Portable power units let farmers check out planters before they go to the field
Spotting and fixing planter problems is easy for Darle Baker of Ohio City, Ohio, and Delbert Hayes of Norwalk, Iowa. They use portable power units built mostly from parts that they already had on hand.
Power the drive wheel. Baker’s "roller box" provides power to his eight-row planter’s drive wheel. It consists of two rollers, made from Schedule 40 black iron pipe, on steel shafts inside a metal frame. "I calculated the size rollers needed to run the planter at 5½ mph, my desired planting speed," Baker explains.
The rollers are powered by a ¼-hp electric motor taken from a furnace blower. "A 1⁄3-hp or ½-hp motor probably would be better," Baker says. "I bought the pipe, shafts and frame
components, but I already had the motor, pulleys, belts and bearings."
To power the planter’s drive system, Baker locks one drive wheel in the lowered position, using cylinder stops, and raises the other drive wheel with the hydraulic cylinder. He sets the roller box on an ATV service jack assembly, rolls it into place and raises the box until the rollers come into contact with the raised drive wheel. "The drive wheel could also be lowered onto the roller box, but the box will stall under a heavy weight," Baker says.
"I can use the box to calibrate seed and insecticide, oil moving parts and brush dirt off the chains," he says. "Running the planter this way, I can track down any problem that makes the chains catch, clack or jump before I put the planter away at the end of the season. That way, any issues I noticed while planting are still fresh in my mind. I can test operating bearings with a mechanic’s stethoscope or a long screwdriver.
"Planter smoothness—eliminating jumps and jerks—is essential for getting a good stand," Baker concludes. "Sound preventive maintenance keeps my 13-year-old planter running as smooth as a sewing—or you might say ‘sowing’—machine."
Drive the transmission. Hayes decided to check out his planter after watching a "Corn College TV" presentation by Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer.
Hayes calls his power unit a "speed reducer." It reduces the 1,725 rpm of a ½-hp electric motor to about 26 rpm, which his dealer says is the typical speed of a planter driveshaft in the field.
|A power unit built by Delbert Hayes reduces the speed of a 1⁄2-hp motor to about 26 rpm.
From a company dealing in pulleys and sprockets, he obtained a formula for speed reduction. It requires running the electric motor counterclockwise and utilizing four belt-driven pulleys.
A 1½" pulley on the motor drives a 16" pulley on a ¾" shaft with pillow block bearings. That pulley drives a 2½" pulley, which in turn drives a 14" pulley on a ¾" shaft with pillow block bearings and a 16-tooth weld-on sprocket. Hayes confirmed that he had achieved 26 rpm by marking the sprocket and timing its revolutions.
The sprocket on the 14" pulley is connected with 2040 chain to a sprocket in the planter transmission.
"I can run the chain on various sprockets on the planter to get different speeds," Hayes says.
All the components are mounted on a two-wheel hand cart. An electric switch turns the power on and off.
Hayes anchors the cart to a four-wheeler or tractor and tightens the chain with a winch. He made the chain 10' long, leaving plenty of clearance behind the planter. "That provides room to work at the rear of a planter unit, regardless of row width," he says.
The shaft on the 14" pulley extends past the sprocket. "By adding a 2050 sprocket, I can run the main shaft that the wheels drive," Hayes says. "That way, I can check the clutch, just like in the field. If I wanted to, I could drive the planter from the end, by connecting to the drill shaft."
Originally, Hayes considered powering his speed reducer with a hydraulic motor, but he chose the electric motor because it was quieter. "I can hear problems I could not hear in the field, from the tractor," he says.
Using his power unit, Hayes has identified worn bearings, a bent shaft and a plate in the planter box that was bent and out of alignment. "I had no idea any of those things were wrong," he says. "Learning how to check out my planter has made me a lot of money."
Building the unit cost about $200. "The gear reduction motors you can buy are expensive, and I’m not sure they would have enough power to turn the planter driveshaft," Hayes adds.