26 Mott Place Rockaway Boro, New Jersey 07866
I have always liked old engines and machinery, having been
introduced to them by my dad at the Kutztown Folk Festival about 20
years ago. Over the years I have acquired a number of them in
various states of repair.
I learned how to rebuild and restore them the old fashioned way,
that is by taking them apart and putting them back together myself.
It was not easy. My first attempt was nearly my last. It was on my
fifth birthday and my grandpa had left his brand new rotary
lawnmower in the backyard on its side. I saw it and asked him if I
could ‘fix it’. Figuring I could do little harm with no
tools, he said yes. (He had removed the blade to sharpen it.) He
did not remember that he had left a screwdriver, a hammer and a
pair of vice grips on his workbench nearby. Well I found them, went
to work and ‘fixed it’ just fine. Needless to say Grandpa
was thrilled with the job I did. After 25 years I still have the
only salvagable part left the carburetor. I have been repairing
engines ever since (with some help early on) with much more
My latest restoration project began with the arrival of the
March-April 1983 issue of GEM. I was glancing thru
the Wanted section when a For Sale ad caught my eye. The ad had
been placed by Stewart B. Sisk of Antler, North Dakota. He was
selling two IHC-McCormick Deering type M 1 HP gasoline engines.
Because I had just finished fixing a 1932 engine of the same
type, I decided to inquire into what kind of shape they were in and
how much he wanted for them. I figured I could use mine as an
example to fix them up since it was in good original condition.
The reply from Stewart was quick in coming both engines were
stuck and missing some parts. However, he added, parts from both
engines might possibly be used to make one usable engine. The price
was right, but the big problem was getting them from Antler, N.D.
where he was, to Rockaway Boro, N.J. where I live. Stewart solved
that problem by locating a trucking firm willing to carry them for
$32 per 100 pounds, if we knew the weight and put them on a pallet.
We didn’t know the exact weight (and still don’t) so we
took a guess at 500 pounds for the pair. It must have been close
enough, because after a couple more exchanges of information and a
mailed check, they were on their way by April 8th.
The engines took two weeks to get to N.J. and another day of
calls to locate them as they had been re-routed in transit. I had
to go to a trucking depot in Parsipanny, N.J. to pick them up, a
trip of about ten miles. The workers all laughed when they saw my
1950 IHC L-120 pickup truck, but the laughter stopped after the
engines were loaded in the back and the bed did not sag one inch.
They didn’t know the L-120 is rated at ton, and besides
I’ve had 2 tons on it with no problem.
When I got them home I was so worked up that I took both engines
off the tailgate by myself.
Both engines still had their original ID tags and serial numbers
so I looked them up and found that they were built in 1927 and
As soon as I got them into my garage I went to work taking off
almost all of the easily removable parts including the heads and
flywheels on both engines. Because both engines were about an inch
deep in gunk and old grease, the exteriors were not rusty at all,
and even the flywheels came off with a tug after the pins were
pulled. All of the parts were set aside in separate areas to be
worked over later. (See picture 1) This was done to ease the
cleaning operations and to make the main pieces as light as
possible so I could move them easily to my work area.
The main piece consisted of the stuck piston, cylinder and block
assembly with the attached connecting rod and crankshaft. These I
stood up on end with the open cylinder bore looking up. A block of
wood under the connecting rod inspection port (hand hole) and the
flat part of the base made a pretty stable stand.
Both engines had stopped with the piston about 2/3 of the way
down the bores on the compression stroke. I sprayed WD-40 around
the piston and then filled the bores with my ‘bust it loose
stuff. I make the solution as follows: 1 cup gasoline, 1 cup
kerosene, 1 half-pint can Liquid Wrench, and 1 cup Type F automatic
transmission fluid. Put in a half gallon closed container and shake
lightly to mix contents. This makes enough for 1 engine operation.
Please if you use this mixture, keep it in a closed container and
don’t use near an open flame. It lights pretty fast when first
mixed and it smokes when heated. Also use in a well ventilated
I should say now that there are some differences between the
’27 and ’28 engines and since they both needed about the
same amount of work I decided to restore them both. The first thing
was to have two valves made up for the ’27 engine as the
originals were missing. RDF Heads of Pompton Plains, NJ. did the
job for me. Next I wrote to Ed Deis of Orwell, OH for all of the
obvious missing parts. This included the long and short governor
rods, the governor yoke or shoe for the ’27; the magneto rocker
and valve springs; fuel pump rockers (they are different) and more.
