Monday, February 21, 2011

Powering Early Fans

updated 11-27-11

Going back to the 1890s through the 1920s and even later you will find that most fans were designed to be run at voltages from 100-115 volts but you might encounter other voltages; 6, 30, 32, 50, 60, 100, 104, 110, 115, 220, or another voltage.,.  Today's house voltage is very close to 120 volts so, while you probably can plug an early AC current fan into your house current with no consequences for short or longer term running, better results can be achieved by using a "Variac" or variable AC current transformer. Some fans have a given range to operate over such as 100-110v. or 111-120v. as you will see on later Westinghouse "tanks".  Manufacturers often recommended that the fans be operated within the rated voltage + or - about 5%.  In practice I think most fans can handle much lower voltages but keeping in mind that fans using centrifugal starting switches must have the supplied voltage kept safely above the "cut-in" speed of the start switch.
Before plugging in an old fan first note what the voltage and type of current the fan is designed to operate on.  The current will be either AC (alternating current like your house current) or DC (direct current which was once common but is rarely used today in the home for appliances).  Fans run by a battery are DC fans.  Do not connect a fan to a current type it is not designed to be run on to avoid damage to the fan motor.
If you have a DC fan you can still run it from your house current but you will need to connect a small and inexpensive BRIDGE RECTIFIER between the house current and the fan.  This will change the AC current to a rough form of DC that the DC fan motor can run off of.  In addition, a Variac may be needed to decrease the AC voltage to the fan's rated voltage or less.  The Variac will be in the circuit BEFORE the bridge rectifier.
If your fan has an AC motor the only thing you might want to change is to lower the voltage to what the fan was designed to run on or even a lower voltage to run the fan slower and quieter.  This is where the Variac comes in handy.  Most Variacs are rated for 120 volts in and 0-140 volts out.  If you fan is rated at 104 volts for instance, set the Variac to that voltage.  From there you can decrease the voltage to where the fan still runs well on high and does not stall out.  The fan should also be able to start from OFF at this lower voltage.  If not you should increase the voltage to one that the fan will start up on.  Set the fan speed switch on HIGH speed when using a Variac.

The two Variacs on the left, above are ones you are likely to come across.  From left to right:  10 Amp Powerstat Type 116B (the similar but earlier Type 116 is 7.5 A.) made by the Superior Electric Co. in Bristol, Conn.,  5 Amp Variac brand (the original) made by General Radio Co., Concord, Mass.; 5 Amp metered Variac.  These probably all date from the 1960s or a little later.  There are a few other brands made in the USA as well as plenty of chinese made "variacs".  I like the quality of the older US brands.  The Variac came in 5 and 10 amp versions as well as larger.  The Powerstat came in 7-1/2 and 10 amp versions, possibly others.  You can find these on ebay or at some swap meets, fan meets, radio swap meets, etc.  The 5 amp. size is entirely adequate to run a couple of desk fans.  Prices can be from $20 to $100 or more.   Plug in an incandescent lamp to check to see that there is a smoothly increasing output at all points of dial rotation.

A nicely restored c.1950 "classic" Variac 10 amp. Model V10MT10

I plug a fan into the outlet of the Variac then turn down the output voltage until the fan runs at a slower speed to my liking.   I find that some of my 104 to 110 volt fans run very well and quietly around 90-95 volts.  If you want more breeze just turn up the voltage toward the rated voltage.
CAUTION:  When using a Variac to run a fan or motor that has a centrifugal start switch which is common on many of the earlier fans be sure to not run the motor at a slower speed that will cause the start switch to engage.  That will energize the start winding which is not meant for constant running and cause the start winding to burn out.  Please familiarize yourself with what a Variac can and cannot do and adhere to proper operating proceedures.  If you don't know what is correct please ask someone who is an expert.

The unit above is a Kill A Watt meter and is useful when plugged into a variac to give a readout of the output voltage of the variac as well as the amperage and wattage of the load plus a few other features.  Available for around $20-25.  To plug into a variac you may need to use a three prong adaptor as a spacer and, on some variacs, the Kill A Watt will be mounted sideways which will not affect its operation.

This c.1940s 5 amp. "Variac" is virtually identical to the first 
Variac made in 1933.   Purchased by a friend on ebay.

An uncommon style of variable AC Powerstat transformer or "Variac" made by Superior Electric in the US c.1970 which I recently bought on ebay.  I had been wanting one of these which include a meter and three outlets and finally found a clean one.  My plans are to wire in a bridge rectifier to the single outlet on the left side in order to be able to run my DC fans.  AC fans can still be run from either of the two outlets on the right side of the variac.  The cast enclosure measures 8 x 8-1/2 x 6" high.

(click on photos in blog for larger view)

I have found that using a Variac when running my fans is almost routine. Another use I will get from the Variac is to run some my DC fans which have quite varied voltage ratings; 1-1/2 to 6 volts (Edison) and several at 30 volts.  I will need to have a rectifier between the AC supply and the DC fan but they are inexpensive, small, and can often be hidden up inside the fan's base or taped inconspicuously to the fan's power cord just after the plug.

