Irresistible Easthope Stump Puller
When our friend Ted Spoelstra suggested that he would be willing to trade us an Easthope stump puller for an item we had, we found his offer irresistible. We have always wanted a powered puller for our collection and this one was especially interesting mechanically, and it had a local history connection as well. But it was irresistible in a second way too: it can pull with an advertised force of 30,000 pounds, and when it’s securely anchored few trees can resist its powerful action, and they are torn from the ground, roots and all. We said yes to Ted’s offer.
Research on the Internet turned up some helpful information on the Easthope puller. First, we found an ad (shown in the Image Gallery) that appeared in a rural newspaper, the Granite Falls Record, in December 1928. It illustrates the basic concept: to clear a logged-off area to make it suitable for farming it is necessary to get rid of the stumps.
Farmers developed many techniques to remove stumps, including burning, blasting and winching by hand or with horses. The Easthope was an alternative method that used a gas engine and winch, which were mounted on skids with the engine driving the winch. An anchor cable hooked low to a stump secures the puller, and a pulling cable hooked high to another stump pulls the stump out.
What distinguishes this puller from an ordinary winch is the fact that it has two operating modes: a “winch” mode, which uses the gearing to pull in the cable briskly, and an “inch” mode, which uses an eccentric cam driving a pawl and ratchet to pull in the cable very slowly and very powerfully, an inch at a time.
Next, we found the Canadian and U.S. patents that the inventor, Ernest Easthope, was granted for his machine. A portion of his U.S. patent, number 1,680,939, is shown in the Image Gallery with the upper figure giving the overall view of the invention, and the lower figure showing detail of the clutch and eccentric cam. The primary claim in the patent is that the winch has side frames only, and cross frames are unnecessary because the winch has several sturdy axles that hold it together.
We received the puller from Ted as shown in the Image Gallery. It required some cleaning, oiling, greasing and the removal of some later modifications. We added a grease cup and replaced a couple of missing springs. We measured the sprocket and ordered a compatible driving sprocket and chain with 1-inch pitch. Ted told us that the spiral-grooved drum was made for 5/8-inch wire rope, so we had an anchor cable and pulling cable custom-made in this size. The cable shop confirmed that if the wrong size cable is used on this type of drum both the cable and drum can be damaged during a hard pull.
Using the ad as our guide for skid design, we scaled off dimensions by measuring the overall length of the actual winch and comparing it to the length in the ad. Using this ratio, we scaled all the dimensions, including skid length and height, and crossboard locations. Skid separation was determined by the mounting holes on the winch. The overall length turned out to be a compact 68 inches, which suited us fine since we have limited space in our shed.
Before we could go any further, we needed an engine to power our unit. Our research indicated that most Easthope pullers used Stover CT2 engines, so we began a search for this model. Luckily, we found one within a reasonable distance and bought it. The photo in the Image Gallery shows the brass tag from the engine.
GEM columnist Joe Maurer did the research for us and found that the Stover factory shipped this engine on May 27, 1938 to the Chain Belt Co. of Milwaukee. Joe felt that the engine probably originally powered a cement mixer. Moving to the northwest and now pulling stumps, this engine has seen some big changes in climate and job assignment!
We did some work on the engine, including cleaning out the water hopper and oil sump, making a new advance/retard lever, replacing the fuel line check valve and fabricating a smaller, one quart fuel tank. We find that a small tank is the best for draining and refilling when at shows and doing demonstrations.
Once we had the engine, we could start on the skids. We confirmed the crossboard locations for the engine supports and the skid final dimensions. We used clear fir, since this would have been the material of choice in our location. Starting with a rough-sawn 2-by-8-inch piece for the skid, we laid out the notches and curves. We needed something to trace for the curved portions, and we found that a hula hoop was just right for the front curve, and a 5-gallon bucket was perfect for the rear. A jigsaw worked fine for cutting out the skid shape.
We used the first skid as a template to mark out the second and then sawed it. Then we clamped the two skids together, belt-sanded the curves to match, marked and sawed the crossboard notches, and drilled holes for the spreader boards and crossbars. The spreaders and crossboards are 2-by-6 inches, and the crossbars are 1/2-inch steel rod threaded at the ends. We fabricated a steel plate and welded on two pieces of pipe to act as a fairlead. A couple of larger pieces of pipe serve as rollers. After more drilling, staining and the addition of some hardware, we were ready for the most challenging part of the project: putting the 1/8-inch steel wear strips on the bottom of the skids.
