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Sometimes in life you take chances and buy something that you think might be a cool project… yesterday at an auction I bought two of those projects… one was a pallet full of John Deere E 1.5 hp engine parts… which after a decent amount of digging tells me that I am better off taking the money from selling the parts and putting it towards a working engine. So that project did not pan out.

The second project was really a case of the auctioneer looking at me with him carrying the money at $80 and asking $85 so I said OK… followed not a split second later by “SOLD”…. And the voice in my head going “Eiiiiaaaaaa what have I done” a moment later :ROF

So what did I buy? A 1945 Kohler 1A21 Electric plant…… basically an automatic electric plant for on demand power…. This particular one was rumored to have come out of a light house. It operates (when set up correct) by starting when anything plugged into the unit (over 40 watts) is turned on.

36 hours ago I knew nothing about this set up…. Had not even seen one…. But I have really grown fond of it since I bought it.

Hopefully over the next several months I can get it up and running and then make it operate as it should…. Not a huge power generator…. Only 1,500 watts… but it is enough to have fun with.

What I know I have….
1) I have not found any missing parts… yet
2) No leaks
3) Clean oil with no water
4) Full coolant
5) Decent compression
6) 4 working sets of valves
7) No spark
8) Unknown fuel system and carb setup

Hopefully this will be a fun project.













 

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Common dude, can I have both pallets? Lol! Both are worth your money I think. Proud of you and mad at you simultaneously.
 

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There are quite a few of those 1A21 gensets around. The one I have also has the auto start feature but I don't use it. The genset starts with just a couple flips of the crank. Seldom use it as the little Honda sets are so handy.

You can get a lot of information on the "Smokestack" forum. Look in the generator section. There have been a few threads/posts about these units in this forum over the years as well.

Perkins engines still has manuals and some parts available for the engines.

The problem of no spark can get expensive. Be sure to mark the drive sprocket and hub before removing the magneto so you can get it back in the right spot. There should be a little window in the cap that a white line will line up in. Bring it to the window before removing the mag and reverse the process when putting it back in place. Not uncommon to have the condenser die on these. You can get new points and condensers from your local Car Quest if you have a good counter person.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Common dude, can I have both pallets? Lol! Both are worth your money I think. Proud of you and mad at you simultaneously.
:sidelaugh

I was super pumped about the E at first... but the higher the potential bill went the less excited I got.... I was staring at an easy $1200 just in parts (based on eBay and the two or three parts websites that are out there.......

Sorry the electric plant has a home for the moment.... let me get tired of moving the thing around then it might be for sale :ROF.... at 500 lbs coupled with its shape it is not easy to roll on the dolly or lift with the forks... lots of slow methodical fork movements. :fing02:

There are quite a few of those 1A21 gensets around. The one I have also has the auto start feature but I don't use it. The genset starts with just a couple flips of the crank. Seldom use it as the little Honda sets are so handy.

You can get a lot of information on the "Smokestack" forum. Look in the generator section. There have been a few threads/posts about these units in this forum over the years as well.

Perkins engines still has manuals and some parts available for the engines.

The problem of no spark can get expensive. Be sure to mark the drive sprocket and hub before removing the magneto so you can get it back in the right spot. There should be a little window in the cap that a white line will line up in. Bring it to the window before removing the mag and reverse the process when putting it back in place. Not uncommon to have the condenser die on these. You can get new points and condensers from your local Car Quest if you have a good counter person.

Mike
Thanks Mike,

I have spent a lot of time on Smokestak in the last day.... lots of good threads on there.

I can appreciate the cost of no spark.... before I can really start to figure out the issue I need to have a better understanding on how it works and the testing that I need to do. My no spark issue could be as simple as I disconnected the wrong wire for a manual start.... I think I got it right... think being the key word.... there are also lots of dirty connections and bits and pieces that need to be cleaned...

Goal this week is to make it through a good portion of the manual and to attempt to gain an understanding for the electrical side of the unit since it is integrated with the engine.

For anyone interested here is a cool link to read. Also has a link to a manual.
Light Plants
 

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Nice find Mr B. Hope you can get it running correctly and it doesn't turn into my Kohler powered air compressor that's still in the corner lol.
 

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Hope it works out for you and you get it running and working without having to dump a lot more money in it. Wish I had your energy to keep tackling all these projects.
 

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COOL dude... now do I see power for ur antique CHRISTMAS lights.. wait... u'll get them at the next auction..
 

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I can't wait to see the finished product. Your video has made me really interested in these.
I never would have expected it to be a four cylinder. I guess that shows how much engines have come since back then.
I'm assuming it runs off of gasoline? Where is the fuel tank?
 

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One of the nice things about these plants is they only turn at 1800 RPM. The fuel tank is whatever you hook it too. I use an outboard boat tank.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Just a small update. I am about 1/2 way through the manual and starting to understand some of the starting circuits and how I might start to unravel the mystery some. Lots of connections to clean before I can even begin testing everything.... last thing I want is to spend a bunch of money to fix something that was not working because of a bad connection somewhere in the system.

With a little digging around I was able to find a few videos of the light plants at work.

This is a 1E21 plant... mine is a 1A21.... the E stands for emergency so it is hooked inline with the power. Mine is just automatic with no provisions for a power hook up to the grid.



Here is another video of the 1E21.
 

