Steam Cleaner manufacturer


On reflections from a toolbox I thought that a story about a Steam Cleaner manufacturer that has been out of business for a long while may be interesting to evaluate. This would be the Capps. mfg. Co. in Tucson, Arizona. I alluded to the Capps machine before and now a little more in depth may outline the casual growing of the industry to the present time.
Operation of the Model 200 Capps steam cleaner and its parts was simplification to the first degree. Like most of the pressure cleaning equipment, without the proper nozzle you cannot receive the results expected. The Capps did not depend on an orifice nozzle at all. Jim Capps worked for Clayton Kerrick in Toledo. He was an engineer and responsible for the steam cleaners that they were producing for the WWII war effort. After this stint he decided to move to Tucson and opened his own plant. Two theories’ that he brought along was to direct the water in the heat exchanger in the opposite direction and to utilize the diameter of the steam gun .250 as the throttle instrument. This meant that the exit force could be controlled and not produce a bucking steam blossom and created impact on the surface to be cleaned at {Believe it} 350 degrees plus. Quite a cleaning animal.
You will notice in the construction two tanks on the top rail the one for diesel and other soap. The soap was metered into the water box and the diesel had a standard bowl filter and meter. The first action was to initiate the pump and blower with the toggle switch in the motor end plate to make sure water was exiting the steam gun in full flow. After turning off the switch you would reach in and pull the baffle plate out and lay it somewhere. Then you opened the fuel metering valve until obtaining enough diesel to light off [OLD FASHION POPCORN DEPTH]. Shut valve. Gather up some paper and some flammable substance to put on it, light and then drop down the chute to land in the diesel. By flipping the switch on/off until flame would cover the cast iron burner pot.  You then returned the T handled baffle to its proper position, set the numbered valve for optimum steam, get the blower going and there you go, temperature you could clean with.
The belt drive blower fan threw a lot of oxygen that supported the temperature BTU. The first diaphragm pump was welded plated steel. A hydraulic press formed the dish in the head, connecting rod was also welded. The diaphragm came from conveyor belting. Their check valves came from Grainger and were converted from hot water heater safety relief  valves. The machine was 90 G.P.H. operating at 90 P.S.I. painted hammer tone gold.
My first auspicious sale happened on a Saturday at the Capp’s, the boys were being entertained by their six packs, and told me to take the truck and go Demo to a farm about 30 miles away. I demoed and sold. The farm  tried to get me to discount because the machine was already on the ground, but me being of sound mind and stubborn, had them write the check for $395.00. There are lots of these types of instances, but will end with this one.
While working in Oakland as a mechanic, the owner had me go along to help in the sale of Capps machine, to a wrecking yard in South San Francisco. During the demo the check valve caps began to leak past the gaskets and the temperature was getting hotter and hotter. So I got into the back of the truck and stood on top of the pump to stop the leaks, and turned the fuel valve down. It cleaned that dirty engine like nobody’s business. The owner offered 30% down and the balance in two payments. Frank accepted the terms. About 6 months later Frank told me that they hadn’t paid anything else and that I needed to go over there and see about collecting. The old runaround happened so I made plans to go back. Early on Sunday morning arrived with me undoing the parts on the gate which faced El Camino Real. I backed through the swinging gates putting some scratches on the truck and proceeded to load it up with the hoist and YES! Two Dobermans came into view with pretty loud voices and put further scratch marks into the side of the truck. I left with the machine still dangling on the chain, tailgate down and I didn’t close the gate.
Bill Sommers

Do you have any questions, call me at 602 253 9579 I will be glad to work with you and tell you more about this.


DO NOT MISS OUR NEXT POST NEXT MARCH 2nd, 2015: “Water facts” by Bill Sommers

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