Antique Cider Presses: Pressed Into Service
Iowa man collects, restores antique cider presses
A trio of restored presses.
Photo By Loretta Sorensen
You might say that Joe Wurth was, uh, pressed into his first experience with a cider press. The Marcus, Iowa, man had never laid hands on a press (sometimes called a mill) until a friend asked him to help restore her family’s antique. That favor has since evolved into a full-fledged collection and hobby for Joe and his family.
It started simply enough. While building birdhouses for his young sons to place around the yard, Joe began to develop woodworking skills. Before long, he advanced to more complicated projects, things like picture frames and jewelry boxes.
Then a co-worker took notice and asked a favor. Her family had a long tradition of making cider every fall, but hadn’t made a batch for a few years, she said, because “a couple of boards” on their antique cider press needed to be replaced. “She knew I had just purchased a table saw,” Joe says, “and asked if I would consider cutting the boards needed to make the press functional again.”
Joe went to look at the cider press the following weekend. He expected to see an antique with a few rough edges. Instead, he found a basket case. “It was a pile of iron with the remains of two rotting legs,” Joe remembers. “My friend’s father looked at me with a smile and said, ‘Well, let’s get this stuff loaded up!’ Before I knew it, the iron parts were in the back of my pickup. As I headed back home, I wondered how it had all happened.”
Joe didn’t know it at the time, but that first press was a large one capable of producing 600 gallons of juice in a day. “It weighed close to 500 pounds,” he recalls. “It took four of us to load it in the pickup when it was all restored. That project was my baptism.”
Favor morphs into hobby
Joe spent most of that summer restoring the antique cider press. Pleased with his first effort, he hatched a plan. “I started wishing I had a press of my own,” he says. That fall, Joe and his wife attended a Missouri farm sale where they purchased a single-tub press manufactured by Red Cross Mfg. Co., Bluffton, Ind.
Once home, Joe headed back to the workshop. Before long, the Wurth family had a new seasonal pastime. “Once I got it restored, we used that press every fall while our boys were at home,” Joe says. “Even after the boys left home, my wife and I continued making cider every fall with that old press.”
When he retired several years ago from a career in education, Joe immersed himself in his hobby. He still has that first Red Cross press, but he’s added 16 more antique cider presses (and one wine press) in varied sizes.
Available in all sizes
Cider presses were produced in two basic styles: the one-tub press and the two-tub press. “The one-tub press required only two people to complete all the operations,” Joe says. “A new single-tub press advertised in the 1918 Bingham Hardware Co. catalog sold for $12.50 ($190 today). It was described as being capable of producing between one and two barrels of cider in a day. The press weighed 145 pounds.”
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