I have finally got back onto the mower rebuild!

I purchased a small sand blasting cabinet and dust extractor from the Hare and Forbes Machinery House 3-day sale a few weeks ago. Now I can start sandblasting the old paint and built-up rubbish from the outside of the engine casting, this should get things done a lot faster!

Sand blasting cabinet

It’s a small sand blasting cabinet, but should be fine for these small parts.

Using a 25Kg bag of Garnet that I also bought from the sale, I have sandblasted the head of the Briggs & Stratton after plugging up the spark plug hole with an old sparkplug, it’s cleaning up quite nicely :)

Sand blasting briggs and stratton head Sand blasted briggs & stratton head

I need to go over it a few more times to remove some little bits I missed, however I am quite happy with the results. I just hope I can find time to do the rest of it soon.

One of the machines I want for my little workshop is a power hacksaw or horizontal bandsaw to cut my stock to length to place in the lathe. I was after a good old unit that could be a nice restoration project, I enjoy the idea of restoring/rebuilding machinery, then I know for sure it’s in good condition and will also know it back to front.

I came across this ‘oldie-but-goodie’ on ebay which looked like it needed a bit of work to bring it back. This is the original picture as advertised:

Power Hacksaw Untouched

I received the hacksaw today, I’m quite happy with it.

Power Hacksaw

It’s a very nice, heavy and sturdy machine, all the mechanisms seem to move freely and as expected when I turn the belt wheel by hand the saw goes through the forward cutting motion, then on return lifts the blade, however the cylinder isn’t working so after the return the blade comes down with the full weight of the upper portion of the machine into the work piece, this would break teeth of the blade or the blade itself so I decided not to power it up for an initial test run until I at least fix that issue.

Another issue with the saw is the bed where the vice clamp is, the casting is actually cracked straight through and has been repaired at some stage (and not very well), the surface level of the bed either side of the crack is not level, the repair can be seen on the side, a metal strip has been bolted and welded to hold the two pieces together.

Broken power hacksaw bed

It looks like the hacksaw had been neglected for a while, the tray was almost full to the brim of rusted filings which had formed one solid piece over time. I managed to pry it out and break it up, finding many broken blades buried under the filings. To my surprise the tray itself is still in good condition, I expected the worst that it would be almost rusted through.

Tray full of filings

I will detail the restoration process as I go, I will start by stripping the machine down into it’s individual parts, degrease and clean them, then sand blast old paint off, replace any broken or worn parts, new coat of paint then oil and re-assemble. However I still have other ‘Work in Progress..’ which I have not finished yet! so it might be a while before I get started on it.

I received my order in the post from bolt.com.au the other day containing the new gib screws, brass nuts and other bits and pieces.

While removing parts of the lathe I decided that if I was going to go ahead and remove the compound slide, cross slide and carriage to clean out the dovetails, gib’s and replace the gib screws then I might as well take apart the apron and clean it out too.

I disassembled the apron into all of it’s pieces, except one of the half nuts which I was unable to remove, degreased and cleaned each piece individually. There was quite a bit of build up of old grease, dirt and brass swarf. In fact I discovered that some of the oil holes were completely blocked, so all of my previous routine oiling was in vein.

Advance Lathe apron in pieces

After getting a good clean, everything got a coating of one type of oil or another then reassembled.

I wish I had taken a ‘before photo’ of the inside of the apron because after cleaning it came up quite well (compared to before).

Advance Lathe apron cleaned reassembled

I reattached the apron to the carriage using the new countersunk cap screws I purchased to replace the old ones. This was an attempt to stop the apron from working its way lose after just a little bit of use. I also cleaned each individual tooth in the rack, there was quite a bit of gunk compressed into the pit between each tooth.

Advance Lathe apron reattached.

The little piece of threaded brass on the carriage looks like it has been put there to extend the travel of the cross slide, grandpa must have had something to machine with a large diameter and couldn’t quite get the cross slide back far enough without disengaging the lead screw, it’s a nice little mod!

Before the carriage went back onto the bed, the gib screws got replaced with the new ones, including the locking nuts and new oil spread along the dovetail. After placing it back on and doing some adjustments on the gib screws, I am pleased to say it now has a much smoother movement in the carriage.

Advance Lathe carriage gib screws

You can see that the carriage has two gib screws with locking nuts and the 3rd gib screw in the centre is a thumb screw, this is used as a carriage lock, I may make some improvements to this down the track.

The cross slide gib screws were not quite long enough to add my brass locking nuts! :( I wrongly assumed they were the same length as the compound slide when I was ordering them, it looks like another order will be placed shortly.

Advance Lathe cross slide gib screws

The compound slide gib screws look the part! All threads were cleaned out using a 3/16 BSW tap before placing in the new gib screws.

Advance Lathe compound slide gib screws.

Next step is to do some machining to see if I get any better results, but that’s enough for today!

