Restoring a Broadcast Seeder

Author Photo
By Jim Lacey

Early McCormick-Deering catalog an invaluable resource for the restorer.

broadcast seeder
Jim Lacey
The finished Hoosier Jumbo broadcast seeder, ready for display at Little Village Farm.

In the spring of 2020, a fellow from Hardwick, Minnesota, stopped by. He said he had been driving by our museum for 20 years, and had been watching as more and more buildings were added. He asked if we would like his dad’s old grain drill (which likely started out as Granddad’s old grain drill). I figured, why not? A week later, it arrived, looking rather tired, box covers and some wood pieces missing and the wheels with a pronounced lean to them.

My wife, Joan, “rummages” and buys books that look interesting. As it turns out, she had picked up the McCormick-Deering 23rd catalog at an estate sale. This is a quality book, with pages bound in signatures so it can be used a lot without damage. Mention is made inside of most of the items being consolidated under the McCormick-Deering name. The catalog dates to at least 1924, as inside the back cover, a notation hand-written with a pencil references ordering a cultivator for a customer in May 1924.


Image: Jim Lacey

Gearing: Top gear fits on the wheel hub. A lever rocks the middle gear into engagement with the top gear, as well as the gear driving the drill units.

The catalog has color plates throughout, luckily including one of a lime spreader painted the same color as the one we have. The paint color suggested by the paint shop salesman (whose dad had been an International Harvester dealer) was Carnival Red from Rust-Oleum.

Getting the paint right

My friend Ray Hoffman, long-time editor of the Case Heritage Foundation magazine, wrote back with the correct wheel color, saying the wheels should be painted Navajo White. Walking into our local hardware store, I found three cans of that shade on the shelf. I bought two of them and, after working on the wheel’s spokes, hubs and rims for several hours, sprayed them – and ran short of paint. I made another trip to the store, where the single can of Navajo White was still standing on the shelf, so I bought it and finished painting!

wheel spokes

Image: Jim Lacey

Close-up of wheel hub: Brass collar is pump bearing. It does the same job as the original: keeps the wheel on with the pin inside the hub.

Fixing the axles involved machining hubs out to fit large shafting, one end being machined down to go in holes in the end casting and support bracket, bolted inside the seed box, involving $400 worth of machine work as well. Information in the catalog suggested turning axle shafts for the end, when worn. These were beyond that, hence an expensive fix.


Image: Jim Lacey

Looking down the grass seed box, the whole unit was bowed, so I made a temporary “truss,” tightened both ends until the bow disappeared, then cut and fit in 2×12 pieces, screwed to the box interior, to maintain straightness after removing the truss.

The tongue was a piece of 4×4. I had a decent real tongue standing up in a shed, so I cut it down for tractor use (not that it will ever be used!). The grass seed box cover was renewed from poplar and planed to size. Large box covers were cut from nice ash, planed to correct thickness and covered with two coats of urethane rather than paint.

Hoosier Jumbo broadcast seeder

The unit sows 11 feet, being a broadcast seeder, not a drill (even though it has drill-metering units: 10 of them for the grain, and 16 small ones for grass seed, each with a fan on it, to ensure even seed distribution).

grass seed spreader

Image: Jim Lacey

Detail of grass seed spreaders, all 16 of them.

The unit is called the Hoosier Jumbo broadcast seeder in the catalog, and this one is a wide-tread unit. A similar one with close spacing on the wheels is, naturally, the narrow-track broadcast seeder. Information on both units can be found on Pages 372 and 373 of the above-mentioned catalog.


Image: Jim Lacey

Settings for various grains.

Most of us who save this old iron know full well it is not worth a lot, but that does not keep us from trying to save history, does it? So it goes. FC

Jim and Joan Lacey operate Little Village Farm, a museum of farm collectibles housed in 10 buildings at their home near Dell Rapids, S.D. Contact them at (605) 428-5979.

Updated on Jul 13, 2021  |  Originally Published on Jun 25, 2021

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