Stationary Engine List

By Staff
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The ATIS Stationary Engine Mailing List has been busy discussing
our recent New Year’s Crank Up, an annual event which has to be
geographically the largest engine show in the world. It begins at
midnight in New Zealand and Australia, and spreads across the world
throughout the day until the last engine in California is shut
down, and it is a time when everyone remembers engine buddies who
have passed away, reflects on the year past, the new year to come
and the great friendships created via the internet.

Among these enthusiastic mails and the usual collection of
identification assistance, advice and tips offered and sought, I
found a thread of discussion about the care of flat belting, which
I thought would interest the readers of GEM.

I apologize in advance for asking a question that I know
we’ve already addressed, but I’m guilty of the ‘I
didn’t need to know then’ syndrome. Anyway, I’ve
recently been searching for a source of belt dressing (belt
compound) in my area and have had trouble finding someone who
carries it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I might

I thought I read on the List one time that to soften old belting
up you can boil it in water.

Having spent 20 years as a shoe cobbler I can tell you that few
oils or greases will soften really dry leather well, even though
most are great at keeping it soft. If you get a dry piece of
leather, soak it in water first, then while it is still soft, apply
the oils or greases. Neatsfoot oil is good, but you have to be
careful of the name when buying it. If it says ‘neatsfoot oil
compound’ on the label, it may have two drops of actual
neatsfoot oil per each thousand gallons of carrier. I used a lot of
leather belts, but since use was regular and they were never in the
weather, they never got hard or dry, so all I ever used was belt
dressing. My favorite was a light brown rosin-based stick dressing.
It was much better than the black tar-based dressing. Gee, typing
this has almost made me miss those days of slapping flat belts and
clicking splicers. The chirping under heavy load or when throwing a
clutch in … Well, almost. ..

I’ve got a gallon of ‘Track-Bite’ languishing on the
shelf; maybe I should repackage it in wee bottles? It’s like
stepping in gum.

Soap works well as belt dressing. I use liquid Joy on my mower
when the belts slip. They slip slightly worse until the soap gets
tacky, then they grab well.

A John Deere combine I used to have had a flat belt drive from
the engine to the separator. When it sat there running in a cloud
of soybean dust and pubescent fuzz, it would get really slick very
often. I had used about everything on it over the years. The best
was a light brown rosin stick. The black stick was okay. Plain old
asphalt foundation paint worked very well. I have been known to
roll up a piece of plain (no mineral) roll roofing to use as a
stick. Years ago I used to melt down the tar sealer from junk
battery cases. RTV silicone gasket stuff was only fair, as was
shellac. Tung oil was a little better. Permatex high tack isn’t

The ‘V’ belt drive on the grain tank was the other
extremeit was prone to coast when the tank was empty, and run grain
out on the ground. For it, I carried a plastic bottle of baby
powder to keep the belt from dragging.

If you are looking for belt dressing that is solid, and comes in
a paper tube about the size of a grease cartridge, good luck, as
they are hard to find.

For those that haven’t used the solid belt dressing,
here’s the differences:

1. It goes where you put it. To apply, have the belt running and
hold the end of the tube against the belt. The paper disintegrates
and the solid dressing, warmed by friction, melts onto the belt. It
doesn’t take much, as it is right where you want it. The liquid
and spray can dressings go lots of places other than on the

2. Because the machine is running, the person applying the
dressing should be very careful and not impaired in any fashion.
That caution said, I have never caught any tender parts in moving
equipment while applying belt dressing. Unfortunately, most of us
are impaired in one or more ways, but compensate fairly well. Belt
dressing application is a dangerous practice best done while sober.
For the shim stock producers, you might try duct taping the tube of
belt dressing to a dowel rod, and applying it from a distance. That
might work to keep your fingers away from moving parts.

Believe it or not, automatic transmission fluid works for belt
dressing. I was skeptical until I tried it.

I think I remember using beeswax when grinding feed in the cold
of winter.

Sugar and pectin, besides being wonderfully sticky for curing
slipping belts, also are some of the best organic reducing agents
around, and work great for fluxing the lead or babbitt pot prior to
casting bullets or crank bearings.

Make sure to ignite the smoke just like when using wax. Oh, I
almost forgot, they also work great for sweetening and thickening
jelly and jam.

You may find some of this information useful in the up and
coming show season, and it’s never too early to begin

Helen French

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