This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
After a week's postponement, rendered necessary by the unripe condition of the crops on the first of the month, the trials of sheaf-binding machines, using any other binding material than wire, instituted by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, began on Monday morning, the 8th of August. By nine o'clock, the time appointed for beginning operations, there was a very large number of gentlemen interested in these trials already collected on the farm of Mr. Hall, at Thulston, and the distances that many of them had come testified to the importance of the interests involved. The morning was perfect for reaping, though ominous clouds in the southwest led many to hazard conjectures, which unfortunately turned out too well founded, that the Royal Agricultural Society would not on this occasion escape the fate which had visited them so often. The corn stood ripe and upright in the various plots into which the fields had been divided, and the ground was level and dry. The published list of the competitors contained twenty entries, not by as many firms, however, for many names appeared more than once; but the rules of the society, which objects to different machines being used for different kinds of corn in these trials, together with non-attendance for unknown reasons, had reduced the actual list of competing machines to seven. These were as follows: Mr. W. A. Wood, the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, the Johnston Harvester Company, Messrs. Samuelson & Company, Messrs. J. & F. Howard, Messrs. Aultman & Company, and Mr. H.J.H. King. All these machines were to be seen at the show, except the second named, which was delayed by the stranding of the steamship Britannic, and had only lately arrived in rather a weather-beaten condition. The trials were to be made upon oats, barley, and wheat, and the plots for the preliminary trials were about half an acre in extent. Shortly after half-past nine o'clock, the judges and engineers of the society having arrived upon the ground, a start was made upon the oats by the three machines belonging to Mr. Wood, Messrs. Samuelson & Co., and the Johnston Harvester Company. It should, perhaps, be mentioned that the strength of this crop of oats varied a good deal in different parts of the field. These three machines all belong to the class which has the automatic trip--that is, the binding gear is thrown into action by the pressure of the straw accumulated arriving at a certain value, independently of any special action on the part of the driver. The sheaves from Messrs. Samuelson's machines were extremely neat and well separated from each other, a point to which farmers attach great importance.
It would appear that it is impossible to secure the binding of every single sheaf. Here and there, even with the best binders, an occasional miss will occur, in which the corn is thrown out unbound. However, with Messrs Samuelson's machine this was extremely rare, and the neatness of the sheaves produced was remarkable. No doubt the shortness of the crop in the portion allotted to this machine may have had something to do with this, as a longer straw is more likely than a shorter one to connect two sheaves and produce that hanging together which in other machines is so often observed to precede a miss in the binding. Mr. Wood's machine had a stronger crop and longer straw to deal with, and the hanging together of the sheaves occurred far too frequently, and was almost always followed by a loose sheaf. The Johnston harvester went through a very fair performance; there was no hanging except at turning the corners, and the piece of work was finished in a shorter time than with the other machines. Notwithstanding the automatic character of the gear for binding, we believe it will be found that the sheaves produced in these machines vary very much in weight.
At about 10:20 the next lot of machines started. They were those of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, Messrs. Howard, and Messrs. Aultman & Co. Of these, the first-named only has the automatic trip. We believe it made no miss in binding during this trial, and the sheaves were neat, though, perhaps, rather too tightly bound. There was no hanging together or check in this run. The machine of Messrs. Aultman & Co. was not so successful in separating the sheaves, though this was not so often followed by an unbound sheaf as in some other machines. Sometimes as many as three sheaves, clinging closely together, were ejected at one time. To avoid this a man walked by the machine, and assisted the delivery of the sheaf. The tension of the string which binds the sheaves varies a good deal in this machine, some of the sheaves being rather too loosely held together, while at other times the fault is in the other direction. In Messrs. Howard's machine there is a tendency in the sheaves to cling together, but this is not accompanied to any extent with missing the binding. Mr. King attempted a run after the three last had finished their plots; but his machinery had not been fully adjusted, and after one course the trial stopped. As far as one could judge from this short performance, the chief fault in the sheaf produced was the uncertain position of the string upon it. Sometimes this was near the bottom of the straw, and sometimes among the corn. Unfortunately at 11:25 the rain began, and experiments were stopped till the afternoon. It was no light shower which could give a check to the ardor of the judges and other officers of the society, but a heavy downpour of some hours' duration, which soaked the crop through and through. Indeed, we think it a pity that the experiments should have been continued at all under circumstances in which practical harvesting would have been out of the question. However, after a short lull in the rain, the machines of Mr. Wood, Messrs. Samuelson, and the McCormick Harvesting Company went into the wet barley. The machine of Mr. Wood worked most rapidly, but the clinging of the sheaves and the failure to bind were again very apparent. The stubble left by this machine was the shortest and most even of the three. The machines of Messrs. Samuelson and the McCormick Company left a very ragged, long, and uneven stubble in this trial, though the delivery and binding of the sheaves seemed to be as good as in the oats trial. The binding in the former was rather too tight.
The remaining machines, with the exception of that of Mr. King, then attempted a trial; but Messrs. Howard's machine having too smooth a face to the driving wheel, was unable to drive all the gear in the wet condition of the ground. The damp weather had no doubt tightened up the canvas carriers, and thereby added to the work to be done; but this was the only machine that was found incapacitated through the action of the rain. Unfortunately the plots assigned to this machine and to the Johnston harvester were in juxtaposition, so that the latter machine was blocked by the former, and could not proceed, and that of Messrs. Aultman alone went through with its work. There was no improvement in the separation of the sheaves, and the misses were rather more frequent than in the trials among the oats. The sheaves, too, that issued singly were somewhat wanting in neatness. The whole of these barley trials must be looked upon as unsatisfactory, on account of the condition of the crop, and it is to be hoped that before the investigations are brought to a conclusion all these machines may have a more favorable opportunity of demonstrating the advantages which are claimed for them. It may be here said that throughout these trials there has been as yet no wind at all, which, as the investigations are in other respects to be so thoroughly carried out, is a matter of regret. Probably Messrs. Howard's machine was as well protected from the wind as any other of the seven competitors.
The following are the awards of the judges, which were made known on Wednesday evening: Gold medal--Messrs. McCormick & Co. Silver medals--Messrs. Samuelson, Messrs. Johnston & Co. Highly commended--Mr. H. J. King, for principle of tying and separating sheaves. The only gleaning binding machine which entered the field was that of Mr. J. G. Walker, made by the Notts Fork Company, but no official trials of this were made.--The Engineer.