Stuck in the Muck

A 4 HP Associated Farm Hand shines after years deteriorating in the dirt


1911 4 HP Associated Farm Hand.

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My love for anything mechanical started way back when I was barely old enough to hold a wrench; I've been turning wrenches since I was very young, taking things apart just to see how they worked, then putting them back together. My mom used to call me a junk collector and said she felt sorry for the woman I would end up marrying because of all of my collectibles. Now my wife says I'm the only person she knows who will go to a junkyard and come back with more than I hauled off. Luckily for me, I usually find a use for what I bring home.

I am relatively new at old engine collecting. I have several friends who collect engines; I have been hanging out with them for years. Three years ago after attending our local show sponsored by the Eastern Antique Power Assn. in Chocowinity, N.C., the bug finally bit me, too. I purchased my first engine, a 1916 Associated 2-1/2 HP Hired Man from Stan Hudson, just after the show. It was not much of a challenge since Stan is the resident expert on all things engine related in this area. It already ran perfectly, so all I had to do was build a cart and battery box. At least I had my first engine.

As we all know, having one engine just makes us want more. (My wife is still trying to convince me there is a difference between wants and needs.) I couldn't stand it; I just had to have another one. My next purchase was a very nice, all original 1935 International LA. Once again the engine needed no work, so there just wasn't any challenge. I had seen Stan bring the really bad ones back to life and it amazed me.

Early this year, I purchased a 1910 1-3/4 HP Chore Boy from Pennsylvania that I found on SmokStack engine ads page. It was complete except for the mixer and there were a few parts that were rusted and stuck. I made a new mixer on the lathe from brass stock. The hardest thing was cleaning all of the old grease off the engine, but within a few days I had it running.

In the meantime, I followed my friends to more and more shows and the bug bit again. This time I wanted a larger engine. I really liked the looks of the Associated engines and the sweet way they ran, so I started looking around at the larger models in the line. I settled on the 4 HP since the size was perfect: I figured if I got anything much larger it would be hard to handle by myself.

Early Saturday morning, May 20, 2006, Stan and I left for Sanford, N.C., to attend the show at the Old Gilliam Mill Park. I was scheduled for a hip replacement the next week and knew it would be a while before I could attend any shows, much less work on any engines. Naturally, we talked about engines all the way there. I said I sure would love to see a big Associated at the show, but didn't think that was likely to happen since I hadn't seen many in our area.

Almost as soon as we parked and started walking toward the main building on the show grounds, I saw my new engine half buried in the dirt. At least I hoped it would end up being mine, since it was a sad-looking 1911 4 HP Associated Farm Hand.

After asking around at the show, I found that it belonged to the owner of the show grounds, Worth Pickard. It was easy to tell the engine had been sitting in the same spot for a few years. Luckily it was not stuck, but it was missing almost everything that could be easily removed and quite a few other parts were broken.

After a lot of talking and coaxing, I finally made a deal with the owner to purchase the engine. Unfortunately, we had carried a full load and did not have room to bring the beast home that day. I had to leave my new engine there - still partially buried in the dirt.

Due to being laid up for a few weeks after my surgery, it was June 17 before my wife would let me go back to Sanford to pick up the engine. It seems like having an engine to pick up and work on is good motivation for a quick recovery. Luckily, they were having a bike rally at the park that day and we recruited plenty of help to load the heavy engine.

I soon found an advertisement in Gas Engine Magazine and contacted Bill Graves in New York to order all the parts I was missing. I was a little worried that a few of the parts (such as the cam gear) might be hard to find, but Bill ended up having everything I needed.


The first order of business was to access and analyze the damaged and missing parts to make sure I had ordered everything I needed. Then I started the restoration.

I removed several broken bolts from the flywheels and engine base. I cleaned the threads on every threaded hole and stud on the engine. This makes re-assembly much easier and safer for the old bolts. I removed the head, pushrod and piston to reveal a new set of rings that had never been run. I measured the bearing surfaces for clearance and found way too much clearance on the big end of the rod and no shims. I placed the brass rod cap in a mill and removed 0.0050-inch of material and added shims cut from shim stock for a correct fit. Luckily, the mains were in great shape and there were still plenty of shims in place. I carried the head to a local shop and had the seats and new valves ground.

The governor collar was stuck tight on the crankshaft, and after some heat and a little persuasion I got it to move, but not nearly free enough to ensure safe operation. I knew I had to remove the governor side flywheel to install the governor weight ring, so I removed the collar at that time and polished the crank. I also polished the inside of the governor collar with a brake cylinder hone.

