Pressed Back Into Action

| August 2004

I knew it would be a challenge to restore a wooden farm machine since they are often badly riddled by termites and rot, but I was determined to restore an old hay press. My friend Paul Marciel of Livermore, Calif., has a large collection of old farm machinery, including the remnants of three mostly wooden Jacob Price-designed Junior Monarch Hay Press Co. 'dump-off' hay presses that we used to restore just one to working condition. The horse power unit from one was reasonably intact, but far from useable. One had no power unit, and the third had no wooden parts at all - just iron, some of which had been buried.

We had looked for a steel-framed, horse-powered Junior Monarch rig on its own wheels (vintage circa 1918) to rebuild and run, but failing to find one we could afford, we decided a dump-off press could be rebuilt. The oldest press in Paul's collection (circa 1890) still had some semblance of the press box and its power-unit, so that one seemed the best choice to restore. 

Work before restoration

These presses were all hand-made and usually sold without the plat forms and accessories necessary to make a complete baling rig. In old photos, they all appear slightly different because the owners had modified each press. That fact gave me some license when rebuilding the dump-off press. When there was nothing there to measure and rebuild exactly, I had to build it like it would've been if I were the owner back then. Major effort was spent trying to keep it as original as it was when put in service, not when it was manufactured.

Paul and I made a deal. He would pay for the restoration materials, and I would do the restoration work. When it was rebuilt, I'd own just under half of the press, but Paul and his family would keep it stored under cover. We both wanted it preserved, hopefully forever.

Reconstruction measurements were often interpolated from what wood remained, photographs and common sense. We were forced to use a few steel parts from Paul's other two Junior Monarchs and made new sheet metal lining for the box.

During its working life, several modifications (read: improvements) were made. For example, a 1909 Gomez feeding system replaced the original. It appeared this machine had baled a lot of hay, as a consider able amount of wear was present on the hinges, pivots and winch bearings. There were no grease cups on the bearings, but some did have 'oil holes' that probably plugged up fairly quick with dust and chaff, and maybe never got oiled.