for reading my journal! Be sure
Today I helped Paul with pulling the rear shaft, bearings, and sprockets out of the lower
feeder house. This tunnel carries the crop from the header to
the rear feed throat before leading into the cylinder. The bearings
we removed are interesting. They are of a floating design and
the outer bearing race is concave and floats around slightly
in the bearing housings to allow for any misalignment. We used
a rope on part of the feed chain, and Paul guided it down as
I pulled the chain out through the top, keeping the chain from
all falling out at the same time.
After work, (I'm a computer tech by trade) I stopped by the farm
and Paul had me weld in a new plate in the floor of the upper feed
throat. There's a plate in between the lower feed housing and
the large door that drops down for inspection and cleaning. The
plate is of a very shallow S shape, and part of it wore through.
When I started welding the new plate in, the welds were very
porous and it appears that the original plate was some sort of
alloy, I figured it had some chrome in it for better wear properties.
I ran 2" welds all around the plate to secure it.
I caught some more worn spots in the upper throat sheet metal
before Paul started putting the feed chains and shafts back in
the combine. I also replaced the rubber straw spreader paddles.
I had to fabricate a few pieces for the straw spreader. Tomorrow
I'll start on the idea Paul had to keep the roof of the clean
elevator from wearing out so fast. We're going to put a piece
of 3/16" plastic underneath of the grain auger leading to
the grain tank and wrap it around to protect the roof of the
I replaced the plastic piece that we're using to keep down
wear on the clean grain elevator cover. After cutting one plastic
strip an inch too narrow, the second try was perfect. I also
machined a tool to take out the four bolts (the ones that
have two faces to grab with a wrench) that hold the inner sheave
on the lower cylinder variable speed pulley. I was able
to make the tool on my vertical milling machine. Tomorrow, I'm
going through the cab on the '80 N6, cleaning everything out,
hook up a cigarette lighter to power cell phones, and making
sure everything works.
Well I didn't have a chance to work on the cab, but finished
I ended up welding a short strip of steel to make a small channel
to capture the loose end of the plastic sheet. I had to use the
small 100 amp Lincoln welder (because it can be manhandled into
the grain bin) instead of the nicer Miller. The welds weren't
pretty. From the looks of the old piece of plastic, the loose
end let grain build up behind the plastic, forcing it out into
the auger, and it was thoroughly chewed up. Then I ran a bead
of silicon sealer around the edges to keep as much dirt out from
behind the plastic as possible. I also took my wife out for our
3rd wedding anniversary! My how time flies.
With a bunch of heaving and grunting, we got the upper feed chains
installed and the feeder house reinstalled. I spent a few hours
cleaning out the cab. Talk about a mess. Must have been 10 pounds
of dust in there. We're going to make sure the A/C air filter
in the cab is cleaned nightly. I learned how to level the feed
house which is very important for harvesting garbonzo's because
they sit so low to the ground. We fired up the engine to move
the N6 around a bit. Sure love the sound of diesel engines!
I spent the day putting the transmission for my Ford LT110 lawn
tractor back together after replacing the ball detents and one
of the gears that self-destructed.
Evidently no one had added tranny oil to the transmission in
a long time (I've only had the tractor for about three months.)
Someone in the tractors past also didn't stop before shifting
gears. Now it runs very good. Paul pulled the feed house out
of the '81 N6 today, checking all the bearings and blew out both
combines with compressed air.
The last few days were spent at work (my "real" job)
getting ready for six weeks off to do harvest. Today I spent
a few hours cleaning up the cab on the '81 N6 that I'll be driving.
This combine has a problem with the high pressure hydraulic system,
causing the header lift and steering to function randomly when
activated. The combine is still usable, but doesn't make for
nice passes around the field. Thanks to input from the guys over
at the Gleaner
Combine talk show
message board, I've got a lock on the problem. We're going to
add a cab air inlet stack to the '80, similar to what's on the
'81. It draws air from above the cab "wings" whereas
the stock setup on the '80 draws air under the wing, sucking
in a lot more dust and plugging the cab filter faster.