We tried two methods for attaching the strips: hot and cold. They both worked, but cold was easier. First we drilled and countersunk staggered holes at 2-inch intervals on the straight and slightly curved portions of the strip. Using a large sledgehammer with a flat face, we pounded the cold strip against the skid while manipulating the strip with a large crescent wrench. This way, we could get the strip to conform to the curves nicely, securing it with screws as we moved along.
The sharpest curve, at the nose of the skid, required us to put a 1/4-by-1-inch steel backing bar under the strip and hammer against it to sharpen the curve. When the strip was finally a good fit to the skid, we drilled and countersunk the remaining holes at the sharpest curves. If we had drilled the holes before bending, the strip would have kinked at the holes during bending.
The finished skid is shown in the photos with the wear strips in place. On the top of the skid are the fairlead, the winch mounting bolts and the engine mounting bolts. Also visible are the spreader boards, crossboards and crossbars. On the bottom of the skid the wear strips are visible. We also had to saw some cutouts and rout out some recesses near the top of the skids to accommodate some of the frame hardware on the winch. We considered adding diagonal bracing, but since the winch is held by four sturdy bolts and its frame is pretty stiff, it serves as a brace against any shear forces that occur when pulling or towing the skid.
Note that the Stover engine is mounted a little off-center. This is to get proper alignment between the drive sprocket on the engine and the driven sprocket on the winch. To move the drive sprocket inboard as much as practical, we removed the flywheel from the engine and put the sprocket hub close to the main bearing, then put the flywheel back on. The sprocket had a 1/4-inch keyway, and the Stover crankshaft had a 3/8-inch keyway, so we made a custom key to fit the space and engage the two. The photo in the Image Gallery shows the chain and sprocket assembly.
The puller uses two springs for proper operation. The photo in the Image Gallery shows the upper springs on the winch. When engaged, the upper spring holds the pawl against the ratchet wheel and starts “inching” mode. When the spring is slipped off, the pawl rolls back against the frame to allow “winching” mode. The lower spring keeps the holding pawl engaged. It is released by a lever only when the cable is pulled out of the drum.
The assembled stump puller is shown in the Image Gallery. The anchor cable has shackles that connect to the winch frame, so that the high forces developed in pulling a stump are contained within the winch itself and are not conducted through the skid. We made a pair of angle brackets to keep the anchor loop from pinching together and putting stress on the engine mounts.
In operation, the puller is towed to the site using either the anchor cable or pulling cable. In the early days this would have required a team of horses. Optionally, it can pull itself to the site by using the pulling cable and “winch” mode. Once on site, the anchor cable is secured to a nearby stump, and the pulling cable is rigged to the target stump. The clutch and inching pawl are disengaged.
The Stover is started by our usual routine: open the mixer valve one turn, put a thumb over the carb and turn the flywheels through the intake stroke, which pulls gas up into the carb to prime it, then set the lever to retard the spark, set the choke to halfway, hold in the intake valve, get the flywheels spinning briskly, then let go of the intake valve. The engine will usually fire on the first or second try. Then we advance the spark and adjust the choke and mixer valve.
Once the engine is running, we engage the clutch to pull in the cable and take out any slack in the system. At this time, the puller will move sideways to align itself between the anchor point and the target stump. When the slack is gone, the engine starts to labor, and we disengage the clutch. We then move the “inching” pawl into position against the ratchet wheel and secure it with the spring. The puller now slowly inches in the cable with considerable force. Ted told us that when he was using this kind of puller, the clearing crew would often go to lunch at this point, since the operation takes quite a while. They would return from lunch to find out what had happened: either the target stump was pulled, the anchor stump was pulled or something was broken in between.
Ernest Easthope was born in England in 1876. He moved with his parents and brothers to the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, area in 1889. He worked in the family business, which included fabrication of marine engines, repair of engines, propellers and propeller shafting on boats. In 1928 he moved to Everett, Wash., not far from our location in Bellevue.
In Everett he started his own business at 2806 Hewitt Ave., making these stump pullers. The 1930 U.S. Census data shows that Ernest was a resident at a boarding house at the time, that his occupation was “Manufacturing” and that his industry was “Gasoline Stump Pullers.” The business closed in 1941, and Ernest passed away in 1962. Apparently he retained some of his boatbuilding heritage, however, because the record shows that in his retirement he built a hydroplane that went 100 MPH! Maybe he was compensating for years of making machines that “inched” along …
Our thanks to Mary Ellen Piro for valuable research, and to Fred Cruger and the Granite Falls Historical Society for permission to use the ad.
Contact Kirk Unzelman and Mike Intlekofer at 4472 119th Ave SE, Bellevue, WA, 98006 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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