Retired farmer revisits vintage equipment through hand-crafted model farm equipment.
Above left: Detail of the cob stacker at upper left; husk blower, center; and clean corn elevator, right.
At age 87, Hauko Janssen is retired, but still farming. His operation now spans tabletops and counters in his home, where he crafts scale model farm equipment.
Hauko farmed near his home at Trent, S.D., for most of his life. He did custom farming, as well as custom corn shelling, using a John Deere No. 6 truck-mounted sheller. As a boy of 6 or 7, he drove a Fordson tractor for his father. Later he used a Farmall Regular, and later still, he bought several Farmall 400 tractors. "I remember when, in the 1950s, you could shell a crib of corn and trade up to a new tractor and a new Ford car every year," he says. In 1959, when Gulbranson Implement went out of business, Hauko bought the last new Farmall 560 sold in Trent. Each of these tractors and implements has been recreated in miniature by Hauko.
When Hauko moved to town in 1970, he continued to help his son, Bob, on the farm. But he found a bit more time for tinkering. After cutting down some Ash trees, he had Bennet Sawmill, Sioux Falls, S.D., cut lumber. Some of that wood was used in constructing his first small pieces: a pair of scale model wagons. One is a triple box unit, even including a hinged endgate. The detail is microscopic: The pull pin for the evener is really a wrench used to take off axle nuts so that the wheel could be pulled for greasing, just like the real one! His only concession was using plastic wheels. The other wagon is a hayrack, like those used years ago to move loose hay to the barn, as well as to haul bundles from the field for threshing in the fall.
In constructing his John Deere No. 6 sheller, Hauko used common materials in uncommon ways. For example, on the truck engine, ballpoint pen tips became spark plugs, and 22-gauge insulated copper wire became plug wires. Solid wood forms most of the main engine, with exhaust headers formed from solid wire solder. Small rods from wire cooling racks used by bakers were used to make chrome rods, and plastic canvas used by hobbyists was trimmed to form No. 55 and No. 65 steel chain, as well as various elevator aprons, the drag feed apron and the cob stacker apron.
The primary tools Hauko used in crafting the sheller and the disc were a Dremel power tool and a soldering iron. He wore out two Dremel tools in the process.
He has an interesting, if tedious, technique for making V-belt pulleys. The pulleys start out as tin seals in shellac or thinner cans. The seals are ground down to the correct "V" size and the handmade hub is soldered in, making three pieces into one.
The cob stacker features a working winch with light copper wire for cable, raising and lowering it correctly. A pair of rods braces the unit, reminiscent of the era when cobs were loaded into wagons and hauled to cattle yards to fill mud holes, or loaded into a bin for use as fuel for the kitchen stove. (Author's note: Now we have combines doing this job, albeit not as well as the cage sheller and its sieves and fans did years ago. This I am sure of, as we burn corn, and corn from an old sheller is much cleaner, requiring no re-cleaning before use.)
Creation of the scale model John Deere 630 disc required extensive research. Hauko made several trips to his son's farm, where he took measurements and photographs of a 630. Common components again came into play. Square box tubing was made from tiny angle irons soldered together. Disc blades were crafted from pop can bottoms that were cut, drilled and placed on a small bolt, and then turned on a bench grinder. On rear gangs, a smaller disc is used on the ends, just as on a real unit. The real challenge on this piece, Hauko says, was getting the linkages right so that the unit would lift up level.
The hydraulic cylinders were made from small copper tubing, with parts from "rabbit ear" antennas for the rams. Truss rods were made from light wire, soldered into holes drilled in end plates. Ballpoint pen ends were again transformed into hose ends, with 22-gauge wire used for hydraulic hoses. Just as on the real unit, both gangs fold up for transport. As to the drag mounted on the rear of the disc, "teeth" were produced by wrapping light wire around a nail. Each one was then soldered into position on each drag section.
The projects were truly labors of love: Hauko figures he spent a couple of years on each the disc and the sheller, with some 500 pieces involved in the disc alone.
- For more information: Jim Lacey is an antique farm equipment enthusiast and collector in South Dakota. Tours of his museum, Little Village Farm at Trent, S.D., are available by chance or appointment from April through October. Call (605) 428-5979.