Farmers Friend Wind Stacker

Farmers Friend wind stacker eased the hard job of threshing.

| August 2014

Farmers friend blowing straw

A Case threshing machine blowing straw onto a stack at a Baraboo, Wis., show in 2007.

Photo by Sam Moore

Most folks who remember “thrashing” machines from their youth, or who have seen them demonstrated at shows, likely think they all came with the big round pipe at the back that blew the straw into a pile. Well, from about 1890 that’s probably true, but it wasn’t always so.

When farmers graduated from the flail to the first groundhog-type mechanical separators (and for many years after that) the straw was dropped on the ground behind the thresher. To keep it from burying the machine, the straw had to be moved away, at first by men with hand rakes and pitchforks and then by horse rakes. At about the time of the Civil War, conveyor-type straw stackers appeared, usually hinged onto the rear of the thresher and arranged with ropes and pulleys to raise the outer end as the stack grew.

Such conveyor stackers had disadvantages; since they were driven by the same power source as the thresher, usually a horse tread or sweep power, they increased the power requirements needed. Although the elevator was hinged so its height could be varied, there was originally no way to swing the stacker from side to side, so the stack had to be made directly behind the separator and was thus limited in size. In addition, even though some labor was saved, two or three men were still needed on the stack to move the straw into place with pitchforks.

Swinged stacker evolves

To make the elevator stacker more useful, it was soon pivoted as well as hinged at its bottom, which enabled it to swing from side to side, making it easier to distribute the straw on top of the stack while at the same time permitting larger and longer stacks to be built. The first swinging stackers were stand-alone units on wheels. They were transported separately; when set in place, they were powered by a belt or rope from the thresher.

Improved versions of the swinging stacker were permanently attached to the threshing machine and provided for automatic swinging from side to side on an arc that could be regulated by moving pins to different holes on the large supporting wheel. As the stack grew and the elevator was raised, the outer end also moved out so the straw was always dropped on the stack’s center line.

A veritable cyclone

Then, in 1884, James Buchanan of Indianapolis won a patent for a stacker that dispensed with belts, chains, canvas aprons and wooden slats to carry the straw to the stack. Instead, Buchanan used a large fan to blow the straw through a long metal pipe that was adjustable in height and length and capable of being pivoted from side to side. This first pneumatic, or wind, stacker was mounted on its own four wheels and was positioned at the rear of a thresher to receive the straw and blow it where desired.