A Cut Above

Early potato cutters streamlined seed potato production.

| November 2020

In the wooden unit, blades cradle the spud, which is set unit over a bucket. The user presses down, and the pieces appear below.

Many years ago, Bill Janklow, then governor of South Dakota, launched an effort aiming at getting abandoned farmsteads cleaned up. As part of the process, there was a focus on proper well abandonment. That is where we come in. Quite often, that involves digging out legs, removing windmills, towers and piping, and sealing the well properly. Inasmuch as my wife, Joan, had a good relationship with several farm management companies, we did many of these projects. In the process, we were allowed to look over abandoned sites and take what we wanted, as the remains were to be pushed into a hole, burned and buried.

The same unit, alternate (with a cracker tin in the background)

Two potato cutters (as well as several other interesting pieces now in our museum) came out of groves during that time. The wooden one was recently given to us. I cleaned up the duckbill-type cutter, preferring to leave the other as found and merely get it functional.

The green unit has an adjustable stop on the end of the cutting section, allowing the user to make large pieces on the stem end (there are typically fewer eyes on the stem end, so bigger pieces were needed). Also, depending on the variety – for instance, long and narrow, or short and fat – the cutter could be set accordingly.

Top: The green unit may be a Trexler. This side view shows the duckbill grate, and the pedal used to operate the unit. Middle: Spring-loaded “petals” center the potato over knives; note the adjustable plate on the end. Bottom: The green unit from the operator’s perspective.


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