| May/June 1990

As we go to press for this issue in early March, the old yearnings return for some time to play with engines again. By the time this issue is in your hands, this midwestern writer will probably have cranked up at least a couple of engines already, just to see if they still run! Now for you folks in the warmer climates, this isn't a problem. You can go ahead and play with old iron almost any day of the year. Out here in Iowa, the time and bother of hauling hot water out to the engine so as to warm it up just doesn't seem worth the bother. Besides, as a youth I had plenty of chances to heat what seemed like barrels of water on the cookstove. After lugging the water into the house from an outside hydrant came the chance to lug it back out again and start pouring it into the old John Deere D tractor. The temporary warm up provided by the hot water made cold weather starting a lot easier. After the Model D was running came the chance to grind two or three loads of feed. No grinder-mixer either; ya scooped it into the grinder, and ya scooped it from the waiting wagons into the feeders. I once suggested to my father that grinding feed, like cleaning the hen house, always seemed to come on Saturdays. Not content to leave well enough alone, I then proposed the great wisdom that the hen house seemed to always be clean every day of the week but Saturday. For reasons I will leave unexplained, that was the only time I proposed this matter. After a very brief and a very one-sided 'discussion' of the situation, I was quite content to clean the hen house and grind the feed every Saturday.

We recently came across an article describing the role of the village blacksmith, once so familiar in our small towns. As a descendant of several blacksmiths, I always found an inexplicable pride in their careers and accomplishments, but never quite understood why they were so highly revered in the community. The aforementioned article noted that the local blacksmith was looked on as the expert in things mechanical. If he was a genuine craftsman, he never feared for a lack of work. His skill with forge, hammer, and anvil made it possible to form complicated shapes with what seemed to be relative ease. Good blacksmiths were also expected to be good plow mechanics. Sharpening plowshares was a major part of their business, and many of our readers can remember going into a blacksmith shop and seeing a couple of specially built racks full from top to bottom with plowshares from their customers, all with the owner's name inscribed with chalk. Anyone who knew anything at all about a plow knew almost immediately whether the plowshare had been correctly sharened, and this quickly separated the good plow man from the mediocre mechanic. The latter usually lacked for ' work, but the man who thoroughly understood the science of the plow always had more than he could do.

In putting all this into perspective, a great many of our early machinery company people were originally blacksmiths. For instance, Meinrad Rumely, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Abram Gaar, and many others came up this way. In an age when machine tools were almost unheard of, isn't it indeed remarkable that we ever got the reaper, the thresher, or the plow? Sound easy? Have any of our readers tried to build one of these implements having only a forge, an anvil, a hammer, and a stock of iron bars ?

Our first question this month begins with:

25/5/1 Shipping Magnetos Jack Chandler, RR 5, Box 505, Carthage, MO 64836 sends along some very useful information:

Styrofoam pellets are almost the same as not having any packing at all and should never be used by anyone shipping a magneto in for repair. The heavy magneto will work to the bottom of the box and by the time it arrives at the destination, a rebuildable magneto can be damaged beyond repair. Instead, use a cushion of tightly wadded newspaper packing, and make sure that there is at least an inch of this packing around all sides of the magneto. Also be sure the box is packed tight and solid to prevent any movement of the magneto during shipment. Be sure that your name and address is also placed inside the box, as well as on the outside. Consider insuring your shipment for what a replacement magneto would cost.