Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Rebuild Begins, but then…

As promised in the last post, Gene and I did get together on Sunday and made the transition from destruction to construction.  It’s funny, but I’ve awaited this stage of the tractor work with equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation.  So true, that the first step is always the hardest.  But with the heater blasting away in the garage, we started work on installing the nearly famous valve train in the engine.

If you recall our work in pulling the old valve train, you’ll remember that a big part of the hassle was working with very small parts in a very tight compartment.  The same held true for the reinstallation.  I’ll bet we worked for 45 minutes before we got that first valve and its associated parts installed.  It was after we had that first valve in that we realized that the camshaft was supposed to be in the engine first.  Yes, that was included in the install steps provided by Jim, but…well, no excuses.  So, we had to undo that first valve to feed the camshaft in and start over.  Here are a few shots of us working on the install.

The first shot was just to prove to you that it was actually Gene and me doing the work.  The second shot is installation of an intake valve, the third an exhaust valve.  The tool Gene is operating is a valve spring compressor.  It’s used to retract the spring, so that the valve locking parts can be installed.  The exhaust valves were much harder to install than the intakes, because of the testy job of having to place two of those little tiny half-moon shaped pieces around the valve prior to fitting on the valve cap.  You can see what those pieces look like in the last post, where I used them for the smoke coming out of the engine’s stack, also the light beam.  The parts are so small that I had to use a tweezers to fit them in, the same with the tiny pin (see yellow circle in second picture) that locks the intake valve pieces together.  By the way, credit for these photos goes to The Princess, who collected hazardous duty pay while standing on a tippy stool to capture the action.

Ok, before and after shots are always a lot of fun, so below are the before and after shots of the valve train compartment.

That’s a real sight for sore eyes isn’t it?  I’m telling you, I felt so exhilarated after this step was completed, I just wanted to barrel right ahead.  We did start installing the new rings on the pistons, but ran out of time before completing that job.  But Gene and I shook hands at the end of the day, congratulating ourselves on the progress we made.

Another Pony-related project was finished on Monday.  I glued the wheels on our latest Speedy Duck (c).  We’re calling this Pony Duck “Harris,” as in Massey-Harris.  You’ll recall The Princess was working on this little guy as one of my Christmas presents.  Here are a couple of pictures of him.  
To really appreciate the detail go ahead and click on the images.  One of the changes I made from that of a “normal” Speedy Duck (c) was use of a larger wheel on the back.  This required carving wheel wells into the wings.  Harris will have a place of honor on my computer desk.

You know how Steve Jobs “out of the blue” announced he was taking medical leave from his job as CEO of Apple?  Well, I’m going to take a page from his book and am announcing a medical leave from That Idiotic Tractor.  I waited until after the close of the stock market today to make this announcement, so as not to cause an interday hiccup in the trading of TIT stock.  Boy that’s quite an acronym!  Unlike Steve Jobs, however, I can be more specific about my medical leave.  For years I have had a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder.  I was diagnosed three years ago, but I kept putting off the surgery, not wanting it to interfere with my fun.  Well, its starting to bug me so much that I’ve finally decided to have it fixed this Thursday.

So, I’ve put a blanket over the engine and will not be doing any tractor work for at least two weeks.  Even then, I’ll still have my wing in a sling, but Gene has volunteered to work on the engine, while I supervise.  Quite a neat trick, eh?  Although typing will be one-fingered for a while, I hope to get back to doing posts after a couple of weeks as well.  In the meantime, how about going back and reading some of those early posts you may have missed?  Just like those TV reruns, if you haven’t seen em, they’re new to you!  I’ll share the gory details of my surgery and medical leave with you as soon as I can.  What good is that kind of thing if you can’t whine about it?  I’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks.  Thanks for reading.

All Aboard!

Ok students, it’s quiz time.  What are we looking at in the photo below?

If you are struggling with this I’m not surprised.  According to recent articles in the press, even college graduates aren’t coming away with the ability to sort fact from fiction or to reason through an issue when presented with it.  This results partially from the fact that they spend 15% on their time in class and studying and 85% of their time socializing.  I can attest from personal experience that these numbers may even be a bit generous.  I know I spent a lot of time during college narrowing the field down to just The Princess.  Then, of course, there was a lot of “hands on” experience to be gained before actually deciding to tie the knot, very time-consuming.  So, since you may be a bit handicapped, I’m going to supply a hint in the form of the next picture.

