Rototiller B1-3

 

This is a later version of a B1-3 made by Rototiller Inc., which was probably built around 1944 or 1945.  There are 2 different versions of the B1-3.  The early ones have a one-piece gas tank and engine shroud, while the later version has a separate gas tank strapped to the engine shroud.  There were two different carburetors offered, an Amal and a downdraft Tillotson. The Tillotson carburetor was used on two different manifold configurations.  All these differences are featured in My Photo Album under my B1-3 Restoration.

The data tag is missing, so therefore no serial number for this machine.  This picture was taken in August 2000, which was when I got it.  Just about everything was stuck except for the transmission.  I loosened the handlebar controls, did some cleanup, and dumped several different penetrating oils into the cylinder and intake manifold.  I showed it with my collection at a show or two a year for several years, adding fresh penetrating oil each year.  It sat in my shed until the Fall of 2006.  It was then that I met another collector with Frazer tillers and a couple of these older tillers.  He had an earlier B1-3 and an older B1 in good running condition.  Seeing those inspired me to do something with my B1-3.

The B1-3 is now repainted and running! After many years of soaking the stuck engine, I made an attempt at loosening the piston. In the process I broke the top off the cylinder. At this point I thought this project was doomed, but an email to a new Rototiller collector provided light at the end of the tunnel. In addition to the broken cylinder, I found the crankpin broken and the whole bottom end full of rust. My collector friend has a parts machine that had the parts I needed to complete the repairs. I located a set of rings and the engine was ready to assemble.

More problems were encountered when inspecting the transmission. There was a patched hole in the bottom of the housing caused by a key that had broken off the axle shaft where the shifter slides between low and high gear. That was cleaned up and additional JB Weld applied. The axle has 4 keys instead of splines for the shifter. These were worn, twisted, and some missing. New keys were made and installed. All seals were replaced with the exception of the tiller shaft seals.

When it came time to install the carburetor, another problem was encountered. The replacement cylinder had a 1/4" less metal on the surface where the intake/exhaust manifold mounts, causing interference between the fuel line fitting and the sheet metal around the cylinder. A smaller elbow made for 3/16" rubber fuel line solved that dilemma. After some difficulty, the engine fired and is running after who knows the number of years it sat somewhere in the dirt.

The last major step of the restoration involved a new tiller hood.  The old one was so rusted and bent up, it was unusable.  I gave the old hood to Herb Sheet Metal in Lebanon, PA, as a pattern for a new one.  Mr. Steve Herb at Herb Sheet Metal did a superb job of reproducing an exact replacement of the hood skin.  I fabricated and installed the internal bracing and all the other hardware, as well as a coat of paint.  The new hood was definitely a finishing touch that the old B1-3 needed.

The Garden Way book, Gardening Beyond The Plow, says the B1-3 was the forerunner of the Graham-Paige B1-6 featured on my B1-6 page. I have seen photos in The Red Tractor Book, 1946 edition, of what is identified as a B1-4.  I have since learned from the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, the new home of the Rototiller Museum, that there were two B1-4 prototypes made, using the B1-3 as the basic machine.  One was shipped to Graham-Paige and one went to CW Kelsey.  I suppose the B1-6 evolved from this B1-4.  

The B1-3 model was first made when the US entered WW II. A price list dated January 1943 says a B1-3 with a tilling width of 17", which is the width on mine, sold for $485. Since these machines were made during WW II, there were restrictions on purchasing them. You could qualify if you were producing food crops for resale. They could be sold without restrictions for use on government projects, loosening sludge in filter beds, in foundries for breaking up sand after molding, or for any other commercial purposes where they were used as a manufacturing machine and not for a farm tillage machine. This is probably one reason why there doesn't seem to be as many of these models around today compared to the B1-6 & 7.

For more photos go to My Photo Album

To see and hear the B1-3 in action click here

 

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Revised: December 25, 2011