What does this belong to?

rcb1023December 12, 2010

Hello All,

I was metal detecting back behing my house yesterday and found this about 1 foot deep in the ground. I've asked another person and they think that it was a tooth that belonged to a digging machine or farm equipment. The area that I found it in does look to have been leveled at some time, but I assume it was at least 30 years or more due to walnut trees that are growing in that area that are quite large. My main interest is knowing what equipment this may have belonged to so I can judge how long ago this occured. I hope the pictures give a good idea of the object. Thanks for any and all help.

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It's a tooth off a mower.

age will be difficult because the depth of rust varies with soil pH and moisture.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 4:12PM
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Of course it looks like a spear point from the iron age....but most likely isn't.
Does it hold a magnet?
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 4:12PM
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To further expound on what Lazygardens has stated, that is in fact a tooth off a "Sickle bar mower".

Those teeth were also used on grain binders.

Figuring out a date would be very difficult because they were first used in the mid 1800's and they are still in common use today.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 5:00PM
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Great. It does appear to hold a magnet. That makes sense that it was probably part of a mower. The land I found it on was used as farmland before. I was going to use evapo-rust to hopefully remove the rust that it's covered in right now. Is evaporust the best way to clean it? Would that help identify the time frame if the rust was removed? Is there any other way that I can tell what time frame it may have been from? Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 8:26PM
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Thanks again. After doing a quick search for antique sickle mowers. I saw the picture on this site which is exactly what I would think the tooth would look like after being cleaned.


If the tooth is an exact match to the ones seen on that mower, would it be safe to say that the tooth came from that type of mower, maybe not the exact model, but from that line of mowers? Thanks again for all the help.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 10:09PM
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I doubt if you could ever pin down a date because the design of those teeth has changed very little since they were first invented, and while it may have come off an old McCormic Deering Sickle bar mower or grain binder from back in the late 1800's, it may have also come off a modern state of the art Haybine or Combine.

If you were to go to any farm implement parts store they could grab you a couple dozen of those off the shelf without even looking.

Run a search for TSC (tractor supply company) and you can find those in their online catalog.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 11:03PM
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Thanks. I see what you're saying. Even if the tooth belonged to an older piece of farm equipment, it still leaves the question of when the tooth fell off. I guess the real question is how long the tooth was in the ground. I found it about a foot deep, which I would think meant that the soil had been disturbed at some point. I don't think it could have worked it's way down that deep on it's own. Can I judge anything based on the amount of corrosion that it has? I guess basing it on any other items that I find that I can pinpoint a date on. Would that be the way to go? I'm just trying to get a feel for what activity may have occurred on the property and how long ago it had occurred. Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 12:33AM
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I think you need to get a rusty piece of wire & put it around it & hang it up on a wall or protected porch area & enjoy it as conversation piece. I've found pieces of old clay heavy(thick) pot & old cement pieces when I dug down to put in a garden. I was told nothing was ever here before this tract of houses went in. I had an aunt that lived out here all her life & she said it was always just vacant land. Someone had done something here at 1 times as this was very different from way things are done now & cement is rather porous with lot of stones, doesn't look very strong but looks like part of a wall/foundation. I found same thing deeper in front when we went 3-4 ft down. I kept the clay pieces as they had nice look to them. Don't really care if someone was here before me. If you truly want to know what went on outside of going to court house, try finding where they burned their trash & start digging, you may be amazed at what you find. GF found doll parts, Occupied Japan figurines, salt & peppers, crystal sugar bowl, bottles in several colors.Lot of interesting stuff.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 1:38AM
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The scaly rust should be removed with a hammer, chisel and scaler. Then it could be coarse wire-brushed on a bench grinder. Wear safety goggles and leather apron for that.
Then it should be fairly clean, but extremely pitted. Most of the top 1/8" is scale rust, so it's going to be a lot smaller.
You could coat it with rust converter and paint it at that point.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 12:36PM
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You can't date any closer than "post 1880" because there are just too many variables in the time it takes rust accumulation and so many brands of cutter teeth that all look alike.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Thanks for all of your replies. I'll let you know how the cleaning process turns out. I see what you're saying. Very good point. Thanks for your help identifying it. I would have probably never identified it without your help. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 9:30PM
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This object appears to be part of a mower bar. It is not a "tooth" but is one of stationary parts that the sickle bar osculates through. The lower stationary part is thicker and wedge shaped and designed to slide on the ground in case it contacts the soil. The upper stationary part, which I believe this is, sits atop of the lower part and forms a slot through the sickle bar "with teeth" slides through. Its a close fit between the cutting tooth and stationary parts.

