It's All Trew

Before Baling Wire and Duct Tape

| October 2005

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  • HawkeyeRopeMachine.jpg
    Above: When fed through a device such as this Hawkeye Rope Machine, binder twine was fashioned into strong, inexpensive rope.
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    Left: A spool of binder twine produced in Mexico, sitting atop a chair featuring a seat woven of binder twine.
  • 1917DeeringGrainBinderTwine.jpg
    Above: A 1917 Deering grain binder like this one employed binder twine.
  • 1917DeeringGrainBinderTwine-1.jpg
    Above: Binder twine was also made of American wiregrass of the West and Northwest. (Images reprinted from 150 Years of International Harvester with permission of the author, Charles H. Wendel.)

  • DelbertTrew.jpg
  • HawkeyeRopeMachine.jpg
  • HawkeyeRopeMachine-1.jpg
  • 1917DeeringGrainBinderTwine.jpg
  • 1917DeeringGrainBinderTwine-1.jpg

Binder twine endures as all-purpose farm and ranch problem-solver

Most old timers have forgotten a simple product used almost daily in the distant past. We called it "binder twine," as it was basically used in a McCormick-Deering broadcast binder to tie together bundles of feed stalks. It was cheap and durable and served in many ways.

There is no prettier sight in the fall than a field of shocked feed with its little "tepees" of feed bundles awaiting the long winter ahead. Those little twines holding the bundles together made handling stock feed a breeze with only a pitchfork in hand.

The Deering-Appleby twine binder, introduced in 1879, sold like wildfire and worked like a charm. As demand for binder twine increased, Deering spent thousands of dollars experimenting with different fibers to provide strength and quality of product at the most economical price.

The best twine product seemed to be a blend of sisal from Yucatan and manila from the Philippines. To meet the demand, Deering established three twine factories in the U.S., and more overseas, importing huge, 400-pound bales of both fibers.



Fibers were softened, blended, oiled and treated against insects. Huge breaking and combing machines straightened fiber for spinning into large, fluffy rope forms. Final spinning kept stretching and reducing the size before the fiber was wound on large bobbins. From there, the finished product was rewound into balls designed to fit twine holders on farm machinery.

From 1897 to 1937, when six brands were available, binder twine changed little. The original twine balls weighed about 8 pounds each, with approximately 75 strands of fiber twisted 14 times per lineal foot to achieve strength and uniform size. When the new power-driven hay balers arrived, binder twine changed a bit, evolving into "baler twine" with more strength and size.