Reaper-binder (unknown make) at Woolpit 09 - IMG 1184

A Reaper-Binder of Unknown make at the Woolpit Steam Rally 2009

The binder, or reaper-binder, was a farm implement that improved upon the reaper. The binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Withington. In addition to cutting the small-grain crop, it would also tie the stems into small bundles, or sheaves. These sheaves were then 'shocked' into conical stooks, resembling small tipi, to allow the grain to dry for several days before being threshed.

Withington's original binder used wire to tie the bundles. There were various problems with using wire and it was not long before William Deering invented a binder that used twine and a knotter (invented 1858 by John Appleby). The Deering company pioneered with a harvesting reaper incorporating an automatic twine binder, with knotter invented by John Appleby of Beloit, Wisconsin. Deering was also responsible for building a modern twine factory to supply farmers with sufficient length and quality of twine to work with the binders, a move followed by most competitors.

The Deering company and the reorganized Plano Harvester Company, which had moved to Pullman, competed aggressively with each other and the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, but in 1902, under his son's direction, all three companies merged with two others to form the International Harvester Company.

Early binders were horse-drawn and powered by a bull wheel. Later models were tractor-drawn. The implement had a reel and a sickle bar, like a modern grain head for a combine harvester, or combine. The cut stems would fall onto a wide canvas belt, which conveyed the crop to the binding mechanism. This mechanism bundled the stems of grain and tied a piece of twin around the bundle. Once this was tied, it was discharged from the back of the binder.

With the replacement of the threshing machine by the combine, the binder became almost obsolete. Some grain crops such as oats are now cut and formed into windrows with a swather. With other grain crops such as wheat, the grain is now mostly cut and threshed by a combine in a single operation, while the binder is still in use at small fields or outskirts of mountain areas.


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