Rebuilt Antique Corn Husker/Shredder

Two boyhood friends with a shared interest in what was once a vital (but dangerous) farm implement find and restore an antique corn husker/shredder.

| May 2006

The early corn husker/corn shredder is a classic example of the dangers inherent in farming. "Most of these machines … were extremely dangerous," writes C.H. Wendel in Encyclopedia of American Farm Implements and Antiques. "It was relatively easy for those feeding the shredder to become entangled in the mechanism and be drawn into the snapping roles."

Don Binkley was a boy of 6 when he first saw a husker-shredder operate, and it made a huge impression. "They wouldn't let me close to the machine," he recalls. "It was too dangerous."

Decades later, things have changed. Today, Don and his neighbor Bernal Tolan, friends since childhood, have bought and restored an antique corn husker/corn shredder made by McCormick-Deering. The unit is similar to one owned by Don's grandfather, and the men have fond memories of watching it in action. It's no surprise, really, that they yearned to replace the long-gone machine. The element of surprise came when they paid $200 for it … and then actually told their wives.

"You know what divorce is?" Don says. "The women looked at that, and said, 'You actually paid money for that?'"

On a roll, the pair then bought a second unit, one in even sadder shape, to use for parts. "I bought the whole shredder for $5, because nobody bid on it," Don says. "It had sat inside, but was covered with manure. We've only seen three of these machines at auction, and never a wooden one on display. Most people just put them in a fence row and they just rotted away."

Husker-shredders date to the late 1890s, with Keystone, Milwaukee, and Monarch among the earliest manufacturers. The Michigan pair's McCormick-Deering Special six-roll unit contains a Keystone head and shredder, and is constructed partially of wood. McCormick-Deering began producing the Special in 1917. In the 1920s, lightweight steel replaced the wood of the early designs. Production of the Special ended in the early 1930s.