As I write this, preparations for the big annual, international
gathering at the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show in
Portland, Ind., are reaching a fever pitch. I just have to try not
to think about the fact that by the time this column is in print,
it will all be over for another year! The five days of the show are
an intense experience as we develop friendships begun on the
Stationary Engine Mailing List by email, and the personalities come
to life. It’s also a chance to see engines at close quarters
that have been discussed during the year by email, and possibly
viewed by photographs on web pages.
The atmosphere of Portland is now being recreated at engine
shows around the world, with multi-national gatherings in England,
Holland and Australia – as well as America -with engines being
shipped around the world giving even more variety to the
The idea of shipping engines across oceans is one that creates
much discussion everywhere, except on our mailing list, where we
all celebrate international variety. Earlier this year, my husband
and I lost out on an engine we wanted to buy because someone else
was prepared to pay $100 over the asking price – which was already
high – to ‘keep the engine from going overseas.’ More
recently, while collecting an engine here in the U.K. to ship to a
friend in the U.S., 1 heard a similar comment: ‘Shame to see
our heritage going to America.’ Even more ridiculous, in my
opinion, was a remark about an engine just imported from the Czech
Republic to be rallied here in England before going to the States
to be seen at shows there: ‘Pity that’s leaving the
country.’ That remark seems to conveniently forget that this
engine just left its home country!
None of the engines for which someone has gone to the
considerable trouble and expense of shipping are destined for the
scrap yard or a dark and dusty corner of a shed. They are a
confirmation of the international flavour of our hobby, and an
educating insight to engine men and show goers alike into how
similar problems were tackled in different parts of the world.
I’ll get down off my personal soapbox now and pass on some
words of wisdom shared on the ATIS forum that will be of interest
to anyone whose collection does not consist solely of pristine,
perfectly restored engines: ‘Gunk or gasoline as a
As ever, the following comments reflect a variety of opinions
that surfaced during this discussion.
In my 1926 Jaeger concrete mixer is a fairly virgin 6 HP Jaeger
engine covered in thick, black oil and grease. I pressure-washed
some of it off and found nice pretty blue underneath with the
outlines around the castings in yellow, perhaps. What would you
guys use to finish taking this thick stuff off?
Hand cleaner without pumice worked well for me when we wanted to
save the original paint under years of build-up.
Gunk has emulsifiers that mix with oil and then in turn, both
mix with water. Nothing replaces scraping, however, or at least
rubbing it with a cloth or toothbrush.
I can remember when I was a child, my dad had a gadget that
connected to his air hose that sprayed gasoline. It was similar to
a power washer. When it sprayed, grease, dirt and gravel would fly
all over the place.
Was that after the massive explosion? Sounds like that has the
potential for creating a do-it-yourself fuel-air bomb.
I have one of those. It is a venturi pump. Regular shop air
causes a vacuum to pull a liquid into the nozzle and creates a very
fine mist. I used it with kero. Once. Decided that I didn’t
like the fuel-air bomb condition that rapidly developed.
That kero, or diesel, mist is kinda bad for the lungs, too!
Don’t spray gasoline through a power washer – bad news, you
may get a bang you’re not looking for! Thunder Blast degreaser
comes in a spray bottle and it has worked very well for me. My wife
buys it for $1.50 a quart. Spray it on, let it set for a few
minutes, rinse it off with a hose. It also gets grease out of
clothing. We used to use Fantastic to clean gas and oil stains from
the carburetor on parade motorcycles to keep them clean and bright;
it also just washed off with a hose.
Get some ‘Tide’ laundry detergent in a bowl and add
water little by little until you get a paste. Make it so it’s
thinner than toothpaste and thicker than water. You want it to
‘hang’ on the engine. Wet down the engine and start putting
the paste on the engine. Let it set for a while, maybe 10-15
minutes. Use a fairly soft bristle brush to scrub a little while
you hose it off. I had to repeat this a few times on some of the
thicker build-up areas. I’ve used it a few times now and it
works pretty well. It doesn’t hurt the paint at all. WARNING!!
I don’t know why, but, if ‘The idea of shipping engines
across oceans is one that creates much discussion everywhere
…’ you have an aluminum tag, like on an 1H LB, Briggs, or
Clinton, the paint WILL come off. My wife used the Tide on her
Clinton a couple of years ago and removed all the paint from the
tag but not the engine.
Not only that, but it’ll dissolve the aluminum if you leave
it long. It has strong, basic ingredients, probably mainly washing
soda. Soda, lye, TSP and sodium silicate can all dissolve
I’ve had good luck with K-1 kerosene and an old toothbrush.
The kero will dissolve the grease but won’t hurt the old paint
under it. W-D 40 also works well, but is too expensive for a whole
engine. After I get it clean I mix kero or turpentine 50/50 with
boiled linseed oil and give it a light coating. It really brings
out old paint, and I really like to see old paint and striping if
there is any left on an engine after all these years.
Unfortunately, most are rust colored.
I often use oven cleaner for the tough stuff. It will also eat
away at the paint if you leave it too long, but it will sure cut
the grease and grime off. It’s cheap, also. You can buy a
couple of cans of it for about $1/can. Just spray it on, let it set
for a couple of minutes (depending on how thick the grease is) and
hose it off.
Use Gunk – it IS a degreaser!
Gunk is not a ‘degreaser’ at all – it’s an
expensively packaged, over-the-counter can of diesel. Do yourself a
favor and go buy one of those little red gas cans for $3 and put $2
worth of diesel in it – it works for everything.
So, there should soon be lots of clean engines out there! To
finish off with the signature line from one of our list members,
‘work and play safely!’
Engine enthusias Helen French lives in Leicester, England.
Contact her via email at: email@example.com. Join the ATIS
mailing list at: http://www.atis.net
‘The idea of shipping engines across oceans is one
that creates much discussion everywhere…’