After the note to Ed, I wrote to George Wilson of Rice Lake, WI
about 2 different fuel pumps. Next was a call to Wally Steding of
Ford Dodge, IA for the carburetor fuel pickup tubes and throttle
shafts. He also had the Venturi to go in between the upper and
lower carb sections (a hard item to find) as the originals being
made of zinc had disintegrated. A phone call to Bob Whitaker in
Greenfield, IN located a Wico EK magneto, and last but not least a
note to Starbolt Engine Supplies in Laytonsville, MD for a pair of
fuel tanks was successful.
The primary teardown and parts research took about two days, the
ordering another two. On the fifth day I started cleaning the loose
parts down to bare metal. These I primed and first-coat painted and
set aside. At this time I found that one of the flywheels from the
’27 had a cracked spoke near the hub and was slightly bent. I
didn’t think that the bend was too serious but the spoke had to
be repaired. I took the flywheel to a local gas station to see if
they could repair it but was told that they didn’t have the
proper equipment to make the repair. On my way out an elderly man
asked me what the wheel was for and I told him. I learned that he
used to work in a blacksmith’s shop and he could fix it for me.
When I asked how much it would cost he said, ‘Just let me see
it run when you get it finished.’ When I got it back the wheel
was as straight as an arrow and you could not tell which spoke had
been repaired after I primed and painted it. Now comes the hard
part. I mopped out the remaining stuff in the cylinders and set the
blocks back on their bases. By the way, this is the way I get most
of my stuck pistons out.
The two stories differ from this point on so I will tell you
about the ’27 engine first as it is more typical of what I find
in a stuck engine.
Restoring the ’27
On the sixth day I looked in the bore of the ’27 engine. It
was in pretty good shape above the piston so I honed it with a
medium stone hone to get out the surface rust. It cleaned up very
quickly. Next I removed the connecting rod cap and the Babbitted
bearings. I placed a 1 inch diameter piece of type L copper tubing
over the crankshaft journal (see diagram 1). Then I placed a 3 inch
diameter round by 1 foot long piece of oak in the bore, after again
spraying the piston crown with WD-40. I hit the wood with a five
pound hammer and the piston moved about 1 inch further down the
bore. Again I honed the exposed cylinder and sprayed in some of my
‘stuff’ which I had put in an old oilcan. I then placed the
fly wheels on the crankshaft and put in the pins or keys lightly. I
aligned the connecting rod with the crankpin journal by placing a
piece of inch diameter copper tubing about 8 inches long on the
upper connecting rod cap bolt and letting it rest on the copper on
the journal (see diagram 2).
After turning the crankshaft gently as far as it would go in the
direction opposite normal running, I pulled the flywheels over hard
as if to start the engine. When the crankpin hit the connecting rod
the piston would be forced to travel up the bore. In this case the
piston and rod flew clean out of the cylinder and onto the floor,
luckily without damage, on the first try.
Do not try this yourself until the piston has moved with the
wood. On the type ‘M’ engines, or any other engine with a
cylinder sleeve bore, if the piston is stuck fast, the sleeve may
move before the piston meaning much more work. On a non-sleeved or
very tight sleeve bore you may damage or break the crankshaft with
the torsion supplied by the flywheels if the piston is stuck tight.
Please make sure the piston moves at least a little bit with the
wood. This method works but you have to give it a little help.
I don’t recommend this for an engine with a weak connecting
rod or a badly pitted bore as it may cause breakage if you are not
I use copper on the crankpin and cap bolt to protect the parts
from direct steel to steel contact. The softer metal will deform
before damaging the steel. The babitt bearings are removed because
they will not stand up to this kind of abuse. By the way, the
bearings on both engines were in very good condition, only needing
a slight adjustment to take up the play. Another note here, I have
seen too many people melt down a perfectly good bearing by making
it too tight. If you take out a shim and the engine gets stiff to
turn, put it back. Rather to run loose and adjust later than to
have to pour another bearing.
The cylinder was honed with a fine stone for its entire length
and it cleaned up pretty well showing only slight wear and some
minor pitting from the rust. The piston cleaned up like new with
steel wool and the rings although stuck looked pretty good too. A
little ‘stuff freed them right up.
I took the flywheels off again and proceeded to clean all the
mouse nests out of the hopper and to scrape off about 2 inches of
accumulated grease and grime that had been gathered over the years.
Remarkably the original stencil work was still in good shape on the
skid. I cleaned and primed the block and quit for the night. It
took about 18 hours of work from initial look over to first coat of
paint. The next day I gave the block two coats of paint and
reassembled the rod and piston to the crank and block unit. I then
second-coat painted all of the small parts that had been removed
earlier, and re-installed most of them also.
After dinner, I installed the fly wheels, head, oiler, and the
grease cups. Last to go on were the carburetor and the governor
linkages, and by ten that night I was ready to try starting it up.