For those who might prefer a custom made variac 
that, too, is available.  Made for a friend who wanted 
a small and relatively inconspicuous unit to run his
early fans with, he sent a maple box he found to 
David Riddle in L.A. who put a Powerstat 10 A. variac
in it.  The box is a 5" cube.
Notes on running low voltage DC fans submitted by Rod Rodgers:
When running low voltage DC fans, (1.5, 6V, etc.), you must remember that the current required is much higher. It may exceed the ratings of the smaller Variacs on larger fans.
Watts is just volts X amps. Divide the watts by the volts, and you get amps!
If a fan uses, say, 75W, it needs 75W/120V, or .625 amps. To accomplish the same amount of "work" at 6V, would require 75W/6V, or 12.5 amps! This assumes that the fans motors are the same efficiency.
I usually use a regular transformer & rectifier on such low voltage fans.

added 11-27-11           
Slowing Fans Down By John McComas          

I would like to emphasize a point about dimmers...
Do NOT use a light dimmer for a fan.
PLEASE spend the extra couple of bucks for a real "fan" speed control.
>>>> There are differences! <<<<<
LIGHT DIMMER: $ 5-10 (Do not use for a fan)
(Solid state phase angle firing of a triac) It can be a rotary switch or a push-off, push-on type, or slider. The push switch type can be turned on at low. (may not run a fan motor properly) The rotary type switches on at low and increases to bright. (same problem, may not trigger properly Does NOT have a minimum level adjustment control. (This is a very important feature)
OK, so what's this "may not run a fan motor properly" hoopla?? Without getting into more theory than you would probably want to know, suffice it to say that solid state controls are real sensitive to line voltage and differences in load variations. If the voltage jumps around because of the air conditioner kicking on, etc. or flipping on or off a lamp on the same branch circuit. It may cause the dimmer to kick off, or worse, half cycle which sends half wave rectified DC to your AC motor....Not Good...Toast. (Ever notice how they say on the package "for incandescent use only"?) (Light bulbs don't care what you feed them they just average the power)
When you start a dimmer on high, then reduce the speed, you can go to a lower setting, than if you started the dimmer at the lowest setting and increased it slowly, it would start running abruptly at a higher speed. It's kind of like the flywheel effect in that the motor windings kick some voltage back to the dimmer that helps to keep "triggering" it. (If that makes any sense.) If the motor is not running initially, it takes more to trigger it.
Bottom line is DON'T use a light dimmer to control a fan.

(Solid state phase angle firing of a triac with additional needed components for inductive load (motor) operation) I've seen them with a rotary switch or a slider control. They always turn on at high speed and then adjust to slow. Good ones have a minimum speed adjustment. (If they don't have a min. speed adjustment they don't go very slow.) (Get one with a user settable minimum speed adjustment) No solid state dimmer operates real well at real low speeds. Fan dimmer type speed controls are usually rated about 5 amps. Did I say to get one with a minimum speed adjustment??? These controls are quite efficient.

These are actually a selector switch with a bank of AC capacitors that are placed in combinations of series and parallel circuits to vary the capacitance in series with the fan motor. This results in slowing the fan down by limiting the current to the motor with different values of capacitance. They usually have about four speed settings. All the capacitor type controls I've seen are rated at 1.5 amps. They seem to work well for ceiling fans, but may only work well for 8, 10, and maybe 12" desk fans. (depends on motor, etc.) The capacitance values in the de-hummer and the motor must be pretty well matched to get the results you desire.... (They were made for ceiling fan motors with lots of poles and momentum) Too small a capacitance and motor might not start turning on its own. Too much cap. and fan runs too fast at the controls lowest setting. Too big, or powerful a motor, and maybe only one or two slower speeds will keep fan running. A too small, efficient motor and maybe the lowest speed is still too fast. A capacitor type control is very efficient if properly matched to the motor.

RHEOSTAT: $20-100
Rheostats need to be fairly large and give off heat and need to be mounted in some sort of enclosure to allow heat to escape. They are made by winding nichrome wire around a round ceramic form. They have a knob adjustment that slides a carbon brush over the nichrome to adjust the resistance. The rheostat consumes the energy not diverted to the motor and gives off the energy in the form of heat. The power used to run the motor at high speed is the same amount used at low speed except now the rheostat gets hot. Rheostats must get sized bigger for more powerful motors. Rheostats are rated in ohms and watts and need to be sized for the motor you want to control. Rheostats are not readily available anymore, and not recommended except for ones that were bought with the fan they were made to control. Rheostats are the least efficient control.

Variacs, Powerstats (brand names) are actually a variable autotransformer. They are made by wrapping copper wire around a laminated steel donut. They have a knob adjustment that slides a carbon brush over the transformer winding that gives an output voltage from 0 to 140 volts AC. Just like the extra 20 volt boost (140 volt) certain models can be wired for 120 volt input and 0 through 280 volt output. (Like a step-up transformer) Variacs are heavy and usually sit on a table or floor. They are sized for the voltages they will be used for and how many amps they can supply. The smallest ones are about the size of your fist and handle 1 amp loads. The larger ones can be as large as a basketball, weigh 80 pounds and can handle 30 amp loads. I would recommend one with a 3 to 10 amp capacity based on what you can get for the price. New Variacs can cost $200+ but used ones average about $50. Variacs are very efficient.

