Times They are a Changin’
Photo by Unsplash/Jonathan Borba
Inventor Eli Whitney created the first manual milling machine in the early 1800s after the U.S. government asked him to invent a better way to produce mass quantities of firearms. Prior to his invention, highly skilled machinists (using mostly files as production tools) were required to create intricate metal pieces. This process took a great deal of time, and few people were qualified.
In the 1940s, John T. Parsons refined the manual milling machine into a precision system using data in a reference system.
Fast forward to the present, and enter the CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine. With accurate programming data and training, machinists can use this automated process to produce exceptionally precise parts with very little wait time. The hundreds of meticulously designed, individual parts in a complex mill machine lend to its accuracy.
Change is inevitable — often unwanted — and we forget about the pieces of progress that get the wheels turning towards modern marvels and now help us build our world. Machines that quickly duplicate irreplaceable parts and make engine restorations possible. You can see the final piece of the Jacobsen Twin restoration puzzle, made possible with access to a machinist who quickly fabricated new wrist pins.
Change also brings the creation of equipment to test and educate, such as those used in Dr. David Cave’s explanation of low-tension ignition systems.
The innovation of the internet brought many possibilities. There are things about excessive access that I find to be undesirable and overwhelming, but I can also appreciate the ease it brings to life. We can connect quickly with one another, through email and messaging. We are able to contact experts, post messages to forums seeking guidance, and find or special order parts that are rare or need to be fabricated. It seems the digital world has become commonplace, even in the most vintage of hobbies.
Sometimes change is thrust upon us, and we cope accordingly. The phrase “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind. COVID-19 has temporarily broken the way we do things. Personal interactions in the gas engine community have been put on pause. With the cancellation of shows and fairs, enthusiasts are using the modern resources available to respond with a new way to connect and share their successes. This comes with the first Coolspring Power Museum June 2020 virtual show. Click here to enjoy this unique compilation. Another response to current limitations can be seen in results of a Pre ‘30s, online-only auction.
In addition, you will notice throughout this issue a new look to our pages brought about by a change to our team in the form of a new artist — same great content with some new visual twists.
I’d love to hear your stories of change relating to gas engines, both good and bad. Send pictures and stories of how something that was seemingly lost to the past was brought back to life, or share how being an enthusiast has changed you.
Read this column by Gas Engine Magazine’s new editor Christine Stoner about the power of nostalgia and gas engines.