New Life for an Old Chore Boy

Oregon collector dives into first restoration, fixing up a sad 1-3/4 HP Associated Chore Boy.

Old Associated Chore Boy

A 1-3/4 HP Associated Chore Boy.

Photo by Randall Marquis

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While working at my regular job as a heavy equipment operator, I am always on the lookout for any signs of old iron. This vigilance was rewarded one cold December day in 2010 while working in an area just south of the city limits. As I drove by an auto body shop, I saw a couple of flywheels just inside of the chain-link fence. Well, I knew then where I was going to be spending my lunch break that day.

When lunch time finally arrived, I went over to talk to the owner of the business. Yes, I could look at the old engine, and, yes, it just might be for sale. A quick examination showed the engine to be a 1-3/4 HP Associated Chore Boy, serial no. 302602. The engine had a rolled top hopper, a Webster magneto and a battery/coil box. A gentle attempt to roll the flywheels (yes, I know how easy it is to snap a rocker arm) revealed slight movement of the piston, which told me that she wasn’t completely stuck, but there were definitely some issues. The good news was that the engine appeared to be complete. After a brief discussion with the owner, and after consulting the financial department of my household (my lovely wife) a price was agreed upon, and after work that night I became the proud owner of yet another project.

Besides the rolled top of the water hopper, another unusual thing I noticed about this engine was that it had a Webster type K-62 magneto. While I am not an expert on Associated engines, this struck me as being odd since most pictures of Associated engines I have seen were either just coil and battery fired, or if they did have a magneto, it was one that was driven from the timing gears. I contacted Keith Smigle of Keith’s Associated Engine Website. He told me that a lot of Associated engines that were shipped to Canada had Webster magnetos. This tells me that at one time my engine spent some of its life north of the border.

Work on the Associated didn’t begin right away. I also enjoy collecting and restoring antique machine shop equipment. At the time I was right in the middle of restoring a 1910 Greaves-Klusman lathe, as well as building a rotary phase convertor so that I could run my 1941 Kearney & Trecker milling machine. That, along with some remodeling of my house, put the Chore Boy project on the back burner for a couple of years. In the meantime, I had it safe and sound, out of the weather, on the patio.

Getting started

Finally, in September 2012, I was able to start tearing the old girl apart. While pulling the cylinder head I found that the rocker arm mount was badly cracked at the center of the hole for the pin. As soon as I removed the rocker arm, the pieces fell to the floor. Thank goodness it stayed in place as long as it did, as now it would be a simple brazing job to repair. I also found that both intake and exhaust valves were stuck, and once removed, the stems were badly pitted. The valves and seats, however, looked to be in pretty good shape.

The valve cam gear had literally welded itself to the shaft. This was the reason that the engine wouldn’t roll over in the first place. It took quite a bit of heating with the torch and some not-so-gentle persuasion with a hammer and drift to get the gear to come free from the shaft. Once apart, it looked like the engine had at one time been run without any lubrication to this area since the shaft was badly scored, in addition to being slightly bent. The cam itself was also grooved due to the fact that the cam roller on the pushrod had also seized up and had simply rubbed against the cam face instead of rolling over it. The sliding collar for the governor was also badly seized to the crankshaft, and the roller for the latch arm was missing and had been replaced with a small piece of square stock.

By now I was beginning to wonder if I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. Obviously whoever had used the engine didn’t believe in wasting a lot of oil on it. I was almost afraid to see what the crank journals and the cylinder bore looked like. As it turned out, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Upon removal of the bearing caps, I found both the main and rod journals to be in remarkably good shape. The babbitt looked good, and there was still plenty of shim. Later on I measured the journals with a micrometer and found them to be out of round by only 0.002-inch. Removal of the piston revealed a clean cylinder bore with no pitting, no signs of scoring and no freeze breakage. After a good cleaning, the micrometer revealed that it was only out of round by about 0.005-inch. I couldn’t believe my good luck!

The piston was also in good shape, though the rings were stuck. A soak in penetrating oil and a little wiggling here and there soon had them freed up. The wrist pin was in good shape, though the bronze bushing in the small end of the rod was badly worn.

Now the real fun began. I like restored engines to shine. This led to some rather long discussions with my wife, who, surprisingly, likes engines to be in their “working clothes.” Her point was that all of that rust and moss were hard-earned and provided an appealing patina that should be preserved. Fortunately, I was able to sort of convince her that the end result would be beautiful and besides … THIS WAS MY PROJECT!

