Farm Collector Blogs > First Things

Home-Built Heritage

by Leslie McManus

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Take an industrial size eraser and wipe out almost every store you’ve ever patronized. Drain your bank account to an impossibly low balance. Run a farm; feed a family. Forget about a second income; you barely have a first income. Times have been hard; times will be hard yet again. If you need a tool or a tractor, you’d try almost anything – including building it yourself – before you’d shell out the money to buy it.

In the pages of Farm Collector, we routinely consider such a world, but it’s always been a bit of a textbook exercise for me. That all changed when I attended a national meeting of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. last fall. Displays at that event showcased craftsman-made and hand-forged tools. Design and construction of the pieces ran the gamut from primitive to elegant. Each tool there spoke volumes about need, pride of workmanship, artistry, creativity and resourcefulness.

Members of the M-WTCA take their history seriously and are eager to share the results of their research. Mid-West Tool Collectors Show Impressive Antiques gives a glimpse of a world you’ll not find anywhere else, and one that the tool collectors work passionately to preserve. But make no mistake: They’re having a great time in the process, and they’d be happy to welcome you into the fold.

Writer Bill Vossler also explores home-built items this month in the article Homemade Tractor Craze. In the early 1900s, tractors were beyond the reach of most farmers. More than a few, however, stepped up to the plate and built their own, using whatever mechanical relics they could scrape together.

Predictably, most such efforts failed – but some actually worked. The fact that any did is astonishing. More than a century ago, even stationary engines and steam engines were still novelties for many farmers. Imagine the learning curve involved in building your own tractor when such a device barely existed 10 years earlier. Picture yourself building a computer out of a pocket calculator and you start to get an idea of the challenge.

A story about a handmade scale model tractor – Scale Model of International Harvester Titan Works – rounds out the trifecta of articles in this issue touching on a common theme. Times change, but in one form or another, good old American ingenuity endures. FC