PUMPING IRON

By Staff
1 / 10
1. Tired-looking Briggs and pump. Note common base
2 / 10
10. The side no one looks at.
3 / 10
2. Pot metal carburetor and cast iron base/fuel tank/oil reservoir are features of the FH model.
4 / 10
5. The leaking oil sump, containing a mixture of old gasoline and oil.
5 / 10
3. Another view of the engine. Intake valve is atmospheric, exhaust has external push rod.
6 / 10
4. Believe it or not, there's a lot of bronze and brass there!
7 / 10
6. The pump on its base.
8 / 10
7. Pump piston and valve body. Much cleaning and new leathers were required.
9 / 10
8. A thing of beauty and a joy forever.
10 / 10
9. Another view of the finished engine.

2, 1077 Sunnidale Road, Barrie, Ontario, Canada L4M 4S4

On December 31, 1995 I visited Bruce Goss, an avid and
well-known local engine and tractor collector, in the township of
Medonte near my Barrie, Ontario, home, with the intention of
interviewing him and writing an article for Canadian Antique Power.
Readers of that magazine will have read the results of the
interview in the September/October, 1996 issue.

My interview, however, resulted in more than an article. While I
was inspecting Bruce’s engines and poking about his capacious
storage building, my eye was caught by a very small vertical
overhead-valve engine with deep cooling fins, an automatic intake
valve, an exposed exhaust valve push-rod that disappeared into the
engine’s cast-iron crankcase, and a strange assemblage of
piping that later turned out to be an air-intake tube and an
impossibly-long intake manifold. Not only that, there was a folding
kick-starter sticking out from the side of the machine, with a
clumsy-looking chain drive connecting it to a sprocket on the
flywheel. The odd engine was bolted to a base at the other end of
which was a small piston-pump with a very large spoked pulley made
of cast iron. The pump and engine were tied together by a
disreputable-looking V-belt that seemed in imminent danger of
parting under the stress of its own weight. I was immediately
intrigued by what seemed to be a very unusual piece of equipment,
and almost immediately determined to have it if it was for sale,
despite the fact that every square inch was covered with a
decades-long accumulation of rust and dirt.

I have only recently become interested in gas engines, so I had
no idea of what this thing was. I asked Bruce, who informed me that
the engine was an old Briggs 6k Stratton, and that it had two
claims to fame: one was that it was complete, right down to the
brass name-plate on the shroud; the other was that the engine and
pump had originally been sold as a unit, and had spent their lives
together on a common cast-iron base in some long-forgotten
pump-house from which they had been rescued.

I reached out and gave a tentative push on the pump pulley;
nothing moved. Bruce shrugged and said that he didn’t remember
the engine’s being seized. I touched the engine’s intake
valve and it opened easily. I poked at the exhaust valve and it
moved as well. Emboldened by this, I grasped the pump pulley with
both hands and applied moderate torque; the piston, which evidently
had just begun the process of taking up a permanent post in the
cylinder, freed itself with a slight pop!, and everything started
to turn freely. I could even feel that the engine seemed to have
good compression.

That did it. I struck a deal with Bruce, and soon the engine was
in the back of my truck, heading home with meand, incidentally,
with the material for an article which somehow was not quite in the
forefront of my mind. I celebrated part of that New Year’s Eve
dragging a rusty heap of iron into my basement and just sitting
there looking at it; I may even have drunk a wee toast to it later
that night, but certain events are, alas, unclear.

A few days later I was able to devote ‘ myself to the engine
in earnest. I began by rubbing the dirt and corrosion from the
brass name plate and found that I had a Briggs & Stratton Model
FH engine (I now know that it is not an early one because it does
not have slanted fins, its carburetor is made of pot metal rather
than bronze, and its serial number suggests a manufacturing date of
February, 1929). A little reading showed me that, while the engine
is not considered rare, there seems to be a lot of interest in
early Briggs engines in general.

Since the engine and pump were caked with dirt and rust, I knew
that complete disassembly and thorough cleaning were necessary
before I could even begin to inspect most parts.

I unbolted the engine from its base and began with it. The first
thing I discovered was that there was no spark, so after trying
another plug I removed the kick-starter, fan shroud and flywheel
and saw that the ignition points were covered with corrosion, and
that there did not seem to be a point gap of any magnitude. Just as
an experiment I rubbed the corrosion from the points, touched them
lightly with fine sandpaper, gapped them and replaced the flywheel.
I leaned over the engine and gave the wheel a trial spin; my left
arm, which was somehow resting on the spark plug, informed me that
I now had a spark, just like that!

Encouraged by this early success, I proceeded to disassemble the
rest of the engine. Despite the dirt and corrosion, every bolt and
screw came loose without hesitation, and I soon had a workbench
littered with unfamiliar-looking components. Fortunately, I had had
the foresight to keep a camera handy, so I felt optimistic about
getting it all back together.

For the most part, the engine was in pretty good shape. The
valves were clean and seated well; the cylinder bore was smooth and
rust-free; there was no sign of damage to the rings; crankshaft and
connecting rod bearings were tight.