I probably should note that this is my first real, from the ground-up restoration of a hit-and-miss engine. I also have a 1-1/2 HP Economy engine that was in really good shape when I bought it at an estate auction, but it only took a little bit of tinkering here and there to get it up and running. I have also been involved in the restoration of a couple of steam locomotives here in Washington state, and I enjoy building model steam engines from castings.

I figured that since eventually everything was going to have to somehow attach to the main casting of the engine, that the main casting would be a good place to start. After stripping all of the smaller components, as well as removing the cylinder casting, I decided to use an electrolytic process to clean the casting.

For those who are not familiar with this process, in short, all you need is a plastic container, water, washing soda (not baking soda), a piece of scrap iron for a sacrificial anode and a battery charger. You immerse your part needing to be cleaned in the tub of water mixed with washing soda, attach the positive lead of your battery charger to the anode and the negative lead to the piece that you want cleaned. Place the anode in the tub as well, making sure that the anode and the piece being cleaned are not touching, turn on the charger and walk away.

Starting out with a clean anode and clean solution, I usually see between seven and ten amps showing on the charge meter. As things start to get dirty, the amps will go down. Don’t worry: It’s still working, just a little slower. You will also notice small bubbles coming off from the work piece and these might eventually form a foamy layer on top of the water. This is normal. CAUTION: I have been told that these bubbles are actually hydrogen gas, so avoid exposure to fire or sparks. Also since hydrogen is a lighter-than-air gas, make sure that you are doing this in a well-ventilated area.

Time in the “soup” will vary by how much rust needs to be removed, condition of the anode and how dirty the solution. For the most part, I have found that one to two days is all that is needed. However, longer soak times don’t hurt anything. I have left pieces in for as long as a week with no bad effects. When you remove the part from the solution, it will usually be covered with a brown or black slime. This can be easily cleaned off with a stiff brush and running water, or if you have a parts cleaning solvent tank, that will work as well.

Once the base casting was cleaned, and since I didn’t have to do any repair to it or the crank bearings, the next step was to apply a coat of primer paint. Here in western Washington things can rust in no time, so a primer coat is important. I chose to use Rust-Oleum red primer. I have always had good luck with this brand, and their red enamel was a very close match for what little of the original paint was on the engine. I used the same process to clean up the cylinder casting, and after a light honing of the bore, it too was ready for paint.

The next major hurdle involved the sliding collar for the governor, which is on the crankshaft between the flywheel and the small timing gear. This collar had also pretty much welded itself to the crankshaft, and no amount of heat or penetrating oil would convince it to budge. I soon realized that I was going to have to remove the flywheel.

The flywheels on this engine are held in place by tapered keys, also known as gib keys. These usually have a sort of a hook on the end for removal, but in this case the end had been cut off at some time. My only option was to drill through the length of the key, which can be a little ticklish since you don’t want to accidently have your bit wander into either the flywheel slot or the crankshaft. I started with a 1/8-inch long shank bit, and by “pecking” my way through, I was able to keep it in the key itself. I then made another pass with a slightly larger bit to enlarge the hole, and then using a modified chisel I was able to carve out the inside of the key enough to weaken it so that it would crush in on itself as the flywheel was pulled off.

Since I didn’t have a pulling block, I decided that now would be a good time to make one. I started with two 6-inch lengths of 1-inch-by-2-inch bar stock. After getting everything nice and square on the milling machine, I drilled two 1/2-inch holes through the 2-inch section, and using two lengths of 1/2-inch all-thread, I clamped both pieces together and centered it on the lathe for boring. First I bored my minor diameter for a sliding fit over the crankshaft, and then counter-bored it for a sliding fit over the governor collar. I only had about 3/32-inch for a gap in between the flywheel hub and the collar, so I had to make the pulling block to fit. Once the pulling block was finished, now came the moment of truth. Would it work? I clamped it in place and attached the jaws of my wheel puller to it. The first attempt to get the flywheel to move didn’t work, so I decided to carefully apply a little bit of heat to the hub. Another twist of the wrench, a few taps with a hammer, and VOILA! Movement!

Once the flywheel was finally off, you would think that getting the sliding collar to come loose would be a simple matter. Unfortunately, this was just not the case. After several attempts of heating, cooling and heating again, that thing just was not about to budge. So I took some measurements, found a piece of steel in my stock pile that would work, and after a few hours on the lathe I had a brand-new sliding collar ready to go. I had to take a cold chisel and literally split the old one off from the shaft. Now the flywheels were ready to go into the electrolysis bath for cleaning and painting.

