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http://www.norrisc.com./

HOW WE MADE GASOLINE

By Norris Chambers

You youngsters pull up a chair - it's time to reminisce again. This episode doesn't directly have to do with making money at home, but as one of our early philosophers said,"A penny saved is a penny earned." Since this operation saved money, it could, therefore, be classified as a money maker. And back in the isolated area where we lived, everything that made money was a homemade project. We were "dirt farmers" by the most literal translation of the term. In my early years I spent many hours following mules up and down the rows and milking the half Jersey cows that produced hereford-looking calves. We sold these little fellows for about $25.00 each at some stage in their development.

But as the years passed, we went modern and bought an old Fordson tractor. It had an engine much like a Model T, except it was bigger. It had a large cast iron radiator in front and a long wide fuel tank on top. This tank held kerosene, which burned nicely after the engine got hot. There was a small gasoline tank used for starting the engine. As cheap as fuel was in those days, it required an item that was extremely scarce - cash. So we did as many others in that part of the county did. We decided to make our own tractor fuel.

There were many oil wells in the area, and anyone who wanted oil felt free to help themselves. The price was so low that it barely paid the operators to pump it, and they didn't care if you took a few barrels for your own use. The process of making gasoline from oil was pretty well known among those in the area. It was quite simple. Heat the oil in an enclosed container, and condense the vapor by running it through a coolant.

My dad and I built a small dirt tank about a half mile from the house, and before making the *** we ran a 1" pipe through it. On the low side of the ***, we dug a hole large enough for a five gallon can. This is where the fuel would come out. Above the tank we placed a fifty-five gallon barrel on some rocks and fitted the pipe to the vent hole in the top. When it rained and filled our new tank, we were ready to start refining.

Two fifteen gallon barrels were filled with fresh oil and poured in the barrel. Then we started the fire about it. Before long fumes began to come out of the pipe below the ***, and shortly thereafter the gasoline began to run out in a small stream. The first that came out was very high in octane, and would evaporate from your finger as soon as you dipped it in the mixture. But as it continued to distill, it became less volatile. We found from experience that the first ten gallons that we got made good automobile fuel, and that the next six or eight gallons was composed of varying grades of kerosene. But all of it mixed together made excellent tractor fuel. After the first batch, we used the residue to fuel a fire for the next cooking. Because of the heat involved, we never made more than once a day.

This process continued for many months. I want to tell you about one time in particular. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and we had just fired up for the day 's production. But today we had a vapor leak around the union that connected our cooling line to the barrel. Of course the vapor ignited, and started blowing a stream of flame down on the barrel. The barrel kept getting hotter, and the gasoline was shooting out of the pipe in a gushing stream. The fire down the side of the barrel was getting larger.

My dad said, "You better run to the house and tell your mother that we are all right. It's going to blow. I'll stay here and catch all the gas I can." I took off in a fast run, jumping the fence into the calf pasture, hurried across it and jumped it on the other side. I was just below the hog pen, which was on the top of the hill. It was at this point that it exploded.

The ground trembled, and there was a blast that sounded like thunder. I looked back, and there was a large, black ring about two or three hundred feet in the air flaming in the center. Soon the flame burned out, and there was a tremendous black doughnut high in sky. It was a beautiful sight, in an awesome sort of way.

At the same moment the shock wave struck, the chickens got excited and ran squawking in all directions and, believe it or not, one of the pigs jumped out of the pen. It is unusual for a pig to jump. One might root his way under, but never jump. I will always remember that lost pig "oinking" and trying to find his way back into the pen.

I continued my journey to the house and informed my mother that we had anticipated the blast, and all was well. She insisted on accompanying me back to the scene. When we arrived, everything was quiet. My dad was pouring his gasoline into the storage barrel and was grinning from ear to ear.

"You should have seen how fast it came out before it blew," he

told us. "The explosion went straight up, and didn't do anything except blow the top out of the drum." He was right. The barrel still stood there on the rocks, its top missing. The pipe that ran into the tank was curled up for about fifteen feet. The top was missing. We found the top several weeks later, a few hundred yards from the scene, well hidden in some brush. The barrel was burned so nice and clean that we used it for years for hauling water.

We had some old clothes hanging on the bushes that we used to wipe our hands. About thirty minutes after the explosion, one of our few neighbors came hurriedly through the brush toward our site. He saw the old rags on the bushes, and he thought that was all that was left of us after the explosion. People as far as ten miles away heard the explosion and saw the ring in the sky. There were all kinds of guesses as to what happened. One theory was that a balloon had exploded at a picnic in the next county.

