I’m guessing you remember your first engine. Maybe you grew up with one on the farm. Maybe you were passed one that had been in your family for years. Or maybe you got a good deal on a rusty relic at a swap meet. Regardless of how that first engine came into your life, I bet it provided you with a wealth of learning opportunities. Whether it was just getting it to run a little smoother, or having to completely overhaul it to get it started, the old adage of learning by doing is how many in this community got their engine education.
I didn’t grow up on a farm, and until about five years ago my experience with engines was limited to turning the key in my car’s ignition, changing my oil and an ongoing dispute with a finicky carburetor on my grandfather’s lawn mower. I’m lucky that I have the Gas Engine Magazine archives at my fingertips, because I had to hit the ground running and learn as much about engines as quickly as possible. And while I know much more now (and I learn new things every day!), I obviously still have a lot to learn.
But I think most members of the antique gas engine community have things they can still discover and learn, too. Case in point is the continuing response to the hot tube ignition, and lack of clarification on how it functions, on the Allan Brothers engine featured in Allan Brothers Oil Engine on a Return to Glory. We published a letter from a subscriber about the lack of description, and since then have received multiple responses from readers across the country explaining hot tubes, how they work and where interested collectors can get more information.
The whole debate got us thinking: What else do we take as well-known fact that isn’t? What jargon do we use in each issue that not all readers understand, whether it’s how the mechanism functions, or when one feature is used instead of another?
So this issue we’re introducing a new department: Gas Engine Basics. Each issue we’ll tackle a different gas engine detail, from ignitions to governing to any other “basics” that come up along the way. We’re elated that engine restorer Andrew K. Mackey has put this information together in an easy to understand format. This introduction to ignition systems focuses on the most basic type: the hot tube (see Hot Tube Ignition Basics).
We think this is a great way to teach the basics to new collectors, or answer some questions newbies don’t feel confident enough to ask.
Now, I know all of you are beyond knowledgeable and have spent years tinkering and learning by doing. I encourage you to still read up, because who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something new.