Today I made a piece of hardware for my metal lathe. There's
a half-moon piece of metal that fits under the tool holder allowing
you to change the angle of the holder. Somehow the original one
got lost so I was able to make one by carefully grinding the
end of a piece of 3/8" steel to the correct radius, cut
it off a bit long with the cutoff saw, and then spent some time
filing it to fit correctly. I hardened it by heating it till
it was red hot and tossing it into a bucket of oil. In addition
to making the part tougher, it gave it a nice black look.
Let's see. Today I rerouted a wire that had been added to replace
a wire in the wiring harness that runs from one of the control
switches back to the hydraulic valve stack. It was running across
the cab floor and hung down, just waiting to be snagged by something.
I finally put on a replacement throttle lever knob. I had to
tap the knob to 5/16-18 because I couldn't get a die onto the
lever. It's a lot stronger than the 1/4-28 threads that were
on there before. To clean out the dash panel, I pulled the two
panels outside of the cab and was able to blow/vacuum the area
out well. While I was at it, I greased the fan choke screw and
zip tied a few wires that were dangling around. We put the header
on the '80
it around a bit (Paul was looking on, probably wondering if I
was going to drive it through the shop.) Boy am I looking forward
to cutting some wheat! The '80 has a 20' header with a pickup
reel, and the '81 has a 24' header with a standard bat reel.
I'm thinking about whether we should pop rivet or screw on some
light gauge sheet metal over the face of the bats, making them
slide into the wheat easier without knocking the heads off.
I didn't get much accomplished today because I spent a bunch
of time trying to figure out where the problem is relating to
the slow header lift/steering response on the '81 machine that
I'll be driving. Haven't found anything yet, but did get a much
better understanding at how the high/low pressure cycling of
the hydraulic system functions, thanks to FEH, our local AGCO
dealer. One thing I did find out, make sure you drain the hydraulic
oil tank! If you don't, it will try to empty all 5 gallons of
oil through the valve stack when you unscrew any plugs. What
a mess. So, at this point, the problem is unresolved until we
refill the system and see if any of my poking around did any
good. I also put a piece of Teflon/plastic on the door at the
bottom of the grain return elevator. It'll be interesting to
see how it holds up.
90 degrees and no wind today. I ended up working on the side
of the '81 N6 that was out of the sun, slowly working my way
around as the day progressed. Let's see... changed the straw
spreader belt, adjusted a bunch of the belt idlers so they run
straight, rerouted wires in the cab to tidy things up, and started
finding all the grease zerks on the machine (so I know where
they are during harvest.) Paul needed to move the combine and
the engine kicked over once and then nothing. I checked the battery
and found the clamps and posts totally corroded. A quick cleaning
with a battery tool and it fired right up. The steering seemed
to respond nicely after playing with the valve stack, but not
sure if it's fixed until all the systems are running full tilt
while cutting. I'm putting together a high pressure (4000psi)
gage that I can hook into various hoses hopefully to find where
the problem is. Tomorrow we should be putting the feeder house
and header back on. Times running down, launch time is Monday
morning. The wheat is looking really good.
We had a nice breeze today, even though it was above 90 degrees
it wasn't bad. I put the clean out door back on the bottom of
the return grain elevator, adjusted the return grain elevator
chain (what a pain, one nut is almost impossible to get to),
used a big hook tool to clean the wheat stalks out of the chaffer
and vacuumed the garbonzo's and dirt out of there as well. Nice
and clean. Replaced the two header drive belts on the '80 N6,
and finally got the rock door latch fixed. I was told that it
had never worked right, being impossible to open or close unless
you loosened up the nuts that cinch the springs down. The two
latch pins were pretty much frozen in their sleeves with dirt
so I cleaned them all out and gave 'em a fresh shot of grease.
