The American Garage

The American Garage Blog

June 11, 2012 Update

Projecteers! Alright, I have not been writing and things have been happening. Business has been busy this spring, and I had to go take care of some of that so I could continue our project. Sorry for the absence. So, what is going on in The American Garage? First, progress has been made, we took the gas tank to Don’s Radiator Shop in La Porte, Texas and had them treat the inside of the tank so it would not rust, or put nasty stuff in the carburetor. They did a great job, and when restoring something like this, then it is always good to coat the inside of that tank. Also, and here is the big news- we FINALLY painted the David Bradley! Right now I have the parts laid out on the picnic table to bake in the sun for a few days- one of the benefits of living in Texas. We can cure paint by just setting it outside! We are working on the next 2 episodes, and will get one online as soon as we can, but in the mean time I will post a bit about what is going on. Also, Chris, our main photographer/editor got married this spring, so he has been out of pocket. I made a wedding video for him and Holly, his new bride. Congrats Chris and Holly! We also went and picked strawberries and made jam- not a garage thing but we are building a tractor so we can do gardening so we can grow food so we can make jam, right? So, it all goes together. So, we have been busy- and now we will get the tractor done soon so we can share that with you and start another project! Woo hoo! Anyway, leave a comment, and let us know what is going on in your garage!

The American Garage Episode 5 S01E05

In Episode 5, Steve finishes preparing parts for paint. As he primes all the different parts on the tractor, Steve covers painting techniques with a spray can, the steps of paint preparation, and wet-sanding techniques.

Ummm, I cheated a little- is that okay?

DB Project update 11/23/12. Okay projecteers, life has been taking a higher priority then the David Bradley project, so I apologize at the time it has taken to finish this one and get onto the next. So I cheated a little- spoiler alert- the tractor is mostly together and I am working on mounting the motor. So, how did I cheat? Well, instead of finishing the motor that is original to the tractor, I found a suitable replacement that is working from a donor power edger. I did this for a couple of reasons- 1, the old motor is extremely hard to find part for. 2, the original motor is only 1 horsepower and was commonly known to be underpowered for the more taxing tasks. 3, the donor motor fits, and is internally healthy.

Here are a couple things I learned in the process- as I went to find the parts for the old motor, there seemed a dynamic change in parts house attitudes. It used to be years ago that you could walk in with a part, and say you could not remember what it was from and they would say ‘well, let’s take a measurement and see what we have that will fit’ . Now, if you don’t have a serial number (let’s qualify that- a serial number that they have in their database) then they give you blank stares and point in the direction of the door. I don’t want to be too harsh on these folks, the can-do attitude of yesterday is harder and harder to find. But, with more clever thinking, we found what we needed and had parts made. Look for machine shops- these guys are full of passion and if you give them a little challenge, they like it even more. We had gaskets made for the old motors and a couple of other things. Plus, these types of outfits are so delighted to see an individual trying to do something that it inspires them a little.

Now, about the motors- my confession continues in that we actually have 4 motors in total. Originally, I bought 2 David Bradley tractors and 1 David Bradley brush cutter. This gave me 3 motors to choose from with various problems and parts missing. They are each 1 HP, and different models so only certain parts are interchangeable. Then we picked up an old edger with the 3HP Briggs and Stratton. So obviously, that one is going on the tractor. Now, here is my plan: I am going to continue building the old engine for the engine building episode, then I am going to just mount the newer motor in the final assembly episode. Will that rock your world, or will that be fine? After all- the folks that look for inconsistencies in TV and movies need to have something to investigate, right? Well, today I am working on mounting the motor, so we will be finishing up the last 3 episodes soon, and we will get to celebrate and plow a field. But I still have the challenge of mounting one of the old carburetors to the new engine. My buddy Dan at the airport suggested the easiest way to make an adapter, and luckily, he has a metal lathe- maybe I will get him to show us how to use it, any interest there? So, let’s see if we can get him to help us make the new adapter.

The American Garage Minute- Car Repairs

This is the first TAG Minute – a mini-episode that is off topic or an expansion of something going on in the show that shows more detail. This minute is about organizing and prioritizing car repairs.

The American Garage Minute- Struts

TAG Minute- Struts. This minute describes a little about strut removal and replacement. Use caution when removing from your car, and make sure you know what parts are connected to which bolts. Remember, safety first.

