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Turning combines into hot rods

Saskatchewan farmer builds redesigned combine parts with an eye on performance

In the past few years most major equipment brands seem to have recognized the need to offer combines better suited to small grains harvesting, which makes them a bit different than the bulk of machines they build that are tailored to corn and beans growers. Even though new models have hit the market that better cater to prairie growers’ needs, one farmer, Russell Wildfong of Craik, Saskatchewan, thinks there are still efficiencies to be gained by tweaking the design of some components.

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with an engineering degree, he returned to the family farm. When making some major repairs to his own combines and finding the price tags on OEM replacement parts higher than he though reasonable, he decided to build them himself. That led to an on-farm manufacturing venture.

“I guess I needed something to do and I thought I could make some money at this,” he says jokingly. Building a new set of concaves for himself and a few more for neighbours led to a business that produces a growing list of enhanced threshing parts for Case IH and John Deere combines.

“The last set (of concaves) we bought was so expensive we got thinking, could we build our own stuff?” he recalls. “So we tried it. The first set I built turned out, so we decided to see if we could build a few more and make some profit. We’ve only been at it since the fall of 2014. We offer a pretty wide selection. We’re going with the two main manufacturers and trying some new stuff.”

Currently, he offers three different concave designs for both brands. One of them, the Hard Thresh, which increases contact area, is designed to improve performance in tough-to-thresh grains like wheat and barley.

“Take a couple of heads of wheat and rub them together in your hand and it doesn’t take much action to get them to thresh out” he says, using that analogy to explain the concept behind the Hard Thresh. “With the Hard Thresh we’re increasing the number of bars 30 or 40 per cent. This is a results-based approach. Farmers are saying this works, and it works great in durum and wheat, anything really hard threshing.

“The Hard Thresh is basically like the Case IH, Hard Thresh but a left and right pair at a dealership is $2,800. We’re starting at $1,800. So you save $1,000. A regular pair of concaves is $1,200. So we’re hoping if a guy’s going to save $1,000, maybe he’ll buy a pair of standard concaves to go with it. The Vortex are $1,600 for a pair.”

There are three types of concaves available for John Deere and Case IH rotary combines.

There are three types of concaves available for John Deere and Case IH rotary combines.
photo: Scott Garvey

The Vortex design offers wider openings to prevent plugging and are also useful in more easily threshed crops like canola.

“For John Deere a medium straight-bar concave, that’s $800. For the Hard Thresh, we’re going to start out at $1,200,” he says. “It’s a lot more material and a lot more welding. We can only build about one or two of these a day, so labour ends up being a big part of that cost. For the Vortex, we’re at $1,000.”

The concaves fit Case IH 8010 and newer machines, while those made for Deere machines fit any of that brand’s rotary models.

Wildfong has also designed new rotor elements he thinks will help improve the threshing efficiency of S Series Deeres.

Wildfong developed his own design for rotary elements that he says should improve threshing by providing better contact with concaves near the front of tapered rotors on S Series John Deere models.

Wildfong developed his own design for rotary elements that he says should improve threshing by providing better contact with concaves near the front of tapered rotors on S Series John Deere models.
photo: Scott Garvey

“We put a 30-inch radius on it,” he says. “A flat design would end up with a dead spot. It has a tighter thread than what John Deere has. They’re heavier than a John Deere and it gives your rotor a bit more momentum for going through wads. That’s another 50 pounds at the outside of your rotor.

“We’re $100 retail price for these. I’m pretty sure its $170 at the dealership. That’s a good profit margin for us and it’s still saving our customers a lot of money.”

A component failure on his own combine led to the development of a new beater design he intends to produce for John Deere combines. After a season of field testing on his own machine, he says it’s proven to be more durable than the original part, and he’s seen a capacity jump.

“It broke quite a few rocks last year with no real damage to it,” he says. “What we’re shooting for is to have a smaller inner diameter so there is more room for material to flow through, but wind up with the same outside diameter so you’re batting rocks into the rock trap. But we’re using hard material and hard pipe for the structure so it can take rocks.”

For more information check out the website at wildfongenterprises.com.

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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