That’s right students, you’re looking at the valve train.  Now sing along by clicking here.  After listening, hit your browser’s back button to return to the post.  I know this is all pretty silly, but we’re so close to putting all this junk back in the engine, I just wanted one more shot at some fun with the “Valve Train.”

I also got the camshaft cleaned-up this week.  Here’s a shot of me degreasing over a can of lacquer thinner, employing a brass metal brush.

And following a little metal polish with 600 grit paper, here’s the final result.

I had a long conversation Friday morning with Dr. Fullofit.  I was concerned about whether Gene and I needed to add shims inside the crankcase in order to adjust crankshaft end play.  If so, that would mean that we’d have to do that adjustment prior to putting the engine together.  I was talking with the good doctor via computer video hook-up and got this shot of him doing something extremely technical, looks like to a carburetor.

Note in background that in addition to his MD in engine health, the doc is an Authorized Massey Harris service specialist.  Nevermind that anyone can buy that authorization for $21.95.  But doesn’t he look serious?  Wonder what he hear’s in there?  Back to those shims, we decided after talking it through that any shims used would be outside the crankcase and wouldn’t interfere with our going ahead with engine assembly.  So, Gene and I have plans to get together on Sunday and start puttin things together.

I looked out the window one day this week and saw a hawk hopping along under some bushes after something.  He looked so awkward that it got me to thinking about a question on a college entrance exam.  It goes something like this.  You’re sitting on a park bench and you hear a voice that no one else seems to hear.  The voice offers you a proposition.  You will be granted the ability to fly, but to do so you will need to give up your arms in exchange for wings.  What would you choose?  Explain your decision.  Anyone who’d care to leave a comment on this, I’d love to hear from you.  Myself, I don’t trust voices I hear in the park.  But that’s probably not the answer they’re looking for.

Thanks for reading.

Getting There

I was listening to Car Talk on Saturday and a call came into the show from Waconia, MN.  Oh my, it was as if someone had snapped his fingers and I’d suddenly been wrapped in a warm blanket of nostalgia and fallen back in time.  That town and Norwood and Young America were my childhood equivalent of  Disneyland.  These towns that lie about 40 miles southwest of the twin cities were the hometowns of my parents, and their parents and a whole bunch of other relatives.  So, as with most families that disperse far from home, there were at least a couple of, I suppose in my parent’s view, obligatory trips back to visit each year.  But to my brothers and me a trip to Minnesota was the start of an adventure.  You never knew what would be going on at Grampa and Gramma’s.

But of course, first you had to get there.  In the mid to late 1950’s this meant an excruciatingly long car ride, usually in the back seat of a Buick with my brothers Jim and Phil.  We were all so “amped-up” that for pretty much the entire day-long trip there was squirming and fussing and teasing and “Mom, he’s pickin’ on me.”  Alternately one of us brothers would be placed in protective custody in the front seat between Mom and Dad to take the poor victim out of harms way.  It could be something as simple as one kid gives the other a “woyon,” and another and another and another until the kid in receipt of the unending woyons would start to cry.

The woyon was an amazingly simple and effective tease.  I don’t know how it started, but my view at the time was that all evil started with my older brother, Jim.  The woyon was often employed in church when our parents had us under such close supervision (prior experience) that pinching and poking were out of the question.  Out of view of the parents, the kid giving the woyon would open his hand palm up, curl the fingers in slightly, and then move his thumb in and out of the fingers.

To this day I cannot explain it, but I guess it was something like the “little kids” version of flipping someone off.  The receiver of the woyon would be infuriated, retaliate with a woyon of his own and after all kinds of back and forth, finally the poking and pinching would set in.  This eventually led to an early exit from church, or as I said, a trip to the front seat.  By the way, Spell Check gives a couple of suggested alternatives for woyon, those being Noyon and Doyon.  Man, I wish I’d known about those when I was about 7.  And Jim, are you seething right now… I know you saw my woyon.

