Although this column is intended for passing on information from the worldwide members of the Stationary Engine Mailing List to the readers of GEM, it also allows me to keep you updated with the news of Tillie, GEM covergirl from December 2001. Tillie is the 15HP half-breed oilfield engine that we displayed at Portland, IN, in 2001 then shipped back to the UK. That winter, she ran a couple of times, then flatly refused to run again. All last summer, whenever he had time to spare, Jim would get a good workout on the flywheels with no result. During the restoration by friends, a crack around the inside of the head had been welded, and welded again before running for the week at Portland, and Jim suspected this was the problem. He had a go at welding it himself, tried one professional welding company, and then tried a specialist cast iron welding company. We collected the head from them last week, put it back on Tillie, fired up the hot tube . One flip of the flywheels and she was off. Believe me, it felt GOOD!!!

If, by the time you read this, you haven't taken any of your engines to a show yet this season, then you soon will! Once again I've gathered together a few threads of discussion from the internet Mailing List over the past month which should help to get your engines into tiptop condition cosmetically ready for public viewing. The first question was on the cleaning of oilers, when the standard cleaners are unavailable.

* Are there any chemists in the house? What's a good concoction for cleaning old tarnished brass? It's too late to go buy Brasso or Noxon. I need something that's in my kitchen or garage.

* I'm pretty sure Brasso is nothing but a little abrasive with ammonia mixed with it. Try just some ammonia or try toothpaste.

* I have heard of using Tabasco sauce to clean brass. Of course, any good silver polish also works well on brass.

* I heard that ketchup works - never tried it.

* Try some salt and vinegar.
Immerse the part in it, let it go for a while and then go after it with a soft cloth. Not fast but it works.

* How about Soft Scrub cleanser? Rubbing compound? Or any "cleaning" type car wax?

* I wash oilers in a mixture of 1 part ammonia to 3 parts hot water, with a good glug of dishwashing detergent thrown in, then polish them on a muslin wheel with jewelers rouge. The ammonia pickles the brass and will attack it if you leave it in too long, five or ten minutes is usually enough, followed by a good rinse and then drying before polishing. This is how I was taught to clean brass clock plates when I was studying horology as a teenager.
Happich Simichrome polish is my favorite polish for hand polishing.
The next problem - how to preserve an original finish?

* I just brought home a Hercules 1 ½ HP. It still has the original paint and decals on it. I cleaned it up with kerosene and it looked real nice when wet. Is there anything a guy can put on this to restore the shiny finish and keep it that way?

* If it was my engine I would clean it WELL--three to four applications of Gunk applied with a soft scrubbing with a brush, and then I would give it two coats of Krylon clear.

* A spray can of tyreshine or similar does a good job of sprucing up an engine if you don't want to varnish it.

What if the original finish is hidden under more than simply years of grease and dirt?

* We've got two engines that have horrible paint jobs thanks to their previous owner. Sadly, both have very nice aged dark original finishes underneath the mess. The previous owner, in all his wisdom, painted them hastily and without any prep work, with random rattle cans "to keep them from rusting". Anyway, I was wondering if I could use paint remover to take off the paint and let the original old dark iron show through? Any drawbacks other than the remover being such nasty stuff to work with? Any other suggestions?

* My limited experience is that high-pressure washing will remove a lot of paint that has been poorly applied to an original finish.

* I'd be afraid to use paint remover for fear that it would take off the original paint, if there is any. If there isn't any original under there, have at it.

A 1½HP JD-E of mine had a crummy paint job, so I stripped it with Stryp-Eze, or something like that. After I got it all cleaned up, it looked rather nice. The cast iron had a nice patina to it.

* If there's original paint underneath, you could try something gentle like denatured alcohol or waterless hand cleaner. Our all-original 2 HP Jaeger had a large portion of the base covered with aluminum paint overspray. I successfully used hand cleaner and alcohol to remove the aluminum. The original blue paint and striping remained undamaged.

* Waterless hand cleaner takes a long time to work. I used GoJo.

* If indeed he did use rattle can paint, like Krylon, acetone will cut it and shouldn't attack the original finish. I'd try a small out of sight area first to be sure.

The final section of these "cosmetic" discussions was the subject of flywheels.

* How do you finish flywheel rims? Do you paint them same as the rest of the flywheel? Paint rims a different color than the rest of the flywheel? Leave the rim as bare metal? Polish the rim?

