Recently, after getting snowed on for an hour and a half while waiting for my coal forge to get hot, I decided I'd better get a more efficient blower for the air. My friend Ward, also a blacksmith, sold me a Champion No. 50 for $35. Champion is famous among smiths for their No. 400 hand-cranked blower, but this is an early electric one. It turned out to be pretty thoroughly worn out, and I had to take it completely apart.
As usual, I was fascinated by this technological time capsule. I recognized all the arcane parts of the motor-commutator, armature, windings, brushes, stator. And I marveled at how the archaic raw materials were still sound after 90 years. There were wood spacers in the armature. The wires were insulated with woven cotton and shellac, which is essentially boiled-down beetle wings. I could replicate the simple bronze bearings on my lathe if I had to. It took me about 10 hours to deal with everything, making a $35 machine into a $600 one. Sigh.
Dealing with years of dirt, neglect, and the utter absence of replacement parts is a challenge I always regret at some point in the restoration process. It's balanced out, though, by the amazement and elation I felt when, inert for decades, my Champion finally whirred to life!
Of course, it probably won't snow again this winter...