The cart

At this point I decided to change direction a little bit, so I turned my attention to the cart. I figured that assembly of the engine would be easier on a cart that was ready to go since the pieces would be much lighter individually than all together. The original cart was a basket case. As one of my friends put it, “The only reason that the engine hasn’t fallen to the ground is that the termites must be holding hands.”

The cart consisted of two 2x6s that formed the bed. According to Keith Smigle, this cart was also part of the original crate that the engine was shipped in. The axles were wood with tubular steel. The swivel bolster for the front axle was cast iron and had a wooden handle that was used to pull the engine from one location to the other. There was also a battery box and a small toolbox that supported the gas tank. Unfortunately, all of the wood was in terrible shape from both insect damage and dry rot. The wheels were stamped steel and were also in very poor shape. In places, parts of the whole rim were rusted away, and the spokes also had a lot of rust damage. Luckily, all of the metal braces were in good shape so after cleaning and painting I was able to reuse them.

For the bed of the cart, I wanted something that would be strong and look good. I decided to make the bed from laminated oak. I went to the local big-box store and purchased some 1-inch by 3-foot oak boards. I cut these into 4-foot lengths until I had enough to make a bed 10-1/2 inches wide by 4 feet long by 3 inches thick (actual thickness is 2-1/2 inches). I glued these boards together with wood glue, clamped them together with bar clamps and left them to cure for a couple days. After the glue had cured and the clamps were removed, I drilled through the width of the bed and installed two threaded rods with nuts and iron washers — mostly for decorative effect.

For the axles I used 1-inch by 6-inch oak boards that I laminated using the same process as the bed. Then I used the original axle pieces for patterns to carve out the shape on my band saw. After that, I used my table saw to rabbit out the bottom to make a place for the new axles. After all of the drilling and fitting, I used a belt sander to get everything nice and smooth before applying a light stain, followed by about three coats of gloss varathane/wood finish. And then the major woodwork was done!

Since my woodworking talents do not include finger jointing, I had a friend of mine who has a wood shop make the battery box.

Instead of tubular axles I decided to go with 1-inch solid square stock with the ends turned round for the wheels. For the handle, I decided to go with steel instead of wood. I guess I had visions of the wooden handle snapping while the engine was halfway up the ramp to my trailer, so I wanted something that I knew would hold up. I used the same material that I used to make the axles, but I left the ends square and turned the middle round just for appearance. A small piece of rod as a “T” handle at the top made for a nice finish.

The wheels were another challenge. After several attempts to save the original wheels by gas welding, I soon discovered that these were beyond my current skill level. I decided instead to use some wheels that I had found on eBay a few years ago. These were originally made by Case and had the Eagle globe emblem cast into the wheel. With their curved spokes, I figured that these would make a really nice addition to the new cart. I did have to do some modification to the wheels: The bores were worn unevenly and had to be trued, and the hubs were too long and had to be shortened. I also had to make some steel bushings so that the large bore of the wheel would work on the smaller diameter of the axle.

Back to the engine

After cleaning and painting, the main casting and cylinder casting were ready to be bolted back together. I was careful to make sure that any mating surfaces were kept as bare metal so as to keep everything in line. I decided to reassemble the engine in place on the cart to save my aching back. After making a new bronze bushing for the wrist pin, I reinstalled the piston, as well as the crankshaft and flywheels. The old girl was starting to look like an engine again.

Now for the cylinder head. As stated before, the piece that holds the rocker arm pin was broken, but fortunately not missing. After removing the valves I decided to braze it back together. After grinding a “V” in the area to be brazed, I set the whole thing up on my brazing hearth with plenty of firebrick surrounding it to hold in the heat. I used a propane weed burner torch to heat the whole head in order to bring it up to temperature evenly. Once hot, I switched to the acetylene torch for the actual brazing. Once this was complete, I wrapped the whole thing up in a fiberglass blanket so that it would cool slowly overnight. Once cool, I ground off the excess braze, reamed the hole for the new pin, as well as the holes for the valve stems, and the head was ready for paint.

I used 3/8-inch drill rod for the new valve stems. After turning down the end to fit the hole in the valve, I silver-brazed them in place and then riveted the rest over. I then mounted them in the lathe for a quick clean up of the valve face, and then lapped them into the seat on the head. I installed new springs and keeper pins, and that part was done.