A Variac will give you the best consistent results controlling fan speeds for all fan types, but they are large and heavy, cost about $50 used. The next best thing is a fan dimmer, or speed control meant for use with fans and has a minimum speed adjustment. They cost about $10 Next would be a capacitor type "de-hummer" control and it gives you about 3 usable speeds, if the control & fan are matched. Cost about $10.
I hope this information helps.
John McComas  (used by permission 11-27-11)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The GE "pancake", 1894-1908

NEW!  An excellent AFCA post about GE pancakes by pancake expert Kim Frank.  Be sure to read this.  You will have to copy and paste the following URL):

Last updated 2-8-17
Highly revered among collectors, the early General Electric desk fans known as a "pancake" are one of my favorites.  As far as early fans go, they are common enough so they can be found at a somewhat high but still affordable cost.  They have been named "pancake" by collectors due to their relatively thin but large diameter motor.  With a single motor bearing instead of one at the front and rear of the motor as is far more common, they have a unique appearance.  Other companies made pancake style motors; Westinghouse, Emerson (Trojan), Holtzer Cabbot, and a few others during the very early, c.1900, time period.

To cover all the models and variations of the GE pancake might take a large book.  I hope to, in time, show many of the models and variations.  Different versions were made in 10", 12", 14" and 16" sizes, with solid, swivel, or swivel-trunnion frames.  There were some wall mount bracket pancakes and even a 10" spring mounted fan where extra quiet was desired such as in a telephone booth.

Possibly my favorite pancake is not a particularly rare one, nor one of the expensive ones, this 1900 GE "stick mount" pancake to the right and below.  This model is able to swivel about its vertical axis but does not tilt up or down.  For that feature GE offered their "trunnion" model which had the motor sitting in a trunnion allowing the motor to tilt forward and backwards.   Thank you John Fetner for these photos and for selling me this nice original and smooth running pancake.

I especially like the smooth and simple design of the early pancake 12" motors.  For the 1901 and later model years a number of vent holes were added to the front and rear outside of the motor.

As with virtually all GE pancakes there are thumbscrew terminals at the rear of the motor where the power cord connects, completely exposed and live, with roughly 110 volts.  This is not your child-friendly desk fan.  You don't want to pick it up to move it without first thinking of what's back there to bite you.

I will mention briefly one exception to the statement that all pancakes have the exposed power terminals; the 1901-1903 stick mount 16" pancake does not have them and the power cord enters into the base through a grommet.  All wiring is within the base going up to the motor which is a rigid part of the motor casting.  Technically the 16" pancakes are not true pancakes as they have a double bearing motor and a somewhat thicker motor than most 10", 12", and 14" models.

Any pancake prior to 1899 is a hard one to find. Here is an 1898 10" pancake and the last of that size made as a desk fan.  It is also the last to use a 6 blade fan as GE changed to using 4 blade fans for all of the 1899 through 1907-08 models.  The finish on this fan is believed to be all original.  Photos courtesy of Paul Pierson. The fan is now in my collection after having been owned by several fan club members.

Both black japan and nickel plating were used on the GE pancakes off and on prior to 1899 when the brass parts were left plain with a lacquer or gilt finish.  The first pancakes from 1894 through the middle of 1897 had a single speed motor.  In mid 1897 the bulge was added to the rear of the motor which housed a regulator coil with a two speed switch in the center.  In 1902 GE fans got a 5 speed switch and, in 1903, the rear motor bulge was eliminated with the speed coil and switch being placed in a larger, higher base.  5 speed pancakes were one of only a handful of fan makes to have 5 speeds.  Three speeds was more common on quality fans.

Now for one of the more popular GE pancakes, below, the fully ribbed base 1903 trunnion model.  This year the models started out with a fully ribbed base, cast hub blade, and 10 wire cage.  Later 1903 models introduced the partially ribbed base, stamped hub blade, and 8 wire cage with three cage struts and with a slightly modified cage badge but it is the former, earlier style that is the more desired among collectors.  In addition to the trunnion model a "stick" version was also made in most years of pancake production.

Early 1903 GE 12" pancake, 5 speeds

Above:  Rear of  the 12" pancake motor looks like this from 1903 through 1906.  In late 1906 or 1907 a simpler and less attractive motor design was used.  On the right is a photo showing the "notched clamp" introduced on the 1900 trunnion models to help hold the fan motor in position on the trunnion when the brass wing bolts were tightened.  The rippled washer has an extended arm which goes downward and is slipped over a protruding pin on the side of the trunnion arm.

This version of the GE cage badge was used on the 10 wire cages from 1899 and about halfway through 1903 when the 8 wire cage was introduced.   The badge is unique to these models only although the method of attachment to the cage was different; 1899-1901 cage badges had a thin brass strip soldered to the back of the badge which then clipped to a small open ring on the cage.  For 1901-mid 1903 the notched washer and nut was used to attach the badge to the cage center via a threaded stud soldered to the rear of the badge as shown in the photo above.  Badges of this era show a little finer detail overall and finer dots than on later badges.

GE cage construction for the years 1901-1907 was as shown in the left photo above.  Instead of the 'S-wires' being wrapped around the rear cage ring as was done prior to 1901 and after 1907 the wire was 'pinned' or riveted through the rear cage ring.  The portion entering the rear ring was narrowed down slightly to fit a hole drilled in the ring, the wire was inserted and then slightly peened over to make the wire tight.

One serious flaw in this construction is that it is a weak connection and, with any moderately rough handling of the cage, or if the fan falls over, the joint is likely to break right at the front side of the rear ring.  Always check for broken wires here.  A somewhat suitable repair can be done by shortening all wires, necking them down, and reinserting them in the rear ring.  Only upon close inspection will you notice that the depth of the cage is about 3/32"" less than original.

