Speaking of Your Hobby. . .
P.O. Box 261 Peterstown, West Virginia 24963
Never pass up an opportunity to discuss your hobby with friends
and co-workers. The more eyes and ears you have, the better.
In the fall of 1998, a friend told me he had seen an old engine
for sale near a four-lane highway, about fifteen miles from my
home. I was more than a little embarrassed at not finding it
myself. This soon passed, for I didn’t want the embarrassment
to include missing a chance to purchase the engine.
First, a trip was in order to see exactly what it was. ‘Be
sure to take the camera,’ I reminded myself. Several
‘before’ shots have been lost forever in the excitement of
a total restoration.
I’ve been collecting engines for about ten years. Many of my
engines have been acquired from other collectors. Some were already
‘runners,’ but a few were in ‘as found’ condition.
The most fun are the stationary engines, meaning just that; nothing
will move. Such was the case with this find. Boy, what a chunk of
rust! A quick look at the tag confirmed it was a 7 HP
Fuller-Johnson, Type ‘N.’ A later serial number check
revealed A 1918 birthdate. The engine was on a buzz-saw rig, but
the cart appeared to be an old narrowed car or truck frame. The
wheels and axles, however, looked original. A stretch of the tape
measure told me I couldn’t haul it. At the time, I had a
twelve-foot trailer and the saw rig was the same length. With the
engine on one end, the weight distribution just didn’t seem
Armed with my first gathering of information, and having shot
half a roll of film, it was time to locate the owner.
After hearing the asking price, I decided not to haggle if I
could have one concession: Could it be delivered for this price? A
hesitant ‘Yes,’ was the answer, and delivery was to be in a
couple of days.
The weather was getting a bit chilly the October evening my
engine arrived. A friend of the former owner brought it on a
twenty-foot ‘goose-necked’ trailer. After we chatted a few
minutes, I learned I had bought two of my first engines from his
dad. My son, Brian, helped us unload the saw rig and we scooted it
into the garage. (The wheels wouldn’t roll very well-RUST, you
I briefly pondered my next move. All the nuts and bolts, and the
moveable parts that wouldn’t were sprayed with ‘GIBBS,’
my penetrant of choice.
The following day, I removed the head, mixer, and ignitor
flange. The ignitor had been drilled and threaded for a spark plug.
Penetrant was sprayed liberally into the cylinder, front and
A few days passed until the ‘Great Piston Removal’
attempt. My friend and mentor, Peter Stauffer, was present for the
We loosened the rod and main bearing caps and sprayed penetrant
on the journals. Using the flywheels, we gently bumped the rod with
the crankshaft until the piston moved ever so slightly. ‘More
Gibbs!’ came the call. After mounting excitement and
increasingly successful results, the piston went through a complete
stroke. The piston and rod were then removed. The rings looked
good. After removal to clean the ring grooves, they were
re-installed, each in its original groove.
The axles and wheels were removed and the frame lowered to the
floor. (If it’s already on the floor, you can’t drop it.)
The hopper was removed from the bed, then the flywheel and
crankshaft assembly. I like to stack 2×6 boards in decreasing
lengths under the flywheels to raise the crankshaft out of the main
bearings, then carefully roll the flywheels down the
‘stairsteps; created by the different length boards.
The engine bed was then removed from the frame and the fuel tank
was removed. The garage floor was visible through the pinholes in
the tank top. The bottom was completely gone.
After many hours of wire-bushing, all engine parts, nuts and
bolts, and cart wheels were relatively rust-free.
I prefer wire-brushing over sandblasting, but I don’t
recommend it. Although I use a dust mask and safety glasses, those
itty-bitty wires can penetrate your coveralls when traveling at a
high rate of speed. ‘Nough said.
A rust treatment available commercially was brushed on all
cleaned parts.This liquid is white when applied then chemically
reacts with a rusty surface to form a hard black coating which can
serve as a primer. It is sold under several brand names.
A new fuel tank was custom-built by Mike Green, and a new
ignitor was supplied by Bill Starkey. Pete Stauffer machined a new
push-rod and cam-follower assembly, as the original was terminally
stuck and couldn’t be adjusted. (I broke it!) All other
original parts were used. The axles were reconditioned. New channel
iron replaced the old car frame and a cart was built to resemble
the Fuller-Johnson horse-drawn cart. I didn’t replace the saw
and table because I don’t like to run a saw at shows.
The engine was assembled on the cart and brush painted with a
thin wash of Rustoleum and mineral spirits. I stole the idea from
my friend Pete, and he expressed his appreciation. The ignitor trip
was adjusted to release after a thirty-degree point dwell, and the
original starting instructions worked perfectly.
I received information on the original buyer (jobber) and
shipping date, along with very nice decals, from Mr. Verne
Kindschi. Lee Pedersen supplied a manual for the engine.
By this time, I was fighting a deadline to take my new toy to
the Antique Engine Association show at Reidsville, North Carolina.
I hadn’t built a battery box and didn’t have time to do so.
An antique wooden beer case was a temporary solution, and after
that first show I decided to make it permanent.
The engine made a successful first showing, and was also shown
at the West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival at Sistersville, West
Virginia. There, we made the front page of ‘The Parkersburg
After enjoying, and learning from the many restoration stories
I’ve read in GEM, I felt it was my turn to share one, also.
To all the engine folks who’ve shared stories, ideas,
support, parts, and help, THANKS!!!
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