Brad's Engine Shed

"G'Day!", I'm This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. an Australian engine enthusiast, collector and restorer who lives in Nimbin in northern New South Wales.…

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This is the story of my Cooper (Stover) KA. I purchased this engine from an ad in TOMM while I was living in the USA. For about two years the engine was passed from friend to friend (members of the Stationary Engine Mailing List) and finally made it to Ron Sullivan's place who held onto it until we could get together at the 2003 Australian National Rally held at Heyfield in Gippsland Victoria. I arrived at the rally to find that Ron had already unloaded the little engine. I was pretty busy helping Puffing Billy set up and then wandering the aisles so I did not get back to the engine until Sunday.

I "borrowed" some fuel, oil and grease from various kind hearted souls in the SEL compound and set the engine up to go. I got it running very easily after working out how things worked. There was a banging noise which sounded like metal whacking on metal. Myself and Edd Payne (the engine whisperer) looked over the engine. Edd discovered that the governor weights for flying out too far hitting the engine frame. He adjusted the governor, spark timing, and exhaust timing to make the engine run nicely. On startup, another banging was noticed (which had been covered by the first) - the big end was so loose that the conrod journal bounced back and forth about 1.5mm on each fire. The nuts were duly tightened up and pinned with cotter pins. Now the engine sounded pretty good, however it was still running unevenly. Turning the engine over by hand I noticed an extreme amount of lash on the exhaust cam. On investigation, the woodruff key which pins the exhaust cam to the shaft was badly worn allowing the cam about 5 degrees of movement. This meant that the exhaust timing was constantly changing. Rather than risk the cam key breaking and perhaps opening the exhaust while the piston was at TDC destroying the engine I shut her down to be dealt with on another day.

I sought repair opinions on list, and eventually settled on machining the peened over metal of the cam shaft down in a lathe, pressing out the shaft, replacing the bad key, and drilling and tapping the shaft for a small bolt and oversized washer. Stan Gunn who lives near my home in Emerald came to the rescue, Stan is a accomplished machinist - his main hobby is restoring motion picture projectors (the giant kind from commercial theatres) but he is also involved in the vintage engine movement. I first met Stan through the Internet when he sent me his recipe for power kerosene a couple of years before meeting him in person. I met him in person at the Puffing Billy museum where we both volunteer. I took the shaft and cam to Stan's home where he made short work of the machining and key replacement - even using one from his own stocks. I've left the unit with him for him to complete when he has a spare moment (thanks Stan!).

Ron Sullivan had a Cooper cast iron base for the engine which looks vastly better than the wooden skids (and I use the term very loosely) that the engine came on. Ron kindly donated this to the cause (thanks!). You can see the base on the ground behind the engine The engine is mounted on its newly painted base. Everything is together just waiting for the cam to be put back in and the timing system to be put back together. When I get it done, and the paint and brass cleaned up I'll post another photo.

The engine has an interesting point, I'm not sure if Cooper renumbered the Stover KA engines when they imported them, or if it has the wrong tag. On the side of the engine in cast letters is Stover Made In USA which I've not seen on other Coopers (but have seen on the Stover in the USA). On the tag is Cooper Engineering. The number on the Cooper tag is KA189163 which makes it a 1927 engine by the serial number list. However, when inspecting the engine for frost cracks (a hard lesson learnt with my Ottawa) I came across the number KA170773 stamped into the engine frame (cylinder/hopper) immediately above the head. This would make the engine a 1925 model. If anyone knows about this, I'd appreciate hearing from them.

One thing for sure, this engine has again demonstrated the value of friends on the Stationary Engine List and clubs - without them, the engine would have had to have been commercially transported and stored, and parts and knowledge sourced the hard way. With the friend factor, the engine is ready to go much sooner than it ever would have been had I been going it alone.

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Michael Guy was searching for parts to restore his Friend Engine and came across the article Dave Dickinson contributed to this site. On following up and trying to contact Dave, Michael found that he had passed on. This is very sad news as David had gathered a tremendous amount of knowledge on the Friend engines and will be missed by many. Through Dave's wife Beth, Michael was able to obtain some parts to get his unit running and a complete EXA Simplex Motor Pump.
Michael (on the left) attempting to get the EXA running at the Uxbridge Ontario Steam Show. This EXA has has Wico ignition and is a single cylinder unit which in its past life would have powered a pumping unit as part of a friend sprayer. These engines are quite unusual in their design appearance and stand out amongst the many at shows. In the photo, the EXA is belted up to a slow running Farmall tractor which is turning it over while adjustments are made.

In this photo, the Exa is powering along on its own seeming to be running quite nicely. Uxbridge looks like a nice place for a show - the view of into the background of the nearby hills, nice green grounds.

