Thursday, November 30, 2017

Threshing Machine Project

I resolved over the summer that I needed to start working on a threshing machine.   The grain coming off the homestead plot is getting bigger every year, and hand threshing is a pain.  The wheat was especially a problem, and I left a lot of seed in the straw.

My threshing machine has to conserve seed and prevent cross contamination.  These are both nearly impossible if I use the combine as a threshing machine.  The combine can almost never be clean, and small batches of threshing will be very wasteful.  Due to the size and complexity of even a small combine (or old threshing machine), there is probably 10 lbs of seed sitting inside it at any time.  The test plot may only produce five or ten pounds of one variety of wheat in one season, so the scale is just not suitable.

I looked around for something to give me a leg up in building a threshing machine, but could not find anything.  I had resolved to build one from the ground up, using these plans as a departure point.  I thought I could at least get some old rasp bars from a dead combine somewhere, and that's where I found my leg up.

It turns out that nearly every Massey combine built has separate threshing drum for tailings, which they call a re-thresher.  While most combines (and old threshing machines) route un-threshed heads back into the main threshing drums, Massey thought it would be better to make a small, axial-flow head to deal with this stream.  The re-thresher is a little strange.  It feeds from the side and discharges at the top.  I think this makes it technically an axial-flow drum.  It's a bit like a combination squirrel cage fan and threshing drum.

Anyhow, these re-threshers are very well built and it had a lot of what I wanted to get the project going.  There are good rasp bars and solid bearings.  The concave is adjustable by adding or removing spacers under the concave bars.  Although I may try to make a true concave and change the flow to ordinary threshing drum flow, for the time being I am experimenting with it as is.

Here is what the concave bars look like.  I experimented with sunflowers, wheat, and beans.  For beans I removed all the bars.  There are spacers under the bars to change the concave clearance.  The beans were still getting cracked with the bars removed and the rpm reduced to 406 rpm.  Slower rpm might help.

So there is no separator right now, just a tarp.  The re-thresher throws the beans pretty far.

I threshed 25 lbs of beans in two sessions.  It went pretty quickly.

V-Plow Build Photos

I built a V-plow a couple winters ago for the team to clear work paths.  I can keep work paths open between the house and barn now very easily.  It clears a lot of snow very quickly, although there is not too much control.  It can get a little squirrely, and once there is an established snow bank it's hard to change the path.  But you can't beat it for quickly opening up a path.

Work photos are below.  Sorry if I'm a little hazy about some of the details.

The plow under construction.  I think those are 2x10's.  I have a small gait that I want to get through, so this plow is not particularly large.  It cuts a path around 6' wide.  The angle is 90 degrees.  In discussion with others I learned that a "pointier" design might possibly make the plow track better.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I made a snath for a new scythe blade that a friend gave me for my birthday.  I had planned on making it out of a solid piece of ash, but the tree I thought was an ash turned out to be an elm.  The wood was too far gone so I had to change plans.

The completed snath and blade.  I finished the wood in ordinary spar varnish.  There are actually 21 pieces of wood total!

I remembered a piece of clear Douglas Fir sitting in the basement rafters, so I decided to use that for the project.  I already had a good scythe that I liked, so I used it as a pattern.  The fir was cut to length and then ripped on the table saw thin enough to make the required bend.  I made a jig on the workbench, glued things up, and clampled the pieces together.  I think the main part of the snath was 6 pieces thick.

I began by making the straight piece, with a bend towards the bottom.  I used my workbench for the straight part, and clamped on a jig for the bend at the bottom.  It's a mild bend, less than 15 degrees.
For the lower handle I had to rip the pieces thinner, to make a sharper bend.  I did this in a separate lay-up.  I had to glue on extra small pieces to make the snath thicker in the area of the handles, and where the blade attaches.  I used attachment hardware from an english-style scythe.

I cleaned up the glue joints with a block plane, then went back to the workbench to jig up the lower handle.   I had to rip these pieces a bit thinner to get the bend I wanted.  The handle is glued onto the main part of the snath without any nails or screws.

The handles are some clear wood from the elm tree that I had hoped to make the snath out of originally.  I shaped the handles and then put a 7/8" diameter on the end.  The snath had 7/8" holes drilled in at the appropriate locations, and the handles were glued in place.  The entire snath is held together with ordinary carpenter's glue.

Here is what it looked like after a good shaping and sanding.  I think it is plenty strong but only time will tell.  It's a little fancy for something that is supposed to be workmanlike, but I enjoyed this project.  
Attachment hardware is from an ordinary English-style scythe that was rotting away in my collection.  The Tops blade from Scythe Supply was said to have a tang that works well with English-style scythes, and I only had to slightly touch it with a grinder to make it fit.  I like having this hardware since the Austrian-style clamp can slip so easily.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rosie's New Harness

My illustrated children's book about Team Anarchy was published this week!  Look for it at the website, or Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.