Will This John Deere Model E Run Again – Part 2

By Staff
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 Antique engine restorer Peter Rooke’s latest restoration project is this 1926 John Deere Model E.    
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Drilling holes in the axle bars.
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The completed rear support after welding.
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Setting up to profile the top of the turntable.
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First three components of the front axle assembly.
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Drilling and milling the central part of the turntable.
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Rubbing plate and fillets ready to weld to the top part.
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Components for the bottom part of the turntable.
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Rough shaping the central part on the mill after welding to top.
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Welding the bottom of turntable to axle. Note the use of the block and rod to hold the axle square.
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The completed front assembly.
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Rough shaping the top part of the turntable on the mill, holding it on a rotary table.
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Fitting the new piston rings using shim stock.
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The check valve with new filter. Note the V-cut in the end of the fuel pipe at right.
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Completed ironwork on the cart, ready for painting.

This is the second in a three part series on Peter Rooke’s restoration of a John Deere Model E. You can view part 1 here and part 3 here.

When the engine arrived it was bolted on a battered skid, slightly shorter than its original specification with extra bolt holes drilled in it.

I had considered buying a reproduction cart, but by the time carriage and duty were added to the base price this was well beyond my means. Fortunately, Smokstak members provided me with some help, particularly Jim McCracken who provided photos and measurements of his original cart, and Don Wiley who provided similar information about the cart he made.

The first step was to make a new skid to replace the damaged one the engine arrived on. I had been fortunate in acquiring some lengths of 30-year-old Scots pine (18 feet x 12-inch x 4-inch) which was denser than some softwood and would be cut up to make most of my future carts. After some sawing and planing, I ended up with two 33-inch long pieces of 2.625-inch x 3.375-inch profile. A search on Smokstak revealed details of the precise points to drill the 0.375-inch holes for the various mounting bolts for the iron work of the cart and the base plate of the engine.

The iron work for the truck would not be so easy to resolve. I had already found some four-spoke wheels, which were a little on the large size at just over 9 inches in diameter, but they would do for now as it will take time to find smaller ones. I also had some 1-inch steel rod that could be used for the axles.

The turntable and rear support should really be cast, but by the time the patterns were made and then cast, it would not be much more work to fabricate the pieces required from oddments of steel.

The easiest part, the rear support bracket, was started by first reclaiming a piece of rusty iron. The milling machine was used to remove the rust pits before it was shaped, again by milling, to produce part of the top bar. The two supports to join the axle to this bar were fabricated by brazing some 0.188-inch thick and 1-inch square steel together to form an “H” section, the ends of which were then cut at a 20 degree angle, ready for welding to the axle rod and top bar. Some thick washers were made for the metal skin fixing bolts by drilling 0.312-inch holes in some 0.750-inch round, which was then cut to a length of 1 inch.  Before welding the supports, two 0.750-inch holes were drilled in them for these washers, which were then brazed in place.

The two axle rods were made from 1-inch steel, as no thick wall tube was readily available (i.e. cheap!). These axle rods were pre-drilled with three 0.312-inch holes for the sheet metal securing bolts, two 0.250-inch holes for the two pairs of split pins at each end of the sheet coverings. Finally, two 0.188-inch holes were drilled to keep the wheels on. A block of scrap steel was drilled to take a 0.312-inch rod to be held vertical, so that this would fit through one of the bolt holes in the axle to ensure that it would be held in the correct alignment with its supporting bracket when welding. A piece of scrap steel was drilled to use as a template when welding the two vertical support arms to the axle to ensure that the holes were the correct distance apart: 2.25 inches. 

The front turntable

Fabricating the front turntable would be a little more complex, and depended on what oddments of steel could be found in the workshop rather than buying a big block and starting to carve it! A start was made by sawing the sloping ends to a piece of 0.750-inch x 2-inch steel for the top before turning a 1.625-inch diameter ring 0.500-inch long with a 1-inch diameter hole. Next a 0.500-inch hole was drilled through a 3.750-inch length of 1.00-inch steel that would be used to support the pivot pin for the turntable.

These three items were then brazed together to form the core of the pivot support before counter boring the ring at the top 1.25-inch diameter, 0.50-inch deep for the pivot pin nut and washer.

