‘Ready Manufacturing’ Readies For Branch 9 Event At Pottsville

By Staff
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Shown at a parade in downtown Merlin, Oregon, in spring 1994.
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Disassembled parts being cleaned up, 'Ready Manufacturing,' Grants Pass.
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Special truck fabricated to transport 1927 model 15 HP Fairbanks Morse Z.

293 Whispering Pines Grants Pass, Oregon 97527

Nearly obscure, hidden in tall grass behind a remote building
somewhere in northeastern Opheim, Montana, waiting to be
discovered, was a valued treasure that many of us engine folks
would love to have. No one really knew how many seasons it had
endured those harsh elements common in this area. This big one ton
prize would still be there if it were not for the skillful and
tenacious negotiations of Dean Axtell of ‘Ready Manufacturing
of Grants Pass, Oregon.’

How Mr. Axtell came upon this coveted gem well, let’s say it
was through a friend’s friend’s friend! I’m sure some
of us can relate to this method when it comes to finding these
valued antiques.

Located some two thousand plus miles from Grants Pass, Opheim,
Montana, is a quiet agricultural area where life may be centered
around ranching and cattle raising. Instead of the noisy city life,
with its fast paced, bustling activity, one finds himself hearing
the plaintive bawling of cattle, and in the evening the distant
howling of coyotes echoing through the hills and valleys. A place
where one has time to enjoy a cool beer at the local tavern on a
hot summer afternoon with longtime acquaintances.

Call it what you wish, be it haggling, bargaining, bartering,
dealing, the desired result is for an agreement of a price and the
product transferred from seller to buyer. What would a 1927
Fairbanks Morse ‘Z’, fifteen horse gas and kerosene engine
be worth??? Complete, but with a rusted immovable piston ? Would a
1918 Columbia Graphical disk phonograph be a fair trade? How much
would it be worth if all the original papers were with it for
example, the purchase receipt along with the factory production
certificate, signed by the company inspectors with date of
manufacture and serial number?

In the dictionary, the word ‘eternity’ is described as a
seemingly endless amount of time. This may well describe the
emotions and anxieties we endure while we endeavor to persuade the
owner to part with his desired appurtenance.

At last, an agreement was reached for the transaction, the deal
concluded. But now, another challenge: How to transport this giant
beauty from Opheim, Montana, to Grants Pass, Oregon, with a half
ton Nissan pickup truck. Not only were the weight and size of this
precious cargo a concern, but also the long distance over narrow
roads and precipitous mountain passes that must be traversed.

Mr. Axtell, being a man known for good planning and forethought,
was prepared for this venture. He was towing a well equipped tandem
trailer capable of carrying a very heavy load. However, there were
other items that he was bringing back to Oregon already on the
trailer that wouldn’t allow room for this large engine. So with
a little ingenuity, it was decided to remove the huge flywheels,
load them in the back of the pickup, and put the remainder of the
fifteen horse Fairbanks on the trailer. Everything fit perfectly.
With all of this paraphernalia on both the truck and trailer, we
indeed had a very heavy load. The Nissan met the challenge with
ease, considering all that was involved. The ardent but uneventful
journey back to Grants Pass that hot July was a bit strenuous, but
without any incidents of highway breakdowns, or stops by
investigating state patrol officers, all went fine.

Arriving home, unloading the vehicles of transport, the next
order of business was that of planning for restoration of this
giant behemoth.

Disassembly of the engine was no real difficult challenge,
except the removal of the piston from the cylinder that tenaciously
refused to yield to ordinary pressure due to the years of
accumulated rust.

With these projects there is the usual barrage of ideas and
opinions, free advice, and suggestions as to how to go about
dealing with longtime rust and ferrous oxide corrosion. However,
Dean had a good plan that proved successful. From August 1993 to
January 1994, the engine was propped upright standing on its rear
with a special anti-rust solution working to dissolve the
captivating agent holding the piston tightly to the cylinder
walls.

