By Norris Chambers

             Clifton and I tackled many projects that seemed beyond our knowledge and ability. In a way, I guess we cheated. I ordered a book entitled Lejayís Manual that told how to build many electrical gadgets from easily obtained parts such as automobile generators. Among these goodies were full instructions for making wind generators, electric boat motors, 115 volt AC generators and electric fence machines. We built several of these during those early and middle years of the thirties and most of them worked very well.

            The preferred starting component for generators and motors was either a Model T Ford generator or a Dodge generator. The reason for this choice was simple. These two generators had ball bearings in front and rear ends. They were also readily available in wrecking yards or junk yards for a very nominal price.

            One of the first projects that Clifton and I attempted to work on was a wind charger built from a Model T generator. Automobiles in the thirties used six volt batteries and the generator kept them charged for use in the automobile. The generator could not be used as a wind charger because it had to turn too fast to produce a charging current. To convert it to a slower speed required rewinding the coils with more turns using smaller wire to fit in the winding spaces. The manual gave full instructions for winding the coils and assembling the tail, or vane, section. The suggestion for the propeller was a 2X6 about five feet long tapered on each side to form a blade similar to an airplane propeller.

            Rewinding the armature was a relatively simple process and the field coils also presented no problem. The proper size wire was readily available and we salvaged a nice piece of redwood from an old cooling tower at an abandoned gasoline plant. It took several hours to shape it and sand it smooth. When we finished we gave it two coats of shellac and laid it aside to install on the completed machine.

            It didnít take long to finish the charger. We used two pieces of angle iron for a frame and attached the generator on one end and a triangular shaped piece of thin metal to the other. This piece of metal was to keep the propeller facing into the wind. A front wheel spindle from an old Model T and a hub attached to the frame made a nice bearing for the unit to turn into the wind. A two inch collar attached to the bottom screwed nicely on the twenty-one foot joint of pipe that we fastened to the end of the house. Two wires from the generator ran down the side of the house and connected to a car battery in the corner of one of the side rooms. We were ready for the test.

            A nice breeze was blowing from the south when we raised the pipe. The generated started turning immediately and we realized that we needed some sort of brake to turn it off when we it wasnít needed or when the wind might be strong enough to damage it. We took it back to the shop for an upgrade. This wasnít a serious problem and we soon had a crosspiece and two wires that we could pull from the ground to turn the charger away from the wind.

            We proceeded with the installation and when the mast was tied into position to a strong tree limb the propeller began turning at a relatively high rate of speed. We connected the battery and stood by to see how much it was charging. The old amp meter that we had connected showed zero. This was puzzling and disappointing because we had turned the generator with a starter motor earlier and it worked. At the speed it was turning it should have done some charging.

            Clifton saw the trouble first. ďItís turning backwards!Ē he exclaimed. He was right; it was turning to the left instead of the right. We had discussed the direction when we were building the prop and decided that it didnít matter. If it didnít turn in the right direction we could just turn it around on the generator and it would reverse direction. That meant another trip down and turning the prop over.

            When we did this there was another disappointment. We found out the hard way that it didnít make any difference which side of the propeller was facing the wind. The rotation was in the same direction in either position. Did that mean we would have to make another propeller with a reverse slope on the board?

            Luckily I remembered some of the electrical theory I had learned. All we had to do was reverse the connection to the field coils and that caused the generator work when turned in the opposite direction. Success at last! The battery was being charged at 5 to 8 amps.

            We used a six volt battery radio and a low wattage bulb in the house. If the wind were blowing we could burn the light. If there was no wind the battery supplied power for the radio and we used the light bulb as a flashlight when needed.

            Commercial wind chargers were soon on the market and were reasonably priced. Most of the country folks had one and enjoyed a little of the convenience of electricity. But that enjoyment couldnít equal the fun we had building one of the first ones.

            Maybe you ought to build a wind charger just for fun!