Works perfectly now. There's almost no room to work on the latch
in the combine though, just enough for me to squeeze in there
and get an arm up.
Made good progress today. Got the upper feed chains back in and
the feed house installed. I reinstalled the upper feed chain
drive pulley and the belts that run it from the sickle bar drive
shafts. Some of the ways the Gleaner engineers made things work
strike me as being rather cumbersome. I'm taking time off on
Saturday to be with friends and won't be back till Sunday.
We had a busy day today. I topped off the cylinder drive gearboxes
on both combines, did more greasing of zerks (always seem to
find new ones each time I grease), and did numerous parts runs.
For some reason, the straight rod that connects a tension spring
to the constant speed header drive tensioner had a major bend
in it. We're not sure how it got there. The bolt that puts tension
on the spring was so crusty that an impact wrench wouldn't budge
it. So...out came the torch. I straightened the the rod out,
ran a tap through the spring end that the bolt runs though, and
put it back together. At the end of the day, Paul came across
a nice surprise. The right side sickle drive shaft on the '80
N6 was broken in half inside of a sleeve from a previous repair.
We were told that it'd take a week for a replacement so we're
getting a 12 foot drive shaft and will have it shortened to 10
feet. Should be ready tomorrow. Tentative cutting start date
is Wednesday the 19th.
It was hot and muggy. Got the 24 foot header put on the '81 N6,
and started giving it a final once-over. The skid plate underneath
the header is looking seriously worn and one corner had snagged
on something and was rolled back. I repaired the fuel restriction
sender unit wire, refilled the hydraulic oil tank (amazing how
much better things work with oil), and washed the windows. Tomorrow
we need to go through the header and check for any broken sickle
teeth and guards, change one of the chains, move the reel out
one notch (it can hit the feed auger now), and time the sickles.
The slow reaction of the high pressure hydraulic systems continues
to be baffling. I should have the pressure gauge tomorrow so
I can check the standby pressure as well as the signal pressure
that kicks the pump into high pressure mode. After going over
the combine with a grease gun, I'm really starting to think about
one of those nifty Lincoln
battery powered grease guns.
Oh boy was it hot today, more so than yesterday. I straightened
the skid plate on the '81's header as best I could, checked and
tightened all the bolts in the reel, replaced the fuel restriction
sender unit (it leaked), put the rear separator doors back on,
topped off the hydraulic fluid, checked the various chains on
the header (most were slightly rusty from being outside), and
put together a tool set for the combine. Paul got the sickle
drive shaft back from the shop and installed it. He fixed and
adjusted a few things and gave both the combines a spin in the
wheat. The '81 had the chopper clutch wires ripped off by a belt.
Took about 10 minutes to repair that mess. Otherwise it's looking
good. The '80 had an A/C problem (a service tech is going to
have a look tomorrow), but otherwise it's looking good. We need
to patch a few things, but should be good to go tomorrow (finally,
feels like repairs have taken a long time.)
We cut wheat today! I showed up at 6:15am and Paul informed me
that there was a slight problem with the '81 N6. He had taken
it out to cut a bit more after I left and the dual belt that
runs from the clutch shaft to the header variable speed pulley
(locked out for wheat) shed one of the belts. The other belt
was fine, but using a common backing, you have to replace both.
So...I learned how to change that belt and how to pull the left
pulley/clutch assembly out from the main clutch shaft. Pretty
clever how the engineers designed it. After lunch, we cut wheat
for about three hours and both machines sounded really good.
The only issues with the '81 are, the variable reel speed control
doesn't work causing the reel to run a bit faster than it should,
the stripper plates in the header are worn out and are causing
feeding problems, and the sluggish steering/header lift issue
remains. I'm going to slot a couple of steel plates and fix the
Things ran smoothly for my '81, but the '80 broke a sickle bar
later in the morning. Took about an hour to get it running again.