The right photo, above, shows the brass 'oil guard' just behind the blade hub.  Its purpose was to return to the oil cup under the bearing any excess oil from the front of the bearing.  The backside of the fan hub had two grooves in it to spin off any leaking oil into the oil guard from which it would run down the little spout into the top of the oil cup.  A small recess in the oil cup had a tiny hole drilled through into the oil reservoir.  The oil guard was an improvement added to 1900 model pancakes and was continued for the rest of production.  It is a press fit onto the front plate of the motor.

The GE pancake below is a real oddball and the only one I have seen; a 1905 stick mount with fully ribbed base.  Only upon close examination of the photos (from ebay 2-11) did I realize the fan is probably not a mix of 1903 and 1905 parts but an actual "made in 1905" pancake using some older parts.  This fan is a "swivel" model which became less common than the "swivel and trunnion" model.  Both models were offered in most years starting c.1897.  Due to the different construction of the motors between the two frame styles, the motor tags were different until, I think, the 1905 models where the same tags appears to have been used.  The "swivel" frame pancakes through 1904 used a thin brass strip tag that wrapped almost all the way around the motor and was held captive between the front and rear motor castings instead of being held on with two small screws.

There is nothing really unusual from this view, above, of the fan.  It could be a normal mid-1903 year pancake with the new stamped hub blade and 8 wire cage but it isn't- see why below.  The four strut motor gave way to three struts in mid 1903. 

Left:  The motor tag is of the 1905 and later style with no FORM letter.  The serial number 230058 is well into the 1905 year and the tag is riveted to the steel band used on post-early 1904 pancakes. (click on photos to enlarge)

Right:  A cardboard switch cover was used starting on the 1905 model pancakes.  The round, conical shaped speed coil holder was first used on 1905 (maybe late '04) pancakes.

Below:  Here's what is almost certain proof that this pancake was made in 1905.  Note the thumbscrew at the top of the base neck and the two slotted screws immediately to the right.  In 1903-04 the pancake bases had just the center (slotted) screw (compare this photo with the photo above of the early 1903 trunnion pancake base.  The earlier base has just one slotted screw in the middle of the boss on the casting.  In 1905 the base casting was modified to have a thumbscrew on the left while the original slotted screw was moved just to the right of where it had been in 1903-04.  Here you see the original hole filled with another slotted screw.  Since the thumbscrew and its placement did not happen until 1905, this base must have been modified by the factory in order to build this stick mount fan.  Did GE not have any 1905 model stick mount castings and had to resort to using older castings for a limited run of these stick mount 1905 models?

Below:  A 1905 base showing the modification of the screws at the top of the base- thumbscrew on the left and slotted screw on the right. Between the screws is the boss where the original, single (slotted) screw was located.  In the early, modified base above, the original center screw hole has been filled with another slotted screw since the fully ribbed base was made with a screw hole in the center location.

Some notes on the brass finish of pancakes:
The lacquer used to coat brass parts of GE pancakes does not seem to be very durable unlike some other makes which makes determining the actual finish on the brass difficult.  Recently I had the chance to see a very original and unmessed with 1903 pancake.  The finish, and a pretty fair amount of it was intact, was unmistakenly "polished and lacquered brass" and a full, high gloss polish.  This somewhat surprised me as most of the original pancakes I have prior to 1904 did not show much if any remaining "polished" brass even though GE catalogs stated "polished brass fan, guard, and trimmings" (1899 and 1904 catalogs).  The 1905 GE catalog states "Lacquered brass fan, guard, and trimmings".  My original finish 1905 pancake shows a finish looking something like gilt and which seems to have been the finish used through about 1915-16 on GE brass blade fans.  That finish is clearly not "polished" brass.  Whether the "gilt" finish was some kind of lacquer or a paint I do not know.

Dating GE pancakes (alternating current models):

1894-95 models  These first GE pancakes are very different in appearance from later pancakes.  1894 models were made for 125 cycles only and carried a 10" fan.  The 1895 models were made in 10" and a new 12" model was added.  Unique to these two years was a fancy cast and nickel plated name plate on the rear of the motor.

There was no brass or nickel band around the motor on the 10" models but the 1895 12" model did have a brass band around the motor.

What you see to the left and below is a "fan outfit" comprised of a "fan" (blade) and "fan motor".  Only years later did the terminology change where "fan" meant what we think of it today; the whole of the appliance consisting of a blade, motor, and base.

All GE "fan motors" had 6 blade fans from 1894 through 1898 after which all fans were of four blades starting with the 1899 models.  The 1894-95 models had a solid frame with no provision to rotate the motor upon the base or to tilt it.

1896 models brought a new look to the GE pancake as well as the introduction of direct current (DC) motor pancakes which I will not cover at this time.  A new trunnion frame (below) was introduced which allowed the motor to tilt up and down.  This trunnion pancake carried a 12" fan, ran on only a single speed, and had no switch; you plugged it in when you wanted to run the fan.

The 10" model solid frame from 1895 was continued for 1896.  Ball bearings were introduced on one of the new trunnion models while the other had parallel bearings.  The 10" model retained the cast iron bearings used from 1894 with holes in the top of the casting to add oil to the bearings.