Our Route 66 was Route 12.  I remember the signs for the towns along the way as if it was yesterday:  Baraboo, Portage, Tomah, Black River Falls and on and on.  And Burma Shave signs…SAID FARMER BROWN…WHO’S BALD ON TOP…SURE WISH I COULD…ROTATE THE CROP.  Ironic that I should remember that one.  All those towns were potty stops and chances to spend the little vacation money we had on junk food.  We never ate at restaurants.  We were not poor people, but I guess thrifty, and no money was wasted.  Mom would have made sandwiches, something like leftover pot roast with Miracle Whip and lettuce on Wonder Bread and wrap them in waxed paper for the trip.  Milk from Thermos bottles washed it all down.  Do you remember,  you’d unscrew the Thermos and inside there’d be a series of nested cups to pass around and drink from?

No video games then, no lap tops or DVD players.  But there were some games designed for car travel.  The one I remember was car bingo.  You got to put an X in the box if you saw a certain thing, say a cow, along the road.  That didn’t keep us distracted for too long though, so pretty quickly it was back to fussing and “How much longer, Dad?”  

When we got to Eau Claire we always felt the end was in sight, one of the last big towns before crossing into Minnesota.  By this time it was invariably dark and with darkness there was the issue of heat.  We’d try to scrunch down on the floor under blankets to get closer to the heater under the front seat.  The windows would fog up and we’d ride on, occasionally nodding off, in a cocoon of damp warmth. 

Grampa and Gramma lived in Young America and our approach to it always looked the same.  You’d swing off the main highway onto a smaller road which would then curve slightly uphill into town.  On one summer trip as we drove that last dark stretch we first smelled something fishy and then felt the car squishing through something that sounded like mud.  We peered out the windshield to see thousands of frogs hopping across the road.  My dad, his knuckles white on the  steering wheel now for hours guided the car through the frog armada and finally into town.

That first night it was all we could do to climb the narrow wooden stairs up to the second floor and tumble into one of the big iron beds.  Protecting ones share of the bed and covers from sibling interloping and much tossing and turning would eventually lead to a fitful sleep full of anticipation about the days ahead.

Route 12, like route 66 is superfluous now, supplanted by Interstate 94.  The Burma Shave signs are long gone too.  And though the old towns remain, they all look the same.
Little boys,
Their joy shouts!
It whispers now,
In asphalt memories.

Don’t fret tractor lovers; there’ll be more tractor news next post. 
Thanks for reading.

Getting to Know You

For those of you who go to the home page to read posts, you might have noticed an uptick in the Cost-O-Meter.  I’ve bumped it by $26 to account for recent work done by my Parts Detective, Maggie Simpson.  After doing a long-range scan of my garage and other local environs, she determined that the only thing to do was “work the phones” until someone could come up with three different “thrust shims.”  Inside of one day she was able to find them, and they’re already on their way to my garage.  I’m not sure what those shims do in the total scheme of things, but since I’m just so darn sure I didn’t lose three shims, my bet is that The Pony’s engine was operating without them.  But by golly its going to have them now, whether it needs em or not!

The Pony’s engine’s been in my garage now for quite a spell.  The more I’m around it, handle it’s components and work on it, the more comfortable I feel.  Familiarity is of course something only felt after spending some time with an object, idea or person.  Mathematically the formula is:  Object+Proximity+Time=familiarity.  Familiarity, however, is not to be confused with expertise.  I’m not sure what the formula for that is, but I get by without it by running things by Gene or Jim.  This was proved-out once again when I was talking with Jim about a gap I had between the front of the crankshaft and the crankcase.  The gap was causing a lot of fore/aft play and just didn’t seem right.  Jim looked at The Pony Manual and said, “Don’t you know how to read an engine diagram?”  He realized right away he was asking a rhetorical question and went on to explain to me that one of the two thrust washers goes inside the crankcase (filling the gap), and one goes outside.  Guess I won’t make that mistake on my next engine rebuild.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaa, I can’t believe I just wrote that, not that I wouldn’t make the mistake again, but that there’d ever be another rebuild!  But man, all this these parts with the word “thrust” in them kind of excites me.

