Margaret Maytag

This is the story of Margaret Maytag. She was born in Newton, Iowa, USA in late June, 1933, initially being given only the serial number 501976. Little is known of her early life, though it was doubtless busy and productive. She is known to have worked in the laundry business for a time. As she aged and her youthful charms faded, she fell on hard times, finally ending up stripped, dirty and abandoned, bolted to a greasy old wooden pallet under a pile of old auto parts in the back of an abandoned 1938 Chevrolet school bus in Anniston, Alabama.

I visited my friend Bill Curry, the owner of that bus and its contents, on November 3, 1998. We retrieved Margaret and two of her even less fortunate kin from the bus, and I carried them all home behind the rear seat of my Mercury Villager minivan. We were met with wrath and scorn from my wife Jane, who felt that this "useless, dirty old iron" would merely take up needed space in the basement. My daughter Jennifer at once asked if she could take this one for her very own, happily envisioning her all cleaned up and restored to her youthful beauty, and painted in Jennifer's favorite color, a cheery bright purple. Giving the matter much thought, she initially named this little motor "Molly," later deciding that Margaret better suited her personality. (She still allows the use of "Molly" as a diminutive, feeling that "Maggie" does not suit her at all!)

Jennifer received a certain amount of criticism from those lacking in vision, who insisted that the only color a proper Maytag could be painted is the dark green in which she was clothed at birth in Newton, Iowa. Helen French, a friend from England on the Stationary Engine Mailing List, wrote to Jennifer then, encouraging her to follow her dream. She also mentioned that she likes purple things too, and had discussed with her husband Jim the possibility of importing a Maytag from the States but had too many irons in the fire at that time.

The first order of business prior to dressing Margaret up was to get her running once again. This was actually not too difficult. She had a broken-off spark plug in place, and the original plug wire had disintegrated. I replaced these. The points were corroded, and I cleaned them with a fine small file. The mixer was solidly packed with mud dauber nests (these are a kind of wasp that build their nests of clay in any small orifice.) The mixer had to be removed for cleaning, and I directed Jennifer in performing this task. This was Jennifer's introduction to the working principles of a gasoline engine, as she could directly see the crankshaft, connecting rod, piston and ports and understand how they worked! I helped clean the mud and debris out of the mixer, and cleaned the fuel inlet screen of years of accumulated gum using paint stripper, oven cleaner and lacquer thinner. I obtained a box of new Motorcraft F-11 spark plugs (intended for a Model T Ford) from the local Ford dealer, installed one with a new plug wire, and deemed Margaret ready to start.

We filled her tank with a 16:1 mixture of gasoline and two-stroke oil, I guessed at a starting mixture position for the mixer needle valve handle and gave her a kick. After a couple of kicks, she fired several times! It was extremely loud, sounding like a .22 pistol, as there was no exhaust manifold on the port. Several times I got her to pop, and once she ran for several seconds before quitting! This was in freezing weather, and Jennifer and I put her up after I'd rather tired myself with the exertion. After sitting for several more days, she started readily and ran continuously until she ran out of gas! (I suspect the gas had dissolved some remaining varnish from the fuel screen.) From that time on, Margaret was a reliable runner, as was her companion Dave. (Dave is another Maytag single, built in July 1933, belonging to Jennifer's little brother Joseph. He was named for Dave Rotigel, a well-known Maytag collector.) In fact, those two are the only motors around the Culp household that I was able to start for the New Year's Day Crankup. At noon I dragged those two out onto the snowy driveway, where both started on the first kick! They happily putted along while I wore myself to a frazzle attempting to get my IHC M to run.

Incidentally, Margaret is only the second truly abandoned, nonrunning old engine that I've gotten going. Jennifer said, "Dad, now I understand why you like this so much. It is great hearing something fire up that hasn't run for all those years, isn't it?"

Well, though I bought Jennifer her purple paint, many things intruded to interfere with our plans of getting Margaret cleaned up and painted. Basically I'd pretty much given up trying until nice spring weather rolled around, when working in the driveway becomes feasible. I wasn't doing anything to improve Dave's appearance, either, being basically satisfied that they'd start when I stomped on their pedals.

Then in early February '99, Helen suffered a misfortune initially thought to be a stroke, eventually diagnosed as MS. When she arrived home from the hospital, I commented that what she needed for rehabilitation therapy was a purple Maytag. I sent that to the List as a joking comment, but immediately thought, "That's a GREAT idea! What better way to cheer Helen up, and provide an opportunity for right leg exercise as well?" I contacted several other friends of Helen on the List with my idea, requesting advice on how we could go about it as a List project. The involved group rapidly enlarged, and we set out to find a Maytag that we could get shipped to one of us for restoration and decoration and to investigate how one could be shipped to England.

