I just wanted to thank everyone for their input and helpful suggestions on checking rod clearance and let you guys know how it went.
I checked one cap at a time using a piece of oil soaked newspaper while leaving the other three loose. When tightened up with the newspaper in place, all four rods had zero fore and aft movement. I was able to turn the crank but there was definitely a noticeable difference in resistance.
It was obvious that the babbitt had some wear but I don't think there was enough that required the caps to be filed since there were no shims in place.
My T doesn't get as many miles as it should, so I will recheck them again at the end of next season.
After everything was buttoned up I took it for a quick ride to fill the tank. I didn't really notice any knocking. I think I may have been just giving the old girl a little to much advance.
I did hear a new noise and wondered if it could be the fan hub since it's due for some grease. Before I left the gas station, I opened the hood to check the fan. Wouldn't you know it, the first blade I grabbed was loose!
I'm not really a gambling man so I took the fan off for the ride back home. Guess what, the noise wasn't the fan after all. I think once I get the fan fixed I'm going to start wearing ear plugs when I go for rides!!!
Only replacement rods from Ford had any shims, so the lack of any shims there isn't any indication of wear. You're supposed to file the caps when adjusting for wear, so replacement/rebabbiting is only needed when the babbitt is cracked/damaged or very contaminated by foreign particles.
The mains had shims from Ford.
You should have had the crank completely locked with a piece of newspaper in between the cap and the crank, but hard to turn means it's close, so you may be able to drive for a while until the need for adjusting comes up again.
A flying fan blade is a real danger to anyone and anything in its path, it can go through the hood and destroy your radiator, so it's good to check for cracks often. Myself, I don't use any fan - works fine as long as I never have to stand still idling for more than a minute or so - depends on your local traffic situation.