Jan. 9, 2013 DB project update

I am nearing completion on the David Bradley project, and it is looking good. I’ve put a little spoiler image in this article, and I will get the episodes finished as soon as I can. In the mean time, I wanted to give a shout out to the Garden Tractor Talk community online. These guys know every detail about the tractor we are working on, and have been a great resource and help. If you would like to view some of the online conversations with them, go to and see how they have helped guide the project. If this project has stirred some interest in you, and you want to build a tractor of any kind, this is the place to learn from guys and gals that have been at it a long time, and know all the details.

David Bradley Engine Installed

Engine installation with carburetor modification

I also found a guy on Ebay that makes the decals for the lettering on the side of the tractor. The other solution would have been to have a sign painter hand paint them at a cost of $70. The decals costed $12. But here is the interesting and noteworthy thing- he does not make these decals to make money, but for the pleasure of knowing that he is helping people put their tractors together right, and have them looking authentic. I asked him about a decal for an attachment I have, and he didn’t make that particular sticker ‘because someone else already makes it and he was not there to compete’. He told me where to look to get it. Now, in our capitalist society, no one would expect that kind of generosity of spirit in the marketplace. Some people go into the market to make money- we do as well- and some, like this rare instance, go into the market to have the pleasure of helping people and being generous. This is an American trait we do not see much these days- thank you John.

Field Trip 1- visiting the Antique Outboard Motor Club



We took a little break from our project to see what other people were doing, and locally there is a swap meeting and motor show. This is a rather informal get together- one member sponsors the event at his personal shop, and members and enthusiasts come to swap, sell, work on their motors together, and run them- and just plain show off a little. I own a 1928 Lockwood Ace, which is how I came to learn about AOMCI. As I learned about the Ace, they gave me resources to get parts for it. The care, creativity, and ingenuity that went into these very early motors is incredible. These are from a time when the best quality was being sought, and how to make engines more reliable and longer lasting. It is fun to look at our history through the machines we have built, and see what we have learned.

David Bradley Project- Fabricating Throttle Linkage



As you may know by now, there have been several changes in the DB project tractor. One of the largest changes is the engine swap to a newer 3 HP Briggs & Stratton engine. In the episodes, I did not shed any light on this fact. If you are paying close attention, then you will notice that in the course of the shows, there have been 3 different engines used. All the Briggs and garden tractor aficionados are already on top of this and have made note. I used the various engines to illustrate the various tasks and steps in the process in an engine repair/rebuild, but it was not necessary that they be the exact same engine. That being said, I had a challenge facing me. With the new engine, I was using the old engine’s carburetor system. I had to make several adjustments to make it work. Here were the problems-

  1. the mounting screws were 90 degrees opposite on the newer engine.
  2. the linkage for the governor was completely dissimilar, and no common parts could be used.
  3. the linkage from the old engine for the throttle could not be used.

So, let me go through these one at a time to show you how I dealt with these problems. Also, if you are a beginner, such problems will make it feel like the project is too daunting for you to tackle. But really this is not the case. You just have a puzzle with a couple of missing pieces. So make your own! Let’s look at it together.

First problem- the carburetor mounting screws- I thought of 2 solutions to this problem: The first was to cut the bracket, turn it 90 degrees and weld it back on. This would have worked fine, but these are antique parts, and something in me did not want to cut an antique part. Plus, as you saw in the welding episode, my welding skills are not yet at a level where I could feel like I could do a good job. So, the second solution I came up with was to create an adapter, thus leaving all other parts in their original condition. This seemed like a simpler solution. Keep you solutions as simple as you can- there will be less problems down the road. Well, this was the solution I decided on.  All I needed was a metal donut with 4 holes in it. Well, my simple solution still had a few problems- two of the holes would have to be threaded, and on the other two they would have to fit flush, which meant counter-sunk holes. No problem, just get the drill press out and some tap and dies. I designed the piece to look like this- [graphic] Well I shared it with a buddy of mine who has a machine shop, and he said he could turn the part out of aluminum, and take care of the hole special needs. So, I bought him a beer and he made me the part! It came out perfect. I got lucky, he made it very precise, and it works beautifully. Briggs & Stratton custom carb mount adaptorNow, my plan to make it myself at the drill press would have done just fine, but it would not have been as nice for sure. Let me not forget to do something nice for him in return. Thanks Kelly! So the adapter worked beautifully, and now I have the carburetor mounted on the engine. Now, none of the linkage will fit- on top of the fact that the linkages from both engines are completely different. On to the next problem-

