Minnesota monster

FISHER, Minn. They weren't satisfied with the 12-row sunflower header they built in summer 2006. They knew they could create a bigger one perhaps the largest if they tried.

FISHER, Minn. They weren't satisfied with the 12-row sunflower header they built in summer 2006. They knew they could create a bigger one perhaps the largest if they tried.

So it was that Dr. Frankenstein (a.k.a. Mike Bergeron) and Igor (a.k.a. John Ross) went to work in their laboratory, trying to create something yet unknown to this world; a 36-foot, single-reel, sunflower draper header.

Their beast.

"We built the first one to fit our Case IH 2388," Bergeron says. "And then we traded that in and got the (Case IH) 8010. It was probably poor management," he says with a grin.

After all, mad scientists are renowned for their creations, not their managerial acumen. Besides, they could have gone a different route altogether.


"You can get a 30-foot kit for about $5,000,so I guess a 36-foot kit would probably cost about $6,000, just for the kit," Bergeron says.

"Some of those have 'quick-attach' bars," Ross says. "But we had one of those years ago, and there's nothing quick about it. So we've always had a dedicated header. It's just a lot easier."

In the laboratory

They got their steel stock at Crookston (Minn.) Welding and plastic from Horn Plastics in Fargo, N.D.

They pieced their creation together from other machines. They dug up a wing here and a couple arms there. But when they acquired a used single-sickle 36-foot draper head a MacDon 963 their plans really began to take shape.

"It's good that we built the first one," Bergeron says. "From our old header, we knew what we wanted. We wanted it a little bit different."

Not to mention bigger.

"A few guys around here had some different sunflower headers, too, so we took a few ideas from those."


For instance, "We wanted plastic in the pans, because our old sunflower header was rusting out," Ross says. "The plastic is smooth, so the seed moves easier. There's a little bit more slippage."

For pan size, they relied on their own brand of science.

"Yeah, we kind of wind of winged it there," Bergeron says. "All the guys you talk to say you have to have either 9-inch or 12-inch pans. The manufacturers actually make them that way because they have to line everything up perfectly over the sickle section."

Apparently, that didn't impress them much.

"We used (sets of) two 18-inch and a 24-inch pan to keep you on a 22-inch row," Ross says. "The sickle guards are 3 inches, that's why it screws up our 22 (inch) they come out to 21 or 18 inches, and you have to line up the sickle guards. We're only off a little bit, and the pans are tapered, so we're only moving the row about an inch or so, and sunflowers are tall, so it's no problem."

Evil genius at its best. They even simplified their design to minimize maintenance needs, though the actual assembly still took a lot of work.

Sewing it up"Last year seemed to go a lot quicker," Ross says. "We had a lot more moving parts. This one was just a lot more parts, period. When you add eight more rows, it's a lot more to build, just because of that. But basically there is really going to be no maintenance."

They also put a smaller-diameter reel on this version.


"Last year, it started getting stalks wrapped around it and was throwing them around so badly," Ross says. "On most of the other headers you see, sunflower stalks are hanging off the end of the headers."

But coming up with that would be tricky, until they got the name of a Canadian firm, Intersteel Manufacturing in Morden, Manitoba. Intersteel made the giant tube for them.

"They'd only done a 30-inch tube before, so we think we might be the widest tube," he says.

Why such a long single reel instead of a split reel?

"What MacDon does is usually add a third arm in the center," Ross says. "But stalks end up getting wrapped around it. So this is the largest single reel that we know of."

They also went with paddles set a in spiral pattern to balance the load and keep the pans cleaner. Other improvements include a steel collar in front of the reel bearings to prevent their getting fouled up and a wing shape of their own design.

"We're kind of impressed with ourselves with the kind of bending we were able to do there," he says. "It took a spot welder, a plasma torch and a come-along."

Like all monsters, this one is a little on the heavy side at around three tons.

"MacDons are heavy to start with," Bergeron says. "We figure we have about 600 pounds in the pans, the drum is about 800 pounds, and then the draper header itself is about 4,000 to 4,500 pounds."

That doesn't bother them, though. Their Case IH 8810 has beefy tires up front, so the fields were no problem.

In fact, their beast performs pretty well in the field.

On the loose"We took 110 acres off in about 4 hours," Ross says. "It takes a heck of a swath out there, so it's pretty nice."

"We do have one little issue with some trash gathering on one side of the draper," Bergeron says. "But we know how to cure that."

Like all mad scientist farmers, they're just not too worried about the little things.

"We're just too lazy to do it, first time around," he says.

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