These little improvements to the lathe are all just part of the many things I want to do to the old Advance lathe to improve the quality of the cuts and it’s usability.

Winter has passed and I am now venturing out into the workshop again.

In my workshop I have an old Alfred Stewart Advance lathe serial number AW609 which was handed down to me from my grandfather around ten to fifteen years ago when he got his hands on a Myford Super 7. I had not had much use of it over the years as the last few places I have lived in I had no workshop so I had the lathe in storage.

Advance Lathe

When I moved into my current place I decided to get it set up again so I could start machining a few projects. I started doing a bit of research into the lathe as I had not known much about it. I stumbled across some great on-line resources for this lathe, it turns out the Advance was made in Melbourne Australia which I found interesting and it seems the design is loosely based around early Myford lathes, more info available at www.lathes.co.uk and Tooljunkie both excelent sites with a wealth of information.

It is a nice old lathe but has seen better days, I am now in the process of making repairs and improvements to the lathe.


My first addition to the lathe was a QCTP (Quick-Change Tool-Post). The previous 4-way tool-post didn’t allow me to place the tools low enough to find centre line, which I found very strange perhaps grandpa just whacked on any tool-post he could find when he gave the lathe to me. With the QCTP I can adjust the height below the level the old tool post would allow and can raise the level of the tool without using shims!!. I had thought about machining a few millimeters of the top of the compound slide to get a better height adjustment range, however I don’t have a milling machine (yet!).

I wanted to replace all the gib screws as some were broken and others replaced with odd screws also the apron kept working its way loose, everything is a bit worn and my cuts are not so smooth so I thought new screws might help a bit. I had a friend at work help me determine the threads used on the lathe, using a thread gauge and chart we determined the grub screws were 3/16″ BSW and the countersunk screws holding up the apron were 1/4″ BSW, we verified this using a 3/16″ BSW tap and a 1/4″ BSW tap. I have ordered new grub screws and locking nuts for the gib screws and some new screws for holding the apron from www.bolt.com.au. Ideally I would like to drill out the threads and re-tap them at a slightly larger diameter metric thread,  but this mod will have to wait for now as I have many other projects on the go.

I am also in the process of converting the lathe to variable speed. I have purchased a Reliance Electric single phase to 3-phase Variable Speed Drive (VSD), I now need to replace the single phase motor with a suitable 3-Phase motor then hook up the VSD.

I am also adding a digitial read-out (DRO) to the lathe, I have purchased digital-caliper-type linear scales which I plan to interface to my own DRO unit, all the parts have been ordered and I am currently awaiting the package to arrive. I have already designed and fabricated the PCB’s for the DRO but have not built them up yet. I will post some updates once I start working on adding this in, I need to investigate the best way to mount the scales securely without drilling too many holes in the lathe and with some form of swarf and cutting oil protection.

The accessories I have; 3-jaw chuck, 4-jaw chuck, face plate, steady rest, change gears, original tool holder and two spare back-plates. They could all do with a clean-up, the steady rest looks like a pretty rough job, at some stage I would like to make a new one from scratch.


If there is anyone else out there who is the owner of an Advance send me a message, perhaps we can share some tips or mod’s.

Briggs & Stratton Cover - RustedBriggs & Stratton Cover - Rust Removed

Preparing the metal cover has been quite a bit of work, I had already prepared the top side of the cover by removing the paint, rust and dents using elbow grease, however I decided that I should also remove the rust from the underside of the cover too before I respray – If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!

Recently I have been looking into ways to restore old rusted tools and I have been very intrigued in the method of using electrolysis to remove rust. During the past week I had been doing a bit of research online on the subject and I tested it on an old rusted ring spanner which cleaned up quite well. I decided it was a good way to remove rust off parts of the mower without much effort (don’t work harder, work smarter) and the result above speaks for itself! I wont go into the specifics of the rust removal in this post, I’ll dedicate another post to it shortly as I didn’t take enough pictures of my set-up, however in the meantime if you are interested this site has great information on rust removal by electrolysis, there are also many tutorials on youtube.

Briggs & Stratton Compression Test

My compression test kit arrived, so I bolted the head back on to do some testing. The kit came with quite a few adapters to suit different engines / spark plug holes so it should be a handy kit to have around. To perform the test, I simply pulled out the spark plug and connected the compression tester in its place. I pulled the pull-start cord a few times and checked what pressure was reading. I never seemed to get a reading higher than 50psi which I thought was extremely low and not only that, but the pressure would drop away very fast! I need to confirm if it is the engine or the test kit itself, the Nitto style air fittings that the test kit uses seem too loose to me so I will hook it up to an air compressor with a regulator to verify none of the fittings are leaking.

