Not for the weak minded.

Touch me baby.

September 26th, 2007 Josh

I picked up a cheap 19″ touch screen from a daily deal site a week ago. I have not yet purchased an LCD screen for my computer simply because I have had it hooked into my 56″ TV for the past year. This causes a slight snag since the TV does not have PIP and I cannot watch TV and use the computer at the same time. So my plan is to hook this up so I can use the computer while the TV is in use.

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I plan to either wall mount this thing, or mount it on a stand at a 60 degree angle or so, and put a frame around it to appear as a digital picture frame when not directly using the computer. Media Portal appears to be a good substitute for my currently used Creative Media Center, primarily because it will do everything I would want in a touch-accessed display: access music, movies, weather, email, quick games, emulators, and pictures (including a nice slideshow with effects)… and tons of user created plugins. (open source rules!) Although it was built to be a TV PVR with extras, I have no need for the TV PVR part, only all the other goodies. The weather plugin will be a nice feature… there is many a time when I want to know what the weather is like but I’m too lazy to find the TV channel or Web site. With this, a few taps of the finger and I’ll know if it’s raining at the softball field…

John Deere 3hp, Episode 3: Oil pan replacement

September 20th, 2007 Josh

After completing the disassembly, I started restoration with the parts that were in the worst condition. Without a doubt, the gas tank and oil pan were first on the list. The oil pan was a bit worse off than the gas tank since the 6′ steel pry bar had rested on it during removal of the piston, so there was a nice big divot in the middle.

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The best option for this part was a straight replacement, so I opted to make a replacement out of sheet stainless steel. Since I had never worked with stainless before, I soon found out that ‘simply cutting some holes’ wasn’t so simple.

I started by marking off the outline of the pan on a nice sheet of sheet stainless. (picture 1) (picture 2) I used our power shear to cut it to size, and the grinder to shape the corners off. The next step was to drill the holes for the bolts- that’s when I started to appreciate how hard this stuff is to work with!

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I had to drill 8 bolt holes and 2 1″ holes for the gas fill and pickup lines. Even with excessive amounts of cutting oil, I was able to drill only 1 hole at a time before having to resharpen the drill and you can see how that went!
The 1″ holes weren’t any easier at first… I tried to use a pilot drill with a High Speed Steel fly cutter which ended up barely marring the surface and completely flattening the tip on the fly cutter.

So the next idea was to use a full size drill… which had less than ideal results:

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To clean it up I used a chisel and hammer to round off the edges of the hole. The finished hole looked like total crap.

A week later my grandpa suggested trying a device called a chassis punch (I think) which is used to punch holes in electrical boxes before they came with knock-outs.

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He pulled a 1″ chassis punch out and viol-la it was the exact size of the Bigger holes that I had chiseled out the week before. It was actually slightly bigger, so I was able to clean up the holes with the punch. I also used a smaller punch to clean the bolt holes.

With the holes made, the next thing to do was attach the oil strainer, which looks like a tuna can with a screen at the bottom and a metal shield at the top. The flyweights on the governor sit right above this can in the crankcase and dip oil out to sling on to the other parts of the engine while it is running. The strainer can was spot welded to the old oil pan in 3 places. I ground the spot welds off from the pan side and cleaned up the bottom of the can after it was removed. We do not have a working spot welder, so I drilled 3 holes in the can and used a nickel rod to weld it into place. It didn’t take much, maybe 3-4 seconds of weld per hole. I was quite impressed with my welding success. Thin materials easily go from perfect weld to nasty hole in less than a second. Check out the results:

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Click here to see the bottom side
And click here for an overall finished pan.
Even though I thought that was the end, there was a slight problem when I got to the assembly phase: The stainless that I used was slightly thinner and more flexible than the old steel pan, and would not seal on part of the gasket. I just finished welding a few pieces of flat bar to reinforce the 1″ holes to get them to seal to the bottom of the crank case. Pictures later.

That’s it for the pan. Next up will be repairing the governor shaft, flyweight, and exhaust valve rocker arm.

John Deere 3hp, Episode 2: Disassembly

September 6th, 2007 Josh

I gave quite a lengthy background in ep1 so now I’ll get into the meat of the restoration. I will try to keep this short and focus on the relevant technical aspects so you can learn from my mistakes without wading through verbiage. I have tons of pictures, and will insert the important ones, with the lesser pictures as links only. So don’t forget to click the links!

Disassembling an engine (or other item to be restored) is the number one place to make or break (literally) your rebuild. A few points to remember are:

  • Study first – Look closely at each part before you try to pull it off. Sometimes things are not as they seem.
  • Mark everything – Score, punch, twisty-tie, tape, bag… location AND position (up/down, left/right, front/back).
  • Patience and lots of blaster will free up just about anything
  • Use the correct tool for the job! Pliers and vise-grips should not be used on bolts
  • Don’t throw anything away till you finish the job.

On to my engine!


The first thing I did was pull the crank cover. From the picture you can see that there is a little bit of rust, but overall just lots of oil residue and some dirt. Not bad for starters. With the crank exposed I punch marked the rod, rod cap, and both mains. I also marked the cam gear and magneto gear, but I managed to forget to mark the crank gear! I will have to set the timing when the engine is together.

Next I pulled the governor and cam side cover plate (Picture) and replaced the screws back into the holes. Putting screws back into their hole is one of the easiest ways to keep from loosing them, as long as they won’t get in the way later on. You can see that there is quite a bit more rust in this part of the engine, but still nothing a wire brush can’t handle. With this cover off, I found the bolts for the magneto. This magneto doesn’t have points in it, the points are actually on a device called an igniter.