It never occurred to us that our process was dangerous. If the drum had burst on a side, or on the bottom, all of that fire and smoke could have been directed toward my dad, and the gasoline he was catching could have ignited. We got another barrel and continued to make gasoline for several seasons without further mishap.

This is not a project that I would recommend. Besides being very dangerous, it is no doubt illegal. (It might have been then).

Repost from TF
 

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Jim - Thanks for the nice letter and for showing the tractor gang how
to make gasoline. Our gas contained no additives! In the early 30's we bought a 1925 Ford tractor for $125 and used it for several years. The engine was just like a Model T, but was much larger. It had the 4 coils and used the same time as a T. The transmission and clutch was hard to get limbered up. A neighbor made a practice of driving his tractor into a tree and letting the it warm up so it would stand still. One day it died and he could not get to the crank to start it because the big tree trunk was too close to the crank. He debated whether or not to go to the pasture and find the horses to pull it back or to cut the tree down. Cutting the tree won, and he cut the tree down to crank the tractor.

On chilly mornings we put a blazing fire under the crankcase to warm
things up.On a Model T we jacked up one wheel, but never tried that on the
tractor. The tractor was speedy in high gear and the knife tread front wheels
could turn a complete circle in a road and send you in the opposite direction
before you knew what was happening. I also had the Ford turn over backwards with me one time. I was dragging a piece of pipe and it hit something that didn't give. The tractor kept going and turned upside down over me. Luckily nothing hit me and I crawled out just scared. The tractor wasn't seriously hurt either.

We graduated to a two cylinder Popping Johnny. It replaced a pair of
mules nicely. I later put the Fordson radiator on my strip-down that had a
Model T truck rear end and a Chevrolet engine. A belt pulley on a rear wheel
provided instant power for a wood saw,hammer mill or water pump. The stripdown itself was good for chasing cows, general transportation or pulling a trailer over rough terrain!

We have an old Farmall tractor in our museum here - www.wsmuseum.com We have been closed because of a flood, but will re-open soon.

I have looked at your site, and it is great. Brings back a lot of
memories.

I just celebrated my 87th birthday. I play country music with the old
folks band and teach computer to the old folks at the Senior Center.

Regards, and thanks again.

Norris
 

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I remember that one. That's pretty neat, and from a pretty cool older gentleman! Thanks for posting it, Wingnut. :fing32:
 

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Thanks for posting this one again i liked it. :congrats:
 

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Wingnut..

Thanks for those posts and the link to the museum.
There are a bunch more of those stories on the museums site.
I love stuff like this, thanks for sharing it.
 

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Norris Chambers will be turning 88 years years and I going to ask him to join forum.
I wouuld like to spend the afternoon just listen to him and is stories.
 

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Ditto to what Wingnut said "I wouuld like to spend the afternoon just listen to him and is stories."
Love hearing and reading stories like that from Norris' generation. Would love to read more! It will be a sad day when those stories aren't told anymore.
 

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I wish I could find more site like his
 

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Jim - Thanks for writing and for the good words. Feel free to use the old tales any time you are in a bad mood. I looked at your tractor site and I see some very good reading there. We have an old Farmall in our museum that was used to plow the fields where Lockheed Martin now exists. I suppose you have seen my museum site - www.wsmuseum.com We live next door to the museum with the firehall and city hall on the other side of us. We have lived here in this spot 58 years and the city has built around us...Senior Center, Library, Recreation Building etc Time brings change.
I also play in senior bands, teach beginner guitar and computer to the old folks.
Thanks for the birthday greeting. I am 88 now.

Thanks again, Jim.

Norris
 

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Wingnut,
Please if you can and Mr. Chambers doesn't mind, take a tape recorder with you on your visit. I've been trying to tape some stories my priest tells me about the good old days.... running numbers in Newark, NJ, exploits in WWII, college after the war, his one and only wrestling match in the old WWF (when Vince McMahon's father still owned it). These are little pearls of history and deserve to be saved.
 

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I decided to Bump this old story up!
 

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THanks Wing !!!! White settlement is where my parants still live. We moved there shortly after Kennedy was shot. I was in the third grade and finished school there in '74. I needed those storys. :congrats:
 

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Norris is still alive and playing banjo in a band.
 

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I'll have to try to get by to see him. Heck, I might even know him.
 

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cleatusj said:
I'll have to try to get by to see him. Heck, I might even know him.
Send him an Email he will answer you back (he likes making new friends).
 

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Still a Great Story
 
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