1280 Oakham Road New Braintree, Massachusetts 01531
It all started in the fall of 1992, when my nephew Roger wanted
an old motorcycle engine I had under the workbench in the shop. I
asked him what he had to trade. He said he had this Ottawa log saw.
It was in baskets but it was all there. Not knowing what a log saw
one lunger was, I agreed on the trade. This was the beginning of a
2? year battle to get it running, and subsequently a downhill slide
of my mental and physical health.
When we unloaded the baskets of parts and brought them into the
shop, the main casting was unbalanced and tipped over onto my
ankle. Being excited about my new toy it didn’t seem to hurt
The next few months I tried to find people and shows to take
pictures of other Ottawas so I could assemble mine. Most of the
parts all went on in some kind of order, but the push rod that
trips the magneto would fire at different times every revolution. I
was stumped. So, I brought it to a friend of the family, Paul
Walker, across town. We spun it over and over and over trying about
everything. Both exhausted and half paralyzed, unable to stand up
straight, we slid it out of the way until we regrouped. Two and a
half weeks later, after a trip to the hospital for back spasms and
prescriptions for ibuprofen, we tried to start it once more.
Paul had left to fetch some part he had made for someone that
had stopped in. I was in the (now assumed) Ottawa starting position
when it started! I was under the impression it would vibrate round
the floor some. It began to do a polka across Paul’s workshop
heading for his restored Rolls and a 1918 motor cycle. I lost my
balance when it hit me in the shins. I tripped over his welding
cables, but falling in the correct direction I wrestled it into
It died once more. When Paul returned I told him that it was
running! He passed it off as a fish story and didn’t believe
me. These restorers never told me about mental torment!
I was determined at this point to master this piece of
engineering marvel. It was built in the 1930s and I was built in
the 1940s. It wasn’t too much smarter than me!
I made three new push rods, the last one being threaded so I
could control the firing time.
I spun the flywheel over and over (and over and over and over)
enough times to drive it into Boston and back by the time I got it
running right in the fall of 1993.
I cleaned up the wheels and had some oak handles cut at Alden
Brodmerkles Mill up the road. The dimensions were a guess from
looking at pictures I had taken. When the engine was mounted I spun
over the flywheels just to see if it worked. It turned over just
far enough to catch my little pinkie between the flywheel and the
wood. After two glasses of root beer and my second prescription of
ibuprofen, I was back at it. No one mentioned that if the Pittman
arm was in gear when it started that it would jump off the floor
every time it made a revolution! It took about half my workbench
and crushed everything in its way including the gas tank; which
came loose. This created a situation of increasing proportions.
Being three French fries short of a Happy Meal-should I just leave
quickly or dive onto the kill switch and hold on till it stops? (A
very lucky rookie) I dove on it like it was a hand grenade in a
foxhole full of soldiers. After three Band-Aids and a clean pair of
jockey shorts, I cleaned up the shop and pushed it out of the way
until I could regain my composure and dignity.
I guess spinning over the flywheel so much for so many years
loosened the key. I got the timing corrected and the engine started
every time the key started to come out of the keyway as it was
running. Before I could shut it off IT VANISHED! Nowhere to be
found. Six months later it showed up in my wife Marie’s flower
garden. She reminded me that piece of junk was going to kill me.
I’m a slow learner but I was beginning to believe she might be
right this time.
Just to clear up a few things, it’s 1997 and still alive!
I’ve restored two other engines since the Ottawa.
When people call, Marie tells them that I’m in the shop with
my other woman (the engine).
My shop is now fully equipped with the necessary equipment such
as safety glasses, first aid kit, phone numbers for the fire
department and ambulance, leather gloves, steel toe shoes, hard hat
and two large fire extinguishers. Necessary equipment for restoring
an Ottawa log saw.
My thanks to GEM suppliers, John Rex, Ken Gates, Paul Walker,
and especially to my wonderful wife Marie, for driving me to the
hospital and letting me do it my way.
I also should thank Dr. Grace, Dr. Opper, St. Vincents Hospital,
Express Pharmacy, Johnson and Johnson, and Ben Gay for their
support. Most of all the most important thanks goes to God for
allowing me time to play and showing me earthly things will pass
and don’t stand too close.