Left:  The 1896 trunnion pancake had new motor castings and a different look.  The data plate was now the "football tag" on top of the motor and the base was a new, partially ribbed style.  There was no regulator coil to provide more than a single speed.  Lubrication was now by underfeed oil cup with a felt wick to the bearing.  For 1896 the cage was attached to the motor with four struts that were soldered to the rear cage ring.  60 cycle motors were now offered as well as for 125 cycles.


1897 models were the first to be provided with regulator coils contained in a new bulge on the rear of the motor with a two speed switch in the center.  Fans for 1897 were black japanned and brass bearings were fitted to the motor.  A 10" solid frame motor and the 12" trunnion frame were the two styles of AC fans.  I do not have photos of the 1897 models to include here.  

Right:  Motor tag from an 1897 10" model.  Acccurate dating can be done on many pancakes that have (not all do) the TYPE and FORM letters on the motor tag.  This tag from a 10" solid frame model is TYPE U.I.  FORM F. which is an 1897 model. Trunnion models used a different FORM letter (Form E) prior to the 1901 models.

1898 models continued with the 10" solid frame motor and the 12" trunnion frame motor.  Fans and other brass parts were nickel plated as standard this year.  This fan has been "decorated" by my cats.  This is the most cat hair I allow to get on my fans before dusting them.  Some details of this 1898 10" solid frame pancake follow.

With the rear motor plate removed from this 10" 1898 pancake you can see the inside of the motor construction.  The large and heavy rotor is held by a single bearing attached to the front motor plate seen just ahead of the four arm spider of the rotor.  The stator coils surround the motor and are usually very easy to remove from the motor housing.  These coils just fell out when I was inspecting and cleaning the motor.  The nickeled brass motor band has also been slipped off the iron core around the stator.  Like most pancakes this one is a four pole motor.  Six, eight, and ten pole pancake motors were made for other frequencies or for special slower running motors.

Above:  You can see the porcelain 2 speed rotary snap switch in the center surrounded by the regulator coil which allows for two speeds.  Beginning with the 1902 models a new 5 speed switch and 5 speed regulator coil were used but they look almost identical.  At the bottom of the photo you can see how the two rear motor terminals where you connect power to the fan hook up to the switch.  New regulator coils are being made by a company named Sartron but original switches are very hard to find.

Below:  A small batch of new pancake switches to fit most models were made in 2010 by two AFCA members.  They quickly sold out with indefinite plans for more to be made.  Two photos show an original switch next to a new reproduction.  Click on photos for larger view.

Cage struts on the 1898 models (right) were the same as for 1897 and an integral part of the cage. 

1899 models are the first models with a cage badge and with 4 blade fans replacing the older 6 blade fans.  This is an easy year to identify for it was the only GE pancake year that used a top mounted grease cup over the front bearing.  There is no hole for a bearing set screw on the other (bottom) side of the bearing housing as in other years so an undermounted oil cup as used in 1896-1898 and 1900-1907 cannot be fitted to an 1899 model motor.

1899 was the first year that a cage badge was used.  The early 1899 models, however, do not have the badge but have a small open ring cage- probably the same cage but without the badge being fitted.  Most '99s will have the badge though a significant number of no-badge '99s turn up and mostly with lower serial numbers.  The small open ring cage is NOT an 1898 model as was reported in older GE pancake research since the small open ring cage pancakes all have the top mounted grease cup which is identified as an 1899 model by a GE report dated 1900.  The photos above show an early 1899 solid frame model (no cage badge yet) which continued with the smooth base from the previous 10" solid frame models but made about 1" higher than the 10" frame.

Below is an 1899 solid frame with the cage badge.  The badge is held on to the cage with a small brass strip soldered to the center of the cage.  Motor acorn nuts are still smooth without a screwdriver slot.

The trunnion frame model, left, no longer used the "football" motor tag which was replaced by a long sheet brass motor tag.

On the motor tag, right, note the TYPE UI and FORM F7.  Types and Forms changed over the years.  The FORM letter is the best method of dating a pancake.  Solid frames were Form E and trunnion frames were Form F through 1900 models.  Each year a subscript number was added after the first year of Form letters, 1896.  1899 was now Form F7 or E7.  Some fan tags were not stamped with the appropriate Form sub-number after the letter for some reason.  1899 trunnion motors had a 6" long motor tag.

1899 was the last year the rear cage ring was made the same diameter as the front cage ring.  Separate cage struts replaced the integral struts of previous years (and the soldered-on struts of 1896).

Trunnion mounted desk pancake fans could be converted to a wall mount using a special angle adaptor.  When you ordered a fan made specifically to be wall mounted it came with a special base to mount on the wall that contained the switch as well as a special motor casting that did not have the switch in the back of the motor.  This motor casting appears to be the same as used prior to later 1897 models when the back switch was introduced.  Below is an image of an early 1899 wall mount pancake.

The line cord would be attached to the two terminals on the base.  The two speed switch knob is at the bottom of the wall base.  Power to the motor would exit the base between the two terminals and be attached to the two terminals on the rear of the motor.  In this photo the motor appears to be much thicker than a typical 1899 motor but most of the earlier motors were thicker.  I might assume that this is actually an older motor.  The four blade fan is new for 1899 replacing the previous 6 blade fans used on all pancakes prior to 1899.  Original wall mount pancakes are scarce.

