Engine Show at Buckley, Michigan

Old oil-engine

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Last spring, I think it was at the May, 1981 meeting of our club, Sam Zue got up and announced that he had found an engine that our club might want to purchase. Was an old oil-engine that had for many years run a sawmill down near White Cloud, Michigan. As I remember, the mill burned around 1950 and the engine suffered from the heat so it was retired to the back yard. A new mill was built and was powered by electricity.

Club folks questioned Sam a bit. Seems it needed some babbit poured, work on the piston, etc. that he knew of. The idea sounded quite good. President Leonard took a vote and it was a unanimous 'yes, buy it'.

Quoting Leonard, 'We'll get it moved to our club grounds so the folks can look at it. Of course, we can't get it running this year.' Someone sitting near Sam heard something like, 'That's what you think.' Folks who know him don't doubt Sam's ability or his aggressiveness. That sort is a great part of what makes engine shows what they are today.

A lot of club folks got in on the job. I can't remember all the details. Seems the piston was about fifteen inches in diameter; flywheels were sixty inches in diameter with twelve-inch faces and weighed two tons each. Engine, sitting on the base, was ten or twelve feet high. They poured many pounds of babbit and did some machine work on the piston. Poured a lot of cement out by the sawmill for a base. Made a screen tower and tank for cooling. Then fixed up an old air compressor to give 225 pounds of pressure and some volume. The Thursday night before the show was set for a test start. Everything seemed to be ready. It actually took three big men on a pry-bar used in holes in the face of the flywheel to turn the engine over to just past top dead center. Air was then applied. Got some action but not good. The fire, years ago, had softened the governor springs so that when the engine fired the governor would close off the fuel before it got speed up. Off came the springs for a trip to Sam's shop. He and Bud Rhode took care of the springs and several other little details, not over fifteen or twenty, then away she (or it) went. Put the belt on to the sawmill and sawed like the dickens.

Have things set up so we can easily disconnect the oil engine and belt up a steamer or whatever else wants to show prowess in making lumber. I guess that, to many folks who watched the big engine in action, the major impact was that it blew remarkable smoke rings. Might be six or eight in the air discernable at once. One gal said she counted twelve, but I tend to think she counted a bit too hard. Sam had designed a fancy exhaust system. Horsepower rating at manufacture is stamped 77. I don't think that means a lot but it will surely waltz through a big cut in oak with ease.

Another new action item for the show was the bowl mill. Bob Kellog picked it up somewhere, fixed it to run with a flat belt and generally restored it. You feed a plank into one end and wood bowls come out the other end. Bowls are then put into a container under low steam pressure for a few minutes and cured so they will not warp or crack. I believe the club now owns the machine so it should be a going item for future shows, which are always held the third weekend in August.