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Working Farming Heritage - Reaper-Binder

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

How corn was cut using a Reaper-Binder before the introduction of the Combine Harvester.

The Reaper Binder, or Binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Baxter Withington. This clever piece of machinery was used to cut small-grain crop, the binder then ties the stems into bundles or ‘sheaves’. The sheaves could then be stood up ‘stooked’ in a conical shape to allow the grain to dry before being threshed.

Early binders would have been horse drawn but later models were tractor-drawn and even tractor powered.

The images you see here were taken in September 2021 in Tavistock, Devon. The corn was so dry we were able to skip the ‘stooking’ process and load the sheaves straight onto the trailer using pitchforks and plenty of manpower! The trailer was then stored undercover to be put through the threshing box, as part of a working day display - by Fran Mudge and his team - later in the month.

The introduction of the combine harvester has meant that the threshing machine and binder have become almost obsolete. That’s why it feels like such a special occasion to get together and recreate this early harvest.

This video demonstrates the use of a Traditional Binder powered by a Nuffield Universal tractor, which was used to complete the harvest of 2021 in Tavistock, Devon.

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