Agricultural Artifacts: Alemites to Zerks

Mastering the ABCs of agricultural artifacts.

| February 2007

  • Bushing
    Before Alemites and Zerks, bushings such as the one supporting the shaft on an early 1900s engine were sometimes lubricated by adding grease to a cup and forcing it between the mating surfaces with a screw-type plunger that doubled as a cap for the cup.
  • Once found in the center of a steel wheel, this hub (complete with its foreshortened flat spokes) was once cutoff (cut-down in some references) and carefully welded inside a pneumatic tire's rim
    Once found in the center of a steel wheel, this hub (complete with its foreshortened flat spokes) was once cutoff (cut-down in some references) and carefully welded inside a pneumatic tire's rim.
  • A finely finished collection of cream separators
    A finely finished collection of cream separators owned by Scott Punton, Valley City, N.D. Scott is partial to separators of virtually any age, so long as International Harvester is the manufacturer.
  • Happiness is what it's all about and judging by the smile, Bob Overmohle (Carroll, Iowa) is pretty happy when he fires up one of his large corn shellers
    Happiness is what it's all about and judging by the smile, Bob Overmohle (Carroll, Iowa) is pretty happy when he fires up one of his large corn shellers.
  • Oliver's Superior brand drill traces its history back to the Superior Drill Co
    Oliver's Superior brand drill traces its history back to the Superior Drill Co. This nicely preserved original-condition specimen was last seen nestled among wild sunflowers and Indian grass in a central Nebraska fence line. Sights such as this often inspire enthusiasts to take on new projects or finish old ones.
  • Fine-finish fanatics take the business of painting very seriously
    Fine-finish fanatics take the business of painting very seriously. This tractor was subjected to hours of grinding to remove its castings' gritty surface texture, followed by careful blocking of the entire tractor. Color sanding the final coat of green, followed by a buffed-out clear coat, creates a finer-than-factory finish.
  • This 1942 International Harvester Farmall Model H's refurbishing is in progress
    This 1942 International Harvester Farmall Model H's refurbishing is in progress. The enthusiast took a back-to-front approach, replacing every bearing, bushing and seal and finishing pieces as he installed them, touching up scrapes and scratches as things progressed.
  • This garden tractor is about to have its engine jerked out with a slightly overbuilt hoist on its way to a complete refurbishing
    This garden tractor is about to have its engine jerked out with a slightly overbuilt hoist on its way to a complete refurbishing. (Its owner isn't meticulous about matching parts or paint color codes, so prefers not to use the word "restore.") The word "refurbish," like "vintage," offers students of old iron flexibility and a bit of protection from the "correct police" and even some masters.
  • Merlyn Irlbeck (Manning, Iowa) simply couldn't let this Adams grader go to the scrap yard
    Merlyn Irlbeck (Manning, Iowa) simply couldn't let this Adams grader go to the scrap yard, so he brought it home and made a temporary yard ornament out of it. At the moment, it is pretty close to the bottom of Merlyn's to-do list, but at least it is out of harm's way.
  • Quantity is definitely a plus when it comes to collecting agricultural artifacts
    Quantity is definitely a plus when it comes to collecting agricultural artifacts. This fine array of ground-driven implements is a small part of the collection owned by Harold Eddy, Slater, Mo.
  • This tractor definitely qualifies as rough
    This tractor definitely qualifies as rough, but its owner, Rob Bush (Oconomowoc, Wis.), says the old Farmall is pretty complete and offers a nice example of the exhaust-vacuum lift (see black canister beside the grille). The lift is unusual because it was unreliable in a time when hydraulics were beginning to catch on and now proves the adage that junk and treasure can be one and the same.
  • One of the nicest ways to clean grunge and rust from smaller parts is with an enclosed sandblasting cabinet
    One of the nicest ways to clean grunge and rust from smaller parts is with an enclosed sandblasting cabinet. Here, an enthusiast cleans carbon from exhaust valves removed from her Farmall Cub. A blasting cabinet this size also works for small- to medium-size sheet metal and cast parts such as pan seats and brake pedals.
  • Greasing this tractor's front hubs is a breeze thanks to the Zerk installed at its center
    Greasing this tractor's front hubs is a breeze thanks to the Zerk installed at its center. These nipple-like fittings have replaced the pin-type, bayonet-mount Alemites that were among the very first the Alemite Co. offered.