I’ve gotten all the clearances on rod and main bearings to a point where I think I’m in business.  Here are a few photos.

Keep in mind as you view these photos that the engine is upside down on my work table, so these photos are taken as if you were looking up into the engine.  This first one shows my finger down in one of those ports in which the eight valve lifters work.  After the engine dip, there was a little light rust in those, so I used a little 300 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the rust away.

The shot above shows the rods attached to their pistons sitting above each cylinder.  In order to keep things lubricated while I inch closer to actually rebuilding, I am now putting a light coat of 20W50 oil on all surfaces.  So even though I haven’t put the rings on the pistons yet they’re protected with a little oil, same with those lifter ports and all those bearing surfaces.

This last photo shows the piston rods and caps attached to the crankshaft.  Outside the picture to the left and right are the two main bearing caps also fastened down onto the crankshaft.  This is how it looked as I torqued down the bolts to spec.  Once again, although I couldn’t figure out what torques to use (even forwarded the question to the antique tractor forum), Jim pointed out that torque specs for all of the engine’s various bolt sizes were included in the manual, hmmm, guess I better see what else is in there.  The 5/16 inch bolts on the rods are torqued to 20 foot pounds and the 1/2 inch bolts on the main bearings are torqued to 85.  I told Jim there was no way I was going to get 85 foot pounds on those main bearings, so I just tightened as hard as I could.  Maybe before we do the real tighten-down later I’ll borrow a breaker bar from Gene and see if I can get a little more umph.

As it now stands, with the bolts torqued down at least close to spec, I can turn the crank, and it doesn’t turn easy and it doesn’t turn hard, so I think that’s probably about right.  I think it will feel a little tighter yet when the rings are on the pistons.  So next I’ll be sorting parts for the valve train.  I’ll be using some of The Pony’s old parts and some new one’s from the valve train kit that was ordered earlier.  By the way, it was a while back, but I did ask the IB what order parts should go back into the engine.  Here’s what he said:
1.  Put lifters in block,
2.  Feed cam into block,
3.  Install valves, springs, caps, locks and pins,
4.  Put in crank and main bearings,
5.  Make sure to “time” crank and cam gear with both intake and exhaust valves closed on the No. 1 cylinder.
6.  Install pistons, rings, and rods and tighten down bearing caps.
7.  Adjust valve gap.
Now might be a good time for my experts to review these instructions, just to make sure something hasn’t been overlooked…or underexplained, like what’s the valve gap?

Circling back to one of my earlier rants, namely the insidious campaign of the paper companies to reduce the width of toilet paper, I have great news.  For Christmas, Jim sent me two roles of toilet paper.  I know, you think he’s spoiling me and that one would have been adequate.  But I’m not kidding, he sent them for Christmas, and although we could have decorated the tree with them, we opted for the more traditional non-TP approach.  But to the point, this toilet paper (Costco’s store brand) sports a 4.5 inch width just like back in the old days.  I’ve done you folks the favor of field testing this stuff and can report that it not only gets the job done, but it’s nice and soft.  I give it a five on the five point TP scale.  So if you’re a Costco member, or have a Costco member friend that doesn’t mind buying you TP by the car load, then you got it made.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a Costco here, so y’all are just going to have to put up with my cussedness, which is a direct result of well…let’s just say, not being comfortable.

Thanks for staying with me over the last week or so.  We were preoccupied down here with a nice visit from son Andrew, and I admit the ol’ blog took a “back seat.”  Thanks for reading!

I Misspoke…Means I Was Wrong!

Listen, you folks need to read carefully and when I screw-up, you need to call me to task.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, so it follows that I don’t know what I’m talking about either.  And I’m not going to be like people who try to make their errors sound like something less than just plain wrong.  Don’t worry, I can take the flack of hearing about it when I’m wrong.  But don’t misunderstand, I am trying to get things right.

So, anyway, in the last post I said the following, “the adjustable end (of the lifter) goes through one of The Pony’s new valve seats into the drive train compartment.”  That’s baloney, and I realized it as I was downstairs yesterday working on the engine.  First, I meant to say valve guides, and that would have been wrong too.  Forget about valve seats and valve guides, the adjustable ends of the lifters go through some ports that are part of the engine casting.  Whew!  It feels good to get that off my chest.  I guess that’s my Sunday confession. 

