Update on the antique apple press restoration 5.0

Apple press macerator drum
Here you see the block of laminated red oak, cleaned up and chucked into the lathe ready to get started.

The apple press restoration is close to being done, but getting further and further away as the days get warmer. You see, once warm weather hits, I lay down my shop tools and pick up my gardening implements. Not because I cannot stand the heat, but because I can’t spend but so much time in the shop working on projects like this. When it’s cold, snowy, rainy, sleety, miserable, I head to my shop where it’s warm and comfy. Nobody misses me much because they don’t want to be outside with me anyway. But as spring rolls around, things like taking the kids boating, going for a gator ride, seeing new calves, etc. all start sounding good to my crowd. So I put down my chisel and hammer and try to concentrate on projects that involve more of the family. That means that while I’m very close to finishing, I’m also very close to putting all this in a box till this fall. Maybe this weekend I’ll get it finished up and put back together. Maybe not.

Antique apple press restoration
Roughing out the wood. There are already a lot of chips of the ground at this point.

It’s a joy to get back on the wood lathe for this project. I enjoy a lot of different types of work, but working on a wood lathe is one of my favorite things to do. It’s more artistic than scientific. Not so much on this particular job but on many others. I spent a lot of time on a lathe when I was younger and any time I can get a gouge in my hand and make some chips fly is a good day.

Antique apple press restoration, finished drum
The finished product. Turned true and to size, with a center hole drilled through for the shaft.

I wasn’t able to grip the drum in my wood lathe for drilling the center hole so I had to cover up my metal lathe and do the drilling in the big chuck on the metal lathe. I try to limit any wood getting around my metal working tools, as wood can be bad for them. However I’ve gotten sloppy by having a big metal lathe. I’m used to being able to grab most anything in the 100 pound chuck. My wood lathe chuck, which weighs about 2 pounds, wasn’t even close to holding this drum, something I didn’t check till after I’d already parted off the finished drum. Oh well, you cannot win them all.

Pictured with the drum is a nearly completed knife. You can see the teeth which are .250″ between teeth, and cut at a 15 degree relief, the same as the original knives. Miguel had what I think is a good idea. Since we have such large pieces of metal for the new  knives, let’s drill pockets in the solid drum and cut the knives as long two tine forks instead of single piece knives. To insert a knife, you put the dull end (non machined) of the fork into the hole drilled cross wise in the drum, then the sharpened end of the knife goes into the slot cut to hold it, just like the old slots. The makes for a very positive retention system for the knives, stronger than the wedge system in the old setup. It’s overkill for what this thing does, but since we already have the large pieces of metal, why not? I have to ponder on it a bit more and make sure it’s going to work but for now it’s sounding like a good idea.

Hopefully we’ll get these last steps done shortly and button this thing up for the summer. I’d like to have it ready to press apples come fall, not be scrambling to get it working at the last-minute. I hate unfinished projects.

Since I didn’t have anything else to do with all my spare time, an apple press 1.0

20140415-192131.jpgSo I have a guilty habit that pretty much nobody knows about. I’m an avid fan of Wranglerstar on Youtube. Cody (Wranglerstar) is a man living in the Pacific Northwest who has a christian family homestead with his wife and son. He does a lot of interesting things that I enjoy learning about including timber framing, logging, antique tool repair, etc. Last year he happened across a really old apple press and I was very jealous of his find. You can see the beginning of the series here where he starts with the press coming home, and ends up after a series of videos with it fully rebuilt and processing apples. I thought to myself, “Self, you’d be the envy of strong men and irresistible to women if you could find a press that was half as cool as Cody’s.” Of course, that will never happen.

Fast forward a year. A few weeks ago I was lying in bed with Darling Wifey, surfing the interweb and about to go to sleep. She asked me something that caused me to go to Craigslist to find the answer. As I started to type into the search bar, I hit “A” for the beginning of whatever it was she needed and “Apple Press” popped up as the suggested search. Hmm, not very common. Sure, let’s see apple press.

One real hit comes up and it’s a doozy. I don’t know if it’s the same one that Cody has but it sure looks awful close. A few phone calls and I make arrangements to go see this apple press. When I arrive, I see the press is in pretty good shape. It turns out that this press was owned by the man’s grandfather, who purchased it sometime in the early 1900s. It was used long and hard on the farm and made a lot of apple juice. The man was selling off his grandfathers stuff, who had just passed away at 94 years of age. Our seller hadn’t had any hits on a rickety old apple press. I looked over the press and found that the wood was in really good shape. No real rot and the original Oak looked solid and strong. The baskets and drain boards could use some attention. The shaft’s pillow block bearing was worn badly and egg-shaped and the macerator had some blades missing and the drum looked beat up. None of this the man had really noticed so I was able to talk him down quite a bit on his price. However for me, all of the things I’m noting are easy enough to fix and the things I’d struggle to make all look fine. I can make most anything from wood or metal except gears so although it’s a bit of work, it’s nothing I can’t do.

Antique apple press. Close up view of gears.
Here you can see the hand crank and gears. If you look at the pillow block bearing, you can see the shaft dropped down into the worn block. It still worked, but it was wearing the gears unevenly.
The worn out pillow block bearing on the apple press
After removing the bearing. You can see the egg shape worn area.

The plan with this worn area is two-fold. One, the bearing has to be machined out round and true, something I’ve already done boring it out to 1″. Also the drum shaft, where it rides in the bearing, has worn irregularly and needs to be machined true and undersized. I happen to have a piece of 1″ bronze round bar so the plan is to bore out the bronze to accept the steel shaft of the drum shaft. I’ll press the bronze bushing onto the shaft, then insert the shaft and bronze bushing into the pillow block bearing where everything will run on a nice film of oil. And if anything wears now, it’ll be the bronze bushing which is replaceable.

Macerator removed from the press, and the drive gear pressed off of the shaft
Macerator removed from the press, and the drive gear pressed off of the shaft

Here you can see the entire macerator drum. I’m going to remake the wooden segmented drum and I have four macerator blades to remake. I thought the blades were hardened steel, but it turns out they are not hardened at all, making my job that much easier. The entire drum has to be disassembled, along with the fly-wheel so that the shaft can be mounted in the lathe to true up the end.

This should be a fun project with machining, wood working, and detective work to figure out how things are supposed to work. I’ll try to take pictures as we go and report back on the progress. Now if the squirrels will quit eating all my apples we’ll really have something come fall.