Iron to Art
Materials and Story
I try to let clients know what the main pieces of equipment or scrap used. You can find pictures and information here about the machinery and the implements, and their job.
I also have pictures of the places I find my materials. Let me know if you have questions.
A hay rake was dragged across a field of newly cut hay. When it became full a lever was release, the curved tines lifted up and the hay was left in a pile. Thus farmers usually refer to this piece of equipment as a "Dump Rake". Modern rakes use a rotary method that flips the hay into a windrow to dry. Dump Rakes had a place on the farm even after rotary rakes became the norm. They were used to put window rows back in line if they were disturbed by wind. They have been popular as farm yard art for many years. I use the curved tines and wheels in a variety of ways in sculpture.
You don’t have to spend much time in any farm yard to see that steel was the material from which all wheels where made since someone put a steel ring around a wood wheel. Even when tractors had rubber wheels the implements still had steel. This did not change until after the war. Even in the 50’s a rubber wheel was probably a modified car or truck wheel that the farmer had fitted on a steel wheeled implement. Iron wheels come in all shapes, sizes, and spoke types. Most wheels where cast and forged without welding and are still as strong and work ready as the day they were made. The spoked wheel is in itself a piece of art, and represents perfectly what I try to express in my work.
Materials and Story
Rotary Hoe is a good description of the work this implement does. It is pulled through the field with the wheels lowered into the top of the soil. As the wheels roll along they disturb the surface and break up the top. The result loosens the soil for aeration and exposes the roots of small weed.
Rotary Hoes come in a wide variety of spoked wheels that are mounted on a bar. The shapes, length and angle that the spokes contact the ground determine how much tillage is done. A farmer will have a need for more than one type or a personal preference for his soil and crops. The wheels have been popular for some time for use in yard art and garden boarders.
The disk is probably the most widely used implement on the farm. There are many different configurations designs, and sizes of disks. A typical disk will have 4 rows (gangs) of disks that are mounted so they roll through the soil. There is a spacing of around 8 to 12 inches between each disc. The rows of discs are mounted in a frame that supports the row; each row is mounted at an angle to the center line of the disc. With 2 rows on each side the front one is angled forward and the rear angled backward. This angle allows the concave discs to cut into the soil and turn it over. The two different angles result in turning over one way and then back as the disk passes over the soil. The size of discs varies from 12 inches up to 2 feet or more. The size of discs determines how deep it will cut into the soil, and of course the horsepower needed to pull it through the soil Discs can be very wide, the larger ones fold up for transportation.
Augers and Flighting
Augers are cork screw in shape and have a shaft attached down the center. The curve spiral piece around the shaft is called flighting. The shaft and surrounding flighting is enclosed in a round tube. When an auger spins usually with an electric motor, the curved flighting picks up material at the bottom of the auger moving it up in a spiral motion. The tube prevents the material from falling out so the flighting continues to push it upward until it falls out the top. Almost any material that is an aggregate or liquid in form can be moved by auger. The most common uses in agriculture are to move grain, fertilizer, feed and irrigation water. A truck can dump grain into an auger and it will carry the grain to the top of the bin and drop it in another. It can be placed in the bottom of the bin to take the grain out.
The name says it all. But not all planters look the same, planters are design for the type of seed and how the seed needs to be placed in the soil. Grain, Alfalfa (Hay), and Grasses are planted with an implement that has many closely spaced tubes that feed the grain seed into the ground, these planters are usually called a Drill. Most all other crops, vegetables, corn etc. are planted in rows space farther apart to allow for irrigation, cultivations, and root growth space. The width of the rows will vary depending on the crop, growing conditions, and preference of the farmer. These planters will have a separate unit for each row. Each has a seed container, wheels, and mechanism to handle seed. Wheels rolling over the ground drive the mechanism that separates one seed at a time and places in the ground at the desired interval. The mechanical pieces that do this are called plates. The come in many different styles and patterns. These planter plates have become quite popular with crafters and artists, and are getting harder and harder to find, as new technologies no longer use these plates.
I have spent hundreds of hours feeding cattle using one form or another of these mixers. The purpose is pretty self-explanatory. The various feed ingredients-grain, ground hay and supplements-are added to the mixer. The mixer slowly and gently blends everything together so that each bite has a bit of everything. Mixers can be mounted on trucks or trailers with a door that opens on the side, allowing the feed to be distributed into the feed trough. The augers used have a very large diameter, and the fighting is very thick, often it is stainless steel, making it last much longer. As the feed move over the blades they become thinner and thinner and ultimately need to be replaced. This wear on the metal produces some unique patinas and often some very unique curves and shapes result when the flighting becomes worn and thin.
A cultivator refers to several types of implements that are pulled through a field with the crop growing in rows. There are hundreds of different “cultivator tools” available for a farmer to choose from. The tools are used to remove weeds, aerate the soil, and remake the furrow (little ditch between rows) to handle the next irrigation. Cultivators also roll soil up around the plant as it grows to give support and protect roots. Cultivating is usually repeated several times from planting until the plants size will not allow the cultivator and tractor to pass without damage to the crop. When a farmer no long needs or can cultivate his crop it is “Laid Bye”. These tools are usually attached to a metal bar that is clamped to a very heavy horizontal bar. which is mounted to a tractor. The design allows for the tools to be repositioned left and right on the horizontal bar by a clamp as needed. The clamp allows the farmer to easily make the changes for types of crops, soil conditions, etc. I remember working with my father to set the tools on a cultivator, and then taking the tractor to the field. I would then very carefully drive the tractor as straight as possible so I didn’t destroy any of the crops. All the time looking over my shoulder watching as my Dad followed behind on foot closely checking that the tools where aligned and doing their job. After a few feet he would waive the wrench at me to stop and he would make some minor adjustment before he waived me ahead. This process was often repeated several times until I looked over my shoulder and he had turned around and was walking out of the field. Leaving me to finish the job.