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Those old power plants have always fascinated me. I did not realize they had the automatic startup on a load or loss of mains power capability on them back then. :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Since I was cleaning out the garage a little today I figured it would be a good time to poke at the light plant a little more.

Notes for today:
1) Mag has spark again after I cleaned the points. :D
2) Pulled the spark plugs and there is all kinds of junk in the cylinders. So I will need to do something about that. Does anyone have some thoughts about pulling the head? Even though a head gaskets is some serious $$ if you can find one.
3) Since I am considering taking the head off I figured I should drain the radiator... only one problem... I removed the plug and nothing came out. So I grabbed a pick and was able to poke a hole in the sediment in the line. Luckily there was no coolant in the rad, just straight water and mud. Thought the black was caused by oil at first but there was not evidence of oily residue. So I flushed the radiator for about 15 mins until clear water came out.

Part 2:
 

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Since I was cleaning out the garage a little today I figured it would be a good time to poke at the light plant a little more.

Notes for today:
1) Mag has spark again after I cleaned the points. :D
2) Pulled the spark plugs and there is all kinds of junk in the cylinders. So I will need to do something about that. Does anyone have some thoughts about pulling the head? Even though a head gaskets is some serious $$ if you can find one.
3) Since I am considering taking the head off I figured I should drain the radiator... only one problem... I removed the plug and nothing came out. So I grabbed a pick and was able to poke a hole in the sediment in the line. Luckily there was no coolant in the rad, just straight water and mud. Thought the black was caused by oil at first but there was not evidence of oily residue. So I flushed the radiator for about 15 mins until clear water came out.

Part 2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkiD3n0BV8I&feature=youtu.be
Looks like a nice paced project. Good work so far. What's the parts support market for stuff like the head gaskets? I'd imagine they should still be somewhat available? I think it sounds like a bit of cleaning wouldn't hurt it, especially with it being liquid cooled (think of my F-14).
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Looks like a nice paced project. Good work so far. What's the parts support market for stuff like the head gaskets? I'd imagine they should still be somewhat available? I think it sounds like a bit of cleaning wouldn't hurt it, especially with it being liquid cooled (think of my F-14).
At the moment the parts support for unique stuff is pretty sparse... Now I should note that I am still learning so all the rocks have yet to be turned over. After seeing what came out of the radiator I am almost 100% sure I want to pull the head and clean the cylinders out. At the same time the lower end has an access cover so I might take that off and clean out the oil sump as well. Naturally this is becoming more involved than I anticipated..... :ROF
 

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They almost always become more involved don't they? I don't know how you keep your sanity having so many projects going at once. I guess I look at things through my own limited physical abilities and age related energy. I'm still trying to catch up from last year. The 110 mower deck has finally moved up high on the list
 

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They almost always become more involved don't they? I don't know how you keep your sanity having so many projects going at once. I guess I look at things through my own limited physical abilities and age related energy. I'm still trying to catch up from last year. The 110 mower deck has finally moved up high on the list
Larry I have way too many projects! My personality (read over active mind) dictates I have lots of projects or I get bored. I do in occasion finish one or two.

I have a decent amount to learn about electrical stuff. Luckily I think after all my work cleaning out and organizing the garage over the last couple weeks I might have room to work on the electric plant without pulling everything out. Which will be great for rainy days!

I will be looking forward to he mower deck restore! Then you can mow with the 110. :hide:
 

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I will be looking forward to he mower deck restore! Then you can mow with the 110. :hide:
I could have used it a few times the past 3 or 4 weeks when it's been too soft for the 1200 lb X to get out there.
 

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Glad to hear the mag is working. That's a major step forward. Pulling the head is not that big a deal. Big thing is to keep the push rods in the proper order so you don't have valve lash issues. Be really careful with the head gasket. A hacksaw blade cut off square on one end and filed to a chisel edge is your friend.

I wouldn't order a new head gasket till I had the head off the block. The compression is so low on these engines that it was a common practice to reuse the head gaskets multiple times. No sealers were used. Only time they got replaced when cleaning the carbon out of the combustion chambers was if the gasket was damaged. From what people that used these plants, prior to REA or PUD stringing lines, have told me it was an annual process to pull the head and "de-carbon" the things.

Couple times a year the oil would get changed. Once a year the sump was cleaned. This involved pulling that cover under the crank and removing the big plug from the side of the sump. The filter screen that kept the rocks and sticks out of the oil pump was cleaned and the inside of the sump scraped out and cleaned. The old 30 Wt non-detergent oil these use allows a lot of buildup of crud over a years time. For just a routine oil change the pipe plug in the center of the filter screen plug is pulled to drain the oil. The bearings of these engines, so I've been told, don't tolerate high detergent oils very well. Not wanting to take a chance I've stayed with the non-detergent oils and had good luck with this.

Be careful about what kind of radiator cleaner you use. Some of them are not friendly to the copper and brass in that radiator. Mine was contaminated with sediment and junk when I got it. Local guy suggested I clean it by removing the radiator and having it boiled out at a radiator shop. I took the plant to a place that had a steam cleaner and had them blow the junk out of the block while I had it torn down. Refilled with green Prestone and have never had any issues with the cooling system. I try to remember to change it about every five or six years.

I've been told you can remove the piston/rod assemblies by pulling the head and that front cover. Never tried doing this but after having that cover off I can see how it would be possible.

I bought a couple of sets of spare plugs from Car Quest last year. AC still makes them and I think Champion has them listed.

Mike
 
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