I use Valvoline SAE 40 oil on the piston and running gear, and some
old paraffin base Texaco water pump grease my grandpa gave me on
the greasable bearings. The engine was stiff to turn over but it
was not binding anywhere. After filling the carb with gas and
priming the intake a little, I gave the flywheels a yank and to my
mild surprise it fired right up. After putting on the decals and
doing a little touch up work I took this engine to our club’s
engine show where it was sold. The compression was down a bit, but
I think if the engine is run for awhile the rings will seat in and
the situation will improve.
On to the ’28 Model
Restoring the 1928 was a totally different ball game. Where the
’27 restoration went so smoothly, Murphy’s law struck with
a vengeance on the ’28. If something could go wrong, it
First the new fuel pump was defective and had to be sent back
for a replacement. Next the governor shoe Ed sent me was for an
earlier (1923 and back) model and wouldn’t fit, so back it
went. The flat belt pulley hold down bolt wrung off and it took me
four hours to remove what was left to get the pulley off. In
cleaning the small parts down to bare metal I discovered some worn
items I had overlooked before in my initial look-through. More
calls to Ed!
Last, but by no means least, after getting all the small parts
ready for reassembly, I went to work on the stuck piston. I honed
the cylinder and sprayed it just like the ’27, but something
just did not look right. I got out my droplight to take a closer
look and sure enough something wasn’t. Someone in the past had
tried to free the stuck piston by beating directly on it with a
small hard object. Big mistake!! The whole crown or top of the
piston was stove in and fractured but was still in place.
Well, at this point I couldn’t lose so I went ahead with the
same removal procedure as I used on the ’27 engine. I got a
different result. On the first shot with the hammer all the broken
piston crown pieces went flying out the rod inspection port and the
wooden block was firmly jammed throught the head of the piston
against the connecting rod top end and wrist pin. Nuts! Oh well,
back to the drawing board. After plenty of cussing and thinking, I
decided that the wood block was not going any further as it was, so
I’d beat on it where it was.
After about 20 whacks it had moved only a quarter of an inch. I
took a chance that the piston would move before the cylinder sleeve
and tried the flywheel inertia part. It only moved the piston about
‘ out. Back and forth this went on three times and the total
movement was still a little over an inch. Now I was really getting
mad so I got out my Oxy-Acetylene torch and heated the cylinder
through the hopper. Finally, after 4 more rockings in and out,
stuff soakings, and another hone job I got what was left of that
poor piston out. (see picture 2)
I gave the cylinder a final hone job with the fine stone and
found that after all that work the cylinder was in excellent shape.
There was virtually no wear and no pitting from the rust. I took my
bore gauge and found that there was only about .002 taper (almost
unnoticeable). Again another call to Ed Deis for a piston and ring
set. You should have seen my phone bill!
Anyway, while I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I primed
and painted the block and reassembled as much as I could (see
picture 3). It took four weeks for the parts to get here and only
five minutes to install.
It took me three hours of final assembly and touchup work before
I was ready to fire this one up, too. The compression was so good
that I couldn’t pull it over unless I held a valve open. I
finally used my IHC 3 HP engine hand crank to turn it over. Now
after four turns and two badly scraped knuckles, (the handle is
longer than the radius of the flywheel so your hand raps the skid
as the engine turns) it fired up. Boy did it smoke! I let it run a
little while to burn off the excess oil, and the smoke cleared
right up. Now it is easier to start but the compression is still
excellent. As a final touch to this restoration I located an NOS
IHC spark plug made by Champion to work in this engine.
It is finally finished (see picture 4).
The paint I use for my IHC type ‘M’ restorations is made
by Krylon, and the color is Forest Green. Krylon has two Forest
Green paints, an early and a late. The early paint has the pigments
listed on the can itself, and the later has the list on the plastic
lid. It is the later paint that you want. This is because it has
more blue pigment in it making it very close to the original green
If anyone out there in Engine Land needs assistance in repairing
or restoring their old iron, please feel free to drop me a note or
a phone call. I am usually home at 201-627-2392 after 6 PM Eastern
That wraps up my story. Besides the 1928 IHC McCormick Deering,
I also own a 1919 IHC International M 3 HP kerosene engine with the
rare undershot igintor (the hundredth engine built by IHC that
year), a 1920 IHC International 1 HP kerosene, a 1922 Hercules 5 HP
with Webster ignition, a 1928 Stover KA 2 HP, a 1924 Fairbanks
Morse 1 HP, a United 1 HP year unknown, as well as several Maytag
singles, twins and some B & S engines.