I'm slowly figuring out how the separation system adjustments
work. Clint has been a great help in explaining some of the tricks
to figuring it out. We cut until about 8:00pm.
close to 9,000 bushels today, but both combines went down with
problems. James' '80 had both main fan bearings go out (Clint
figured we were an hour away from a fire if it hadn't caught)
and he was out of commission from about 1:00pm on. My machine
cut great, only had two feeder plug ups (still learning
how far I can push the feeding) that were fun to clean out (the
stripper plates I'm making should fix this problem), but I was
down at about 4:00pm with a tailings elevator problem. The slip
clutch that drives the elevator came apart (the bolt fell out)
and after we got it back together, the clutch slipped (what a
racket!) showing there was something else wrong. So...drove the
combine back to the farm. We'll work on getting everything repaired
on Sunday. I was bestowed the CB handle 'Tinker' because of always
wanting to improve things on the combines and doing metal fabrication/machining.
Today was "sleep-in" day and boy did it feel good.
I trucked over to the farm after noon and worked on a few projects.
After lunch in Pendleton with Paul and his wife, I machined the
stripper plates for the headers, attempted to fix the Fuel Restriction
sender (turns out we have an N.O instead of N.C. sender unit,
have to change that), and put a set of latches on the panel that
covers the clean grain elevator chain adjustment. The cheesy
way the door latched before never worked right and a good wind
would blow the door open. Didn't have a chance to look at the
reel speed control setup yet, need to do that soon. I'm curious
to see how the stripper plates work (hopefully they will fix
the feeding problems.)
The stripper plates really did the trick! They would work even
better if they were full width, but I gained 3/4 mph just by
adding them. I was finishing one of the fields while James' '80
was down for repairs and I managed to hit a garbage bag full
of Canadian thistle that one of the kids had left out in the
field. That combined with hitting a big patch of green wheat,
and boy did I have a plug! Paul helped me get it cleared out.
I found two more bags but managed to miss hitting them. In the
morning, we blew out the engine air cleaners. Here are before and after pictures. I
ended the day with a plugged cage sweep. Clint said that the
left side of the cage sweep tends to plug before the right side,
so if I have any extended cutting to do on a hillside, I should
do it with the right side on the downhill side.
We ran pretty well today, 'cept I had two cage sweep plug ups
again. I found that moving too fast and picking up skips at the
end of the corners when we're done with a field causes "slugging"
which is when a big wad of material runs through the combine
in a lump instead of evenly. Cody, one of the new truck drivers,
is picking up loading on the go pretty well.
We were able to cut for about two hours before the eccentric
piece on the end of the right sickle drive shaft on James' combine
snapped clean off. He was down for the rest of the day while
Paul had a new shaft made in town. I had two more cage sweep
plug ups, and at the end of the day Clint and I looked the sweep
mechanism over and discovered all sorts of lovely problems. One
of the collars that keeps the two bevel drive gears meshing had
backed off, the roll pin that kept the sweep chain sprocket spinning
had sheared, and the short piece that connects the chain to the
sweep carriage was totally worn out. So...all things considered
this was a mixed blessing. The sweep problems should go away
after we are finished refurbishing the cage sweep system. If
not, I'm going to disconnect it and see if the cylinder still
cleans itself correctly. I've been told at Harvesting.com that most folks
disconnect or remove the cage sweep system as it never really worked
well. I was the only combine of the two running and it felt good
to look back at the end of the day and see how much I had cut.
After looking at the cage sweep system and consulting with a
few Gleaner repairmen, we figure that without the cage sweeps
we'd have constant plug ups. There's just not enough room around
the back of the cylinder for all the material to fall down naturally
into the distributing augers. I fabricated a new pin and welded
it in to part of the cage sweep, and we got it all back together.
It works great now, except the Tattletale sensor is being flaky
and goes off frequently even though the sweep is working fine.
