Woodworking and Waterloos

Missouri Native George Martin's Unique Waterloo Collection

| Septemeber 2005

George Martin used to build B-24 bombers and wing sections for the A-20 Havoc. He shoveled tons of coal as a Santa Fe Railroad fireman, worked as a Naval Air Corps electrician, and delivered the mail for 30 years while farming at the same time. However, to this long-retired Northeastern Missouri native son, none of those experiences quite compare to restoring engines or getting creative in the woodshop.

“I like to keep my hands busy,” George says, a philosophy that serves him as well now as it has in the past.

For example, when he and his wife, Hazel, purchased their rural Wyaconda, Mo., farm about 50 years ago, the couple hand-dug and built a basement under their new home. Using native logs timbered on the farm and elsewhere around the county, he created floors, doors and cabinetry that are every bit wonderful works of art as they are functional. The Martins may have the only fireplace mantle in the world constructed with 29 different species of native wood, including boards sawn from massive poison ivy trunks. And they may also be the only folks in their part of the country with a brick outhouse … a testament to George's sense of humor that still stands, even though they have long had indoor plumbing.

George first got into stationary engines as a kid because they were in use everywhere and he liked to work on them. Years later, he brought one down to his basement to overhaul, and then he was hooked. “I really started collecting engines in the 1970s, but people thought I was nuts,” he says with a smile. “At that time around here, they were considered junk.” The engines being undervalued made them easy for a young family man to collect, and before he knew it he had scores of them around his place.

George's approach to engines has been one of practical and even economical solutions. He finds more value investing in tools to help with fabrication than he does in purchasing parts new. And the fact he enjoys making components from scratch and figuring out how to make them is a testament to his creative tenacity. “I just take it one step at a time,” he says. “If you take time to think and experiment, you'll find solutions.” That approach, and plenty of patience, has guided George through the process of drilling entire valve stems to remove stuck valves, replacing babbitt melted away by a fire that burned his shop down on top of his tools and engines, and fabricating untold gears, shafts, cams, levers and much more over the years. “You have to believe there is a way to do something or you'll get stuck,” he notes. “But you have to be careful not to rush it.”

Can-Do Approach

George admits that he enjoys coming up with creative solutions almost more than anything else when it comes to restoring an engine. For example, he not only taught himself to pour babbitt, but he machined several jigs to make it easier; he built a small walking crane to hoist engines around the shop and get them on and off their carts; he has an old kitchen oven in the shop to pre-heat metal pieces for welding, brazing or soldering; and he has even fabricated dies to help form sheet metal fuel tank parts with his homemade 30-ton press. And he uses those parts to make the tanks from scratch.


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