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The engine is coal driven and the harder it's steamed, Richard said, the better draw there is through the stack, resulting in a better burn. It runs for wards or backwards, and connects with a belt to a little thresher Richard also made, although it isn't powerful enough to run the thresher well.
The engine has been painted the same colors as Richard's dad's original engine: red wheels, green engine and black boiler and stack. 'Old Abe' the eagle, J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co.' emblem, adorns the boiler front.
After spending 5-1/2 years on the steam engine, Richard took it to his hometown, Thorp, Wis., and drove it down the street with his father looking on. 'The town is three blocks long, so we started it up and went up one side of the street and down the other. Every tavern came out with a glass of beer for me,' he said, chuckling. 'My dad was real proud of me for running that engine up there.'
Next, Richard turned his attention to the threshing machine, a Case 28-50, also just like his dad's. The '28-50' means the cylinder is 28 inches wide and the shaker part is 50 inches wide.
'I was born in 1927,' Richard said, 'and as a kid I hauled a bundle wagon, bringing bundles from the field to the thresher.' That machine still sits on the family farm, so Richard measured it to figure out the model's sizes. He also found the original Case manual, which shows all the parts.
With measurements in hand, he built the frame out of channel iron and then made the crankshaft for the fan cutters out of hex stock. 'It weighed 7 1/2 pounds when I started, but only 1 1/2 pounds when I was done. That's a lot of metal to machine off.'
He tested the crankshaft for uneven spots by laying it across several vertical hacksaw blades. 'They actually test big shafts like that,' he said. The first crank shaft he made was too uneven, so a second was made. 'When the thresher runs now, you can tell the crankshaft is balanced pretty well, because the thresher doesn't shake.'
Richard fashioned the exterior out of galvanized metal. 'I worked for two years in a sheet metal shop in California where no two pieces they made were ever the same, so I have lots of experience.'
The finished model also works. 'I take foxtail, which has real tiny seeds - about 1/16 of an inch long - and thresh that. I made my augers a little too tight, so I've got to use a fine seed.'
The thresher runs best when it hums, Richard said, just like the real ones did in the old days.
At first, his wouldn't hum, so he worked on it until it could run fast enough to make the right sound -which means the proper amount of air is passing through it.