  • Bushing
  • Once found in the center of a steel wheel, this hub (complete with its foreshortened flat spokes) was once cutoff (cut-down in some references) and carefully welded inside a pneumatic tire's rim
  • A finely finished collection of cream separators
  • Happiness is what it's all about and judging by the smile, Bob Overmohle (Carroll, Iowa) is pretty happy when he fires up one of his large corn shellers
  • Oliver's Superior brand drill traces its history back to the Superior Drill Co
  • Fine-finish fanatics take the business of painting very seriously
  • This 1942 International Harvester Farmall Model H's refurbishing is in progress
  • This garden tractor is about to have its engine jerked out with a slightly overbuilt hoist on its way to a complete refurbishing
  • Merlyn Irlbeck (Manning, Iowa) simply couldn't let this Adams grader go to the scrap yard
  • Quantity is definitely a plus when it comes to collecting agricultural artifacts
  • This tractor definitely qualifies as rough
  • One of the nicest ways to clean grunge and rust from smaller parts is with an enclosed sandblasting cabinet
  • Greasing this tractor's front hubs is a breeze thanks to the Zerk installed at its center

In the world of agricultural artifacts, the letter A is most definitely not for apple unless it has something to do with vintage orchard equipment, and the letter B is very likely not for balloon, although more than one vintage children's alphabet book makes just those connections. Advisors of agrarian antiques would likely select different words to aid their students' learning experiences. The letter A might be better represented with the word 'antique.' Better yet, this alphabet might begin with an antiquated word for something small we all know and love, or love to hate when clogged up - like the grease fitting.

Alemite

Even in days of old, lubricating rotating shafts and bearings was considered good practice, but when it came to delivering petroleum-based grease to sliding surfaces, it took effort to push the sticky lubricant into place. Some manufacturers used screw-plunger-type grease cups to send lube into bushings and bearings, but the Alemite Co. innovated with the world's first pin- and button-type fittings that temporarily sealed to matched couplings on the end of pressurized grease guns. Those early grease fittings are now called Alemites.

Broke

If you restrict your study of old implements to simply looking, you will see many examples of things that are broken. For example, an engine might have a broken crankshaft although some would say the crank was 'busted.' If you are a collector and actually own that broken old engine, there is every possibility you will break something else while taking it apart to fix the crank and you'll likely bust a few knuckles in the process. And since that engine is really a rare one, you might also go broke trying to find or make the parts needed to put it all back together again.

Cutoff

Most tractors sold into the late 1930s were delivered with steel wheels front and back. Astute farmers of the '40s recognized the advantages of rubber tires and cut the creased or crumpled steel bands off their tractor's wheels, replacing them with rims designed specifically for pneumatic tread. Since many of those conversions were cobbled or have long since succumbed to the ravages of corrosion, today's correct restorations are completed so the tractors will once again clatter.



Dzus

In the early 1930s, a West Islip, N.Y., entrepreneur invented the quarter-turn quick-acting and self-locking fastener most students of old iron mistakenly call the Zeus screw. But the king of Greek mythology had nothing to do with it: The piece was named for its inventor, William Dzus. Dzus fasteners were sometimes used to fasten engine compartment side panels and other sheet metal parts in place. No matter how dinged or damaged a piece of tinwork is, if its Dzus fasteners are intact, don't destroy it.

Easyout

No matter how excellent an old machine might be, when you take it apart, you will likely break a bolt and need to extract it. Once a trade name, the term easyout and its variations are now used generically to describe hardened-steel, spiral-fluted tools screwed into a hole bored in a broken bolt's center and turned with a wrench to extract it. Exercise extreme care: If you break the easyout in the bolt, there is no easy out.