Decorative Miniature Straw Bales

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Right: The 3 hp Massey-Harris No. 2 stationary engine used to power the baler. Clarence is a regular exhibitor at antique farm shows within an hour of his home in central Illinois.
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Above: Clarence Keiser (right) with his miniature baler. A finished bale has just dropped off the baler. “You can’t go to sleep running this,” he says. “It can be dangerous, and you have to watch out for kids.”Left: Clarence Keiser, feeding the baler. He gets about 12 miniature bales from each regular-size square bale.

Clarence Keiser, Witt, Ill., prefers his straw
bales on the “manageable” side – that is, 6 inches wide, 6 inches
tall and 14 inches long, to be exact. In recent years, he’s been a
regular at vintage farm equipment shows near Witt, where he sells
his easy-to-carry miniature bales for $3 apiece to folks who use
them in decorative ways.

Clarence says he didn’t really start out to build a miniature
baling business, but enjoys it just the same. He bought his
homemade baler from a Chatham, Ill., man who built it, and then had
to sell it because of illness.

“The parts were rehabbed from various other pieces of farm
machinery,” Clarence says. “The flywheel, for example, has ‘IHC’
stamped on it.”

A Massey-Harris collector at heart, Clarence mostly uses his 3
hp, throttle-governed No. 2 Massey-Harris stationary engine to
power the baler, although he says an electric motor works well,
too. He bought the 1920s-era Massey-Harris engine from a private
museum. It starts on gas and switches to kerosene, and is
water-cooled, although Clarence runs antifreeze in it. He operates
the engine at 250 rpm to make the bales, and says he can fashion 12
to 15 pint-size pieces from a regular-size square bale.

Each of the minis is bound with wire, just like the full-size
models. Clarence makes winter work of creating a supply of wire to
use through the show season. Each piece has to be about 40 inches
long to wrap around a bale lengthwise, with an eye on one end for
secure fastening; two are needed per bale.

The engine he uses on the miniature baler isn’t Clarence’s only
piece of Massey-Harris equipment. He says his father’s first
tractor was an International, “but then he went to Massey in 1948,”
and Clarence is with Massey still. He’s been collecting vintage
pieces in recent years and among his tractors are a 1938
Challenger, a 55D Western-style dating to 1950, and a Model 44
diesel dating to the early 1950s.

In 1950, Clarence recalls, his father went to Massey combines,
and today, Clarence collects those as well. He owns a Massey
Clipper, an extremely popular scoop-type combine designed by
Massey-Harris for the U.S. market, and a Model 80. He’s also
donated a Model 90, a model favored by custom cutters, to the
Midwest Massey Collectors Club.

For more information:
Clarence Keiser, (217) 594-2287.

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