The remainder of the pivot support was made from a 0.750-inch piece of 2.5-inch diameter steel as the rubbing plate. This was joined to the top section by shaping an 8-inch length of 1.5-inch x 1-inch steel, as support for the pivot pin surround and to strengthen the assembly. Finally, some fillets of steel were cut to fill in to the rubbing plate and the whole assembly was welded together.

Once the weld cooled, a combination of milling machine, rotary file, grinding wheel and hand file were used to shape the casting. This was then completed by drilling and threading a hole in the pivot support for a grease nipple and welding on two 0.250-inch thick plates to the top section to fit under the wooden skids. Finally these were drilled with 0.375-inch holes 7 inches apart for the mounting bolts.

The bottom half of the pivot was much easier to make, consisting of a 2.5-inch diameter rubbing plate, a 0.500-inch diameter pivot and two pieces of 0.375-inch thick steel to support them and provide a good area of contact to weld to the axle. These pieces were again drilled with a 0.750-inch diameter hole for the two 1-inch length spacing washers, which were brazed into these holes for the bolts to hold the sheet metal covers.

Again, the jigs used for the back axle were used along with strong clamps to hold everything in the correct position when welding. Before welding, some generous V-cuts were made using a grinding disc so there would be plenty of contact for the weld to key to.

Sheet metal axle covers

The next task was to shape the sheet metal covers. To make it easier, these would be made in pairs to fit each axle assembly. A piece of 0.030-inch sheet metal, recycled from an old domestic appliance, was used. Four strips, 21 inches long and 3 inches tall, were cut using the tin snips. To get one clean and straight edge, each piece was clamped between two pieces of 0.625 x 1-inch steel, and a file was used to square it up to the steel.

After squaring this bottom edge, the three 0.312-inch holes were drilled for the mounting bolts and two 0.250-inch holes for the split pins. Measurements were taken from the bottom of the sheet with an additional allowance of 0.285 inches being added to the measurement to allow for the curve yet to be formed in the metal.

To provide a template to make it easy to shape the metal, a former was needed. The simplest way to do this was to taper one end of some 1-inch round steel then to tack weld this to one side of the front axle. A line was scribed down the center of this length of steel, which would later assist when trimming the top edge of the sheet metal. This allowed the pre-drilled holes to be used to hold the sheet metal in place using a temporary set of bolts through all five holes. Once one end had been shaped, the metal would be reversed and bolted on the opposite side to form the other end.

The first step was to form the bottom of the cover using a small hammer, the flat head of which had been ground smooth to prevent marking the sheet metal. The whole length was formed around the bottom of the axle rod. The axle and sheet metal were securely clamped in a vise with the bottom edge visible, then starting at one end the sheet was tapped lightly with the smooth-headed hammer, continuing up and down the length of the axle to gradually bend it.

Once the bottom was formed, the axle was turned over so that the top could be formed. Gloved hands were used to start the bend before removing the sheet and using the tin snips to cut off the majority of the surplus sheet that was over the center line scribed on the top metal bar. The bending of this part was completed by continued tapping before turning the sheet round and using the same process to form the other end. Once the sheet was formed, the center line was used as a reference point to scribe a line on both top edges of the sheet, which were trimmed using a combination of tin snips and a file.

The three other pieces were formed in the same way before pairing them off to complete the final trimming and fitting on their respective axles. The bending on each piece was tightened a little with gentle tapping and then a pair of sheets placed on the former. Edges were filed until there was a perfect fit, the center sections finally being profiled around the axle supports.

Once happy with the fit and shape of each of the metal covers, the tack welds on the former were either ground off or cut with a hacksaw so that the temporary piece of rod could be removed and the axle returned to its original state. 

To hold the covers in place some 0.312-inch coach bolts were used through the three middle holes along with 0.250-inch split pins at each end by the axle stays and handle.

Handle and rear axle supports

The final parts to be made to complete the cart were the handle and the two rear axle supports. These were made from 0.375-inch diameter steel, the handle with a 1.1-inch diameter ring at each end and a similar ring at one end of each support.

To form the rings, a two post bending jig was made and a scrap piece of round steel turned down to a diameter of 1.1-inch with one end tapered for use as a mandrel.