James' '80 ran good today, mine broke the right sickle bar in
the afternoon. Took about 20 minutes to get it replaced and then
I was off and running. I was able to run at 3.5+ mph in very
heavy wheat, so I was happy. James' '80 has a 20 foot header
as opposed to the 24 foot header on mine and is able to run above
4 mph consistently. He's having trouble with feeding though,
getting skips in the middle of the row when the wheat bunches
up in the header for a moment.
We cut a lot of wheat today. I had intermittent cage sweep alarms
even though the cage sweep is working fine. We think the sprockets
and chain in the sweep system are worn out and need to be replaced,
causing the TattleTale III alarm to get inconsistent signals.
The last field we cut was a lot of fun. Some off-camber sections
and a lot of rolling hills. It was a nice change from the relatively
flat fields we've been cutting.
Good Grief! We got a late start today. While greasing my combine,
I noticed that the dual header drive belt was destroyed again.
Grrrrr. Paul and I were able to change it in about an hour and
a half, and made darned sure that the idler for it runs straight
this time. We think the idler pivot was loose letting the idler
wander around a bit and finally let the belt jump out of it's
groove. James' '80 got a new fuel injection pump as the original
Roosa-Master pump had a leak and needed to be overhauled. He
also ran into A/C problems later in the day but we think that
was from the A/C core in the cab freezing up. I took a break
later in the afternoon from the combine and drove the General a bit. I really
like that truck. While the FEH service tech was out working
on James' injection pump, we had him take a look at the reel
speed control on my '81. It's been locked at one speed that's
perfect for 3.5 mph but not good at any other ground speed. We're
getting power to the control motor so the motor is the culprit.
Sunday is my 'catchup' day when I can fix the niggling little
things that drive me crazy on the combine :-)
Paul worked hard on getting the combines blown off and worked
on a few things like the air filter restriction sensor on James'
'80. While looking at my '81, I noticed that the silly header
drive belt had jumped it's groove again, luckily this time it
didn't destroy itself. We put two new sprockets, a chain, and
sensor on the cage sweep. I also changed the steering control
valve in the cab with a new one Clint has had for a while.
While I put the rest of the cage sweep drive system back together,
Paul and Clint had a look at the header drive belt setup. They
spent a while working on it and think they have the problem licked.
I fired "Gretchen" up (I nicknamed my combine Gretchen
last week) and cut one round of the small field we're working
on and had really bad grain loss. We weren't able to get it under
control, so back to the shop for the combine. They worked on
the separator shoe (it has the sieves that do most of the separating
of wheat from chaff) and I got to drive truck for the day. Boy
do I miss the A/C in the combines! I must have drank a couple
gallons of water. The new steering control valve really helped.
The steering still reacts a little slow, but it's much more positive
in it's control than before. The old unit was leaking internally,
so much so that you could turn the steering wheel clear around
slowly and not have the rear tires move at all.
I fired up "Gretchen", my name for the '81 combine
I run, and cut one round of the field we were working on yesterday.
The grain loss was still bad. Clint did some adjusting and figured
out that the settings we had been using were all wrong. The grain
loss is back under control and looking good. We switched fields.
Rear wheel steering vehicles are just plain evil on the road.
Very twitchy feeling. We broke the pivot bolt for the pitman
arm on James' '80 while trying to make an adjustment. After that,
the rest of the day went fine.
