1957 Ford Picker/Sheller Restored

Ford 1-row mounted corn picker/sheller pairs up with Ford 861 LP.

Ford Tractor And Picker Sheller

Jan Garber’s fully restored pair: a 1958 Ford 861 LP and 1957 Ford picker/sheller.

Photo By Jan Garber

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In 1973 I noticed a sale bill listing a Ford 1-row mounted picker/sheller. My granddad had farmed with Ford tractors, Dearborn row-crop implements and a Ford hay baler, but he used an International Harvester 2-row corn picker. Never having heard of such a machine, my curiosity was high, so I went to the auction preview. Yes indeed, I had to have this machine, as I had been picking corn with a 1-row New Idea and having shelled corn would save storage space.

I went to the auction and made the purchase for $35. With the help of an owner’s manual, I made necessary preparations to a Ford 4000 tractor for mounting and away I went on a 54-mile round trip. I could not believe how easy it was to mount this unit, although I did put the grain bin on the trailer. I got the picker/sheller home and greased it up and it ran with no problems. Then and only then did I discover the serial number: 1008. I knew then it was the eighth one made.

That fall I harvested my field corn and was totally surprised; rarely did I find any shelled corn on the ground. Then I put the unit to the true test and harvested popcorn. I was just as pleased. I sold the New Idea, as Ford had a better idea. Mounting the picker/sheller is a piece of cake compared to the cursed job of mounting Dad’s International 2-row picker on his Farmall M.

After the wheels are set out and the angle mounting hangers are installed with the fender bolts, it takes about 15 minutes to mount the three-point sheller; it takes about 30 minutes to mount the grain sheller with a mounting bracket. If the grain sheller is hanging (which is easiest), then you can drive under it and lower it into position.

Letting it go

In 1979 I sold all my farm equipment, including, reluctantly, the picker/sheller. The buyer only wanted the rubber snapping-roller to put on his picker. For years I tried to buy it back but he had to have it in his pasture, for a cattle rub I think. Eventually he died and I bought the piece back at his estate auction for $35 (without the owner’s manual). Thirty years in the pasture had aged the unit but I was bound and determined to restore this classic machine. This time I only had a 5-mile round trip to retrieve it.

I did a complete assessment. Virtually all of the bearings were frozen up, so I shot them with J-B Weld and kerosene and finally got it to turn over. I knew the bottom auger pan was in need of replacement as well as the lower auger flighting. The grain pan and blower deflector were in bad shape so I had a new auger pan, grain pan and blower deflector made using old patterns. Oh yes, I found some of my popcorn cobs inside. The previous owner had never removed the rubber snapping-roller and it was still in perfect shape.

During disassembly I noticed markings on the gearbox. It was stamped April 1957, so I assume that was the unit’s assembly date. When it was actually delivered, or to where, I do not know. I do know from the parts book that the earliest units had maple wood sieve swings (as mine does); sometime shortly after that, a metal swing with rubber bushings was used.

Complete restoration

I had decided to do the job right: I would totally tear it apart and sandblast, prime, paint and reassemble all parts. As this was done I took inventory of all bearings, belts and other items that needed to be replaced. It took a couple of months to find replacement bearings, belts, bolts and other parts. I applied new original-size Ford decals. I also located an owner’s manual, parts book and an original sales brochure.

The gathering chain sprocket bearings were not salvageable despite having been sealed, and no new sprockets are available. After pulling the roll pin in the bolt, I drove the bolt into the pressed-in cover and popped it out of the sprocket. Two C-rings hold in the bearing; then the bearing can be driven out and new bearings installed. I lucked out by finding two good sprocket shoulder bolts on a junked picker head. The picker head gearboxes were cleaned inside and out and refilled with new grease and oils. Overall the picker head was in very good shape.

I did not pull the cylinder shaft or bearings on the sheller unit as the cast pulleys did not want to budge. Instead, I needle-greased the two bearings. They responded well and were salvaged. All other bearings, high-speed chains, belts and canvases were replaced. All parts were primed and painted before assembly and two final coats of paint.

A perfect partner

During the restoration process, I spotted a 1958 Ford 861 LP on an auction bill and decided it would make a very cool companion piece. The tractor had a stuck clutch but the engine ran out very good. After some towing and popping the tractor in gear, I got the clutch to release.

Last year I was so excited to get the picker/sheller to shows that I just did metal repairs and put a quick coat of paint on the tractor. This year I took the tractor down, split it, sandblasted, primed and painted it. I also put a new clutch in, as the old one was going to be in need eventually. The front seal on the crank leaked a bit, so I pulled the front cover and the pan. I have no idea how many hours are on the engine but, because it’s an LP, I could put all the sludge in the pan in a tablespoon. Finding original LP parts like the double diaphragm regulator and the vaporizer unit can be very challenging.

Saving a piece of history is challenging, but it is so neat when people say they have never seen one of these machines. Now if I could just find a 2-row mounted picker/sheller to save! FC 

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— Contact Jan Garber at jangarber@rocketmail.com.