Today is Valentine’s day, so one would think my wife and I are out celebrating our love, but she is in Burma with some Indian friends, so I am working on restoring yet another tractor —I guess another (although weaker, of course) love. Besides it was Valentine’s day yesterday in Burma, and I sent her an unusually long and passionate message. So I have quit my tractor project for the day, because I have a couple of heavy house-cleaning and organizing days to do to convert it back from being ideal for me to reasonable for her.
The tractor presently undergoing treatment is a Cletrac K-20, manufactured by the Cleveland Tractor Company around 1930. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Tractor Company, so if you want to see some, go to a big tractor meet this year. The photograph at the left shows a restored K-20 in a museum.
Mine is shown at the right as it was when I acquired it . The good news was that it was in a barn. The bad news was, of course, it did not run, and was filthy and bashed up, but that is part of the game. The next photo on the left shows signs of its rat habitation (also usual) The photo at the bottom left of the post shows it after it was towed outside. California is having a stretch of beautiful (ugly if you are a farmer) weather, and I am taking advantage of it by working on the tractor in warm weather under a blue sky.
This tractor is interesting because it was unusually sophisticated for its time—perhaps too much so. The next photo on the right shows some of the plumbing that enables all track wheels to be lubricated from a central hand pump on the dashboard. The bad news was that the recommendation from the manual is that the pump be worked every 15 minutes, that the system needed oil instead of grease (which tended to leak more), and it had a tendency to clog. In contrast, the track wheels for Caterpillar’s tractors of those years required greasing each wheel separately, but not nearly as often, and really not that huge of a job. The Cletrac also has wheel steering, using a mechanism to link the steering wheel to the brakes that actually turned the tractor —more parts to wear out and break, compared with caterpillar’s hand operated turning brakes. Also, a couple of people who had used them on their farms grumbled to me that the tractors did not weigh enough, and therefore didn’t have enough traction. Caterpillar, with simpler, heavier, more rugged machines out-competed them on the market.
So far I have pressure washed it, to get rid of loose dirt, rat poop, spiders, and other such uneeded material. My first discovery as to its running problem is that the carburetor and the hose from the fuel tank were jammed with the kind of varnish that accumulates in gasoline fuel systems after years of disuse, so I took the carburetor apart and cleaned it out, and re-plumbed the whole fuel system. That is the reason the fuel tank is missing from the last photo. I have also cleaned up the magneto and it seems to be delivering an adequate spark at the plugs. Whether it is sparking at the right time I don’t know, but that’s adjustable. .If you do not follow old gasoline powered machinery, they tend to use a magneto (a small electric generator) to provide the spark. Unlike modern machinery, there is no battery involved, so starting them requires cranking— sometimes a challenging activity. The engine now turns over reasonably easily, and I have lubricated the engine with new grease and oil
Assuming I can get the creature running soon, I will begin seriously cleaning it, which consists of removing thick hardened grease deposits that cover much of the machine, including tracks, wheels, the undercarriage, and all existing crevices and corners. This involves use of scrapers, both hand and electric powered, occasional solvents and a heat gun to soften the most resistant deposits, much cursing, and finally a wondrous tool called a needle, gun, that I will advertise in a future post. Then after straightening out the sheet metal (obviously missing in the photos) I will paint the whole thing and happily add yet another rescued machine to my yard (or my son’s farm).
Some people wonder why I spend time doing this sort of thing, when I could be playing golf , taking my wife out to lunch and the theater, or watching sports on TV. My response is a carefully figured out “to each his or her own. And my wife likes me happy, rather than frustrated and cursing small annoying aspects of life (which I would be doing if I were playing golf), and while I am rescuing old machines, she can do things she likes to do and I don’t as much. As the wife of a friend of mine who has even more consuming hobbies than I do says, “I like Bill well hobbied up”.