Oh, and I think there should be a rule.  You can’t come back and say, you know that post you did a month ago…no, you have to call me out before I do the next post.  Otherwise its like pro football; if you’re going to throw the “challenge flag,” it has to be done before the other team (me) gets the next play off.

Moving on.  Every now and then I read something that sets me off, and that happened again this week.  A writer for AP published a piece entitled “Baby Boomers Near 65 with Retirements in Jeopardy.”  I tried to send him an email directly, but these guys hide behind so many actual and cyber protections these days that you just can’t get at em. 

So I’m sorry, but I’m going to write it here and hope that somehow the word gets back.  LAY OFF THE BABY BOOMERS!  I mean it. I’m sick of opening the paper, or turning on the radio or tv and hearing that we boomers are somehow different.  I’m gonna say it, WE ARE NOT DIFFERENT, at least as individuals.  The only reason that the boomers have a greater impact on society is the sheer size of the group, which is something our generation cannot be blamed for.  But while we’re on that subject, “What were our parents thinking?”  Woo hoo, the war’s over, let’s make more babies than anyone can imagine?  That was real mature.

This guy’s article is a case in point.  He tries to make the case that the baby boomers have been worse savers for retirement than other generations, and that because of this they are going to have various negative impacts on society.  Again, there are going to be a lot of boomers that are not prepared for retirement, but the only reason its being talked about is that the size of the group is so large.  These poor saver/planners are just a subgroup of the gigantic boomer generation, but I’d suggest to you that as a percentage they are no greater proportion than other generations.  And I don’t know, but the succeeding generations, Xer’s, Yer’s what have you, I’m not going to say they are any worse either, but I sure see a lot of young lifestyles supported by loans, credit cards and wait for it…their baby boomer parents.

And this is certainly no new problem.  Remember Aesop’s fable about the Ant and Grasshopper.  The story goes that the ant and the grasshopper are neighbors and while the ant works all day saving up for the winter, the grasshopper screws around having fun and tries to convince the ant to do likewise.  Then, of course, winter comes and the ant is all set, and tells the grasshopper to “bugger off” when he comes looking for a hand-out.  To me that story tells it all.  It’s a problem as old as man has walked the earth and ants and grasshoppers for that matter.  Alright, sorry about the rant.

Not much in the tractor news department to report.  I did get the the last engine bearing cap sanded down (sorry Art).  Art, is a design engineer, biker (both kinds) and reader of this blog.  Poor guy.  Anyway, he has actually designed an entire tractor.  Here’s a picture of it.

Isn’t that something.  That tractor makes The Pony want to put his head under the covers and hide.  Anyway, Art is very unhappy with me for taking the “make do” approach with respect to the crankshaft and its bearings.  Art’s a perfectionist, and I totally understand his position.  Nevertheless, I’m assured by certain parties on the West Coast (God help me), that getting clearances down to acceptable levels by this method “…has kept many a Model A running for quite a while…”  I guess the proof will be in the results, pressure, pressure, pressure…

I’m also in a bit of a fix.  I seemed to have misplaced (alright, since I’m espousing totally honesty “lost” might be a better word) certain necessary engine parts.  There are three thrust shims (see in Pony Tech, tab on the Home Page) that go on the front end of the crankshaft that have gone missing.  Gene and I were being so careful putting everything in labeled, Zip-Lock bags, but somehow between The Pony, Gene’s garage and my Garage, those dang things have disappeared.  We could probably get some big washers to work in place of the shims (just kidding, Art).  Maybe as a last resort I could get Maggie Simpson, Parts Detective down here to root them out.  One more thorough search and if they don’t show up, I’m calling her.

More snow due here in the Carolina’s today, with a Winter Storm Warning out.  We’ll handle it the way we usually do, by stayin home and doin nuthin for 3 days.  Well, there is that 21-year-old bottle of Scotch I got for Christmas… 
Thanks for reading.