Now that all of the big pieces were done, it was time to tackle the many little items that needed attention. As stated earlier, the cam gear and shaft had managed to weld themselves together. After a lot of heating and some heavy persuasion with a hammer and brass drift, I was finally able to separate the two. The cam shaft also supports the latch out arm for the governor, and further examination showed it to not only be badly galled, but bent as well. I decided that it would be easier to just make a new one. The cam had been badly worn because the roller on the pushrod had also seized. I built it back up with brazing rod, and then used an angle grinder and hand filing to get it back to the original profile. I also made a new pushrod out of cold rolled steel, along with a new roller and pin. The guides were also badly worn, so I made new ones out of cast iron Dura-Bar.

The original return springs for the pushrod were of the old style that attached to a hook on the rear guide. I decided to go with the “new style,” which consisted of a compression spring on the outside of the pushrod and behind the front guide, and backed up with a set collar. I think this made for a much cleaner-looking arrangement.

The magneto and igniter assembly didn’t need a lot of work beyond the usual clean up and replacement of springs. The bearings on the magneto were badly worn, so I ordered new brass bearing plates from Lee Pederson. Once these were installed and everything painted, it was ready to go back on the engine.

The gas tank was another challenge. Since the top had the name of the engine and the town where it was built stamped in raised letters, I really wanted to keep that feature on the engine. But, while the top looked good, the whole bottom of the tank had large holes where it had rusted through. Up to now, I had not done a whole lot with sheet metal. No time like the present to learn. The first thing I did was de-solder the top of the tank from the remains of the bottom. Using the electrolysis tank, I got that portion cleaned up — now, how to make the bottom? I bought some heavy-gauge sheet steel from the local box store and with tin snips, a hammer and a set of dapping punches I managed to produce a reasonable version of the tank bottom.

For those who may not be familiar with what a dapping punch is, they basically have a ball turned onto the end and come in various sizes. They are used a lot for making jewelry or even fishing lures. I used mine for forming the radius along the bottom, sides and in the corners. I then elected to use silver solder for the corner seams as well as for the fuel outlet pipe. I know that I probably could have gotten by with soft solder and been just fine, but I wanted to make sure that everything would be as strong as possible. After joining the two tank halves together, I coated the inside with Red Kote tank sealer just to make sure that there weren’t any pin holes that might give me trouble. I then painted the tank red and hand-painted the raised lettering in black.

Now it was time to put everything together and see if this thing was going to run. After filling the grease cups, oiler, water hopper and fuel tank, I wheeled my new beauty out into the driveway for her first run. The magneto was still giving me some trouble so I decided to run it off the battery and coil. I installed a double throw knife switch so that I can run the engine from either the magneto or the coil.

Now, for the moment of truth. After priming the mixer, I energized the coil and gave the flywheel a spin … NOTHING! No problem, let’s try again. I gave the flywheel a spin and the engine sort of gave a little gasp but did not run. After several more attempts with the same results, I figured I better start looking for the problem. I checked the timing of the cam and everything seemed to be in order. I was getting fuel and fire, therefore I should be getting a good hit-and-miss, but the best I was getting was more like a gasp and fart. I opened the knife switch and started rolling the flywheel over slowly while watching the valve events and it didn’t take me long to find the trouble: I didn’t have enough clearance between the pushrod and the rocker arm, so the exhaust valve was opening way too soon. I backed off the adjusting screw, gave everything one last check, closed the knife switch, spun the flywheel and … POW! Chugga chugga POW! Chugga chugga POW!

On July 5, 2013, that 100-year-old chunk of iron came back to life. I can’t even describe the feeling of standing there and watching that engine run for the first time in who knows how many years. My neighbor across the street was having a garage sale, and it wasn’t long before I had quite a crowd standing around, with several people asking: “Just what is that thing?” The engine ran flawlessly for the rest of the afternoon. I shut-down several times to check for overheating bearings, but everything was running nice and cool.

Overall, this engine was a bit of a challenge to restore but is now a joy to run and show. I look forward to being able to show it off for many years to come.

I would like to thank Lee Pederson as well as the folks at Starbolt Engine Supplies for having the parts on hand for this restoration. I would also like to thank Keith Smigle of Keith’s Associated Engine Website, where I was able to view other engines similar to mine, and where I could get some inspiration for this restoration.

Contact Randall Marquis at ranmarq@net-venture.com