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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Former Freeman Baler Employee comments on post

I posted about J.A. Freeman and Son's awhile back. One of the employees left comments on the post. If you are interested click here.
Someone should write this history of the Freeman Baler company.
I think we have the second and third balers that they made.
J.A. Freeman and Sons was one of the last old-style family companies left in American Agricultural Machinery production.
I think that the Darf Rake company (Nikkel Ironworks) might be the last.
You could go into Porland, walk into the company office, AND they would give you a tour and a free hat!
The drafting room was amazing. Huge old multipane windows and old wood drafting tables. The whole building was like a tour of the industrial revolution. Old milling machines, old wood shelves, a little dust here and there....
Freeman made the same baler for decades. They were virtually made by hand out of off the shelf dimensional steel.
They featured huge bull and pinion gears instead of a gearbox and a massive flywheel to store kinetic energy. The massive plunger compressed hay at 75-85 strokes per minute. Everything on the baler was rebuildable.
We have two 1970's Freeman 200's that have been rebuilt countless times. The reason I don't use them is 1. The Wisconsin V-4 engines are tired, 2. They need to be rebuilt again and I don't have the time to do it correctly. 3. Rebuilding a knotter 800 times does not give you a new knotter, welding in a new top  on the bale chamber is not an advantage if you get it 1/8" to one side. 4. They make a huge amount of noise, have a 1930's design for feeding hay, and you have to get on and off the tractor to put them in gear.
And finally... I wanted to make 14x18 bales and the kit to change the 16x18 baler to 14 x 18 was $6,000. (What I really want to do is find a Freeman 370 with a diesel engine on it and convert it to a 15" chamber. I think I could still get the extra bales in a stack but they would be easier to pick up.
When our running 200 busted a pinion bearing housing I bought a New Holland BC5075. It turns at 97 strokes per minute. It is shiny and new. I baled 7,000 bales with it and broke three bales and two shear pins in one entire season.
Someone needs to write a book about the Freeman Baler company. It is an incredible niche market baler. The slow speed and the design of the feed system makes it the best alfalfa baler ever made. It does not knock the leaves off the plant.
The balers are so heavy that we used to make 85 pound 16 x 18 x 46" 2-tie wheat straw bales with below 12% moisture.
Baling with the 200 last year two days before it exploded...


  1. I know nothing about balers but I do know about ideas and creative "jump offing points." You have the start of a book. You understand the history and advances of the technology, have practical experience, write well and make breakdowns and repairs interesting, humorous and intellectually challenging. I'd recommend "Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder as a good format. It's about the development of a new computer in the 1970s but that's pretty close to a baler when it comes down to it. I'd like an autographed copy.

  2. In the late eighties we were still using a 25A Freeman that Dad had bought in 1973 and had rebuilt by the Ag Shop class at Lane Community College. We started baling a field of wheat straw and did't know the neighbour's irrigation had hit the first windrow. We the baler hit that wet straw it stipped the teeth off the bull gears. New ones weren't available but Freeman had two 25A parts balers and Dad bought them both. Years later we learned for Larry or one of the other long term employees that the reason those old balers were there was to restore one of the original balers.

    1. for the company centenial in 1989, but when Perk Sr. got a cash offer on the old balers he sold them. On was serial no. 9 rebuilt as a 25A by the factory from the second run of bull gear castings ordered at the begining of baler production in 1948 0r 49. The other was in original configuration.

  3. two days before it exploded...

    New post maybe? Pics will be needed.

  4. Worked there 30 years 1974 to closing 2004

    1. Then you must have known my dad Bud Miguel. He invented several of the balers and Freeman's purchased the pattons. Dad was with them from late 60's and then did consulting work for them until the early 2000. Freeman's was my dad's life.


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