Running a Line Shaft with a 15 HP Reid Type A

The heart of a blacksmith shop


| May 2006



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The engine room. Joel laid the stone foundation himself, which took about seven months. The engine room’s floor is recessed to give the necessary belt length and head room.

Editor's note: The following is Part 1 of a two-part article on the 15 HP Reid Type A that iron sculptor and blacksmith Joel Sanderson uses to run the line shaft in his blacksmith shop. In Part 2, Joel discusses how he tuned his Reid for line shaft duty.   

I make my living in my shop. I am a sculptor and a blacksmith. For years my blacksmith shop has been powered by a 6 HP Fairbanks-Morse Z. Due to a recent addition to the shop, this engine no longer has the power to run multiple machines or the largest machine in the shop: a mechanical power hammer. This led to a search for more horsepower.

I figured that twice the power plus a little bit would cover most anything I would want to do in the future, and allow the engine to drive my current operations without laboring heavily (which I tend to do to the Z).

In a larger engine I needed pretty much the same qualities I had in my smaller engine: common enough not to be too valuable, and to have parts available and easy starting. Initially, I intended to buy a 15 HP Z but soon learned they are not nearly as common as their smaller sisters. In Gas Engine Magazine and elsewhere I began to notice that the two most common engines of the 15 HP size were Reids and Bessemers. It also appealed to me to have an engine that would run on household fuel and not on gasoline.

Through many phone calls I found a consensus that Bessemers may be somewhat more cantankerous to start than Reids. Also, they require considerably more floor space due to their configuration. I would have chosen a 4-cycle engine were it not for their scarcity and cost. Besides, an oil well engine is built for and intended to run long periods without constant attendance: mind free, hands free horsepower - just what I was looking for.

Although the Reid manual does mention the use of their engine in "carbon black factories" no one I spoke with had ever heard of a Reid Type A powering a line shaft. The common reasons given were unsteady running and gas leaks. By studying the Reid manual I saw no reason to be afraid of either issue. This would give me a common engine with a reasonably small footprint and one with a reputation for easy starting. Through what I am about to describe, I now have a non-leaking Reid Type A with a speed variation of 5 RPM while driving my shop, and it starts on the first pull.