HELPING HANDS

By Staff
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Sitting in my 'summer' workshop.
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Note food grinder handle protruding from water hopper!
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Homemade magneto-mounting bracket.
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PO. Box 238, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin 54210

In May of 1995 I joined a group of men from our church in
Ellison Bay, Wisconsin, who were going to lend a helping hand to
some of the older members of the congregation by raking their
yards. Imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner of the house
where we were working and spotted the familiar outline of a water
hopper and two solid flywheels protruding from the accumulated dirt
and leaves. My heart rate, which was already elevated from the
raking, jumped another few r.p.m.! Brushing away some of the trash
revealed a nameplate that said Alpha De Laval W 1 HP.

I asked Mark Weborg, a local commercial fisherman who was in
charge of the working party, if he thought the owner would be
interested in selling it. He said that he would check when she came
home from Florida, but he was pretty sure she would give it to me.
Sure enough, less than two weeks later, Mark and two of his fishing
crew drove up to my summer place, a mobile home in a nearby trailer
court, with the engine. He said that he didn’t know what I
wanted it for and that it wouldn’t even make a good boat
anchor. I replied that I was going to make it run again. I think
they were still laughing as they drove away.

Looking back, I think that was a pretty bold statement I had
made. The engine had been sitting outside with the spark plug
removed and the piston near BDC for 25 years or so. Naturally the
spark plug hole was on top of the head providing easy access for
the rain. The connecting rod was disconnected and protruded from
the cylinder at an odd angle. Fortunately, the rod cap was found in
the water hopper. Not one single part was free.

Having only my hand tools and a few supplies for tuning up
lawnmowers limited my choices. A quick survey of my 8×10 storage
shed revealed a can of charcoal lighter which I immediately
appropriated for use as penetrating oil. A little soaking, a few
gentle taps, and success, the crank handle was loose. Well, I had
to start somewhere! A few more hours with Liquid Wrench and my
trusty ball peen and every part except the piston and the exhaust
valve was free. Even the old cotter pins were removed intact. As
expected, the cylinder was badly pitted.

Removing the piston was a major chore. Success was achieved by
tipping the engine up on end, filling the water hopper with
well-lit charcoal briquettes, pouring a couple of inches of diesel
fuel in on top of the piston and setting it (diesel fuel) on fire.
After about two hours, and with the help of a hardwood block, a big
sledge and a friend, the piston was grudgingly freed from its rusty
prison. Amazingly, after a week of soaking, the rings were removed
intact.

The engine was missing the EK magneto and bracket, all the trip
mechanism for the mag, the drip oiler, three grease cups and the
mixer. I had to heat the exhaust valve guide to a dull red before I
could remove the exhaust valve. By the time I got it out, the stem
was unusable. Fortunately, the valve head was screwed on, although
the threads were in very poor shape. I brazed a new stem to the old
head, achieving a reasonable degree of perpendicularity by holding
the new stem in the drill press chuck with the head sitting flat on
the drill press table. During this time, I had ordered an
instruction book for the engine and grease cups and an oiler from
GEM advertisers.

The crankshaft bearing surfaces were cleaned with strips of
emery cloth and the cylinder ‘honed’ by wrapping emery
paper around my fist. Took as much skin off my hand as rust off the
cylinder walls! The flange was missing on one side of the cap half
of the con rod bearing. I held it in place with a flat head screw
countersunk below the bearing surface.

I reassembled the engine using all the original parts. Only new
items were a spark plug and springs for the governor and pushrod.
For ignition I tapped an 8-32 round head screw into the side of the
cam gear and had just enough room to mount a mini-micro switch
which I wired up to an old Model T coil found in a #5 box of junk
purchased earlier at a local garage sale. An adapter borrowed from
a spark plug sandblaster provided the conversion from a ? thread to
14 mm and a long reach plug was installed. For a mixer I used a
brass tee compression fitting, turned and threaded a needle from
brass rod and threaded a jet from a lawnmower carburetor into the
opposite end. A gas tank was appropriated from my B&S WMB and
we were ready for the big test. The compression was pretty poor,
but the spark was really hot, and to the surprise of all the
skeptics, the old engine ran again. Not very well, but it did run.
It took almost constant tinkering with the choke to sustain
operation.

Last winter I did a restoration job of sorts, including
sandblasting and painting. Also replaced the sloppy intake valve,
wrist pin and bushing and turned a new rod bearing. I took the
cylinder to a local machine shop to check on boring and sleeving.
They quoted a price of around $200, which was pretty steep for a
retiree. We all know ‘rusty iron fever’ is a real disease,
but I wasn’t sure Medicare would pay their share of that bill,
so I opted for Plan B. I sandblasted the deep pits in the cylinder
walls and filled them with a high-grade machinable epoxy. When
cured and honed the cylinder walls looked pretty good. It did
wonders for the compression. Talked to (another) old-timer
who’s had good success repairing scored walls of outboard
motors using this procedure so I believe it will work alright.

A good friend, Al Leafblad, lent another helping hand. He gave
me an EK mag and bracket from some unknown engine. He also supplied
the oak and turned the handles for the skid. I had helped him
restore a 6 HP IHC Famous a couple of years before. My biggest
challenge was figuring out the mounting bracket and trip mechanism.
Pictures from the instruction manual were helpful. I made up all
the parts and tried different springs until I found a combination
that seemed to work. I also installed a Champion W89D spark plug.
Its longer reach put the electrodes more closely in line with the
combustion chamber. At this point the engine still sat in the
basement workshop so I had to wait for the arrival of spring.

As I conclude this story, the weather has warmed a little, and
the engine is moved outside. Now it not only looks great, it runs
like new again. I thank Elliott Wollman for the many pictures he
took during this project. Also John Supple and Scott Wilson for
answering my recent ad in GEM for a proper mag bracket. John
provided the correct trip lever and Scott sent beautifully detailed
drawings for the mount and the trip mechanism. He also encouraged
me to submit this story.

Last of all, I must especially thank my wife, Marge, who
willingly shared part of her small laundry room with engine parts
in various stages of disassembly, repair and refinishing (although
she still believes I should install a lampshade and make something
‘useful’ out of an old engine!)

Well, this story started with helping hands, and it took many
helping hands to complete, but then, isn’t that what it’s
all about anyway? Now, if any of you need help with your yard work,
and just happen to have some rusty old iron. . . !

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