Typically, our inquiries drop off dramatically during July and
August. After all, most people are spending their time displaying
their restorations of last winter as well as buying new iron for
their 1996-97 winter projects. Thus, we’ve combined a report of
our recent British tour, along with a dozen photographs
highlighting a few of the interesting sights and sounds.
We saw some ancient crafts revived at Tatton Park and elsewhere.
Particularly impressive was the foot-powered ‘pole lathe.’
A block of wood is split to approximate dimensions and is then cut
to length and put in the lathe. The operator wraps a strong cord
around the piece, and by pushing down on the foot treadle, it turns
between centers. By careful manipulation of the cutting tool, the
piece is quickly rounded for about 2/3 of its
length, and is then quickly turned end-for-end to rough out the
remainder. A strong flexible tree limb serves as a return spring on
the pole lathe, so the spindle turns back and forth.
The spindles in genuine Windsor chairs were made in this manner
for many years, and even with mechanization of the process, this
ancient hand method was still faster than what could be achieved
with highly mechanized methods. A good artisan could split out a
rough block, put it on centers, cut and finish it, and be ready for
another in four minutes or less!
Although much slower than wood, early metal cutting was
accomplished in much the same manner. It’s always hard to put
things in a historical perspective, and it’s even more
difficult to conceive of the crude methods used by our ancestors as
the magnificent machine tool industry was developed. Yet, it all
goes back to crude machines like the pole lathe.
The other day we ran across an article in the August 2, 1906
issue of American Machinist outlining the history of Babbitt metal
and its inventor, Isaac Babbitt. The latter was born at Taunton,
Massachusetts, on July 26, 1799, and died on May 26, 1862. After an
apprenticeship in the goldsmith’s trade he became quite
interested in the production of alloys, and in 1824 he became the
first person in the United States to produce brittania metal. Used
for various types of cookware, brittania metal consisted of 88.9%
tin, 7.4% antimony, and 3.7% copper. Thus, Babbitt’s original
bearing metal was simply brittania metal. However, little is known
of his methods of mixing the metals to form the alloy, and therein
was the secret to Babbitt’s success.
Regarding the mixing of metals to form the alloy, it has been
determined that Babbitt developed a specific order during the
process, adding a portion of one metal, then another, and so on,
until the full quantity of each had been added to the kettle.
Eventually the babbitt would take on a brilliant glitter under
normal usage, however, all that glitters it not genuine babbitt,
and within twenty years after his invention, there were numerous
alloys sold as babbitt, but containing considerable proportions of
lead. Many of these were sold under fancy titles, and were
satisfactory for slow speeds and light loads, but a total failure
outside of these circumstances.
For those wishing to try making their own babbitt metal, the
first requirement is a graphite or carbide crucible. A cast iron
kettle is okay, so long as no zinc will be used in the alloy. Zinc
and cast iron kettles do not agree well with each other.
Select your desired formula. Now, after first melting the base
metal, whether tin, lead, or zinc, dissolve the hardening agents,
such as antimony therein at a gentle heat, using sawdust, tallow,
or powdered sal ammoniac as a flux.
Babbitt metal is technically speaking, a tin alloy. However,
commercial usage has applied the name to all alloys capable of the
same duty as the original and genuine babbitt. Tin-base babbitt is
the best, followed by lead-base, and lastly, is zinc-base
Our queries begin with:
31/10/1 Kermath Marine Q. See the photo of a
Kermath marine engine. Any information on this engine would be
greatly appreciated. James Potee, 2303 Evans, Valparaiso, IN
31/10/2 Cushman Cub Q. I have a Cushman Cub,
Model 1R5B, s/n 57769. Can anyone tell me when this engine was
built? Also, are there two or three of the Cushman Cub decals on
the hopper? Carl Starr, 401 N. Loyal sock Ave., Montoursville,
31/10/3 John Deere 9020 Q. I bought the John
Deere 9020 shown in the photo at a Nebraska auction. No one has
been able to supply any information. It is powered by a Caterpillar
8’Cylinder engine. I think it was built in the 1960s, can
anyone help? Ed Varga, Rt. 1, Rosebush, Ml 48878.
A. We have no information on this tractor. Can
anyone be of help?
31/10/4 Sattley Engine Q. See the photos of my
Sattley 3HP engine, s/n 3030. I got this engine from an older man
who had 12 old engines. This engine has been redone with new rings,
bearings, and an all-new magneto. However, I need a complete
governor and gear. Can anyone help, please? Photos, copies, or any
information will be greatly appreciated.
Also, can anyone tell me when this engine was made, and how was
it painted and striped? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Bill
Petseo, 226 N. Morrison, Centralia. IL 62801.
A. According to an old Montgomery & Ward
catalog, the gasoline models were painted black, (DuPont DS001),
and the kerosene models were painted brown, comparable to DuPont
23254. We don’t know the color(s) of the striping. Later model
Sattley engines were green, similar to DuPont 7498.
31/10/5 Reeves Engine Q. I have acquired a
Reeves 2HP engine (Reeves Pulley Company) s/n 5588. Does anyone
have any information outside of that given in American Gas Engines
relative to dating this engine? The color listed for this engine is
red with royal blue flywheel rims, and gold pin-striping. Can you
recommend color match numbers? I would appreciate hearing from
other Reeves owners regarding the paint color matches they have
used. My engine is missing most of the speed regulation and
ignition system, with want ads also being run in GEM. Any help
would be greatly appreciated. Ralph Reeves, PO Box 963, Miss.
State, MS 39762.
A. We have DuPont RS907 Red listed as a good
match for the Reeves.
A Closing Word
As we noted at the beginning, this month’s queries are quite
short, and that’s a usual scenario at this time of year. We
always find it hard to concentrate ourselves at the desk when
it’s a beautiful day outside, and old iron, or other things,
beckon us. We suppose it’s quite the same with all of you
Research is being developed at the present time for a
comprehensive history of Witte engines, much like our earlier books
on Stover, Fairbanks-Morse, and others. By the time the leaves
begin to fall, we hope to have most of our material together so
that writing, layout, and printing of this book can come to
completion during the winter months. Meanwhile, we’ll also be
refurbishing our old ATF Chief 20 press. Along with a new set of
rollers, we’ve got a few days worth of adjusting and tuning to
get it back up into prime operating condition. We’re not sure
how many of you are involved in the printing business, but
restoring and refurbishing an old press is almost as addictive as
restoring an old engine or an old tractor.
If you’ve been thinking of joining us on our tour of
Australia next February, write us for a tour brochure and booking
form at Box 257, Amana, IA 52203. This promises to be a tour of a
lifetime. The three weeks in Australia will be followed by another
two weeks in New Zealand, with the latter tour including a huge
tractor rally. Those interested can go on either, or both tours.
Let us know if you’re interested, as it’s not likely that
we’ll be scheduling another tour to Australia and New Zealand
for several years. As with our previous tours, we provide as much
flexibility as possible. For instance, if someone would rather go
shopping or engage in other activities, that’s perfectly okay
with us, so long as you’re on hand when the coach departs for
another location. So ladies, if you’re wondering whether
you’ll be stuck looking at the old iron which fascinates your
partner so much, we’ll put it this way: Our tours attempt to
provide as much freedom as possible, and many folks tell us that we
provide more freedom of movement than almost any tour you’ll