Gas engine hobbyist
Some fathers and sons bond through sports. Others, through shared collections. But Kevin Slutts, Iowa City, Iowa, and his son, Kris, 12, used old iron - a 2 hp Stover, to be precise - to strengthen their relationship.
The two showed off their first joint project at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, last summer. Restoring the 1925 Stover, Kevin says, 'was a real adventure.' He got no argument from Kris on that
'This one was in pretty bad shape,' Kris says. 'I knew that the flywheel was cracked, and there was even seed corn in it that mice had carried in. But we wanted something to do, and we had worked on another Stover.'
'A sparkplug was missing,' Kevin recalls. 'And one of the timing gears was off, sitting inside. The mag was with it, and the oiler needed to be replaced.' Still, it was a good project for the pair. 'The engine was complete,' Kevin says, 'but it needed attention.'
Kevin's father helped track down the engine, which Kevin purchased from Edgar Lewis in Lone Tree, Iowa, in 1996. Kevin and Kris were fortunate to find an engine that had stayed in the same family since its manufacture more than 75 years ago.
'The engine had originally belonged to Mr. Lewis's grandfather,' Kevin says. 'It had been used on a cement mixer. I'll bet it had a lot to do with much of the concrete work in Lone Tree from 1920 on.'
After the death of the original owner, the Stover was stashed in a machine shed, where it sat for decades. When Kevin and Kris came to claim it, the cart next to the engine was part of the deal and, they assumed, part of the engine. But when it came time to put the engine on the cart, they discovered otherwise.
'When we went to set it on the cart, it didn't match up,' Kevin says. 'That's what makes this engine unusual: It's mounted on a Stickney cart. We went ahead and used it, and we're committed to it now.'
Kevin and Kris tried their best to make the cracked flywheel work for the restoration. 'The guy at a local welding shop worked on it, but it just kept cracking more and more,' Kevin says.
'We found a pair of flywheels with a crankshaft at the Old Thresher's Reunion, and then we took the whole thing apart and repainted it. We just got it going again last spring.'
At age 12, Kris is practically an old-timer at the Mt. Pleasant show.
'The first time we went to the Old Threshers Reunion, Kris was a baby in our arms,' Kevin says. 'He's liked gas engines since he was real little. This is really his first engine. It's the first one he's worked on, though we shared the work. We looked at the books together, and reassembled it together.'
The father and son clearly share an interest, but their perspectives differ a bit. For Kevin, the best part of the project was spending time together. 'This hobby has helped Kris know more about mechanical things,' Kevin says, 'and helped both of us develop more patience. The rest is priceless.'
Kris, however, liked the end result.
'The best part was probably when we finally got it running,' he says. A seventh grader who enjoys model trains, video games and covering right field in youth baseball programs, Kris already has his eye on his next project with dad.
'We've seen a Chore Boy,' he says, 'and we think that one of those would be fun to work on.'