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Broken Antique Gear Spends a Century in Supporting Role

Original antique gear

According to my grandpap, the farm on our old home place was built when he was 18 years old, which would have been in 1882. In the south end of the barn are two cribs measuring 8 by 12 feet with small exterior doors through which grain could be scooped. At various times when I was growing up I saw the cribs filled with ear corn, wheat, rye, barley or oats.

Recently my two sons salvaged some oak siding from the old barn. This revealed an oak beam that ran under the cribs and supported the floor joists. Under one crib, the beam sat on a stack of large limestone rocks; under the other crib was a stack of rocks with this old gear on top of the stack.

The gear is cast iron, has 13 teeth and weighs 27 pounds. It is 4 inches deep and has a flange on one end measuring 8 inches in diameter. The teeth measure 7-1/2 inches and there is a hole in the center for a 2-3/4-inch hexagonal shaft. Two entire teeth and parts of two others have been broken off. Apparently the gear was damaged prior to 1882, and in true pioneer spirit, instead of being discarded, it was recycled as part of the main support under the crib.

My friend Bill Blackwell sandblasted the gear for me. I painted it black, and it’s now sitting by my front porch as a conversation piece. As I chipped some of the worst rust from the gear before taking it to Bill to be sandblasted, I discovered that it definitely didn’t fail for lack of lubrication. Between each set of teeth where they meet the flange, under a 132-year accumulation of farm dust, was a large glob of hard, black grease, almost like tar.

It would be really interesting to know what type of equipment the old gear came from and how it was damaged, but we’ll just have to use our imagination, because unfortunately that information has been lost to time.

Alan Easley, Columbia, Missouri

Sandblasting the gear

Clean antique gear 

Top: The old gear as it looked when discovered under the barn.

Middle: Bill Blackwell, sandblasting the gear. "After all the rust and dried grease was removed, lots of sand holes showed up," Alan Easley says. "It was really a pretty poor casting, which may have had something to do with its failure."

Bottom: The painted gear sitting on Alan's front porch. "Everybody needs one of these to sweep around," he says.