In the old iron world, we tend to focus on restoration and preservation. But recycling is an equally important part of this hobby. Collectors in this category were recyclers before it became stylish. Much of that is rooted in two simple realities: Many parts are no longer in production, and those that are can be quite spendy.
Necessity, ’tis said, is the mother of invention. It also spurs creativity. Those who live in world of scale models, for instance, are forever looking for objects they can repurpose and recycle. Jay Hankee (read about his creations in Hay Tool and Cast Iron Seat Collectors Engage in Joint Venture) handcrafts scale model barns. His next project – a Harvestore silo and slurry store – is already on his mind. “I’m always thinking about it,” he says, “looking at what I can use to make pieces out of.”
In South Dakota, Alan Sorensen blends a love for Belgian workhorses with a deep interest in antique horse-drawn implements (read about Alan in A Horse-Drawn Cultivator Collection That Works). In a loop both clever and practical, Alan gets to exercise his horses, play with recycled antiques and raise grain to feed the horses. It is hard to imagine a more effective way in which to immerse oneself into the rhythms of farm life a century ago.
Although most of his collection earns its keep, Alan has a few relics that are for display only. That’s a distinction collector Ron Gittins also understands. His array of garden tractors is divided into workers and display models (check them out in Uncommon Garden Tractor Collection). He’s rescued a rare unit from a life of leisure and uses it year ‘round. When you see a guy mowing with a big smile on his face, that’s a sure sign of somebody who’s figured out how to make work fun – and what is that, if not recycling?
Donor tractors, parts engines, repurposed parts, machinery restored to working condition – I love the way folks in this hobby find a way to use every part but the squeal. But for me, I draw the line at the reel mower. That one remains a display piece. Happy recycling! FC
Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her via email.