I had blown and greased my combine yesterday evening, so was
ready to go except for a fill up. Noticed the left rear tire
was almost flat so we pumped it up and kept an eye on it. It
has a very slow leak. I made one round of a section of the field
we were working on, stopped to dump in the truck Clint was driving,
and commented on the CB that I smelled raw diesel fuel. The general
consensus was that it was probably exhaust from the truck...but
I said I could tell the difference. As Clint pulled away, I hopped
out to check the rear tire and noticed, much to my chagrin, that
the whole engine compartment was covered in diesel fuel and fuel
continued to pour out. After a hasty engine shutdown, I found
that the small brass elbow where the fuel restriction sender
unit goes had snapped off and raw fuel had sprayed everywhere
when I throttled up to unload. What a mess. It's amazing how
much fuel an electric Holley fuel pump can crank out. Clint hosed
everything down with the fire rig to clean it up a bit while
I ran for parts. We replaced the brass elbow with a pipe plug
as the restriction sender wasn't working anyway. No more incidents
after that. We cut a lot of wheat! I got in some good side hill
action (1,2,3,4,5), slipping the
rear end of the combine around a bit and have a picture of the tracks James left when
his '80 N6 got a bit squirrely on one of the hills. It was a
nice change from the flat ground we had been cutting.
Today was moving day! We drove the combines (my '81 with the
header off, James' '80 with it on) over to the Walla Walla ground.
I didn't enjoy the drive one bit. Rear steer vehicles are just
evil on the road at 20+ mph. We got there in one piece though.
Here are pictures of the move (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15). My wife also took some of
us installing the header (1,2,3,4,5). I had trouble getting my combine
adjusted for the new field. I was getting a totally clean sample
in the grain bin, but was losing tons on the ground. Clint got
that taken care of. In about five hours of cutting, we hauled
233,000 lbs of wheat to the elevator.
We got a late start, but covered a lot of ground today. We hauled
over 430,000 lbs of wheat. On the particular field we cut today,
Clint cut one path to the middle of the field, and then we started
going around and around from the inside out (pictures 1,2). We really
knocked the field out quickly, until later in the afternoon when
the spring belt tensioner on the engine fan belts went south.
Here's a picture of me and my
combine chasing James around the field. With a narrower header,
he can run a fair bit faster than I. Here's a picture of the harvest
After about three hours of cutting, we finished off the Spafford
piece. The general area that the Walla Walla field is in is known
as Spofford. The only issues were the idler roller for the reel
drive on my '81 was shot and the bearing in the left sickle drive
eccentric was loose on James' '80. We used a wood block to replace
the idler (the wood blocks are used in a few other places on
the combines to take up chain slack, it actually worked very
well), and Clint replaced the bearing on James' sickle drive.
After we were all done, it looks like we hauled over three quarters
of a million pounds of wheat off the Spofford piece. After we
made the final dumps, we headed back to the farm, Clint drove
the red truck, I drove the General, and Cody drove the white truck.
When we got to the farm, we found the red truck had a small hole
in one of the tires. Good timing. We still have some garb's and
mustard to cut.
I'm happy to report I did absolutely nothing today except sleep
and be lazy. It's Sunday after all. We did see a field fire way
off in the distance just as the sun was setting (1,2).
Today was moving day again. We pulled the header off of my '81
N6 and made the road trip back to the farm. This time the trip
was much easier. I'm not sure why, but I was much more comfortable
driving the combine on the road than before. It might have been
from driving the wheat trucks through the twisty road while we
were cutting in the Spofford area. Back at the farm, we put the
header back on my combine, cut a bit of wheat on a research test
plot on the farm, and then headed to one of the mustard patches.
We cut about 40 acres worth, but I broke the right sickle bar
and pitman arm, so my combine was down until tomorrow. Here are
some pictures (1,2,3,4,5,6)
While Paul got the sickle bar put back together on my combine,
I drove the '80 N6 and gave Cody some pointers about driving
a combine. When mine was running again, Paul had Cody drive the
'80. Mustard has got to be the worst crop to cut in a combine
with a bat-reel header. It's not too bad with a pickup reel.
We finished up the 60 acre patch, and that pretty much ended
harvest. The garbonzo's are not ready yet, they are still too
green. If I help cut them, I'll post more notes here.
to sign my guestbook!
harvest has been the fulfillment of a childhood dream. For years,
I've wanted to work harvest and I finally got my chance. I learned
a tremendous amount with help from Clint and Paul and am very
grateful for the experience.