The challenging moment of truth was to come that cool January
afternoon when Dean Axtell, Leonard Martin, and Don Hood, all fine
engineers, craftsmen, and mechanics, began to ply their talents and
energies. With a special fabricated jig that could apply several
tons of pressure, they methodically proceeded to exert force to the
block of wood insulating and thoroughly covering the top of the
piston. Stressed to nearly the maximum, nothing was budging! How
much more would be necessary? How much more was available? There
was the danger of metal, under such a strain that if it were to
break, it could be very dangerous to bystanders. Perhaps setting up
a jig to pull from the rear via the connecting rod may be in order.
This seemed like a good idea. However it was time to take a break
and relax, to do some more thinking and planning. Meanwhile it was
agreed, while everyone was thinking this one out, what would happen
if the acetylene torch with the big rosebud assembly directed heat
systematically to the inside skirt of the piston. Smoke billowed
from the old oil and accumulated debris that had built up over the
years. Also heat was directed inside the water jacket area so that
the whole cast iron assembly was evenly warmed up good and hot. As
it began to cool down to where one could comfortably hold a hand on
the surface, to everyone’s delight, it was detected that a
slight movement of the piston was beginning to show who the victors
in this contest were going to be! Yes, it was on its way, finally
being released from rust’s captivity. It didn’t give up
without a Herculean struggle. Tenaciously, Dean, Leonard, and Don
continued until it was ‘at last’ free and extracted from
its corrosive prison.

Further inspection and cleaning revealed the cylinder to be in
excellent condition. Only minimum wear was noticed. However, a new
set of rings was in order because, after all, they were a bit
rusted and somewhat worn.

Anyone who has done a restoration on any piece of antique
equipment is certainly cognizant of the time and effort that is
taken on things like cleaning, polishing, painting, and rebuilding
of our treasured possessions. No less so with Dean Axtell’s
engine. Many extra projects like fabricating a suitable truck so
that it could be portable, a fuel tank, a cooling tank, as well as
other minor but indispensable details were brought to completion.
Rebuilt and restored to his satisfaction, the fifteen horse, in
hunter green, was finally ready for her debut to perform. It was
cool, cloudy, and damp on that January 1994 afternoon inside the
fabricating room of Ready Manufacturing, as the three engineers
proceeded to make final adjustments, lubricating and inspecting.
The moment of truth was soon to be. Fueled up, timing set, valves
adjusted, each one at his station to contribute to the grand moment
of coming to life. Two who had lived three-score plus began to pull
heartily on the huge flywheels. With a freshly honed cylinder, new
rings, as well as snug bearings, it soon reminded them that they
were not young men any more. This sleeping beauty demanded all they
could muster to go through its cycles. With a bit of compression
released, and properly primed, about the fourth revolution it gave
out with a faint ‘Whoomp” with smoke emerging from the
cylinder past the new rings that were certainly not seated yet, as
well as from the exhaust pipe. It doesn’t take very long for an
old timer’s energy to subside from exertion of this nature to
cause him to stop and think, ‘There must be an easier way.’
One thing about us older folks, we have had a lot of experience in
life which results in becoming inventive, resourceful. There must
be an easier way other than brute manpower. ‘Well of
course,’ commented one of the mechanics, ‘Let’s belt
‘her’ up to a 3-5 HP LB International, and pony start
it.’

Working like beavers before winter sets in, they proceed to
fabricate special mounts and proper rigging for the LB to turn
these monstrous flywheels. It didn’t take long before things
were in order to once again try to revive this prized beauty.

The LB was started up, the Fairbanks exhaust valve was opened so
that enough momentum could be gathered to pass through the cycles
at a fair speed. The LB International strained under the dead load,
but our beauty was now turning over at a good clip. The exhaust
valve released, a slight choke to the fuel mixer, and next, the
indescribable sound everyone had been waiting for. With smoke
coming from the exhaust from excessive lubrication to the top end,
and with strong deep toned ‘chuggs,’ this masterpiece was
now running on its own power. With just a few more minor
adjustments, it would be performing and repeating those nostalgic
sounds that our fathers were familiar with in their younger
years.

Even though some of us are well in the sixties, we still get
excited over the sounds, sights, and smells of these creations. We
love to work on, watch, talk about and reminisce over these
mechanical designs. Yes, the synchronous rhythm of gears, rods, and
melodious tones of the exhausts can be mesmerizing.

Under the controls of Dean Axtell, owner and engineer, this
engine responds willingly to his commands. It’s truly a delight
to the spectator, and to all who had a part in restoring yet
another trophy for everyone’s enjoyment.

This engine has been shown at two shows with Branch #9,
thrilling onlookers with its performance. No less so, this summer,
June 17-18, at Pottsville show grounds, Merlin, Oregon, it will be
presenting the talent of Dean Axtell, owner, Leonard Martin,
engineer, and Don Hood, engineer.

Everyone is invited to enjoy seeing this engine along with many
varied, well restored engines, tractors and antique machinery of
yesteryears. We will be looking for you, at this very pleasurable
event at a ‘living museum.’

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines