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Thread: switch for a 1919 with battery, coil, generator

  1. #1
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    Default switch for a 1919 H-D with battery, coil, generator

    Currently involved with trying to start this 61 inch twin, but can't get spark to the points. I have switch diagrams, and I was wondering if anyone knows the difference between a switch for a battery type ignition and one with a magneto. Is there a difference, and if there is, can a mag style switch be converted for use with a battery style? tried to change the title of the thread but was unsuccessful. The bike is H-D.
    Last edited by Omarttentmaker; 07-30-2019 at 03:14 PM.

  2. #2
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    A 1919 H-D twin used either a Berling E21 magneto, or a Remy 235B generator. The magneto didn't use a switch, but a handlebar cut-out could be used if that is preferred by the rider. It's been awhile since I had a Berling mag on an Excelsior, but I think they have an internal grounding feature that kills the motor on full retard (like a Bosch). My Hendersons have Berling magnetos and there was an external ground button on the interrupter housing.

    The generator switch for that vintage H-D is super rare, and weird, and I don't know anything about them. I can only assume they were a 3 position switch that permitted ignition, and then lights. My experience with early H-D electrics is with the Remy unit used on '15-early '18. They had 2 key switches; ignition, and lights.

    In regards to your question; a magneto doesn't need a switch and if you're not getting spark from it, there is a problem with the magneto. There can be many external problems like a dirty commutator, bad brushes, burned points, non-adjusted points, broken wires, poor wire contact in the brush holder, and no magnetism in the horseshoe magnets, etc. It's the internal magneto problems that will get expensive.

    I am electrically challenged, but if you have the H-D generator with a distributor, or circuit breaker, all you need is a good battery, condenser, and coil. The generator has nothing to do with the ignition circuit, other than conveying motion to the distributor.
    Eric Smith
    AMCA #886

  3. #3
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    I should add that a Bosch ZEV 45 degree mag with CCW rotation is a better magneto, and the mag everyone preferred in those days (except during WW1).
    Eric Smith
    AMCA #886

  4. #4
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    Thanks for responding, Eric. Yes, this is a generator battery system, and I do have the switch. It is a 3 position switch if you call "off" one of the positions. One of the power positions on the switch operates a small light in the headlamp, and the other power position lights a large bulb in the headlamp. The switch also had 2 fuse holders built into it. Problem is they changed the configuration of the switch through the '20's. One schematic shows a switch with screws to hold wires at both ends of the fuse holders. The switch I have has one fuse holder with only one wire locator, and that is the location for the battery positive wire. The other fuse holder has a connection at either end for wires. I'm beginning to suspect the coil, as I have tried to get spark to the points by direct connection from the battery to the circuit breaker wire that mounts on one side of the coil, with no success. If you could, tell me about the condenser for this machine. There isn't one in the circuit breaker as with later models. Where is the condenser located? Maybe the first question I should ask is what does it look like? I don't see anything in the battery, coil, circuit breaker wiring where a condenser should be.

  5. #5

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    The condenser is inside of (and integral to) the ignition coil.
    Mark

  6. #6
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    Thanks Mark. Will have to recheck to prove that the coil is good.

  7. #7
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    Sep 2016
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    Do you have any pictures of your setup?

  8. #8
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    No pics yet, but I'll post some soon. I have found out that the generator has a centrifugal switch in it, and in order to get the points to spark when the bike is not running, a thin piece of cardboard is placed between the points on the face of that centrifugal switch. So I did that and hot wired the coil directly from the battery positive, and I did get spark at the points. Of course, I'm still completely in the dark as to where the coil wire gets mounted in the switch. It can't be at the battery terminal, and I doubt it is at either light terminal. Another thing is if I hot wire it, if it fires should I remove the cardboard separating the points on the centrifugal switch? I'm wildly guessing that in order to time the ignition you would have to position the rotor inside the distributor cap in the general proximity of the front plug wire hole in the cap, then determine if the piston is in the right spot, and then seen when the points just open up. This seems pretty arduous for an antique piece of machinery. It can't be as mystifying as it seems!

  9. #9
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    Sep 2016
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    Oregon
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    my 1919 J has the centrifugal generator.
    the switch has nothing to do with the ignition, it is a low beam-off-high beam headlamp switch.
    my understanding is that when you kick start the bike there is a small ball bearing that is centrifugally forced outward against contacts to complete the battery to coil connection allowing for starting.
    shutting the motor off is done by the left twist grip being fully turned ccw causing full decompression.
    at least this is what iv'e been told about my machine.

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