Flanked by proud survivors of American agriculture, Rodney Sprenger's restored IHC No. 15 baling press is a handsome salute to the past.
I grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., in a residential neighborhood where my dad worked for a milk and ice cream company.
This was a big change from the dairy farming operation my family came from in southeast Minnesota. I have good memories of summer vacations when we visited extended family on their farms where I got to see farm life. For them it was everyday chores, but for me it was better than a trip to a carnival.
Today I live and work in Houston, Texas. Several years ago, I purchased a 1946 Farmall H tractor and began the lengthy process of restoring it from the ground up. Fascinated by the mechanical design and engineering of the old tractor, I decided to look for equipment I could use with it. After searching for several months, I decided on an International Harvester Co. Little Genius 2-bottom plow. It’s the clutch-driven type with rope pull and pneumatic wheels.
I am constantly amazed that this equipment was built to last – and last it did, even after many years of operation and weathering on the side of a field. While restoring the old plow, I had a hard time finding the old-style plow bolts. I turned to a grinder for the solution. The plow works as good as ever, and it has been to several fields and shows across southeast Texas. There is nothing better to look at than a freshly plowed field!
The Farmall H came with a belt pulley that was restored with the tractor, but I had not used it at all. After several ideas and some looking, I came across a baling press in Texas that was in pretty good shape for being in part of the state’s wetter climate. I enjoy the challenge of restoring a unique piece of equipment and seeing it in operation. The press was an IHC No. 15 baling press built between 1939 and 1949.
Many hours were spent cleaning dirt-caked grease out of crevices. My father, Robert Sprenger, rebuilt the wood parts from sight. I don’t know how he did it, as most of the wood was falling apart or gone altogether. More time was spent repairing the rockshaft assembly after the spring jammed due to decades of rust build-up. The press had several roller-type bearings that would have been impossible to replace, but luckily all were in good shape.
The most difficult part of the restoration was finding decals. I eventually had to have them made. The use of an original parts manual to determine the decals and placement was invaluable. After I had it all greased and reassembled and turned the flywheel for the first time, it spun freely. I made several revolutions to see how all the parts worked in unison.
I have displayed and operated this baling press at several shows in Texas and it always draws a crowd. It takes several people to operate the press and my brother-in-law, Alan Williamson, always pitches in to help. The old press is mechanically sound and operates just as it did 70 years ago. The hay is packed into bales in the bale chamber and held tight with two or three wire ties. The numbers on the side of the bale chamber indicate the length of the bale.
Every time we operate the press at a show, it draws large crowds of spectators who generally have never seen this equipment, let alone in operation. The main reason I restore this old farm equipment is to see it operating and to display and explain how it works. FC
For more information: Rodney Sprenger, (281) 955-5208; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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