I have occasionally extolled the many virtues of working with the hands, so what am I up to now? I am still working on restoring my vintage (1920’s) John Bean orchard sprayer. It has been a challenging project, because it required rebuilding a rotten wooden tank and providing it with a missing cover and other pieces of hardware, re-building the engine, a great deal of straightening bent pieces of metal and fabricating missing ones, and de-rusting parts and painting. Fortunately, I had previously re-built the pump, not knowing that a friend would someday give me the wagon, the tank, and various other rusty, but essential pieces.. I also had the engine on hand, but it is still not ready to run. At one point a valve had stuck so thoroughly that the rocker arm that actuated it had broken. And the wondrously novel carburetor still needs re-building. But other than that it is in good shape, as can be seen from the third photo below.
I love doing stuff like this, and this project is coming along well. There is a good bit of plumbing and building of new parts remaining, and I have a ridiculous number of other projects under way, but the sprayer will be ready to go by spring. And if it is not, I don’t have an orchard anyway.
The photos below show the tank and the front of the machine as of now, (the truck in the background is a reasonably preserved 1955 Peterbilt, and is next in line), Marian, my ever supportive wife (as long as I don’t neglect things she wants me to do) standing in the back of the rig, and the engine and pump. The fourth photo is the engine before I began working on it, as evidence that it needed a bit of work.
Not only is the restoration satisfying, but it reminds me of the past, since a few of these machines were still in use when I was a little kid. On taking the partly-rotten tank apart, I found that the inside surfaces were covered with a strange white material that had worked its way into the wood. My first reaction was to go over them with a belt sander. But fortunately I realized that pesticides in those days (before regulations) contained such things as arsenic, strychnine, and what were then called mercury salts, — a timely realization, because undoubtedly I would have sanded them sans mask. But maybe I have an immunity, because when we kids got too close to the rig, the men doing the spraying (this was before the feminist movement) would spray us.