* For myself, I prefer bare metal although it usually means having to clean surface rust before each show I take the engine to. I like the bare metal especially when the flywheel face has machine tool marks from when the engine was made.

* During a tour of European engine collections, we visited a collection in Belgium. The owner really liked to have everything clean and polished. He had a Czech sideshaft engine with flywheels that from a distance looked liked the flywheel rims were chrome plated! However, when you got closer to the engine it became obvious that they were just
highly polished. The bad part is he had a couple kids buff the flywheels with what I assume was an electric handheld buffer. The flywheels were sure polished and looked like chrome, but in doing it by hand they made the flywheel face so wavy that in my opinion they ruined the flywheels.

* I prefer to keep my flywheel rims unpainted and bright. This might not work in a damp climate, but we're blessed with near-zero humidity, here. However, even when we do get a heavy dew or rain shower during a show, the flash rust isn't a disaster. As soon as I start the engine I'll polish the flywheel with a bit of motor oil and a Scotchbrite pad. It takes but a few seconds and afterward there's no sign that there ever was any rust.
The longer one does this, the nicer the flywheel looks.

* My preferred finish depends on the condition of the flywheel face.
If the faces are pitted, I prefer to paint them a different color as I like to use a 2 or 3 color scheme in painting the engines.
If the faces are nice, I'll clean them with emery and coat them with oil. Constant attention is required so they don't rust. Once done, they can be kept clean with Scotchbrite pads.

* I file the high spots of the flywheel and sand them with industrial paper, and paint three layers thick. Apply the first coat and let it dry for a few weeks then sand it with 100 paper. Then spray a thick layer of primer and sand it lightly with 240 paper. When the surface is right, I spray them to finish standard with automotive quality paint in the color I want, usually 2½ layers. The rims get the same color. At first I left them unpainted and polished but here in Holland it's too damp and it rusts too fast.

* In days of yore, we used to shine up the flywheel rims in the power houses holding a brick against the running wheel. Then we had to clean up all the brick-dust! The machining marks did look nice, though, not highly polished, just a lovely soft gleam.

* Living within spitting distance of the Indian Ocean, where rusting is a problem, I now tend to paint everything including flywheel rims.
However, as I needed to drive the generator by vee-belts running on the flat of flywheel of my Buzacott to get the necessary speed, I was concerned that they might not grip on the paint, so I used a set of three instead of the two I calculated I needed, and have no problems.

* The gentleman that I got my 25HP Superior from, told me that the face of the rim was never painted. It was the job of the apprentice to keep them clean and rust free.

* A few years ago I turned the surfaces of some small flywheels (22") on a brake drum lathe; with a little fudging I was able to use the tool that would normally be used to turn automotive flywheels. It did a real nice job.

* I'm currently working on a 3HP, IH Famous vertical. The flywheels rims were quite rusty and appeared to have never been painted. They are also too big to put on the drum lathe. The rust was thick but it didn't have the deep pits that you would get if they were buried in the ground or covered with water.
For the initial clean up I ran them in the hot tank that we use for cleaning cast iron engine blocks and heads. This removed all of the grease, old paint and some of the rust on the rims. I then sanded the outside face and the inner and outer sides with a hand held sander.
The sander is made by B&D and has a selection for nondirectional or straight line sanding. To avoid the little swirl marks I selected straight line and held the sander in line with the way that the wheel would turn. Using progressively finer paper and about two hours of elbow grease, the surfaces are now bright and shiny. After the engine is running, I will polish them with either Scotchbrite pads or fine emery cloth.
As to painting, I find that trying to mask the rims is a big waste of time. I just paint them, keeping the over spray to a minimum and when the paint has set a little wash off the over spray with thinner.

* After cleaning up the rims with fine emery I have put on a mix of turpentine and boiled linseed oil. It takes a few days to dry and mine still look good after about 12 months

* Has anyone ever tried a good clear coat on the rims? I may give this a try someday; I can always clean them and paint if needed.

* I haven't tried it on flywheels, BUT I once refinished a saxophone and cleared it with Krylon. It still tarnished underneath the clear.

My feeling is that with humidity and rain, the likelihood of rust happening under the clear coat on your rims, is very high.

Whether your engines are perfect, gloss finish restorations or the original "working clothes" look, some of these suggestions will hopefully give you some ideas for keeping them in tip top condition.

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