This not being the show season, finding a fresh Maytag was somewhat problematic. An E-mail dropped into Arnie Fero's In box while we were discussing the matter, advertising one for sale in San Diego. Arnie wondered if this was Providential, but the asking price was a bit high and long distance shipping to a group member would've added a lot of trouble. Tony Kimmel knew a man near him who had two for sale, but he'd already sold them by the time Tony got ahold of him. While we were discussing the best course of action, I told my family what was going on. "Why don't you use Jennifer's?" suggested Jane. "She won't mind, and you can get her another one." Sure enough, Jennifer was happy to donate Margaret to the cause, on my promise to get her another Maytag. Joseph also readily agreed to let certain needed parts be borrowed from Dave, to speed up the process. I envisioned having Margaret ready for shipment in a week or little more.

Meanwhile, the group in on the secret continued to grow. Most members contributed something toward the costs of restoration and shipping, and much needed good advice was given to me by these guys. "Maytag Mark" Shulaw supplied parts including a complete exhaust system, an air cleaner, a pulley repair kit (as the hub of Margaret's pulley had been shattered and crudely repaired with wire and welded rivets), a plug wire boot for the magneto coil, etc. I worked on her as I could, but time rapidly moved on as work & family obligations distracted me, then a case of flu knocked me out for a week. It was almost harder finding a time when Jennifer could help me with her! She's a very busy girl! Finally, as the guys had pretty much given up on asking me when I was going to get this thing ready, she was done!

I knew that Margaret was mistimed, as I had not read a service manual and improperly adjusted the point gap when I originally cleaned up her points and got her going. To properly set this requires a special tool that only Mark has, but I took careful measurements of the positions of the pertinent parts in the most excellently running Dave and reproduced them in Margaret. She ran better after making these adjustments. To save time, I swapped the pulley from Joseph's "Dave" onto Margaret; I'll repair Margaret's pulley for reinstallation onto Dave later. The top part of the mixer flange had been broken off, probably by someone overzealously tightening the air cleaner screw. I repaired this by cleaning the broken edge with lacquer thinner, oiling the air cleaner and inserting it upside down (to get the clamp screw out of the way), filling the defect with J-B Weld (an epoxy-powdered steel mixture) and smoothing it down with my finger. Looks good, but I recommend tightening that screw only finger-tight.

I painted her according to Jennifer's directions, with the main body painted in Krylon "Purple" #1913. I painted the flywheel, magneto, mixer and miscellaneous accessories in Krylon "Rust Tough" Metallic Gold (I've obscured the number on the label), which I had found to be the brightest metallic gold paint in the store. Jennifer hand decorated the motor (done while it was disassembled) with acrylic craft paints. Wishing to protect her artwork, I overcoated it with Krylon Clear Spray Acrylic #1301. To my horror, I found that this reacted rather badly with the Rust Tough Gold, somewhat dulling and tending to dissolve it. I couldn't fix all of the damage to the gold without removing much of Jennifer's painstakingly applied artwork, so I did what I could and left well enough alone. It still looks pretty good! The clear coat looks very good over the purple and on Jennifer's handiwork. A word to the wise, though: Test before you commit yourself!

I mounted Margaret on some very basic small skids of American Red Oak. Dave Rotigel sent a brass presentation plaque made by a friend of his. It says, "To Helen French, with love, from your friends on the Stationary Engine List." I found some beautiful American Black Walnut scraps and cut a piece to serve as a backing for the plaque. Working inside the unheated basement in cold weather was not a good situation for doing wood finishing. I finally gave up and screwed the plaque directly to the skid.

On attempting to drain the remaining fuel from the tank, I found the flats of the old drain plug so badly chewed up that a wrench could not turn them. It was replaced with a brass plug, which I clear-coated and left in its natural color, as it looks good with the purple.

A church friend of mine, Herb Reach, is a professional cabinetmaker. He built a beautiful, sturdy crate and anchored Margaret securely in place. I hauled her down to the BaxGlobal station at the local airport and air freighted her to Helen. She arrived safely and started on the first kick! (I had not tried to start her after performing the "makeover.") Helen has pictures of Margaret in her new home at <>.

I also took pictures of the Margaret Maytag project in progress:

"Before" pictures of Margaret

The Work Under Way

Ready to Travel!

On behalf of Helen's many friends on the Stationary Engine List, I wish her much happiness with Margaret ("Molly") Maytag! It looks like they're off to a very good start together.

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