The Stationary Engine Mailing List on the Internet is a mine of
useful information, some of which I pass on to readers of GEM. It
is also frequently a mine of useless information, and for this
month’s article I’ve veered towards the latter. That said,
this information could well come into the category of safe working
practices, as it is a list of ‘wife-do-nots.’
Now, a discussion along these lines is not going to classify for
a top award at the next gathering of the politically correct, but I
have two claims in my defense. Firstly, some of these contributions
are from engine wives (note that I did not use the phrase
‘engine widows’ – their opinions are admirably put forward
by their men folk), and secondly, I’m female, which I think
gives me an edge in such a sexist discussion.
This article may prove useful in many ways. Those new to the
hobby (of engine restoration or relationships – take your pick!)
may be set on the right track for a hobby that runs in harmony with
marriage. Some may pick up a few tips to form the basis of New
Year’s resolutions. And some of you can use it as a defense
mechanism: ‘You think I’m bad? But dear, at least I
don’t do what THIS guy does!’ You will note that names have
been omitted to protect the guilty parties. I don’t want to see
an extended list of obituaries in the next edition of GEM.
The discussion began when one List member reported a method of
weighing an engine that involved using the bathroom scales. As he
said, ‘The only hitch was that my wife had a fit when she found
out what I was doing with the scales. She still remembers when I
wrecked her good paring knife cutting a gasket.’
‘Kind of like my wife not being too happy with me using her
oven to pre-heat a rod, and pouring babbitt bearing on the kitchen
table. Perhaps we should come up with a list of
‘wife-donots’ for those members just getting started,’
responded a sympathetic List member.
In the spirit of those great words of wisdom, ‘Learn from
the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them
all yourself,’ I give you the definitive guide to
Curing paint in the oven always seems to get a ‘rise’
out of her.
Never use her pinking shears to cut emery paper. Don’t fill
her side of the garage with engines (at least not during
Don’t put foam air filters in the dryer.
Don’t bake enamel paint in the oven.
Don’t open a can of Chem-Dip carb dunk in the house.
Restoring an engine in the living room during winter doesn’t
sit too well.
Engines don’t make good interior decorations.
Don’t EVER use the wife’s car as a workbench.
Don’t EVER give her a kiss after wiping your nose with a
Don’t EVER ‘ah,’ ‘er,’ or ‘um,’ when
it involves your greasy hands and her white pants.
Don’t EVER paint engine parts right next to her car.
Don’t EVER leave the soap covered in greasy, grimy go in the
So that’s a simple list of things to avoid for
starters. It’s not only a wife who can be upset by
engine-related misdemeanors, there are girlfriends and mothers,
Persuading her to take the BMW when we go for a ride to check
out the flea markets usually gets me in hot water when I find
something greasy. Last summer I got two Maytag motors for $12 and
they had some skunky gas in them. I still catch hell for that one.
Stupid things I did while living at home that got Mum riled up
included putting oilers in the dishwasher, preheating castings in
the oven, keeping engine parts in the freezer, tracking grease and
shavings into the house, taking her emery boards and fingernail
polish, washing shop towels in her washer, boiling parts in the
kitchen, and the usual hammering, grinding and related shop noises
that could be heard into the wee hours of the morning.
Starting a Reid at 11:30 got me in particularly deep #%! for a
few weeks. Pa was in trouble as well – it was his idea. Living a
mile from the nearest neighbors meant you could get away with it
… almost. But as Pa repeatedly told me as a kid, ‘If mama
ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!’ The older I get, the
smarter he was, and is.
This offender mentions washing shop towels in the washer, but
that wasn’t the real issue that caused marital disharmony.
Don’t use the ‘good towels,’ the ones that are just
supposed to hang there and get dusty. I never could quite grasp the
Me neither. My Mum, age 79, still has rails full of ‘good
towels.’ The only good towel is a handy one, I say.
Not trying to be mean, just perplexed: Can you explain this
towel thing for us troglodytes?
Another household appliance that has appeal for engine related
projects is the dishwasher.
Some time back I learned it was not taken kindly for me to use
the dishwasher for parts cleaning. This was after I sprayed Gunk on
a Vespa engine (two-stroke, French) and, by removing part of the
dishwasher rack, put it in the washer. The engine came out looking
like new, the dishwasher looked all right, but the distinct odor of
kerosene from the Gunk lingered on for months. Funny thing, though,
the odor didn’t cling to dishes that went through the
dishwasher, or, so I told my wife.
I’ve had to rent a shed. My wife complained about not being
able to get to the washing machine in the utility room because of
all the toolboxes, old heating burners, lorry tur-bochargers,
workbenches, tripods, laser levels, standby generators, car
batteries, light fittings, plumbing supplies, old engine parts, oil
cans, starting handles, tins of thinners, tins of enamel paint,
surplus wood from household projects, etc., etc. Can’t see what
she was so upset about.
Women have had a rough time of it so far. But there are some who
take the opposite stance, and for that special breed there are a
different set of rules.
Don’t ever leave HER engine sitting out while your junk
stays in the garage.
My wife’s answer to the displacement of her car by engines?
‘If the garage is going to be filled up by engines,’ she
said, ‘then by golly some of those are going to be MY
engines.’ She has a 1-1/2 HP original Hercules, a nice New Way
with lots of original paint, and a 1914 Hercules doctor’s
I am still waiting for my husband to clean the Gilson Pony and
put it right back where it belongs … on my coffee table in our
living room! It is still out in the barn getting cold, the poor
baby. I feel there is nothing wrong with an engine as interior
decoration. Yes, I know it sounds like we have a weird sense of
decor, but I don’t care. People like it when they see it, or at
least they say they do.
I submit that the pair of Petters in the corner of the dining
room of a certain English engine man and his understanding wife,
along with the what-not shelf covered with mags, make for perfect
We have an F-M Eclipse model living on the worktop in the
kitchen. One of the less popular engine activities around here was
cooking the head of a Petter Atomic (diesel) in my oven, which
created a rather unpleasant, lingering smell. The kitchen table has
been the preferred location for several projects, including
building the model, restoration of various smaller parts and pin
striping the block of the Root & Vandervoort.
I have a Maytag sitting on the coffee table – her idea!
We have plans to redo the entire house this coming spring. I
suggested a place to park another engine and was told to go and
build a barn to keep them in instead. So now I get to have a nice
little shed that will be 45 feet by 65 feet to keep them in. My
wife is kind of excited about the shed, as this will be the first
time in 12 years she will get to park in the garage.
Another little point worth bearing in mind is this:
Remember, when you do something the better half likes, you get
an ‘Attaboy.’ But, accumulating just one
‘Awsh&.’ loses you all your ‘Attaboys.’ And
there is no statute of limitations on Awsh&.s.
Which brings me to my conclusion. Choose whichever you feel best
fits your personal situation.
No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
They’re not making old iron any more but they’re still
If you chose the latter, it might be advisable to make a will
immediately, deciding on the distribution of your engine
collection. Best wishes for the holiday season!
Engine enthusiast Helen French lives in Leicester, England.
Contact her via e-mail at: Helen@insulate.co.uk You can join the
Stationary Engine List on the Internet at: www.atis.net
‘Some time back I learned it was not taken kindly for me to
use the dishwasher for parts cleaning.’