When Michael visited Beth Dickinson, he took some photos of Dave's EXA show engine. Beth appears in some of the photos.
This photo of Dave's engine clearly shows the twin piston pump used to drive the sprayer. The pump unit is not directly coupled, but more on that later...

This is the head end of Dave's engine, showing the (probably) 3/4" Schebler mixer and Wico trip magneto. One of the unusual design features of the friend is that it does not use push rods to activate the valves, the motion is carried to the head end via gears and the valves are operated from a cam on a gear driven shaft. You might even go as far as saying this was one of the first overhead valve engines with gear driven timing (Japanese car makers eat your heart out :).

This is the tail end of the EXA showing the gear drive behind the flywheel - the bull gear on the left drives a shaft which passes under the cylinder to the pump unit on the other side of the engine.

This is the flywheel side of the EXA, showing the bull gear, spur gear driving the valve cam shaft and the governor also driven from the bull gear.

This is the twin piston pump mounted to the engine. The drive is not direct coupled. There is an eccentric shaft mounted on the main drive shaft. The eccentric is the driver for the pump. As it turns in its wide arc, it forces the piston pump back and forth. This motion is fairly slow and is clearly visible when the engine is running making for some interesting monkey motion for people watching the engine. These pumps are one of the reasons people are attracted to the EXA.

The photographs in this picture are © Copyright 2004 Michael Guy All Rights Reserved with the exception of the first one which is © Copyright 2004 David Ross All Rights Reserved. These photographs were submitted by Michael Guy and are used with his permission. Thanks for submitted the photos and your accompanying information and passing on the sad news about Dave.

Michael has his own pages on steam locomotives at Michael's Locomotive Pages.

Read more: EXA Friend Engine

This morning on this chilly Winter Solstice day I did some work on the engines I'm planning on exhibiting at this years Emerald Winterfest coming up on July 27th. One of the engines to be worked on was my long lost recently come home Cooper / Stover KA. I had resolved most of the problems with this engine both at the Heyfield National Rally and after bringing it home. I still had to get it onto skids, resolve the knocking, adjust the exhaust timing, fix the fuel filler, and resolve the whirring noise, and fix the leaky oiler...and...and...and...  Well, I got some of the jobs done!


I made some skids out of some handy treated pine which was laying around the place. Treated pine is kinda ugly, but I've been using it for a while on smaller engines because it is light, strong, and lasts forever! I like to make my skids long enough so that there is ample protection for all the bits sticking out of the head, and long enough at the back to stash a fuel can and tools behind the engine in the trailer. My skids are 4' long, and 1' wide. This spacing suits the engine well protection wise, and is wide enough to be stable. Some people go to a lot of trouble with their skids - I just try for a bit of strength. They really are easy to make - about 20 minutes with a circular saw, power drill, and rasp to clean up the edges. The way I do it is measure out carefully (engine bolt spacing) then decide how long and how wide, then cut all your timbers. I put the cross braces on before bringing the engine over (that is why you measured, you did measure didn't you? yes? good :). The braces are put on at the right spacing, then made square with a tee. Measure it all up to make sure it is even (ever had one skid further forward than the other - looks silly). The braces are screwed to the main skids with long wood screws. These really only hold the skids square to each other. The main 6.5" long bolts do most of the work at keeping in once piece. I don't use spring washers with skids because I find they work loose between the bouncing of the engine and the shrinking of the wood, instead I use a removable thread locking sealant (Loctite Blue, which ironically comes in a red bottle, unlike the unremovable Loctite Red which comes in a blue bottle - go figure).

Walking on Skids - Tip

If your engine is like my Ottawa and likes walking around when running, you can pin the buggers down by using 10" nails - I have four of them which sit in holes in the skids - I just bang them in with a hammer when I want to run the engine and it stays where I want it to be. I don't need to do this on the Cooper / Stover because it is much better behaved - not to mention its piston is only about half the bore and stroke of the Ottawa - much less metal flying around to make it jump.

Oiler Overhaul

The oiler was next, I took it all apart, cleaned it out by hosing it inside and out with WD-40 - great stuff, dissolves all the old oil, and displaces any water. I removed the perished rubber gaskets. To make new gaskets I got some thick oil seal paper (about 1 mm thick) out of my stocks... You can get it from the auto parts store. To cut it to size I put the end of the oiler onto the paper on my work bench and whacked it with a mallet - this gives me a perfect marker to cut out. I cut that with good scissors. Next put the paper over the end cap and trim to size around the edges. The paper should be the same size in diameter as the cap (i.e.. does not fit inside the cap). Do the same for both ends,  put the paper over the end cap and firmly push in the glass body. This makes a perfect seal as there is paper sandwiched between the glass and the cap. Once the central bolt is in and done up tight the oiler will be perfect - no more leaks. Next I cleaned up the needle valve on the oiler with a file to make sure it seated smoothly and sealed the oiler when closed. The seat on this one was still good so no hard work there. The spring clip and spring were fine. Finally after re-assembly I put the oiler into the vice, filled it with oil, and timed it to be right for the engine (I use 2 drips per minute plus 1 drip per horse power per minute - so for this engine being a 3hp I use 5 drips per minute - I've been told this is too much, but I've never seized a running engine and I never plan to).

