Antique well pumps can be a great functional and ornamental addition to your garden. They can still be found in many gardens and farms and are still in perfect working condition. You might even have thought about getting an antique well pump for your garden. But did you know that there are collectors willing to pay good money for them?
Many collectors love antique water pumps because they have unique designs and for the additional charm and history they add to the garden. Even though water pumps, especially in urban or suburban gardens, are more ornamental than function nowadays, there was a time when they were as common as taps in our kitchens are now.
If you are either looking to buy or sell an antique well pump, you will find valuable information in this article. We have included information about how the old water pumps work, different types of well pumps, how much they can be worth and how to sell and buy antique well pumps.
How do antique water pumps work?
The water is moved up from a well underground by a system of valves and levers inside the well pumps. All pumps have a lever or a handle on the outside that a person pushes up and down to bring the water up from the well. The spout is another part that is outside the pumps. The parts inside the pump’s cylinder are a piston and two valves.
What happens when you push the lever down?
The piston is pushed below the level of the spout when the lever on an old well pump is depressed. This shuts off the flow of air. When the top valve is shut, but simultaneously the action opens the lower valve. This forces the water from the well up into the space vacated by the air.
What happens when you pull the lever up?
When the lever was pushed down the top valve shut and the lower valve opened. The opposite happens when the lever is pulled up. So when you pull the lever up, the lower valve closes and traps the water in the cylinder.
The top valve opens at the same time and lets in more air, which raises the level of the water a bit more. Repeating the push and pull motions keeps increasing the volume of the water in the cylinder. When it reaches the spout, it will gush out.
Elements of an Antique Well Pump
I don’t think many of us would have guessed that leather would be an integral part of a functioning well pump, but it is. The leather is used between two discs to create a seal so suction is created inside the chamber.
When the handle is pushed down, the lever-action draws the leather and the two discs up, sucking the liquid into the pumping chamber. When the handle goes up, the opposite lever action on the disk forces the water out through the spout.
- Check Valve
This valve is also called the one-way valve and it is used to keep the suction pipe full of water. You will find the check valve at the bottom of the pipe and inside the well. If there is no check valve, the water that is in the suction pipe can drain back into the well. This in turn can result in air getting in the pumping chamber.
If air enters the pumping chamber, then the pump will not function properly. To remove the air, the pump must be primed. This can be done by pouring water through the exit spout while moving the handle up and down. The water entering the chamber will push out the unwanted air.
To see an illustrated demonstration of how an antique well pump works take a look at this video. The key segment for how an old water pump works starts at 5:38 However, the whole video is really interesting and contains so much information about old well pumps, that if you have the time, I would recommend watching the whole video.
Types of antique water pumps
Over the centuries there have been many different types of water pumps. If you are selling an old well pump, you need to know the types in order to give an accurate description of your pump.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for one for your garden or want to become a well pump collector, it is useful to know the range of pumps available.
Double Cylinder Pump
A double cylinder pump is a more efficient method for pumping water than a simple hand pump. It has two cylinders that extend into the water in the well. When the lever is pumped, the water is brought to the spout through the cylinder.
The efficiency comes from the dual action of the cylinders. When one cylinder is emptying out the water, the other cylinder is refilling with water. These pumps were capable of bringing up twice as much water with each pump of lever.
Force pumps were used on farms to bring water from distant areas to their farms. The pump’s cylinder worked to elevate the water stream and to create pressure. These pumps had extra parts called a packing gland and a sucker rod which created the pressure to expel water where it was needed.
The Simple Hand Pump
This is the earliest of all the antique pump designs. Simple hand pumps had a level and could only be pumped by hand. They were designed so that each stroke of a lever would produce a gush of water through the cylinder of the pump and out through the spout.
As the name suggests, this was a wind-powered pump and did not require any effort by the owners to bring water up from the well. These pumps were more commonly used on farms where they could harness the power of the wind that blew constantly across the open farmlands.
As you can imagine, these windmill pumps made life so much easier for the farmers. Windmill pumps eliminated the task of pumping water and freed time for other tasks on the farm.
How much is a well pump worth?
The prices of old well pumps vary from $50 to over one thousand pounds. What will make a pump more valuable? Pumps that are in working condition are more valuable than pumps that have intact paint because it helps protect them from the elements. Pumps that are unusual will also be worth more than common pumps.
Here are some examples of pumps for sale and what they are selling for.
- Antique 1900 water suction pump, US $1,800.00
- Large Vintage Red Water Pump, US $375.00
- Vintage Water Hand Pump Cast Iron, $ 159.00
- Cast Iron Hand Water Pump, US $99.88
How to sell and buy an antique well pump?
If you are looking to sell or buy antique well pumps, you can find places to do that both off- and online. If online buying and selling don’t appeal to you and you would rather do your business person to person, then you can look for pumps at thrift shops, garage sales and farm sales.
If you are selling, then you can try antique shops. However, bear in mind that selling to an antique shop, you are unlikely to get the best possible price as the shop will be looking to make a profit, too.
If you would prefer to go online to find or sell an antique well pump then there are several options. You can use websites such as eBay or Etsy but there are also several other sites where you can find antique water pumps. We have listed these sites below.
My Tractor Forum
This is a site, as you might have guessed, that focuses on tractors. However, they also have an area on the forum where you can post questions about other farm items, including well pumps.
NE Garden is originally an American landscape design company. Their online collection includes American and European antique ornamentation, sundials, custom fountains, statues and the occasional well pumps.
This online antique mall has hundreds of different items for sale and the items are constantly changing as items are sold and new ones added. It does not specialize in water pumps, but from time to time you will be able to find them among the items so it is worthwhile keeping an eye on this site.
So, if you are looking to either buy or sell antique well pumps, you can use the information included in this article to decide what type of well pump you prefer. Equally, it will help you to determine what type of pump you have if you already own one.
Just one last piece of advice. Whether selling or buying off or online, before you agree to a deal, ensure you are dealing with a genuine buyer or a seller as sadly, there are dishonest people out there.
We hope you have found this article very useful. However, should there be something you wish to know and we haven’t covered, write your question in the comments section.