1900 models, below, are similar to the 1899 ones.  Changes included making the rear ring of the cage of a larger diameter wire, slotted acorn nuts on the motor replaced the smooth nuts, return to the under-mounted oil cup, and the solid frame 12" pancake was now a swivel frame using the same partially ribbed base as the trunnion motors had since 1896.  The base was about a half inch taller then the older smooth base.  Other changes were a notched clamp on one side of the trunnion used to help hold the motor in a position on the trunnion, a new blade hub with grooves at the rear end which was to keep oil from moving to the hub spider and blades where the oil could be thrown around the room.  An oil return collar was now press fitted to the front of the motor in front of the bearing to catch oil thrown from the grooves on the blade hub and direct it back into the top of the oiler.  The motor was still devoid of the vent holes that would appear on the 1901 models.  The cage badge was held to the cage with the same method as in 1899.  Last year for S-wires to be wrapped around the rear cage ring.  1900 trunnion motors have a 7" long motor tag.

1901 models, below, were the first pancakes with large vent holes surrounding the motor front and rear.  The partially ribbed base now had three holes added to allow for solid mounting to walls or other surfaces.  The switch knob was considerably enlarged from the small knob used on 1897 through 1900 models (note: at least one pancake expert believes that the 1901 models retained the smaller switch knob yet I keep seeing mostly the large knob on so many existing 1901 models.  Research is ongoing).  

The cage badge was now held with a special nut to the center of the cage with a small stud soldered to the badge, an arrangement that would continue until about half way through the 1903 models when the 10 S-wire cage was replaced with an 8 S-wire cage.  Cages starting this year had the ends of the S-wires narrowed slightly and inserted into holes in the rear cage ring then lightly peened instead of being wrapped around the rear cage ring.  1901 models are "FORM A".  1901 and 1902 trunnion motors have a 7-3/4" long motor tag.   The easy way to tell a 1901 model from a 1902 is the lack of the small brass OFF plate just above the switch on the 1901 model.  1902 models have 5 speeds and the OFF tag or will have holes where an OFF tag was once attached.


1901 trunnion frame pancake.  This is the last year for the two speed switch.

1902 models, below, are the first pancakes to have five speeds.  A swivel frame model is shown here but the trunnion frame was also offered as in other years since 1896.  Other than a new brass OFF tag on the rear of the motor just above the switch knob, the 1902 models are indistinguishable from the previous year's two speed pancakes.  1902 models have "FORM B" stamped on the motor tag.


Swivel frame models used a brass band tag nearly encircling the motor
in place of the shorter brass tag used on trunnion motors.

1903 models, below, brought a major change in the looks of GE pancake fans.  The switch and regulator coil that had been in the back of the motor was moved to inside an enlarged base with full ribbing.  The back of the motor was again flat much like the 1896 models but with a different venting design.  The cage was still of the usual construction with the ten S-wires "pinned" to the rear cage ring and a fan blade with a cast hub.

Still available in "swivel" and "swivel and trunnion" models, the swivel is shown below, left.  Note the motor tag used on the swivel frame models that wraps almost all the way around the motor and is held captive between the front and rear motor castings.  The trunnion models had a shorter motor tag held on with two small screws and covering much of the top half of the motor circumference.  The large brass wing screws only were used on trunnion models of the GE pancake.

Swivel and Trunnion frame
Swivel frame

Under the base of switch-in-the-base pancakes will be the 5 speed regulator coil held in place with two brass clips, one under the coil.  The early base switches do no have porcelain ears to mount to the later bases which had provisions for mounting through the switch ears.  The power cord is connected to the two thumb nuts near the photo's bottom, below where the power goes to the switch and coil, then up to the rear terminals of the motor.  As with all pancakes you don't want to touch the rear terminals on the motor which are carrying, in most cases, 120 volts and will give you a nice shock.

Below are the two different base castings, early on the left, later on the right.  A slight modification was made and the OFF tag redesigned so it would "smile".  The OFF tag on the left was a carryover from the 1902 back switch pancakes where it was mounted above the switch and, thus, the downward curvature.  From fairly early after the 1903 models were introduced the OFF tags were as in the right photo through the end of pancake production in early 1908.

About mid-year of 1903 some changes were made, possibly over a short period of time and not all at once:  A new cage now had eight S-wires instead of ten.  The badge was slightly different and an integral part of the cage, no longer held on by a small stud and nut.  The blades' cast hub was changed to a stamped brass hub.  The motor now sported three instead of four cage struts with one strut located at the top of the motor and the others at the lower sides of the motor.  The base lost its full ribbing with the lower part of the base being smooth.  The motor tag remained of plain brass with all the data stamped in it.  The regulator coil in the base was held in place with brass strap brackets.  "FORM C" will be stamped on 1903 motor tags.  The small brass "OFF" tag at the switch knob was riveted on with the ends of the tag curling upwards with the introduction of the half ribbed base in mid-1903.  The full ribbed bases have the OFF tag screwed to the base with adjustment slots in the plate.  The curve at the ends of the OFF tag could be either upwards or downwards on the full ribbed bases.  

1904 models continued in the mold of the later 1903 GEs with the partially ribbed base but with some minor changes.  Very early models still used the plain brass motor tag which was soon changed to a smaller etched brass tag with a black oxidized background.  The tags for 1904 are marked "FORM D" and would be the last GE motor tags until the mid-teens to have a FORM letter.  The regulator coil was held in place as for the 1903 models but the clips changed from brass to steel as shown below.  The porcelain switch now had mounting ears on it.  The very bottom rim of the base is much narrower than on the 1903 fully ribbed base models.