The steel rod was heated red hot and bent using the bending jig with the ring being closed around the mandrel. Holes were drilled in the skid 15 inches from the back for a lug bolt to hold each of the rear axle stays, and the two rods were then trimmed so that a further small ring could be formed at one end for this 0.375-inch bolt.

The handle for the front axle was made from two pieces of steel. These were marked out for bending, 29 inches long from the center of the axle with the central hand hold part being 7.5 inches wide. To join these two lengths of rod a 3.5-inch section was milled to half size at the end of each rod and then the two pieces were brazed together at this point and filed smooth.

All that was then needed was to prime and paint the various metal parts and the two wooden spars before assembling the cart and mounting it to the engine.

Mixer and fuel pipe

The brass fuel pipe was held in place by two bushings through the main casting, one cast iron and the other a smaller brass one. Inside the tank on the end of the pipe was a check valve. There was no sign of any movement of the dart inside the check valve so it had to be stripped for cleaning in kerosene.

The small dart inside the check valve was removed and its seat cleaned. Before reassembly the check valve was tested by blowing and sucking the pipe. If a check valve is working correctly you should be able to suck but not blow! If it does not pass this test, check the body of the check valve and the pipe for small splits and that the end of the pipe near the dart has a small slot cut in it with a triangular needle file, about 0.125 inch deep.

There was no mesh filter at the end of the check valve so some fine brass mesh was rolled into a cone and soft soldered to stop it from unravelling and also keep it in position at the bottom of the check valve.

The mixer needle and its seat had already been removed and cleaned. The taper on the needle looked fine, so it was given a thin coat of fine grinding paste and tuned in its seat, ensuring that the needle was in line with its seat at all times. Only a few turns were needed to clean up the soft brass seat, and all parts were thoroughly cleaned in kerosene afterwards.

When replacing the valve seat, ensure that the thin line on the needle end is horizontal. This corresponds with the holes in the valve, and ensures that the air pulled through the mixer properly atomizes the fuel. If this is not properly aligned, the fuel/air mix will not be right and you might find that the mixer has to be choked to increase the air velocity to pull in the fuel.

Piston and bearings

The original piston rings were stuck tight in their grooves. To free them up so that they could be removed and the ring grooves cleaned out, the piston had to be soaked for a while in kerosene.

New rings had already been ordered from Hit & Miss Enterprises and the wear in the old ones was soon apparent when they were held side by side. The new rings were fitted in the bore by pressing them in one at a time with the piston to keep them square, in order to check the ring gap. The gap should be 0.004-inch per inch of ring diameter, so for the standard 3.5-inch bore of the John Deere the gap should be 0.014 inch. In this case there was some wear in the bore, which measured 0.010-inch oversize, but this was well within the accepted tolerance of 0.020-inch before remedial action involving reboring or the fitting of oversize pistons needed be considered.

Before fitting the new rings to the piston, the big end bearing shells were examined. There was still enough white metal so they did not need to be replaced. They were loose when the bearing was clamped to the crankshaft, so by a combination of removing shims and making new thinner ones to replace thick ones, the overall depth of the shims was reduced by a similar amount on each side. This was done by trial and error until the connecting rod moved freely on the crank without binding when the bolts were fully tightened.

If there appeared to be excessive side play on the flywheels, they would need to be removed and refitted. The old manual shows the flywheels and crankshaft being held on the bench with a hammer used to remove them. This could be dangerous for the health of an old flywheel that might be firmly held in place with a combination of rust and dirt, so it is best to use a puller of some description after drilling out the keys.

Finally, the new piston rings were then fitted to the piston using some lengths of shim to ease the bottom rings over the grooves.

Before painting the engine, the main bearings were also adjusted following the same process as the big end bearings, so there was one less job to do that might result in the paint finish being accidentally marked. Again there was enough metal on the bearings so it was just a case of adjusting the thickness of the shims so that the crank moved freely with no evidence of binding. When adjusted, the crank and shims were removed, each set being kept in a marked plastic bag ready for final assembly.

In part 3, Peter finishes this restoration by tackling the magneto and igniter, painting the engine and adjusting the timing.

Contact Peter Rooke at Hardigate House, Hardigate Rd., Cropwell Butler, Nottingham, NG12 3AH, England • peter@enginepeter.co.ukwww.enginepeter.co.uk.

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