As farms began to mechanize, there was a need to transmit power to the new machinery. The first machines were pulled by horses and typically were ground driven. Next, independent machines were operated with animals; usually horses or mules driving a horsepower sweep by walking in circles or walking on an inclined treadmill. The power was transferred to the machinery by tumbling rods or a flat belt. As horses were replaced with steam or internal combustion engines, flat belts and occasionally chains were used almost exclusively. The first flat belts were laced together with leather lacing and later patented metal lacing was used.
It was August 2011, and the world was good. The Baraboo, Wis., show had been great, and we were sitting in the shade at the Portland, Ind., show. On our drive down, we hadn’t gotten any flat tires on the trailer, and the police let us race by well over the speed limit. The weather was perfect. The engines started easily and were running well. Good friends, good food and a bazillion engines – it doesn’t get any better than that.
I was sitting in my fancy reclining lawn chair with my eyes half closed soaking in the fumes and sounds when the ambience was interrupted by the question, “Can you lace this belt for me?” There stood a young fellow engine enthusiast holding a little drive belt that had an alligator lace on one end and nothing on the other. “Why sure, I can put a Clipper lace on the end of your belt,” I bragged. “Always carry extra lacing and a belt lacer.”
Jim Watt, Red Key, Ind., introduced himself and we headed for the tools. After going through the toolboxes, I found neither lacing nor a belt lacer. Not to worry, it must be in my trailer parked out in the back 40. We hopped on the butt buggy and slowly drove through the crowd to the trailer. I found some No. 3-1/2 lacing, but no lacer.
When we got back to the group, a call went out for a belt lacer. Old “what’s his name” had one on the end of his trailer just a while ago. It and the owner were gone and no one else had a belt lacer. Not to worry, it can’t take very many laces on such a small belt so we’ll put them in “one at a time.” Now the fracas really starts.
Engine guys like to help each other, so Jim Watt, Roger Seefeldt and I (with the usual hecklers) took on a little job that should have taken five minutes. We determined it would only take nine hooks to make the lace. It sounded easy and usually is because the belt lacer holds everything in place and provides the perfect set-up to force the hook closed. Every other hook is a different length so we had to figure out how to keep the hooks sticking out the right distance and keep the spacing right at the same time. On top of that, we weren’t sure how well the Clipper lacing would match the alligator lacing. After a half hour or 45 minutes of using pliers, a hammer, another hammer as an anvil and several colorful words of encouragement, we had the laces in place. It was the sorriest lacing job you ever saw. After another 10 minutes, we actually got the gut worked through the lacing and the belt was ready to use. Jim mentioned that the belt was going on a Stover engine and grinder display, so I should come over later and see how it worked.
Jim and his wife Anna Marie Watt had a nicely restored CT3 Stover engine driving a restored Stover corn grinder with a small drive belt that worked surprisingly well. Stover engine no. 242621 was shipped to the Jaeger Machine Co., Columbus Ohio, on Feb. 2, 1937. It was probably originally mounted on a cement mixer.
The engine was owned by Anna Marie’s grandfather and was restored by Jim when her grandpa passed on. I’m sure he’s smiling down at that beautiful Stover outfit with the cobbled up drive belt.
Until next time, keep your plugs dry and your igniters oiled.
Contact Joe Maurer at 797 S. Silberman Rd., Pearl City, IL 61062 • (815) 443-2223 • firstname.lastname@example.org.