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The ATIS Stationary Engine Mailing List has been busy discussing our recent New Year's Crank Up, an annual event which has to be geographically the largest engine show in the world. It begins at midnight in New Zealand and Australia, and spreads across the world throughout the day until the last engine in California is shut down, and it is a time when everyone remembers engine buddies who have passed away, reflects on the year past, the new year to come and the great friendships created via the internet.

Among these enthusiastic mails and the usual collection of identification assistance, advice and tips offered and sought, I found a thread of discussion about the care of flat belting, which I thought would interest the readers of GEM.

I apologize in advance for asking a question that I know we've already addressed, but I'm guilty of the 'I didn't need to know then' syndrome. Anyway, I've recently been searching for a source of belt dressing (belt compound) in my area and have had trouble finding someone who carries it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I might look?

I thought I read on the List one time that to soften old belting up you can boil it in water.

Having spent 20 years as a shoe cobbler I can tell you that few oils or greases will soften really dry leather well, even though most are great at keeping it soft. If you get a dry piece of leather, soak it in water first, then while it is still soft, apply the oils or greases. Neatsfoot oil is good, but you have to be careful of the name when buying it. If it says 'neatsfoot oil compound' on the label, it may have two drops of actual neatsfoot oil per each thousand gallons of carrier. I used a lot of leather belts, but since use was regular and they were never in the weather, they never got hard or dry, so all I ever used was belt dressing. My favorite was a light brown rosin-based stick dressing. It was much better than the black tar-based dressing. Gee, typing this has almost made me miss those days of slapping flat belts and clicking splicers. The chirping under heavy load or when throwing a clutch in ... Well, almost. ..

I've got a gallon of 'Track-Bite' languishing on the shelf; maybe I should repackage it in wee bottles? It's like stepping in gum.

Soap works well as belt dressing. I use liquid Joy on my mower when the belts slip. They slip slightly worse until the soap gets tacky, then they grab well.

A John Deere combine I used to have had a flat belt drive from the engine to the separator. When it sat there running in a cloud of soybean dust and pubescent fuzz, it would get really slick very often. I had used about everything on it over the years. The best was a light brown rosin stick. The black stick was okay. Plain old asphalt foundation paint worked very well. I have been known to roll up a piece of plain (no mineral) roll roofing to use as a stick. Years ago I used to melt down the tar sealer from junk battery cases. RTV silicone gasket stuff was only fair, as was shellac. Tung oil was a little better. Permatex high tack isn't bad.

The 'V' belt drive on the grain tank was the other extremeit was prone to coast when the tank was empty, and run grain out on the ground. For it, I carried a plastic bottle of baby powder to keep the belt from dragging.

If you are looking for belt dressing that is solid, and comes in a paper tube about the size of a grease cartridge, good luck, as they are hard to find.

For those that haven't used the solid belt dressing, here's the differences:

1. It goes where you put it. To apply, have the belt running and hold the end of the tube against the belt. The paper disintegrates and the solid dressing, warmed by friction, melts onto the belt. It doesn't take much, as it is right where you want it. The liquid and spray can dressings go lots of places other than on the belt.

2. Because the machine is running, the person applying the dressing should be very careful and not impaired in any fashion. That caution said, I have never caught any tender parts in moving equipment while applying belt dressing. Unfortunately, most of us are impaired in one or more ways, but compensate fairly well. Belt dressing application is a dangerous practice best done while sober. For the shim stock producers, you might try duct taping the tube of belt dressing to a dowel rod, and applying it from a distance. That might work to keep your fingers away from moving parts.

Believe it or not, automatic transmission fluid works for belt dressing. I was skeptical until I tried it.

I think I remember using beeswax when grinding feed in the cold of winter.

Sugar and pectin, besides being wonderfully sticky for curing slipping belts, also are some of the best organic reducing agents around, and work great for fluxing the lead or babbitt pot prior to casting bullets or crank bearings.

Make sure to ignite the smoke just like when using wax. Oh, I almost forgot, they also work great for sweetening and thickening jelly and jam.

You may find some of this information useful in the up and coming show season, and it's never too early to begin preparation!

Helen French