Have Your Cake and Eat It Too, or, How To Balance Your Hobby and Family

Side view of tractor

Side view of tractor with garden it plowed in the background.

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1440 Sycamore Street, Kingsport, Tennessee 37664

I finally got around to submitting an article on one of my projects.

A friend of mine, Ezra, who runs a small engine repair business in a nearby town in addition to his regular business, is always keeping an eye out for old iron for yours truly. It's amazing what is still traded in from time to time. Many of the old 2-wheel tractors are still in service here. Many with all of the original implements still with them!

One day, after one of our unusually large snowfalls last December, I went to pay my monthly visit to see Ez. He said, 'I have something in the shop you may be interested in.'

After taking a look, all I could see was a pair of wooden plow handles sticking up from the midst of a bunch of riding mowers. Closer examination revealed it was the remains of a 1949 Planet Jr. tractor with dual wheels on either side. It was powered by a cast iron Briggs model 6 engine with a 6:1 gear reduction. The engine produces about 2 HP. Well, we agreed on price, using a little Christmas bonus money to make the purchase, and brought the 'Jr' home within the next two weeks.

The first thing I concentrated on was the engine. It was free but had no compression at all. Upon disassembly, the two compression rings had collapsed and the piston was showing a little wear. Also, the intake valve was pitted badly and not seating properly.

I have another friend who happens to have a sizable inventory of old-stock Briggs parts, and so I thought I'd ask him if he had the needed pieces. He let me rummage through the heap ('It's in there somewhere') and I found a new piston and ring assembly, intake valve and gasket set. He charged me the princely sum of $8.00 for the whole caboodle and I was happy as a lark!

Back to the shop. I cleaned, painted and reassembled the engine, and cold chiseled the remains of the muffler from the block. The carburetor was a different story. The two-piece flow-jet carbs used on these engines have a long main venturi that goes up through both halves and usually is stuck by a large amount of white corrosion that holds them in so tightly that the slot in the venturi usually shears off when you try to turn out the jet. This one was true to form and then I was stuck. So, turning to my latest copy of GEM, I located an advertiser who sent me two carbs in trade. Both were really clean and usable. I installed one and clamped it in the big vise to test fire. It started first pull! After running it for half an hour, I set it aside and began working on the frame.

The entire unit was rusted from top to bottom and was pitted on all of the upper surfaces. I felt the best policy, after dissembling the frame, was to use a disc grinder with a flexible sanding disk to knock off the loose scale and upper crust of rust, then sandblast the entire frame, the grinding having saved a lot of sand and compressor hours.

The spreader bar for the wooden handles had broken. I contacted a local wood shop and the man told me of a retired shop teacher across town who had a shop in his basement who could make anything. After seeing him and leaving the remains as a pattern, I went back a week later to pick up the new piece. Not only was it of oak, like the original, it had the same taper and everything! These people from the old school just know how to do it better!

After trying to match the paint at a local paint store, all the parts were painted, new hardware installed and the whole unit assembled.

Well, I had my fun building it. Now what do I do with it? I try not to get any piece of equipment that I cannot use in some way, so I used the Planet Jr. to plow our garden this spring. Having attained the rather young age of 36, I had never used one of these things up until then. Needless to say, it was somewhat embarrassing to see the 20 foot furrow I had just cut in the back lawn trying to get this monster to the garden! Once to the garden, three passes was all it took to turn the garden over for spring planting. It's amazing the power that little Model 6 has behind that 6:1 gearbox. The unit would not stall, even when buried up to its hubs!

To make a long story short, I took the Planet to the East Tennessee Crank Up this June. I wasn't intending to sell the tractor, but a gentleman from Georgia wanted it worse than I did, so it went south along with an old reel mower I had on display.

I am now in the process of restoring a Chore master one wheel tractor with a 3 HP Clinton on it. I need the cultivator/plow for the rear of it, if anyone has one for sale!