A Thermosiphon John Deere

Missouri man "hammers" out a creative solution to a vintage engine challenge.

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by Jim White
The finished project, running at the Oblong Antique Tractor & Engine Assn. Show. Note the unique use of a sledgehammer.

The project started with a non-running (but not stuck) 1-1/2hp engine. The magneto did not work, the igniter was stuck and the gas tank was rusted out. It was a great engine for a complete rebuild. Disassembly was the normal routine with no major problems, except for the fact that the block was worn out and needed a sleeve. The first part of the reconstruction was to take the block to a machine shop for a sleeve.

1-1/2 hp john deere engine block in disrepair

The right amount of force

a pipe with a section cut off

While waiting on the block repair, I cut off the top of the engine’s water hopper using a plasma cutter and lots of grinding, followed by use of a piece of 5-inch steel pipe to replace the top of the block. The pipe was not an exact fit, but by using a 10-lb. sledgehammer (in several tries), I adjusted the pipe to the proper angle.

engine block with the hopper cut off

That was followed by a major welding process using a mig and stitch-welding the pipe and block. Again, back to the grinder to remove excess weld, but I was happy with the results. After drilling and welding a 3/4-inch pipe coupling to the top of the block, it was time to test all the welds under pressure, and yes, I had to go back and grind out a couple of places and reweld. Next test, everything was okay.

engine block with a new hopper top before welding

Building the water tank was another process, as I did not have a sheet metal brake capable of bending the 16-gauge sheet metal, so a little ingenuity was necessary. I made a bracket out of angle iron and then, using the front bucket of the tractor, was able to make the necessary corners. That was followed by welding in a back to the tank, bottom and two 3/4-inch pipe couplings for the thermosiphon pipes from the block.

Obviously, a cart was required. The next step was to build a cart with 12-inch front wheels and 15-inch rear wheels, all with a 2-inch face and six spokes.

engine during repair on a cart

After attaching the block to the cart rails, the next step was connecting the block and water tank. But the galvanized pipe just did not look good. The other option was brass with a couple of unions and some fittings. That delivered the look I wanted.

rebuilt john deere engine block

I finally got the block back from the machine shop, so it was the usual process of assembly, new rings, rebuilt mag and igniter, new gas tank and oil pan, valve job, etc. The last part of the project was paint for the engine and cart.

As for the hammer…

One of the shows I attended was in Oblong, Illinois. Two little twin girls jumped up on my trailer and started trying to turn the flywheels as I returned from lunch. They had a limited vocabulary but kept saying “flywheel,” which made my day.

young girls play with the restored engine at a show

As for the hammer: The crank case cover had a large hole, so I just enlarged the hole, cut the end off of a sledgehammer and welded it to the crank case cover.

Looking forward to another great engine season in ’22. FC


Jim White is a retired science department chairman. Contact him at hitandmiss@brick.net or 7821 Dewberry Lane, Cedar Hill, MO 63016.

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