After retiring from our jobs, my wife and I made the move
from the city to a two- acre rural location in Northumberland
County where we had a new home built.
After landscaping our property with flowerbeds and trees,
there still seemed to be something lacking.
Although I've always been interested in old cars and antiques
of all kinds, I've never really been a collector to speak of.
But finding myself with some spare time on my hands, I thought
it would be great to add an old horse-drawn farm machine or two
to enhance our landscape.
A few people in our area had already done this, but it was
apparent that some of the old relics were just plopped haphazardly
in a flowerbed, left unpainted and in disrepair, which just doesn't
do them justice.
Just like an old car, they need some TLC.
When you stop to think about it, our agricultural history
is undergoing rapid changes and we have to rely on our older
generation of farmers to provide us with the knowledge they have
from the actual use of some of these primitive implements. If
it weren't for these people, as well as the Amish and the Mennonites,
much of this history would be lost forever.
As I became more interested in restoring old farm machinery,
I attended a few auctions but found the prices to be higher than
what I was willing to pay. Smart lady that she is, my wife, Pauline,
suggested I should bypass the middle man and just ask the farmers
themselves if they were willing to sell any of their old equipment.
When this proved to be a successful tactic, I was well on my
way into my new and rewarding hobby.
The first machine I obtained was a bar sickle mower made
by Frost and Wood and built in Smiths Falls, Ontario, over a
century ago as identified in a book by the name of American Farm
Implements & Antiques , by C.H. Wendel (printed in 2004),
which also covers many Canadian companies who made farm machinery.
Restoring this implement required disassembling everything
that could come apart. Before doing so, I took photos from every
angle so it would be reassembled correctly. Each part was straightened
(if necessary), rust removed, primed and then painted with a
few coats of rust paint. Most nuts and bolts had to be replaced,
except for the square nuts, which were reused, as they are difficult
Once the work was completed, the mower was reassembled and
placed on large patio stones on our property, giving the neighbours
something to talk about and making a good roost for birds as
The next project was a cultivator, which wasn't in very good
condition. This machine was also about 100 years old, made by
Frost & Wood and built in Smiths Falls, Ontario. It had been
left out in all kinds of weather over the decades and was missing
a few vital parts that were needed.
On occasion, missing parts can be taken from other machines
and I did have to resort to using some parts that weren't original
to the machine. Although a purist wouldn't agree
with this method of restoration, it's important to keep in mind
that these implements are destined to be lawn ornaments and not
Working on the cultivator was more time consuming than the
mower. All 15 shanks were taken apart individually and each one
was comprised of six parts. Once again, each segment needed rust
removal, priming and a couple coats of paint applied.
My next project
began in July 2009 when a neighbour gave me three old cutters
that looked quite beyond my abilities to restore them. These
old sleighs were built oh-so-fancy, with metal ornamentations
and curved wooden panels, which I knew I couldn't duplicate in
my little basement workshop.
This was going to be a real challenge, but having three parts
sleighs to work with it seemed probable that I might be able
to rebuild one from the three.
As always, out came the camera to take photos from all angles
of each sleigh. (One of these had been built by a small company
in Cavan, Ontario, known as Cavanville at the time.)
Each metal part was stripped off and cleaned or replaced.
Most of the wooden parts had to be replaced entirely. Wooden
panels from two of the sleighs were rebuilt and placed on the
first sleighs runners. After some improvising and lots
of hard work, a new cutter emerged from the original
three and it was used this past Christmas to decorate our front
porch lit up with festive lights and filled with gifts.
My final project (to date) involved a farm machine we had
some trouble identifying. Even our trusty old farm implement
book didn't offer any information on it. Turns out it is a Massey
Harris horse-drawn gang plough.
After some research, we found that Massey Harris was based
in Toronto, Ontario, originally and their equipment was sold
mainly in Canada, although the company made many excursions to
the U.S. where they bought up smaller companies. This included
a 1917 acquisition of Johnston Harvester Co., which established
a base of operations for Massey Harris in Batavia, New York.
The MH gang plough I was restoring had two rolling colters
which were options that you could order at the time of their
manufacturing, early in the 1900s. After removing a lot of crud
and old grease the original green paint of the machine came up,
followed by yellow wheels.
An added feature of this machine was a simple hand-lever
that the operator could adjust in order to tilt the wheels to
enable the plough to work the hillsides great old technology
from bygone days.
1 - Restored Massey Harris gang plough
2 - Frost & Wood cultivator before
3 - Frost & Wood cultivator after
4 - Restore cutter, from three old cutters
Fred Graham and his wife, Pauline, reside in Northumberland
County and are enjoying their retirement living in the country
and touring around in their restored 67 convertible Camaro.
Fred, who also builds bluebird houses, and Pauline, are members
of the Hastings Historical Society.