The igniter was used before spark plugs, and is basically a set of points inside the combustion chamber. To create the spark, the points are pulled apart at the same time the magneto is passing current through them. When the points break the circuit, the electromagnetic field in the armature windings of the magneto collapses, causing the voltage to spike and send a spark across the points.

The magneto was in need of repair so my grandpa sent it off to a friend of his to restore.


The head was next, and was the first thing that really worried me. The carbon deposits were extensive and the gasket was blown, leading me to believe that the engine may have been worked too hard and failed due to water intrusion into the cylinder. I did not suspect hydro-lock since the rod was fine and the piston was frozen halfway down the cylinder. When I was finished disassembling later on, I turned the block upright and filled the cylinder with a mix of 80% diesel fuel, 20% brake cleaner, and a touch of blaster. (Blaster is too expensive to fill a cylinder with). I then left it for about 3 weeks with the piston soaking.


Now that all the covers were off and all of the pieces that were location critical were marked, I began to remove bolts and work pieces off one at a time. The main bearing bolts were easy and came free with almost no effort. The rod bolts were a little harder, but still didn’t require a breaker bar. I pulled the main and rod caps and set them aside. The piston was stuck, but since it was half way down the cylinder, I was able to rotate the crank and flywheels with little effort and pull them off the block. With the flywheels off I had access to the governor parts. I removed everything down to the fly weight shaft and cam shaft.

This is where I made my first mistake and didn’t study the situation well enough. The nut holding the cam to the cam gear didn’t want to come off. Without thinking, I put a monkey wrench on the fly weights to hold it and tried the nut again. Snapped one of the fly weights right off. I moved the monkey wrench to the yoke and tried again, this time the camshaft broke right at the bottom of the threads. OOPS. A few weeks later when I went to remove the broken shaft from the nut, I discovered that the threads were left handed. It wasn’t even stuck! Mistakes like that can be avoided and I will definitely not assume everything is right-hand threaded. (The John Deere engineers made it left handed because the rotation during operation would naturally keep the nut tight every time the engine fired.)

A few weeks later I attempted to remove the piston. It was still frozen, but I was able to use the “brute force” method to get it out. After cleaning the carbon out above the piston, I used a lever to pry against the bottom of the rod (with a piece of pipe to transfer the force against the inside of the rod bearing seat- not against the outer yokes which would have broken). It took a 6 foot pry bar with the rod a mere 4-5 inches from the fulcrum. Putting 200-300 lbs of force on the end of that pry bar, the piston was getting somewhere between 2500-3500 lbs, and still not wanting to move. I also put an aluminum plug against the top of the piston and hit it with a 25lb sledge hammer as hard as I could. After a few hits from the hammer, I tried the pry bar again, and got the piston to move about 1/2″. From there I was able to alternate between sledge hammer and pry bar, moving the piston up and down in the cylinder until it finally came all the way out the top. I know I have a picture of it, so I will try to find it and update this post later.

With the piston free I pulled the engine block off of the base, removed the gas tank and oil pan and took the base off of the rotted skid boards. The only thing left to take apart was the head, which I left for later.

That’s the end of the disassembly. This is already turning into an epic write-up, and I haven’t even started the repair yet! Well, next up is the oil pan/gas tank repair.

John Deere 3hp, Episode 1: Introduction

September 4th, 2007 Josh

For the past year I have been working on restoring a John Deere 3hp Model E engine. I have spent about 5 hrs each week working to restore it. Like most projects I have done, it seems like the closer to the end I get, the more work there is to do. I was going to wait to the end to write up the restoration story, but the longer I wait to write it up, the more I am likely to forget what I did. To start things off, I will give a short history of the engine followed by an overview of what has been put into this project to get to the point where I am now.

The John Deere Model E was manufactured from 1923 to 1946 (as far as I can tell) and came in three different sizes. The smallest and most widely available engine is the 1-1/2 hp version. The next size is the 3 hp, which is harder to find but shares a few parts with the 1-1/2 hp. Finishing off the trio is the 6 hp, which is the most sought-after of the Model Es. The engine I am restoring in these articles is the 3 hp. I already have a 1-1/2 hp, but I am not so lucky as to have one of the rare 6 hp engines. I do not know the origins of my engine past receiving it from my grandpa as a Christmas present a few years back.



The engine appeared to be in pretty good shape when I pulled it out of storage, considering that most of the parts were with it and nothing seemed to be broken. The rust was not extensive, and everything came loose with little trouble. The only missing parts were the push-rod and igniter trip assembly (which attaches to the push-rod), so it is likely that they were lost somewhere and I will find them in a few years after the engine is restored. I was able to fabricate a new push-rod without too much trouble, but I will need to purchase the igniter trip assembly. I did end up breaking a few parts during disassembly, which probably could have been avoided if I had paid more attention to the parts themselves.

The biggest setback has been the left side flywheel, which turned out to have 3 broken spokes. It seems the engine fell on the flywheel at some point and 3 of the spokes cracked right next to the hub. I was able to straighten the flywheel, but welding the cast iron back together without it cracking has proven nearly impossible. I have welded it a grand total of 8 times now, and even though I thought I had a technique that worked on this last attempt, I just had part of it crack again.

As of this moment, the engine is nearing completion. Most of the parts are ready for assembly, and all but the flywheel and the top side of the rocker-arm are repaired. Over the next few weeks I will start at the beginning and trace my steps through the restoration in detail. I took pictures and a few videos through the entire process and will post them on my gallery along with links in the articles.

Integration success

September 3rd, 2007 Josh

I just finished the integration of my new gallery with the blog. Here is a picture of my John Deere 3hp restoration:

John Deere Restoration