A cutting tooth is triangular shaped, thinner, and tends toward a triangle having a broad base. It will have two holes along its base where it is cold riveted to the sickle bar. (The tooth is a replaceable item.) The tooth is symmetrical with two cutting edges, and these edges are serrated.

Sickle bars are found in mowers, binders, combines, and maybe corn pickers. The earlest example would be a horse drawn mower dating back into the 1800s. McCormick Deering was a popular maker. However, mower bars have changed little since the first sucessful one, and are in modern harvesting equiment.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 2:24AM
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When I was growing up on a farm we farmed with horses and at the ripe old age of 8 years old I began mowing hay with a team of Belgian Draft horses and and old McCormic Deering Sickle Bar Mower. (The next year I began operating the Grain Binder).

I located a picture of a new Sickle Bar Tooth similar to the one you have, then I made up a composite picture in an effort to show you how they work.

Although your tooth is severely coated with rust you can see a circular light colored area on the blunt end where the mounting hole is. Also on the sides you can see an indention where the slot for the blade should be.

The individual teeth are mounted on the Sickle Bar with flat head stove bolts. This leaves a nice flat surface for the cutter bar to slide in.

While modern combines have cutting heads that are up to 36ft wide or more, typically the old hay mowers had a sickle bar that was 5 to 7 feet long. The cutter bar is the same length as the sickle bar and once the cutter bar is slid into place there is a gearbox on the mower that has an offset cam wheel and a "Pitman arm" which reaches from the gear box to the end of the cutter bar. As the wheel rotates the pitman arm pushes or pulls the cutter bar back and forth through the teeth in an oscillating motion about 4 to 5 inches on a stroke.

In fact it works in exactly the same manner as a pair of barber clippers for cutting hair.

You had also wondered how this could have been buried so deep. I think I figured that out as well.

Although it is the custom of farmers to use commercial fertilizers today, back in the day that simply was not done. Instead farmers relied on a technique that was first figured out by George Washington Carver back before the civil war. They rotated the crops.

You begin by planting a grain crop such as wheat, oats, speltz, barley or rye and you top seed that with red clover.

The grain was cut with a binder and both the grain and the straw was taken off the field in mid summer. The clover would continue to grow and you could get a second harvest of clover hay off the same acreage.

That fall we would sow timothy hay seed, which grew through the winter and into the following summer. Normally we would get two cuttings of hay, and in a good year we might get a third cutting of hay off the same acreage.

Throughout the fall and winter we would spread the manure from our livestock on the fields as fertilizer plus the Red Clover captures nitrogen from the atmosphere and stores it as little nitrogen nodules on the roots, further fertilizing the soil.

The third year we would plow those fields and plant corn. Corn requires a lot of nutrients and depletes the soil so you then repeat the rotation to build up the soil. (Today they call this method "organic farming" and charge you an arm and a leg for the grain".)

I suspect that tooth that you have fell off or was replaced and the old one just left laying in the field and it was later turned under during the plowing operation, which would account for the depth were you found it.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 7:44AM
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Thanks for the help. I really like the diagram. I can see how it all worked together. It's a really smart piece of enginuity.

That does make perfect sense as to how it got that deep. I didn't really think of it that way. I knew the land did have cows on it within the past 20 to 30 years, but I'm not sure what it was used for before that, but I'm sure it was used to grow crops on at one point or another. I would have never thought of that. I figured the soil had to have been disturbed somehow, but wasn't even thinking in that direction.

I really appreciate your help in indentifying it and understanding more about it and how it got there.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 9:54PM
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