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A Mysterious Cement Mixer

Author Photo
By Staff

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Rick guesses his Kent mixer was produced in the early teens since the Novo engine powering it carries a Hildreth tag. Novo engines were produced under the Hildreth Manufacturing Co. name before the company was re-organized in 1912.
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Rick guesses his Kent mixer was produced in the early teens since the Novo engine powering it carries a Hildreth tag. Novo engines were produced under the Hildreth Manufacturing Co. name before the company was re-organized in 1912.
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Side controls on the Kent mixer determine how much material falls into the mixing tray.
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This 1913 ad, owned by Steve Barr, is the only historical evidence Rick has found about the mixer. Notice the engine housing on the advertisement, which is missing on Rick's mixer.
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Ready-to-use mixed concrete is expelled at the back of the mixing tray, mixed and pushed by a yellow auger that's just visible under the yellow water pipes.
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Close-up of the direct-drive clutch assembly.
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Rick Monk of Brownstown, Mich., loves to collect and display
Novo engines – and the equipment they powered. So, when fellow
engine buddy Joe Kelly contacted Rick about a Novo-powered
continuous-pour cement mixer he had stumbled upon in Bangor, Maine,
Rick jumped at the chance to add another piece of equipment to his
collection.

But when he displays the odd-looking mixer at engine shows,
people scratch their heads, wondering just what this particular
Novo is powering. Oddly enough, not one person has recognized it as
a cement mixer, and nobody has been able to tell Rick anything
about its manufacturer, the Kent Machine Co. of Kent, Ohio.

‘Nobody even knows what it is,’ Rick says. ‘I’ve
never met a single person who knows what it is out of the five or
six shows I’ve taken it to. Old-timer concrete guys say
they’ve never seen one. I fully expected to meet someone at the
Portland (Ind.) show who knew what it was or something about the
company, but I never did.’

Remarkably, Rick’s Kent mixer seems to be the only one known
to exist, and it’s just a matter of luck that Rick ended up
owning it. Rick and Joe got to know each other through an
old-engine Internet site and from a couple of meetings at the
Coolspring Power Museum, Coolspring, Pa., and Joe just happened to
think of Rick when he saw the Kent. In October 2002 during a
vacation that took him through Canada, Rick drove to Bangor and
picked up the mixer, repaying Joe the $700 that Joe spent to buy it
from a Bangor engine club.

The mixer was in rough condition, Rick says, and looked nothing
like it does today. ‘The sheet metal was all rotted out, the
mixing hopper was gone and the whole thing was just plain rotted
out from sitting out in the weather all these years,’ Rick
recalls. ‘The good thing was all of the cast iron was still
intact. Because all that was there, it was just a matter of
cleaning it up and working on the sheet metal.’ Rick did have
to make one link on the back table, plus the bottom of the clutch
shoe and the auger housing was rotted out, but all of the bolts
except for three unscrewed without breaking. The mixer also
included an engine housing, but it’s not yet restored.

Likewise, the 3 HP Novo engine that came with the mixer
wasn’t in terrible shape, either, although its surface looked
pretty rough. The engine had definitely been used a lot in the
past, but it could have been worse.

When Rick disassembled the Novo engine, he noticed a third of
the piston was broken off around the skirt. However, since the
broken skirt didn’t keep the engine from running, and since the
engine and mixer’s working days are long past, Rick left the
piston as he found it. All that Rick did to the Novo was rebuild
the fuel pump to make sure it had a good, steady flow of fuel, and
he honed the cylinder – the rest was cosmetic. ‘This whole
(engine) unit was in excellent condition,’ Rick adds.

Rick’s father, Kenneth, 74, did most of the sand blasting
and painting as caked-on cement covered a large portion of the
mixer and engine. ‘He’s got a little more patience on that
painting stuff than I do,’ Rick admits.

