A Tinker’s Delight

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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Over the last two years I’ve been building up quite a brush pile on the northern boundary of Terra Nova Gardens. Originally, I just wanted a barrier to slow down the critters that live in the wooded untamed area to the north. It’s a wild and head high weedy area filled with leaking springs in the ground and covered with fallen trees, brush and vines. As time went on and the raised garden beds in Terra Nova Gardens were being developed, a thought came to mind that would give the pathways between the beds some character.

If I could grind up that pile of brush, it would provide enough wood chips to put on the pathways and beautify the look. Yeah, plans are made and a date was set to rent a commercial size chipper to grind up the brush pile.

All through the development of Terra Nova Gardens a relationship with the neighbors had been pursued. Many stop and talk about what I’m doing and how things have changed since I started. One neighbor just across the street with a phenomenal name, Dave (not that I’m partial or any thing), has helped with things over the years to ease the heavy work with his Bobcat and little Ford tractor. While talking to him about my plans to grind up the pile and use it for the pathways, his face lit up and he asked if I was a person who liked to tinker with stuff. Curious about where this was going, I replied that I some times would tinker on my own stuff but not so much on other people’s stuff. He indicated that he had something for me over in his garage. Now I’m really curious.

He had tucked away in his garage a Troy-Bilt Chipper Vac. He claimed that it did run and the gas was drained when he put it in the garage so it should be still in good shape. He had purchased it with the intent of using it around his home property, but just didn’t have the time to work on it. We loaded it up and I brought it back to the Urban Ranch where I live. Now I’ve learned any time some one gives something to you not to get too excited because there’s a good reason they are getting rid of it for free.

The first thing I noticed was that there was no cap on the gas tank. That’s never a good sign. I looked inside to see some kind of liquid in the tank. Hmmm, could be very old gas or water. Neither is a good thing. A sniff of the open gas tank told me that it was gas. Gas when it gets old has a tendency to gum up carburetor jets and orifices inside the carburetor. Next thing to check was the oil. It appeared that the oil was full but black as could be. For now it was good for testing the engine but would need to be changed almost immediately.

There are three things an engine needs to run. Those three things are air, fuel and spark. The first test was to pull the plug and see what condition its condition was in. It looked in pretty good shape so the spark plug wire was reattached and the plug was held against the engine head. A good pull on the rope produced another issue. The engine wouldn’t turn over. That usually means it’s frozen up and no good. I noticed that the engine would rock back and forth so it indicated that maybe something else was wrong.

The cover plate was removed to the chipper blades and chunks of branches were found to be wedged into the blades. After the branch chunks were removed, the engine turned freely but the starter rope had issues and wouldn’t recoil as it was supposed to do. So the rope recoil was taken off, cleaned, and lubricated. So now it’s back to working. You getting the picture here? Old machine free gifts are given for a reason.

OK, back to seeing if there’s any spark. Once again the spark plug was grounded to the head of the engine and the rope was pulled. This time the engine spun and the plug sparked nice and strong. So now we have two of the needed things for an engine to run. We have spark and air. Well, that was another story. The air filter was removed from the carburetor to see if it was clean and found to be packed with dirt. Totally plugged. So for the engine to breathe just to see if it would run, it was left off. So air flow was good.

I poured a good amount of gas into the tank to get fresh gas into the carburetor in hopes that the engine would get enough good gas to burn out the old gas. Alas that was not to happen. A few pulls on the rope brought no results whatsoever from the engine. The plug was pulled out and a tiny amount gas was poured down the spark plug hole. The plug was snugged down and a pull on the rope brought the engine to life for just a few seconds until the gas I had poured directly into the spark plug hole was used up. After a couple more rounds of fuel down the spark plug hole and engine life for a few seconds, I determined the carburetor was the issue just as I had suspected. The engine had run long enough to determine it was in relatively good condition.

The Internet is a wonderful thing to research and find parts for old engines. Little did I know just how old this relic was. Turns out that this model is about 25 years old. I did find a carburetor rebuild kit but, better yet, I found a new carburetor for just a few dollars more. Since I am the worst carburetor rebuilder on the planet, that was an awesome find. The carburetor and a filter was ordered and will be here in five days so perhaps the chipper/vac will be running soon. Then I’ll have to decide what to do about the other missing miscellaneous parts.

This chipper/vac is not big enough to grind up the brush pile, but it will be good to use for the small sticks and leaves around the yard. It’s definitely some thing to hold a tinker’s interest.

So next week we may have the rest of the story. Until then have a great day tinkering with old machinery.

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