Then I encountered my first setback. On these engines, the
crankcase is a thin stamped-steel dish containing the oil pump and
sitting on the engine’s cast iron rectangular base. This dish
protrudes downward into the hollow of the base that serves as the
fuel tank. The ‘ engine block is bolted to the top of the base
with the crankcase sandwiched in between. There are two filler
plugs in each end of this base, one at each end capping the
crankcase, the others, again one at each end, used in the gasoline
filler holes. Over the years of disuse, the gas tank/base had
collected a considerable amount of moisture; this moisture had
attacked the thin metal of the crankcase, and all of the crankcase
oil had eventually drained through numerous pinholes into the gas
tank, finally congealing into a thick, dark sludge that was very
difficult to remove.

At first I thought that I could close the pinholes in the
crankcase with some judiciously-applied solder, but I soon found
that the holes were so numerous and so small that it would be very
difficult to solder them all; I also discovered that heating the
crankcase tended to melt the solder holding the oil pump in place
in its base. I finally opted for a heat-free solution to the
problem. I sealed all of the holes with JB Weld, then applied a
coat of fiberglass resin to the underside of the crankcase to
provide some protection against gasoline fumes and moisture. When
this had hardened, I was ready to make new gaskets and reassemble
the engine onto its base.

Of course, the entire engine needed to be cleaned thoroughly
before reassembly. Because the Briggs is such a small engine, it
was relatively simple to use a small homemade parts washer for the
job. My parts washer is a stainless steel bar sink set into my
workbench top and fitted with a wooden lid to prevent evaporation.
The drainpipe is capped and periodically I drain the degreasing
solution into a can which I can take to the nearest hazardous waste
depot for disposal. Instead of an electric circulating pump, I use
a manual pump from the sink of a motor home to rinse parts, and the
wire basket from a small deepfryer to hold the parts above the
level of the degreaser.

The piston pump was next. It was held to the base by four
countersunk machine screws whose removal I dreaded, as the entire
assembly was covered with heavy corrosion and dirt. However, to my
immense surprise the four slot screws came out easily, and the
entire pump lay disassembled on my bench in about fifteen minutes.
Cleaning the valve body required a lot of work and patience, as it
was pretty well plugged with dirt and mineral deposits.

The valves themselves, though, were rubber discs backed with
brass washers and springs; the brass was unharmed, and even the
rubber discs were still supple and required only cleaning. The
valve seats were brass inserts, and had not suffered any
deterioration.

When all the dirt was removed, I was pleasantly surprised by the
amount of brass and bronze used in the pump. The connecting rod was
bronze, and the piston was made of brass.

The piston sleeve and pump cylinder were brass lined, the pump
rod and gland nut were brass, the small drain cock at the end was
brass, and even the acorn nut holding the air chamber in place was
made of solid brass. A lot of polishing made the brass shine, a
light honing was all that was necessary for the cylinder, and new
pump leathers were obtained from a local plumber with just one
telephone call.

At about this stage I began to consider how the finished pump
would look. It seemed that the pump and base had originally been
painted with aluminum or very light blue paint, and the engine bore
traces of black paint. Black and silver, however, seemed
unappealing, and black and blue was ridiculous, so I called in my
aesthetic consultant. She took one glance at the scattered parts
and all the brass, surveyed my stock of paint, and the result was a
royal blue engine and matching pump mounted on a cream colored
base. The intake manifold piping and the offside flywheel were
painted cream to relieve the monotony of the dark blue on the
engine, and I am now convinced that Briggs & Stratton
themselves would have adopted this color scheme if only they had
thought of it.

After only a moment’s hesitation, I painted the
‘stop’ switch red, after rewiring it to make sure it
worked.

Reassembly was an easy chore, as I had taken numerous
photographs at all stages of the work. For the engine, I cut new
gaskets for the base/fuel tank and the oil pan, reused the head
gasket (whose original position I had carefully noted), and made a
new gasket for the newly-cleaned carburetor. I then bolted the
engine to the base/fuel tank, reinstalled the head, carburetor,
governor assembly and flywheels, and put on the freshly lubricated
chain starter mechanism.

The newly-painted pump parts went together as easily as they had
come apart, the soft leather pump leathers fit snugly into the
cylinder bore, and the pulley shaft moved soundlessly on repacked
bearings as the brass piston slid smoothly back and forth in its
sleeve.

Although I completed work on the engine in February of 1996,I
have been somewhat remiss. Seduced by the immediacy of other
projects and activities, I repeatedly promised myself that I would
start the engine ‘soon.’

As I write this in February of 1997 I still have not started it,
and now I find myself waiting eagerly for the spring.

I have yet to obtain a new V-belt for the pump, and I plan to
make a reservoir and small fountain so I can give the pump
something to do. By summer, I hope to be able to sit back and enjoy
the fruits of my labor as I continue the search for my next project
engine, a Barrie engine made right here in my town by the Canada
Producer and Gas Company.

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