How It Works

To understand how this Kent mixer operates, first consider the
three hoppers set on top of the mixer frame: Sand is added to the
large hopper closest to the engine and concrete mix to the middle
hopper. The engine is connected to a direct-drive clutch that in
turn engages a table positioned underneath the hoppers. When
engaged, this table oscillates parallel to the mixer’s base,
allowing sand and concrete to fall into the mixing tray below.
Mixing controls on the side of the containers determine the
amplitude of the table’s oscillation, which determines how much
material falls into the mixing tray.

The last hopper holds rock and works similar to the first two
containers, but the table underneath oscillates perpendicular to
the mixer’s base. A water-intake valve is connected to the rock
container to control the addition of water to the mixing tray
located at the belly of the mixer. Once all the materials are fed
into the mixing tray, an auger in the mixing tray mixes and pushes
the prepared concrete toward the back so it can be continuously
dispensed.

‘I’ve had people tell me the same style of paddle and
auger is still used today in commercial cement factories to mix
concrete,’ Rick says.

The key feature of this cement mixer is its ability to
continuously mix concrete in the same proportions simply by
adjusting the mix controls and adding the raw ingredients. Other
mixers of the era simply mixed individual batches, relying on the
operator to measure out the correct proportions each time the mixer
went empty.

Rick isn’t interested in using his mixer to make concrete,
however. This finely restored piece of equipment served its purpose
for decades and is also one-of-a-kind. Now it’s been retired
for display purposes.

‘I’ve never used it to mix concrete, too much work has
been put into it to do that!’ Rick says.

Rick figures his Kent mixer was probably built some time between
1910 and 1913, considering the Novo engine is a Hildreth model,
which means the engine was manufactured prior to 1912 when Hildreth
Manufacturing Co., Lansing, Mich., was reestablished as the Novo
Engine Co.

Steve Barr, a friend of Rick’s and a fellow engine collector
from Downers Grove, Ill., owns an advertisement dated to
1913 – the only know reference to the Kent mixer – that gives
credence to Rick’s guess.

To learn just exactly how old his mixer is and how many were
produced, Rick contacted the local historical society in Kent but
received absolutely nothing useful about the firm. In fact, his
search for more information about the Kent Manufacturing Co. has
stalled completely. ‘The historical society wasn’t able to
tell me anything,’ Rick sadly admits. ‘I’m hoping GEM
readers will know something about it.’

That’s how his mixer stands today. Unable to find any
information about his mixer, Rick’s stuck with wondering the
obscure history and specifications about his Kent mixer. In 2004,
however, Rick plans to take his engine to about five or six gas
engine shows, so hope still remains that someone will finally
recognize the mixer and give Rick some much-needed information
about it.

Rick Monk is looking for more information about his Kent cement
mixer. If any one has information, contact him at: 24146 Kraft
Place, Brownstown, Ml 48174; (313) 378-5759; rgmtruck@aol.com

Novo Mud Pump

Always on the prowl for Novo-powered equipment, Rick Monk added
a Novo mud pump, produced in the late teens, to his collection in
2000. Purchased from old-engine buddy Alex Stevens at the
Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pa., the pump came with a 3
HP Novo vertical engine – the same model of engine that powers the
Kent cement mixer. And just like the mixer, this pump came out of
Maine, as well.

The Novo pump was essentially in good shape: the only items that
needed replacing were the rubber plungers. In fact, the same
weekend that Alex sold Rick the pump, Rick had it working at the
Apple and Arts Festival in Delmont, Pa. Rick returned to his shop
in Dearborn, Mich., with the pump and put the finishing touches on
it. All that needed done was to strip it down, prime and paint it.
The cart base is an original Novo that came with the pump, but Rick
made the wheels.

Now, Rick uses the pump for demonstrations – its first time was
at the 2003 Hudson Mills Old Power Club Show in Dexter, Mich. Rick
says the pump does a great job. In fact, the little mud pump can
dump upwards of 5 to 6 gallons per stroke.

Published on May 1, 2004

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines