Complementary Antique Collections

Michigan couple's antique collections put it all together.

| July 2005

  • JohnDeereModelAW.jpg
    Above: The beautiful finish on this John Deere Model AW is the result of months of hard work. The tractor has the 42-inch rear wheels that were installed after the Hi-Crop version was discontinued in 1947.Left: The dash finish on Bob’s John Deere Model AW is every bit as smooth and shiny as the glass in the gauges.
  • AFarmMadeGrainWagon.jpg
    Left: A farm-made grain wagon with running gear and wheels from old truck parts has found new life in the McCausey garden.
  • ModelL_FairbanksMorseEngine.jpg
    Above: Bob saved this Model L from donating its critical organs to a homemade tractor project.Left: Bob assembled this Fairbanks-Morse engine from a pile of parts, and smoothed its surfaces before applying the finishing touches. The nicely contrasting truck rails were cut from a wild cherry log.
  • TobaccoTransplanter.jpg
    Above: The McCauseys found this beautifully weathered tobacco transplanter near Pall Mall, Tenn. Lichens now grow on the thigh-rests in front of the seats where laborers once sat as they placed tobacco seedlings into the furrow by hand.Top left: When he finished the restoration of this Meade Mighty Mouse crawler, Bob didn’t have the heart to drive it, so he built this aluminum trailer, allowing him to take it to shows without ever having to load or unload it.Left: This old cistern pump’s chains and cups no longer reach below the surface for water.
  • FlaxWheels.jpg
    Left: Often called flax wheels, foot-treadle-powered spinning wheels such as this aged horizontal bobbin and flyer model are among Jo’s favorites.Above left: This relatively evolved butter churn employs dasher paddles mounted on the crankshaft that literally beat the butter out of the cream.Above right: This treadle-powered grindstone, now out to pasture at the McCausey estate, is only one of many such devices that now find firm footing in the garden.Right: Early American farms used covered wooden firkins such as these to store lard, butter, sugar and other foodstuffs.

  • JohnDeereModelAW.jpg
  • AFarmMadeGrainWagon.jpg
  • ModelL_FairbanksMorseEngine.jpg
  • TobaccoTransplanter.jpg
  • FlaxWheels.jpg

"We didn't know what it was, but we knew we had to have it," Bob McCausey explains while rolling an ancient, horse-drawn tobacco transplanter out of the shed. "We found it near Pall Mall, Tenn., on one of our trips through the U.S. 127 Corridor Yard Sale." That event, now in its 19th year, has become a virtual Mecca for collectors, but Bob and his wife, Jo, have many other sources.

The Mulliken, Mich., couple has been collecting together for as long as they can remember, and though they search for different things, they support one another's efforts. Bob enjoys making old machines work perfectly and look beautiful, but he is particular, and likes them to be fairly complete from the beginning. Jo finds fascination in wooden and stoneware vessels, and other farmhouse objects, but they have to be in nice condition to get through the doors to the house. Both are drawn to well-weathered pieces, like the tobacco setter, which they put back to work by innovatively installing them in their yard.

Fantastic finishes

"I started painting many years ago because I wanted it done right," Bob explains, pointing out that the castings on his 1949 John Deere Model AW are perfectly smooth. "I might have gone a little overboard on this one, but I like a smooth finish." The 1949 AW isn't the first tractor he ever painted, but it was the first that he really went all out on, and it required some creative repairs to get it running.

"I bought it from a guy who had overhauled the engine, but he couldn't get it to run," Bob explains. "It had new pistons, new rods, a new crank and everything, but it wouldn't run." The tractor had been parked for quite a while when he negotiated the purchase, but it was still loose. "It took me a while to figure out what the problem was," he says. "Turns out the cam was out of time with the crank." Bob took care of that problem by removing the engine's flywheel and timing cover, and carefully removing the cam bearing with the aid of a cutting torch.



With the bearing gone, there was sufficient clearance to move the camshaft gear away from the crankshaft gear just enough that they disengaged. Bob then rotated the crank and cam independently of one another until the timing marks were aligned, and he reengaged the gears, installed a new bearing and buttoned up the engine. "I still needed to do some work on the governor and the ignition system before it would run right," he says.

Once the tractor was mechanically sound and free of leaks, Bob prepped it for paint. The sheet metal was all there, but it was a little rough and required a good deal of straightening and repair. Along the way he also decided that he was going to take every nub off of every casting and make the tractor smooth. "I spent about five months grinding castings and taking care of the sheet metal," he says. "And then it took about another month of sanding, priming and blocking before I painted it." Bob chose authentic John Deere paint for the project, and finished with a new set of tires.