1905 models look nearly identical to the previous year's pancakes.  Changes were a new, slightly narrower motor tag no longer marked with a "FORM" letter, a new cover under the base formed of grained black cardboard which covered the regulator coil and switch.  Terminals for the power cord were left exposed under the base.  The regulator coil was now held in place with a cone shaped retainer replacing the bent strap retainer used previously.  Added to the top of the base was a new thumbscrew used to hold the fan in any position when rotated.  There had been a slotted screw for that purpose which also acted to hold the base to the motor.  The slotted screw on the 1905 models remained but was located to the right of the old boss for the screw used in 1904.  The thumbscrew was located to the left of the old boss.

Below is a comparison of the bases of a fully ribbed 1903 and partially ribbed 1904 and 1905 models.  The 1903 has the unpolished brass clips to hold the coil in place, the 1904 uses painted steel clips, and the 1905, with its new cardboard molded cover, uses a new cone shaped clamp piece on both sides of the coil.  This particular fan has a black painted brass cone but I have seen cone clamps made of steel.  Such a clamp is on a fully ribbed 1903 pancake I have but I suspect that it may have been a modification years ago.  The clamps are interchangeable among the different years of base switch pancakes.
(As with most of the blog photos you can click to enlarge them.)

1906 models introduced a new, completely smooth base without the previous ribbing, new steel struts replacing the old brass struts although brass struts were used on earlier 1906 models, and a new single iron thumbscrew to lock in the tilt position on the trunnion models.  The two brass wing bolts used previously were eliminated and the trunnion was supported by two brass large head screws.  The motor remained as the late 1903 through the 1905 models until late in the model year when it may have been changed to the design used in 1907.  The cage badge received a new sheet brass backing plate held in place by a few small crimps on the edge of the badge.  

Scroll down past the 1908 models to the special white pancake to see a typical (other than the special white color), earlier 1906 model with the brass struts.
The new steel thumb screw is shown on the left side of the
trunnion and served to lock the tilt of the motor in place.

The bushing between the switch shaft and and base was
enlarged over the one used in 1902-05 making the
switch knob seem tighter in the base.

Original black japan paint showing how
rough the castings could be on pancakes.
1906 steel struts.  Note the poorly repaired
cage wires.  The "pinned" cage wires of  the
1901 to 1907 pancakes are very prone to
 breaking at the joint.  A clean,  nearly
invisible repair can be made if one
 takes extra care and knows how to do it.

1907 models may have started out the same as the late1906 models.  Somewhere in the year, if not early on, the design of the motor casing was changed to a simpler and smoother design.  The struts were also changed, still of steel, to a unique design where the rear cage ring was held in place by a flat head machine screw.  Loosening this screw slightly would release the cage.  A wonderful design I think that was not used again on GE fans.  The trunnion pivot screws were now made of steel instead of brass.

The oil cup on this fan has been screwed
into the threaded hole above the bearing
where there should be a screw that holds
the bearing in place.  Being as how the
oil cup threaded hole below the bearing
and the set screw hole above the bearing
have the same thread size the oil cup
and the set screw are sometimes found
in each other's place.  The oil cup should
be under the bearing on all pancakes
except for the 1899 models that used
a GREASE CUP above the bearing.

The 1907 pancake motor was changed to a simpler and smoother design for this trunnion
model.   The cardboard cover under the base that was used on 1905-08 models is missing on this fan as is often the case.

The last patent date on this motor tag, June 25, 1901, was used on all GE fan motor tags from 1902 to 1913 leading many to believe any fan with that date was made in 1901.  It is not that simple to date GE fans and the patent date
only means that a fan so marked with that patent date, includes features of that particular patent.
GE trunnion motor tags were always screwed to the motor after the 1898 riveted tag.

Below is a 1907 model showing the condition I bought it in and the same fan after being restored by an AFCA member.

A nicely restored motor tag.  Most restorers use paint on the tags
although they originally had an oxide on them.

*1908 models.  The 1908 GE catalog lists the pancake for the last time along with the newly introduced "Big Motor Yoke" design that was entirely new.  I am not too familiar with the so-called 1908 pancake but believe it to be a swivel frame style with the "big ugly" motor which is plainer and uglier than the 1906-7 trunnion design.  The 1907 style trunnion model seems to have been carried over into 1908 also.  The 1908 model pancakes are scarce, probably due to them being a carryover model or to clear old stock from 1907 until the newly designed "Big Motor Yoke" models were made more available.

A rear view that is hard to love.  "Big Ugly" is a name that suits these last swivel mount pancakes.

Looking behind the cage badge you will see the brass disc used for the past few years which
is held in place by the small crimps around the outside of the rear of the badge.  Prior to the 1906
models the back of the cage badge was open exposing the eight "S" wires.
The swivel frame model had an extra piece added into the neck of the base
to take up the space that would be used by the trunnion on those models.
Most GE pancakes from 1904 and later were of the trunnion frame style.

The usual brass motor tag was attached to a steel band with rivets
on the later swivel frame models.
"Colored motors available on special order"
Below is what is thought to be an original "white and gold" pancake from 1906.

