1934 McCormick-Deering Corn Binder Restored

Alabama man restores a 1934 McCormick-Deering corn binder and puts it to work.

| November 2013

  • The McCormick-Deering binder as Larry found it.
    Photo Courtesy Larry Lemmond
  • The restored binder being used to bind sorghum cane. Larry Lemmond is shown wearing the green vest. Wayne Ashley is driving his Farmall Model H tractor.
    Photo Courtesy Larry Lemmond
  • The binder’s stalk chute and knotter seen from the back.
    Photo Courtesy Larry Lemmond

I have always wanted to learn how to do things that my grandfather and great-grandfather had to do to survive and make a living many years ago. Raising sorghum cane for molasses was one of the things that my father did almost every year. He stopped raising the cane soon after taking a regular job to stabilize the family finances, so I didn’t get to learn much of the grown-up work that was associated with making syrup. But I do remember lots of the fieldwork.

I was looking at a PTO-driven binder at Burl Staten’s place near Decatur, Ala., when he said he had a ground-driven one that worked better, and that I needed it and it was for sale. I asked to look at it, and we walked to where he had last used it in the field. When I saw it, I knew that I had to have it, whether I restored it or not.

The 1934 McCormick-Deering corn binder was bought new in Madison County, Ala., and was used to cut corn until 1959. The original owner sold it to a Morgan County man in 1985, and he used it to cut sorghum cane until he retired in 2007. Burl says that it is not necessary to strip the leaf fodder from the stalks before pressing as long as they are allowed to dry, though the seed heads do have to be removed. He also taught me the fine art of cooking the juice into molasses without burning it. He was just passing along to me what he had been doing in his 20 years of making syrup. 

The popular McCormick-Deering (Milwaukee-style) corn binder was built by International Harvester from 1902 until 1953. The binder was developed to reduce the tiring labor of cutting and shocking during harvest. This model is a small, lightweight unit that adapted a grain binder mechanism to handle stalk crops (originally corn), but which was later adapted to handle sorghum and other cane crops. The packers, compression device and knotter are nearly identical to those in the original grain binder design.

Restoration from the ground up

Everything on this tired old machine was in working order, but all of the wood parts needed to be replaced. I carried it home and began working on it in July 2011. I took off all of the wood and made new pieces as best I could, using the old pieces as patterns where possible. There was some guesswork, as many upper boards fell apart when the bolts were removed. 

None of the lumber I had on hand was wide enough for the largest pieces, but my uncle owns a band sawmill and he had all of the necessary lumber except one for the butt chain board. He had some wild cherry slabs that were wide enough for the last piece.

12/1/2017 9:43:23 AM

How can i get a instruction book like u have. I came across my grandads machine a lot worse condition then urs but would like to get it back to its original look. Any help would be appreciated.

12/1/2017 9:43:20 AM

How can i get a instruction book like u have. I came across my grandads machine a lot worse condition then urs but would like to get it back to its original look. Any help would be appreciated.


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