Let’s make our own linkage! So, I had to understand what the governor was doing in order to make the new linkage. Basically, the governor opens and closes the throttle as needed to maintain the same engine speed. That may be over-simplifying it a little, but look at it this way- when your lawn mower is on the driveway, there is no load on the engine. The governor retards the engine so it doesn’t go too fast and blow itself up. Then you roll into the grass, and it starts cutting. Now the load is high, and the throttle has to open to take the load, keep the speed, and not die. Got it? I had to find the simplest governor linkage I could  to duplicate. That is when I went to my friends at and asked for help. governor solution on BS for the David Bradley on TAG(find yourself a good forum that pertains to your project. They will make your life much easier.) After explaining my problem, one of the members- Lauber1- sent me this image of an old governor system that I could duplicate and fabricate out of wire and parts I had. Here is the image- what could be simpler? I could handle that. Now, my engine has a wind vane, but not the little arm on it. So, I used some Castaloy and soldered an arm on it, estimating the length, and taking into consideration the thickness of the adapter. Here is the result- [see images below] Now all I needed to do is tie it to the throttle arm and wala! A governor! I used some safety wire. Safety wire is stainless steel, and is used on aircraft to wire all the nuts and bolts so they cannot work themselves loose. An aircraft mechanic I know gave it to me years ago, and I use it for all kinds of stuff. But, any stiff wire would do in this application.

welding governor vane with Castaloy
Preparing to weld with Castaloy
Castaloy weld 2
Clamp with vise grips
Castaloy welding
End Results
governor linkage 1
Close-up with spring attached

Full view with spring rough attached
detail view
detail view of linkage

Now we have the carburetor installed, and the governor hooked up. Now we have to control this mess with the throttle, right? And I am looking, and nothing matches up, and there aren’t any parts to make it work. No problem! I’ll make my own! First, I needed to mount the throttle cable somewhere that would be secure, and would not bind the cable and would be in reach of the throttle mechanism. There was a bracket of some kind on the engine already, and it was used for nothing before. I could tell, because there were no signs on the paint being disturbed. I guess this was meant for something on another device, and was left in place at the factory. Well, looking at it, it seemed like the perfect place to mount the cable. It had a screw that would hold the cable well, so I decided that this would be perfect. Now, with the cable in place, I had to figure out how to get the movement of the cable up and down to open and close the throttle- let me qualify this- the throttle is not connected to the cable directly. All the cable does is put more or less tension on the throttle spring, depending on whether you have it at the low or high setting. The cable does this with the spring. The less tension on the spring the more the governor will open the throttle. It is a kind of tug of war. I could see that I needed an arm of some kind with a the spring on one side, and the cable on the other. This little arm would need a place to be mounted, and there wasn’t any. I went down to the hardware store, and got some aluminum stock. I cut a piece of with my hack saw to make the bracket out of, and I located some nearby screws on the engine I could use to mount it to. [see images below]

Metal blank to make bracket

Bracket ready to install

Bracket installed and cable attached



Linkage Assembled

Using my drill, grinder, files and pliers I shaped the new bracket to fit. I could have used steel, but the aluminum was plenty strong, and easier to drill, grind and file. I shaped the little arm, put a nut a bolt through it with some washers between, and it was ready to mount. I put the cable in place. I put the carburetor back on, attached the spring and the governor, and it was ready for testing. Here is the end result. This may be too much detail for some folks, so I left it out of the video episodes. But to those working with an engine like this, it might be a helpful reference. Good projecting!


A Blast from the Past

Hey projecteers! As we wind down the last 3 episodes of the David Bradley project, I thought I would give you a glimpse of The American Garage before we were The American Garage. Now, just FYI, on the DB project, episodes 7 and 8 are in the can, ready to be served- the holdup is shooting a few needed scenes for episode 6- which I will try to get done this week. If you have been paying attention, then you know that I love to woodwork- and I also love sailing. So, while I am hard at work on episode 6, I thought you might enjoy hearing about a project I did years ago- the building of a 24 foot Light Schooner. A beautiful sailboat. I built it, sailed it, and sold it to move up the boat chain. We had great fun with it, and in the process made a friend, Tim Fatchen, down under in Australia. Tim is a Light Schooner officinado, and helped with much needed advice. You can learn about Tim and his adventures with his boat, Flying Tadpole, at his website-

He also featured an article on my building and sailing adventures of Faith, my Light Schooner which you can read here- I was delighted for the write-up Tim did for my project, and I especially enjoyed the cartoon illustrations he put in the article. Thanks Tim, and keep sailing!

So, now it is back to work for me, while you enjoy this project from the past.


The American Garage Episode 6-1 S01E06.1

Episode 6 has been broken into three parts. In Part 1, Steve will cover diagnosing problems with the engine, and Andrea drops in to lend a hand taking the valves out of the engine.