Exhaust - where to pop?

Next up was the exhaust timing - the book says to have this open at 5 degrees before bdc and close 35 degrees after - this timing was making a sharp bark every time the valve opened because combustion was nowhere near complete. I changed it to open at bdc and close 40 degrees after - this is much quieter and the engine sits still now (no more violent jumping).

Knock... Knock... Anyone home?

Onto the knock - at Heyfield one of the list members tightened up the big end conrod bolts - they seem to have worked loose again. On checking, I could quickly see why - there was a paper(!) washer under the bolt head - of course this gets crushed and the gap opens up... knock knock knock.... I removed those, replaced them with metal washers and did up the bolts, pinning the castelated nuts with cotters. They should not come loose again. While I was there I noticed the grease cup was a little loose and tightened it up too. Remember to check the bearings periodically after you've tightened them up to make sure they are not getting hot. Slightly warm to the touch is fine, hot is bad.


The whirring had me perplexed - it comes from the timing gears. They seem ok on inspection, reasonably straight (as straight as a 80 year old cast iron gear is going to be anyway), and all the teeth are there on all three gears and in good condition. They all mesh well, they are not too deep into each other (bottoming out). Then I figured it out - the central (large) timing gear is from a different engine - the wear pattern is totally different. I'll just have to put up with the noise until they wear in after another 80 years or so.

Fuel filler and soldering a petrol tank without blowing yourself up

I was going to have a go at the fuel filler, but want to find a better way of mounting it than the previous owner who used hot glue to join the pipe to the tank. The pipe fittings he used were modern chromed fittings which won't take solder at all (hence the got glue I guess). I'll dig through my collection of brass fittings and find something which can be soldered into the hole. I'd always avoid soldering petrol tanks until Stan pointed out that I should fill the tank with water first - duh, now why didn't I think of that.... no air space... no air... no air, no explosion...


The engine is now running very nicely, it coasts at 250rpm climbing to 350 every time it fires. It occasionally fails to fire after sucking in and you hear the timing mechanism ratchet up for another go - the mag fires twice in quick succession. I'm told by the engine whisperer Edd Payne that this is caused by the detent arm slipping on the main rod. The faces where the detent and the detent block meet should be machined square. A job for another day.

On a previous occasion I united the engine with the sub-base generously provided by SEL friend Ron Sullivan (who also baby-sat this engine for about two years while I was away working in the USA) - the engine is much better off on the sub base, now the flywheels won't dig holes in the ground!

The engine is pretty much ready for Winterfest - it needs a good clean, and a paint touch-up, and the fuel filler fixed (I can just see the safety officers reaction to me filling the tank through a gaping hole in the tank itself...

Other jobs today...

 I also removed the fuel pump from my Southern Cross P to have a new brass plunger machined for it, and removed the head from the Ottawa 4hp because it had blown yet another gasket - combustion bubbles just don't belong in a hopper full of water... bugger... A good mate of mine, Stan Gunn is making both the brass and taking care of the head for me - thanks Stan, your efforts are appreciated. I also got to try out my new toy sent to me by an Indian company. A stud extractor - they sent it to me to review it - I tried it on the Ottawa and it works like magic - barely marks the stud at all, better than vice grips which is what I used to use. Maybe I'll tackle the Southern Cross P head now - I've always avoided pulling it because it already has broken studs and mushroomed over nuts (seemingly deliberately) - with this tool, getting rid of all the junk should be easy.

Note: I have sold this engine.

Read more: Cooper / Stover KA Update

Hicks Marine Engine
This is a Hicks Marine engine mounted on the chassis of a 1915 White Fire Truck. I saw this engine at the Quartzsite 2002 "Main Event" in Nevada, USA when I was stationed in California. It is a fascinating engine.

The engine was manufactured somewhere around 1927 to 1932. It is three cylinder, four cycle with overhead valves. The engine has a 6" bore and a 7" stroke. It is a 9.7 litre (594 cubic inch) displacement. It peaks at 27 H.P. at 500 rpm. It uses a low tension magneto and ignitors for ignition. It is water cooled. To vary the speed, the position of the intack rocker arm positions is altered with a handle.…

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