Even though my compression test seemed unsuccessful I decided to go ahead and continue with pulling apart the engine, I took the head off again, then removed the valve spring cover and proceeded to remove the valve springs. The valve spring retainers are buggers to get off, the intake valve spring came out easier than the exhaust valve spring, but once I got both of the springs out I noticed that I could not pull the exhaust valve out of the case whereas I could pull out the intake valve fine. On closer inspection it appears that the base of the valve where the valve spring retainer pushes against has been put under a lot of force and expanded the diameter of the valve stem and now it wont fit back through the hole. I am not sure exactly how this could happen unless the valve was somehow obstructed and could not be push all the way open, but if that had happened then I would have expected the valve to be bent. I noticed when the valve is fully closed it is not seating very well due to all the crud build up underneath it, this could be a reason for the low compression (I hope). I have a new exhaust valve on its way so I think I will replace it. To get the exhaust valve out I had to use a sanding wheel on my Dremel to grind the diameter of the base of the stem back to size.

Next I need to remove the top and bottom flywheels (bottom flywheel has the blades attached), unfortunately I never seem to have the right tools around. I really could use an air impact wrench / rattle gun to remove them… Till next time…

Carbon Crud

I have a bit of an update to my Briggs rebuild, I pulled off the head and inspected the carbon build-up on the piston and valves, as you can see from the image above its quite a lot! and a large piece actually fell out as I was taking the head off. I have since cleaned this up with a wire brush and it’s looking much better now. I will be putting the head back on shortly to test the compression before I replace the piston rings and lap the valves.

Below is an image of most of the peripheral parts laid out on a shelf ready for cleaning (more thoroughly). After pulling the carby off the fuel tank, it looks like ill be needing a new diaphragm.

Briggs & Bits

I have also striped back the paint off the steel cover using some thinner and sanded back most of the rust with 100grit sandpaper, some of the deeper stuff I had to use a sanding wheel on my Dremel, there were quite a few dents in the front and I have managed to ‘panel beat’ most of them out and clean the rust out of the pits, a few smaller dents remain which I will fill before respraying. Hopefully I will get a chance to respray it tomorrow before it starts to form rust. I purchased some red engine enamel and my new Briggs & Stratton decal sticker has arrived, so it should come up a treat!

Briggs & Stratton Cover

Briggs & Stratton

While mowing the lawn the other week, looking down at my aging Briggs & Stratton, I thought it would be time to give it a little TLC, perhaps even a new paint job. The engine originally came from my great-step-grandfather who owned a little mower shop, he had given the mower to my father many years ago, I remember my father mowing the lawn with it when I was very young, and now it is in my hands.

The engine’s muffler had fallen to bits years ago and had been patched up with bits of metal and rivets by my grandfather who possibly at the time thought that replacement parts could not be obtained for the old engine, needless to say the muffler did not muffle much. I had decided to have a quick look to see if I could find a replacement muffler for the engine, after all even though the engine is old, the design probably doesn’t change much over the years and I should be able to find something. After searching online (mainly ebay) I was pleasantly surprised to find many suitable mufflers for my engine. After ordering a muffler I decided that an oil change is well overdue, then I was thinking that the engine is pretty old, It probably has a lot of carbon build-up inside the head, perhaps I should do a more thorough maintenance job on it.

I had never really been interested in mower’s, unlike my grandfather who loves working on them. However recently I found myself wanting to do more and more on the engine. I decided that it would be a good learning opportunity for me, as I have never worked on an engine before. After quite a bit of research online I decided that I would go ahead and clean out the carbon deposits, then decided to do valve lapping, then after discussing it with my grandfather, he recommended that if i’m going that far I should change the rings too, he also handed me a crank shaft for the engine that he has had for years in new condition, the list just grew and grew…

My to do list so far:

  • Degrease and clean the engine case.
  • Clean carbon deposits in the head.
  • Valve lapping.
  • Replace the piston rings.
  • Hone the cylinder.
  • Replace the crank shaft if required.
  • Replace all gaskets.
  • Strip the old paint off the engine and cover.
  • Prepare the surface for painting.
  • Re-spray the engine and cover.
  • Replace the muffler.
  • Oil change.

After reading a lot about these engines, I found out that my particular engine was manufactured in 1977, so it is 33 years old (older than me! I want it to last at least another 30 years). The Briggs and Stratton model/type/code number which is located on every engine can tell you when the engine was made, my engine is: 110908-0214-03-77012004, the first two digits of the last section is the year code (see model type code), using this code I managed to find the illustrated parts list for my engine, listing every part and its Briggs and Stratton part number for ordering replacement parts. A quick search on ebay, and most of the parts I would want to replace are readily available.

Before I start I will do a compression test, then compare it to after I finish all the work, see if anything I do actually makes a difference. I have ordered a compression test kit, new exhaust valve, new intake valve, new piston rings and new muffler.

I have pulled the head off and the carbon build-up is quite a lot, I gave it a quick clean with a metal brush but I can not do much else until all the new bits arrive.

I am  now awaiting the arrival of the compression test kit before I go any further.