Removing the 135-pound flywheel was the scariest thing I had to do to the engine. I researched several methods of flywheel removal on SmokStack website, and after hearing the horror stories of broken flywheels and spokes from beating on them, I decided to drill the gib key. The key was worn or broken off even with the hub. I made a drill bushing from a short piece of 1/2-inch key stock by center drilling it with a 3/16-inch bit. After clamping the drill bushing to the crank, I drilled the gib key and stepped up the drill sizes until I got to 7/16-inch. This left only a thin shell and four corners of the old key. I placed an oak plank into the rear of the cylinder and let the other end rest on the engine base to act as a stop for the throws of the crank. By just rolling the flywheels over and letting the crank stop suddenly against the oak plank several times, the remainder of the key sheared and I was able to remove the pieces by hand. The flywheel just spun off easily with the key gone. This seemed much safer than beating the flywheel inward and trying to pull the key.

At this point, the weight of the engine and the fact of having to work on the engine on the floor necessitated building the cart. I acquired a very nice set of old spoke wheels and axles, and constructed the cart from 2-by-3-foot steel tubing. After looking at C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 and Associated sales literature, I decided to make the cart resemble the factory cart, but as short as possible to save space in my trailers. The front axle was designed to pivot on a round steel ball and this was missing. I found that a 1-7/8-inch trailer ball was a perfect fit, so I used that. The rear axle was somewhat longer than the front and was shortened in a lathe. The engine was now at a much better height to work on - and mobile.

Many of the parts I purchased from Bill were new raw castings and had to be machined to fit.

The governor weights had to be drilled and tapped for the adjuster studs and stop bolts. The governor ring had to be chucked in a lathe and the inner diameter turned to fit over the flywheel hub. I milled the opening between the two bosses on each side of the governor ring to accept the new weights. I then made a fixture to hold the governor ring level and true to the drill press so the weight pivot pin holes could be drilled in the bosses and the weights together.

The rocker arm had to be drilled for the pivot bolt and the end drilled and tapped for the adjuster bolt. The cam gear had some wear and will be replaced with a new casting as soon as I can get the teeth cut. The camshaft hole in the top of the engine base was broken out, so I drilled the camshaft and base to accept two 1/4-inch, Grade 8 socket head bolts to hold the cam in place.

Now it was time for me to begin the re-assembly. I started by cleaning and installing the piston and rod, then the head, and after installing the governor collar and new weight ring, I replaced the flywheel and gib key. I couldn't decide how to set the gap on the igniter since it is the very early type that has no stop post. Associated expert Keith Smigle explained that the spring had to be the exact correct length to set the gap. I cut one coil from the spring at a time until I finally got the gap right. Keith was very helpful with quick answers on several issues that came up during the restoration. I installed the igniter, pushrod and igniter trip rod.

The cam, camshaft and latch assembly was next. There were no timing marks on the crank gear so I set the timing by the exhaust valve. I adjusted the trip rod length to set the igniter timing at top dead center and set the exhaust rocker arm. The pushrod roller was worn enough that the governor would not latch out, so I machined a replacement from brass stock. I had purchased a new needle and seat for the mixer from Starbolt at the Denton, N.C., show and installed them in the mixer along with a new mixer cup machined from a 1-1/2-inch pipe cap.

On July 28, my wife and I were having a family birthday party at our house and I noticed my father-in-law was in my shop looking at my newest prized possession. That just gave me a good excuse to go ahead and try to start it.

After checking everything ten times, I tried to start it for the first time. After several tries, it would hit but would not continue to run. I removed the new intake valve spring, which felt way too heavy, and replaced it with a much lighter spring. It ran for the rest of the day with no problems at all. After four hours of steady running, the rings were seated and now I can't roll it over compression without the relief valve open.

There was never a question of weather or not to paint the engine. When it was found, it had a heavy coat of red primer all over. This had helped to protect the engine from the weather, but didn't have much visual appeal. I fully dissembled the engine again so I could sandblast, prime and paint it. The cart was carried to a local sandblaster due to the heavy rust on the cartwheels and axles.

I painted the cylinder head and rod with Sikkens Autocryl Pure Silver paint. The base, flywheels and hopper were painted with Sikkens Red FLNA 30021: I matched the color from an area on my Hired Man that had been protected by the magneto. The cart is painted black and the engine was re-assembled on the cart. I built a battery box and fuel tank stand from oak and bolted it to the cart. I decided to use a small rectangular tank to keep the cart length as short as possible. I painted the pinstripes on the hopper and flywheels, and let everything dry for a few days before starting it again. Finally, I wound my coil, wired the igniter and fired it up. It's hard to describe the feeling of making these old engines run like new again.

I just thought I had the bug before, when I had bought already-running engines, but when you put this amount of work into a really neglected engine, it makes the bug worse than ever. I'd have to admit that the engine looks better than I expected and runs perfect. My wife loves antiques and has even started looking for old iron for me.

I guess the moral of the story is not to be afraid to bring one of these old treasures back to life. Just be ready to get bitten by the old iron bug.

I'd like to thank Stan for getting me started and always having such good advice on these old engines; Keith for his wonderful website with so much Associated information; Bill for helping to supply people with so many Associated parts; and Harry and his SmokStack website for its depth of old engine information.

Contact Terry Beasley at: 3848 Gilead Shores Road, Blounts Creek, NC 27814; (252) 975-1425;