Harvesting Old Iron: Antique Threshing Machines Restored

Wood Bros. and Sterling antique threshing machines rediscovered and restored to working condition.

| January 2012

  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher
    Restoration of the Humming Bird took four years. "Just as an example," Bruce Anderson says, "there are 100 pieces of wood in each straw walker, and six straw walkers, so that’s 600 little pieces of wood."
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Rear View
    Rear view of the Humming Bird thresher before it went to work at the Butterfield (Minn.) Steam & Gas Engine Show.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Farmers Friend Decal
    This recreated Farmers Friend decal lends a touch of authenticity to the Humming Bird.
  • Chains And Pulleys
    The chains and pulleys on Orville Anderson’s Humming Bird are original to the piece.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Body
    When Orville brought the Humming Bird home, it sat in his yard for years before he restored it to the fine condition it’s in today.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Frame
    It took the Andersons two days to pull the Humming Bird 60 miles. During restoration, Orville stripped the thresher down to its bones, as shown here.
    Photo courtesy of Bruce Anderson
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Side
    Fabrication of the pipe that moves back and forth, piling straw over a wide area, was a daunting task.
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Silver Side
    To get to this stage, Orville’s Wood Bros. Humming Bird thresher required four years of work.
  • Double Wing Feeder System
    The Humming Bird has a Garden City double-wing feeder system. “I understand that is not original to the piece,” Bruce says. “It would be fun to know what the original one looked like.”
  • Bruce Anderson And Sons
    Sons Jacob (left) and Paul with their dad, Bruce Anderson, at the Butterfield (Minn.) Steam & Gas Engine Show.
  • Sterling Antique Thresher
    This rear side view of the Sterling shows the double-bagging system.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • John Deere Wagon
    Orville also restored wagons like this John Deere model.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Sterling Antique Thresher plaque
    Heebner & Sons of Lansdale, Pa., licensed its entire product line to IHC in about 1909. IHC then renamed the line “Sterling.”
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • McCormick Deering Hay Press
    The Andersons’ 1922 McCormick-Deering hay press. “It makes what I call a two-man bale, requiring two guys to lift it,” Bruce says. “I think they probably used bale hooks to handle them.”

  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Rear View
  • Farmers Friend Decal
  • Chains And Pulleys
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Body
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Frame
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Side
  • Wood Bros Antique Thresher Silver Side
  • Double Wing Feeder System
  • Bruce Anderson And Sons
  • Sterling Antique Thresher
  • John Deere Wagon
  • Sterling Antique Thresher plaque
  • McCormick Deering Hay Press

Orville Anderson grew up around a 32-inch Wood Bros. threshing machine that was part of the threshing ring that operated near his home in Madelia, Minn. “He was the grain hauler,” says Orville’s son, Bruce Anderson, “and in that ring part of his responsibilities were to help grease and maintain that threshing machine, so he was pretty well versed in it.”

So it was no surprise when Orville bought a circa 1910 Wood Bros. Humming Bird thresher in 1987. “In those days you could still get antique threshing machines at farm auctions for $5,” Bruce says, “or $25 if someone was bidding against you.”

The antique thresher travels sixty miles on steel

The huge Humming Bird came from the Storden, Minn., area, some 60 miles from Madelia. “We loaded the pickup with every type of tool we could think of when we went to get it,” Bruce recalls. “Jacks, planks and everything.” Before the Humming Bird could be pulled by a four-wheel drive pickup, it had to be jacked up out of the dirt and planks were placed under the wheels. “We pulled it 60 miles on highways on those steel wheels,” Bruce says. “We had quite an adventure pulling it home.”

As it was being pulled, for instance, a front wheel came off, dropping the axle onto the road and almost snapping the pole off. “We had to jack it up on the highway and take some parts from a back wheel to the front to hold the wheel on,” Bruce says. Later, a part from the blower fell off. But by the time the Andersons returned to retrieve the part, another driver stopped, picked up the part and drove away. “So some part of the machine got away from us,” Bruce says. “We never did find out what it was.”



Restoration of the Humming Bird promised to be a huge project, so it was put on hold while Orville restored 13 other threshers, including a 22-inch Case that didn’t need a lot of work, a Case double-wing feeder from about 1910 and an almost-new Oliver Red River Special. “It was a ball-bearing machine with rubber tires,” Bruce recalls. “A nice, smooth-running machine.”

Giving the antique threshing machine a close look

Meanwhile, Orville dug in deep, studying and researching the Humming Bird. Many of the thresher’s parts had been modified and several tin pieces were missing. When he finally went to work, he stripped the old machine down to the bones.