To the right is a page from a 1905 GE fan catalog.

Note where it says "Motors in any of the following special finishes can be furnished at an additional net price of $1.50:

   -Royal blue and gold
   -Wine red and gold
   -White and gold

An additional note in the 1905 GE 
catalog states "The fan, guard, and small trimmings will be nickel plated, on special orders only,  for 50 cents net additional to price on each motor."

To date I am unaware of any pancakes that have shown up with these special finishes or with nickel plating with the exception of a single white pancake shown above and below.

In examining this pancake one can see that there is a very good or better chance that it is one of the special finish pancakes.  
There is no overspray on the motor tag, switch, inside the motor, etc.

The fine gold striping is typical of early, hand applied striping and would account for the "gold" in the "white and gold" color.   The owner sent me these huge photos and, with his permission, I post them here.  He said he bought this white pancake off ebay around 2005 for a bit under $100 thinking it was just an old pancake that someone had painted white years ago.  He recognized it for what it probably is, the one and only known special color order pancake.  Of course there probably are a few others but I don't know anyone who has seen one.  Click on photos for larger versions.  Double click will get you even larger.
Note:  A DC "pancake" has shown up with what looks to be original "red wine and gold" paint under a poor flat black repaint.  When the motor tag was removed the red was under the tag.

added 2-8-17
Pancake expert Kim Frank posted this on the AFCA forum "Thoughts on a Pancake"  and it gives a good, simple, outline and evolving changes of the GE 12" pancakes.

"For me, trying to pick a favorite pancake would probably receive the same response. Here are some of my thoughts.....When you look at a Lynn Works, you have to marvel at the simplicity. 22 or so parts to that first fan, 12 of which are screws. Pure eye candy and a definite contender. The 96 - 98 12" trunnions have the beefier motor and the oval motor tag. The castings are more ornate and the six wing blades and large open ring cages complete the package. The 10 inch offerings for those years are stick mounts and have a character all their own. '97 was the first offering of a 3 position switch. These years could surely be considered as favorites. You have to appreciate the 1899 fans as they now become a bit more affordable to the collector. The stickmount has the appearance of the earlier ten inch fans, with the smooth base which becomes taller to accommodate the 12 inch blade. The trunnion mount carries the same look as it's earlier counterparts, except for the thinner motor housing, switch to a four wing blade, a new brass motor tag, and as mentioned, the grease cup. The GE badge makes it's appearance too. Sweet, sweet fans for sure. 1900 models are very nice. Both 12 inch models now have fluted bases and a return to the oil reservoirs. Motor tag on the trunnion becomes about an inch longer and the blade features two oil slinger grooves. These are also the last models of the 19th century. A definite maybe as a favorite.
    A new century ushers in some changes to the fans. Perimeter vent holes, beefier struts mounted to cast in bosses, trunnion tags become even longer. 1901 is a year that can be appreciated by collectors. 1902 models now feature a six position switch. Other visual cues are about the same as the previous year. The five speeds put these models in the running for favorite fan.
    As a collector of pancakes, 1903 models seem to be in demand. I am always hearing other collectors say that they want a 1903 12 inch cake. My reply is "which one? '03 featured a lot of changes to the GE line. There's the early 1903 models, with full ribbed bases that now housed the switch and coil. Motor housings are sleeker now without the dome in the rear cover. Middle models feature a change to three struts. Late models have a half ribbed base and the eight wire cages and stamped brass blade hubs start to show up. All of these models are right up there as near and dear. 
    That being so, then the 1904 early offerings are the same as the late 1903. The only difference is Form letter. The only change to the later year model of 1904 is the change from the eight inch long brass motor tag to the much smaller motor tag. Both of these models are killer, imo. Not a lot of difference in the 1905s, except the loss of type and form letters on the motor tag and  the appearance of a thumb screw and set screw in the neck of the base. You also start to see the use of brass shoulder screws to secure the motor to the trunnion, instead of those wonderful brass wing bolts. Cool fans for sure but I already miss those wing bolts. Maybe a contender in my book.
    Now going into 1906, GE loses the ribs in the base but still uses the earlier motor housing. Not quite as cool as the earlier years, but hey, it's still a Pancake. Then comes mid year '06 and the motor housing becomes smooth. My very first Cake was this model. A 1906 2nd variant Canadian General Electric.....Big Ugly I think not.....Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder? Like Chris says, with a bit of paint and some imagination, these can be made to look Hot.  On that same note, there is nothing wrong with leaving them alone. Clean off the dirt and grime, put on a new cord and head wire, put in a new wick and it's good to go. Second variant 1906 morphs into the 1907 and 1908 models. The only change for these that I see are the struts, which are now using a beveled screw head to hold the cage to them. That's almost as good as some brass wing bolts..... I look at these late offerings as GE coming full circle, Look at a Lynn Works and you can make the comparisons. Smooth bases and housings. Simple lines.... Everything is about function over form. Contenders all the way.....
     In my rambling, I haven't even mentioned the oddball fans, the Bracket fans, the Fishtails, the 14 and 16 inch stationaries and trunnions, or any of the other things you'll see with collecting Pancakes. So I guess I do have a favorite Pancake fan....but I'll keep it to myself. 
    They're all good, just some are better than others..."

Thank you Kim, I'm sure readers will enjoy your musings.

...To be continued with additional information added after I update the other blogs and add some new ones, please check back...