out of the shed for 15 years, and since it has the hot tube, I never ran it on the igniter. If I recall, there were no marks on the cam gear, so I adjusted it by trial and error.

If you want marks, make your own. Just make sure that you can find them, and that you can distinguish them from other marks someone else might have made. On big engines especially, it's a pain to remove the cam gear or sideshaft if you have to shift it one tooth. I put a very small series of center punch marks in the form of a 'A' on the teeth of the gears and then fill the marks with a yellow paint pen or lumber crayon. I have our 20 HP Otto apart right now for some work on the rear cam bearing and marked it this way. The shaft is 6 feet long and not easy to handle alone.

I made timing marks on my Listeroid diesel with thin slivers of electrical tape. They're long gone, but I could redo them in a few minutes.

Before you pull the other side plate off, check to see if the plates aren't identical. On the later YB/YC engines, the side plates seem identical.

If they're the same on the earlier engines, just use one as the pattern for both.

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to check this out, but I'm almost positive there's a big difference between the two plates.

I dug into my filing cabinet and did a bit of research. The vertical Stovers with the two-piece cylinder/crankcase have the same covers on both sides. The earlier engines with the one-piece cylinder/crankcase have different ones on each side. Looks like you'll probably have to take both off.

Stover must have decided when redesigning the engine that making the holes the same size was a much better idea. The differences between the early and late vertical Stovers are quite interesting.

This next question comes from the owner of the offensive oil-flinging engine.

It's very easy to see the difference when you look at the openings on my engine - plus a ruler tells the story. There's no doubt one side is larger than the other. I better start looking for my timing marks before the borrowed covers come.

I'm still trying to take the flywheel off so I can remove the timing gear and upper part of the main bearing in order to take the cover plate off. This plate is hidden behind a lot of parts, so it's hard for me to tell whether it's the same plate or not. From what I can see of the plate, it appears it may be the same, but I won't know until I get into it.

As is the case with our bulletin board group, someone always comes up with an intelligent answer to any problem.

Why not cast the easy side and see if this 50 percent solution will make the engine owner happier than with the original problem?

You don't understand the whole reason for curbing the oil splatter. A bunch of my engine buddies will disown me and never let me set up next to them if I don't completely stop the splatter. Not to mention they've sent me a cleaning bill for a heck of a lot of clothing that got covered in oil.

My buds are pretty forgiving the first time you screw up -especially since it was a new toy - and they helped me start her the first time after the auction. But if I don't correct the problem before the next show, I'll be abandoned forever! Oh, I must mention that our show queen is a bit put out because her old-fashioned dress caught some of the oil, too! She has forgiven me since then, and I paid to have the spots professionally removed from her dress.

Still, my 50 percent solution isn't a bad idea. Get the 'easy plate' case, turn the engine away from the Queen and your buds, and no problem.

Gee, I don't understand it. Overseas, Petter spots are visible evidence of a great show! Last year at Portland (when my buddy's Petter was running), I got Petter spots all over my new show hat, clothes and EZ-up tent, and I was delighted! So delighted in fact, I moved 15 spaces away from him this year, and dang if someone didn't help him get that wonderful engine going again! Mow another friend owns one, and I'm in the market for a black tent next year!

I can vouch for the problem with Petter spots. Jim owns a couple of Petters, and I still haven't learned to wear black clothing to camouflage the Petter spots. I made the mistake of wearing a yellow waterproof jacket to one rally and ended up (after trying everything else) using carburetor cleaner to remove the spots. Beginning with the theory that the jacket was pretty much ruined anyway, I figured the chemicals would either kill it or cure it.

The Stover timing project is still ongoing, so we don't know if new cover plates can or will be cast - or if they'll stop the oil splatter. But those two Stover owners have all winter to sort it out before female show attendees need to worry about wearing protective clothing for the next show.

Engine enthusiast Helen French lives in Leicester, England. Contact her via e-mail at: Helen @ You can join the Stationary Engine List on the Internet at:

'Few things can give you as much grief as an old timing mark that wasn 't put in the right place! A lot of shade-tree mechanics put their own marks on things and don't do it right. I have taken engines apart that had several marks on each gear, and none of them made sense.'

Gee, I don't understand it. Overseas, Petter spots are visible evidence of a great show!