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The Saga of the Hammer Mill

by @ 10:58 am on April 21, 2014.

A hammer mill grinds feed. The antique ones are worth very little any more given they run off a belt drive on a tractor. I don’t believe any modern tractor even has a belt drive option. Most have gone for scrap, and the ones still sitting around are only worth scrap price. Ernie’s family still owns their old family farm. It now belongs to Ernie’s aunt and uncle, the last 2 surviving siblings. The place hasn’t been farmed in many years and is completely falling apart. Many of the barns have already collapsed and the others are all losing their roofs and aren’t far from collapsing themselves. In one of the buildings is an old hammer mill. Ernie’s dad had long told him to get it and bring it out here, but as we had no immediate use for it, it never got done. Well, now I have a use for it: grinding feed for the chicks. So we decided to go get it.

Ernie’s family is… Different. That’s the kindest way I can put it. Ernie called his uncle,who is executor of his parents’ estate, and asked if we could have the hammer mill. Ernie even offered to buy it. There was a very similar model on Craigslist half hour away for $80 or any offer. The uncle said we could just have it. We also got permission to take a set of discs that had unquestionably belonged to Ern’s dad. To get all this we had to load the skid steer on the flatbed trailer and take it out there (which was the big reason we hadn’t done it before – not a small job).

We about kill ourselves trying to get the hammer mill out. It’s VERY well bolted to the floor, and then needs twisted around to try and get it out the door. With just Ern and I, and me just weeks from baby, it wasn’t easy. The blasted thing fell once knocking me down, and my left hip is still messed up from that. After nearly 2 hours of effort we finally succeed and get the hammer mill out and on the truck. The discs were at least easy to get out of the barn they were in, and the skid steer could carry them to the trailer.

As we’re coming out with the disc, Ernie’s cousin on his aunt’s side shows up. First he claims it all needs to go back. We tell him we have permission from the uncle. He leaves and gets back on the phone. Then comes back and announces we can take the hammer mill but the discs go back as they belong to the uncle. Ummmm, no. Tell him they belonged to Ern’s dad. He goes back again and returns saying we can have the discs but the hammer mill goes back. The uncle was “just kidding” when he said we could have it. Yeah. Again, going with no. Told the cousin to shove off. Loaded up and headed home. The mess continues to unfold with claims the hammer mill was sold last fall for $300, then no it contained a part worth $2000, then it would be better to let it rot than to let us have it. There were several threats made about calling the police. Ern and I argued about which of us would get to take a vacation to jail when they showed up. Remember I said Ernie’s family is different? Are you seeing it? In the end, it was agreed by the aunt and uncle we could buy the hammer mill for $80. We sent a check and have a signed bill of sale for it.

$35 in new pipe later, Ernie has it all set up and ready to go. This thing hasn’t been run in 30 years, so while Ernie knows the general idea behind how it’s supposed to work, he’s never actually run one. But here we are, ready to give it a go and see what happens.

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Ern fires it up and starts dumping grain in. It seems to be working. But once all the feed has gone in, I pick up the resulting bag. There is maybe 20 pounds of very finely ground feed in there. That would be ok if we hadn’t put more than 50 pounds in. I ask Ernie, where did my feed go? Ern studies things a minute and says, I think that’s it. And I say, something ain’t right here. It may be fine but it didn’t get lighter! We figure out the fan didn’t blow it into the bag, and it’s all stuck in the bottom of the mill. It was ground, it just didn’t come out. The real fine dust did, but the heavier grains didn’t. Here is what went in:

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And here is what came out the first time:

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We scoop out all the feed. Ernie’s guess is something plugged up the fan. The kids were done at this point, so I took them on in the house to get ready for bed. Ernie kept messing with it, and eventually figured out the belt was slipping, resulting in the fan lacking the power to blow the feed on through. He thinks he might do better if he turns the mill around so the belt runs without a twist (he can get the belt tighter that way). Failing that, we need a different type of belt. The one we have he got free out of an old round baler. A proper belt is made of different material and so is non-slip. He ran some second cutting hay through and got this out:

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On the whole it did what it was supposed to, and it was just our lack of knowledge that plugged it off.

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