Happy New Year.  Had you told me last year at this time I’d be writing those words in a blog post about a farm tractor, well, I’d a probably suggested that as a colorful ex-boss of mine used to say, “You been smokin wacky tabacky.”  He said that to me a lot.  But here we are with this 52nd post to the blog since its inception back in August. 

Speaking of statistics, my publisher, WordPress, sent a year-end email providing some stats about my blog.  On its blog “Health-O-Meter” it pronounced “That Idiotic Tractor” healthy, that’s the blog folks, not The Pony itself, sorry to say.  They also said you could have filled over 10 jumbo jets with the readers that have visited the blog in 2010.  Please, don’t take this literally and all head off somewhere; I still need you!  Finally, they chose one photo to highlight out of the many I posted in 2010, and it was this one. 

Until I saw that photo, I thought with over a quarter million bloggers, the year-end email was just computer-generated.  But someone with a great sense of humor and wonderful taste in “art” singled that shot out to exemplify my blog.  Well, maybe.  I think later when The Pony is up and running, and some small problem develops in the engine, I’ll always be able to blame it on that crazy rabbit in there.   

I apologize for being gone so long.  I’ll spare you all of the excuses except one.  After The Pony shot his grill off and set that New Year’s resolution, it threw the fear of God and The Pony into me.  So, for the first four days of 2011, I’ve been hard at work down in the garage working on the engine.  I’m still getting stuff cleaned-up, so that when we start putting the engine together we don’t stall at each step with time-consuming prep work. 

I decided to tackle the valve lifters (also called tappets) as my next project.  If you go to the Pony Tech page on the Home Page, you’ll be able to see what the valve tappets look like.  They’re made of steel, and are adjustable through the use of a bolt and a threaded lock nut at the top.   Only two are shown in the diagram, but there are eight altogether, one for each valve.  The lifter’s flat end rides along on the cam shaft, while the adjustable end goes down through one of The Pony’s new valve seats into the valve train compartment where it then engages with one of the valves to move it up and down.  The up-down motion is created by those out-of round “knuckles” you can see on the camshaft. 

I should have taken a “before” picture of the lifters, so you can fully appreciate the improvement, but I have inserted a photo here of the valve train compartment, as first viewed by Gene and me.

 I’ve circled the adjustable end of one of the lifters poking through the valve sleeve into the compartment.  Well, after seeing this shot you can imagine the lifters in their entirety looked like everything else in this picture.  What wasn’t full of gunk, was rusted or pitted.

I kept track of the hours I spent refurbishing the lifters.  It came out to about an hour and a half per lifter, so 12 hours.  The general process included:
*  a first bath in the degreaser solvent.
*  a soaking with penetrating oil, as most of the adjustable bolts and lock nuts were rust-frozen.
*  removal of the bolt and lock nuts.
*  a resoaking in the degreaser.
*  wire-brushing all parts.
*  polishing all parts using 320 grit paper and metal polishing compound.
*  buffing with soft cloth and finally,
*  Lubing the threads of all three parts.
Also included was a trip out to Gene’s.  He ground down one of his thousands of wrenches to the thickness of the lock nut, so that I could get a socket wrench down over the bolt.  This proved indispensable in working each of those bolts free from the lifter.  I know, your thinking “Big deal, tractor boy, you asked for this, now show us the results.”  Alright, without further ado here’s the shot of the refurbished lifters.

I’m telling you, they’re as satisfying to hold in your hand as they are to look at, nice, cold, slick, hard, hefty steel, nothin else like it.  They should now fit back together well with the new valve train parts purchased earlier.

Well, let’s see, what can I leave you with that’s upliftering?  I guess for me, after just having gone through the holiday season, there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that as so much changes around us, there’s a lot that stays the same.  Hold on to those traditions, hold on to family and friends, hope for good health, and the rest will take care of itself.  Here’s wishing you all a wonderful 2011, and thanks for reading.

Oh, and ps:  I think I saw my first bobcat on yesterday’s morning 40.  He was just the color of his surroundings, all mottled browns, grey’s and black.  About twice the size of a house cat and built real stocky.  When I stopped to stare into his passive, grizzled face, he stared coldly back through green eyes.  As another biker rode up, he shot into the woods like a rocket.