Woodcraftsman recreates the Huber Light Four using 21 varieties of wood
The crank on Mike’s Light Four. The gears actually work.
What make & model farm tractor was made in Marion, Ohio, first introduced in 1916 and 92 years later re-created in Lake Stevens, Wash.?
If you answered the Huber Light Four, you are correct. This Huber model weighed just 5,200 pounds, had a 12-25 hp rating derived from a 4-cylinder Waukesha engine (4-1/2-by-5-3/4-inch bore and stroke) and sold for $1,085 ($18,484 today).
The 2008 replica of the Light Four was a woodworking project: a 1/2-scale working model hand-crafted by Mike Pray, Lake Stevens. Mike used 21 varieties of wood, including antique heart pine salvaged from a Virginia sawmill destroyed by fire in 1890. The heart pine was given to Mike by a close friend, the late Walt Washen, who acquired it from the grandson of the man who originally salvaged the wood. Mike used the pine for the tractor’s engine block, steering wheel and a fender brace. Willow branches were utilized to make realistic looking spark plug wires.
Retired from Boeing where he worked as a parts expediter, Mike loves woodworking projects. He spent more than 2,000 hours over a three-year period on the project, traveled many miles and talked to several people to gather data and information on the “real thing,” all with the goal of making his finished piece realistic and workable.
How does it work? Begin by turning the crank to “start” the engine (whoops: first pull out the realistic dipstick and “check” the engine oil level). The rear wheels, which are 30 inches in diameter, turn via straight-cut wooden gears, and the fan also turns. The steering wheel actually turns the front wheels via authentic wooden worm – yes, worm – gears! How many of you woodcraftsmen out there have turned out wooden worm gears?
Mike was determined to craft a tractor that would be considered unique in his area. After seeing a photo, he settled on Huber. But it was no easy task to find a real Huber out West. After much searching, Mike finally located one at Yanke Machine Shop, Boise, Idaho. This full-size, fully restored Huber was part of the late Ed Wagner’s unique collection in Lewiston, Idaho. Mike made many new friends and contacts in his quest for information, especially at the Huber Museum in Marion.
The Huber was not Mike’s first agricultural equipment woodworking project. In 2005 he constructed a 1/2-scale wooden disk from 12 varieties of wood. Sears & Roebuck sold the original three-horse hitch disk through its 1924 catalog. He built the piece with nothing more than the catalog picture that included but one measurement: the diameter of the disk blades. This beauty now resides at the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum in Pomeroy, Wash. In 2005, the piece earned the top award from the Washington State Fair Commissioners while on display at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe.
Mike credits his wife, Joan, for the project’s success. “My shop is not heated so a lot of the Huber project ended up on our kitchen table, waiting for the glue to dry,” he says.
He hasn’t decided on his next project. Among the possibilities: a small gas-powered log skidder that his grandkids could drive, modeled after a 1960 S8 International. He’s also considering taking up woodcarving. “Then I could carve a team of horses that I could put in front of another project – a hay wagon with a horse-drawn hay loader.” Yet another possibility: an Allis-Chalmers road grader like one he saw at Yanke Machine Shop, where owner Mark Yanke has a tractor collection.
“The main problem I have with my projects is the size,” he says. “I love half scale, but the wife says I need to scale down.” FC
For more information: Mike Pray plans to display his Huber at the Puget Sound Antique Tractor & Machinery Assn. show, Lynden, Wash., Aug. 3-6. Contact him at email@example.com.
David Ruark farms in southeast Washington. He and his wife are members of the Lewis-Clark Antique Power Club of Lewiston, Idaho, and enjoy restoring, displaying and demonstrating antique engines, tractors, and farm equipment.