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Homepage. This page: Tools to assist with engine de-cokes from Wolf, in the 1950s.

Valve seat grinding & valve refacing tools.

Wolf valve tools of the 1950s
Owning a car in the 1950s was, usually, a much more hands-on activity than it is today. Nowadays, your typical motorist need only concern themselves about where their next finance repayment will come from, whether their mobile device will integrate seamlessly with the car's wireless arrangements, and - in the case of a hybrid - where the nearest re-charging point might be. If you work a traditional Monday to Friday 9-5pm routine, weekends will be free for any one of the popular recreational pastimes that are out there to avail one's self of (for instance, kicking a football around, or scaling a fibreglass climbing wall at the local recreational centre). But it wasn't always like this for the car owner, not for him/her the choice of what to do on a typical weekend back in the olden days, not when the family motor-car needed constant upkeep.
Many mid-century motorist-cum-fettlers had to delve into their cars' inner workings on a regular basis, in order to maintain their vehicles' reliability. Today you might see the occasional person washing their car of a Sunday morning, or giving the interior a quick vac before heading out to the nearest shopping centre, but that's usually the extent of their vehicular involvements. Not for them the greasing of suspension joints, reaming of kingpin bushes, caking a dented panel with the latest in body filler, or dropping the sump to investigate a worrying knock from their engine's innards, all the while clutching a copy of Practical Motorist, with a mug of tea also close to hand.
1950's motorist - at least those on a tight budget - had to swiftly learn all about their car's inner workings, lest there be a problem to fix. Engine overhauling, suspension re-freshing, paintwork attention, and a dash of electrical know-how, were all required skills to master if maintaining a car in (broadly) roadworthy condition was a necessity. Motoring magazines thrived in offering handy tips to the DIY mechanic, all designed to help their readers achieve their goals of motoring heaven, or at least motoring respectability.
De-coking an engine, and re-furbishing its inlet and exhaust valves (not forgetting their seats), was a common requirement of cars well into the 1960s. This typically involved removing the engine's cylinder head, before stripping it down into its component parts in order that a full de-coke (ie removal of carbon build-up) could be performed. To ease the drudgery of such a task, engineering supply firms such as Wolf Electric Tools Ltd offered the DIY car owner & garage mechanic all manner of useful tools and gadgets. The tools featured below were all found in a trade catalogue printed at some point in, I think, the 1950s. Anyone who planned to give their car's engine a de-coke, would no doubt have been tempted by these labour-saving offerings. For a commercial garage, they'd be a must.

Electric valve seat grinders.

Wolf offered two distinct types of valve seat grinder at the time of this catalogue's publication. There was good reason for this. Up until the 1950s, most family car engines were of the sidevalve type, ie the inlet and exhaust valves were built into the cylinder block, alongside the combustion chambers, the valve seats uppermost. An example of Ford's sidevalve "E93A" engine, as fitted to various cars including the 103E Popular and E493A Prefect, is shown below. As the 1950s drew on, mainstream car manufacturers switched to the overhead valve arrangement, whereby the valves were now positioned above the combustion chambers, in a separate removable "head". The cylinder head on the sidevalve engines was little more than a lid for the top of the engine.
A Ford E93A sidevalve engine of the 1950s Typical small sidevalve engine of the 1930s-1950s (Ford E93A).
Where the cylinder head and valve train assembly could easily be removed from the engine and perched conveniently on a workbench for disassembly, the standard valve seat grinder could be used (the EVG3), as access wouldn't be an issue. With a sidevalve (valves-in-block) engine though, unless the entire unit was to be removed from the car during an overhaul, the valve seats would have to be fettled in-situ. Dismantling the valves, springs and retaining collets could be a very fiddly job on this type of engine. The re-cutting or grinding-in of the valve seats could be done by hand, but it wasn't (isn't!) a job of moments to accomplish. Gaining access over the top of the engine while still fitted in the car couldn't always be guaranteed either, not without significant extra disassembly around and above the engine (for example removing the bonnet). To help in these situations, Wolf (and others) also marketed a heavy duty grinder (reference ASG3) that incorporated a 55 degree angle drive. The image at the top of this page shows both types.

Valve seat grinding kits.

Owners watching the pennies, or not often called upon to perform a de-coke, may simply lap in the valves using a wooden sucker-type of grinding tool, which you attach one end of onto the valve head by the suction offered with its rubber end. Using a spot of valve grinding paste, you simply agitate the tool clockwise and anti-clockwise, to bed the valve in to the seat, assuming neither valve nor seat were in especially poor condition (once the spring and collets have been removed). For anyone who regularly had to perform such work, whether a garage or private individual, then one of the Wolf valve seat grinding kits would be a wise investment.
Kit 1, stored within a sturdy metal carry case, included an EVG3 (ie straight-on) valve seat grinder, a stone dresser, various grinding stones, and a selection of expanding pilots. Kit 2 (shown below) was virtually the same, but also came with a further selection of Ford-specific valve pilots, for the 30hp Ford V8, another for the Ford 8 and 10, and another that catered for anyone working on either the Ford Model A or Model B engines.
The first of Wolf's grinding kits with extra Ford valve pilots
Kits 3 and 4 were similar, but included the ASG3 angled grinder.
The angled grinder kit

Valve re-facer.

While the above tools would take care of the valve seats, the valves themselves would usually also need a close looking at. Burnt out valves, and valves with a bent stem, would be replaced with new, but if they were in reasonable condition then a re-facer would soon bring them back up to scratch. The illustration below shows Wolf's VR5 re-facing tool. I wonder if any are still in service?
Valve re-facing machine

The Mobilelectric Comprehensive Valve Shop Mark A & Mark B.

Garages wishing to equip themselves with all the right equipment in one go, may well have opted for this, the snappily-titled Wolf Mobilelectric Comprehensive Valve Shop. Here, a cabinet incorporated all the valve seat equipment, plus a further range of pilots, stones, trays and so on, while on top was fitted a VR5 re-facer with a built-in angle lamp. Two versions were available, one with the straight-on grinder, the other with the angled heavy-duty alternative.
Complete workshop installation
More handy tools and accessories, designed for private and commercial garages, can be found in the main Gadgets & tools section of oldclassiccar.co.uk.

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