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All Around the Farm Idea of the Month: May-June 2009

Agriculture.com Staff 05/14/2009 @ 9:56am

Commercial benders are expensive. For only the $75 it cost for a final drive (gear reduction) out of a 1995 combine, Clair Wilson put together a machine that can bend metal up to 1 1/4 inches thick and has never broken down once in 14 years.

"I make my own dies, too; each one as I need it," he says. Since the radius of a die (or pin) must be eight times the thickness of the metal being bent, he explains, he's made dozens. They range in size up to 6 inches in diameter and are all neatly stored on a nearby lazy-Susan-type rack.

When a die is placed in one of the several holes bored through the turntable, it extends 4 inches above the surface. The operator inserts a piece of metal between two of the dies, where it rests against an angled steel block. The bending force begins with a hydraulic orbit motor. (See the illustration above).

The 2-inch-thick round plate is "the stoutest thing possible. It's bolted on like a tire on a rim," Wilson says. "I don't know just how much, but there's a lot of power there."

Wilson uses his creation in his welding and fabricating business (wilsonharvest.com; e-mail cwcw@wilsonharvest.com). "A commercial bender is faster, but we just work on one piece at a time. We can do four or five pieces of 1/2-inch rebar at once though," he says.

  • Farm operation: Clair and his son, Adam, raise seed corn in a wheat rotation. They double-crop beans and grow alfalfa. A soybean barrier for the seed corn makes a total 1,250 acres. They have 1,900 acres of pastureland and are looking to acquire purebred Black Angus.
  • The partner: Claudia is Clair's wife. They have been married 41 years and live in Winchester, Illinois.
  • Farm partners: Sons Adam and Andrew. Andrew is planning to return home to farm and raise a family. Right now he's a math professor at Parkland College in Champaign. "I'll call him with a bin's measurements, and he'll tell me how much it will hold. I haven't seen it, but I hear there are questions on his math tests that start, 'Dad has a grain bin that measures...'"
  • Next acquisition: Clair doesn't own a cold saw, and he's about ready to try one.
  • Essential: Shears and brakes. "It all starts with the shears and brakes," he says.
  • Next project: Moving in a 5-ton crane to replace the 3-ton crane now in the shop.
  • Shop motto: We can build your idea.

Commercial benders are expensive. For only the $75 it cost for a final drive (gear reduction) out of a 1995 combine, Clair Wilson put together a machine that can bend metal up to 1 1/4 inches thick and has never broken down once in 14 years.

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