February 13, 2013

Corn Sheller

Last October I blogged about my cowpea sheller. Here is another tool I've been wanting to show you; our new corn sheller.


It's not an antique, it's new. I first found manual corn shellers in a Lehman's catalogue, but I purchased ours from Pleasant Hill Grain. It is cast iron and very heavy.


We were stumped setting it up for the first time, because we didn't expect the crank to be on the opposite side of the clamps. We clamped it to a board, which is secured to saw horses with c-clamps. I put a plastic tray underneath to catch any wayward corn kernels. Corn still flew so Dan suggested slipping an old feed bag under the clamps as well.



This worked well and the bag caught most of it.

The action of the sheller is extremely clever I think.


As the shelling wheel is turned with the crank, the teeth on the wheel remove the kernels and rotate the cob as it moves downward.


If the cranking action is smooth and steady, the end of the cob is turned by the teeth...


... and pushed upward.


It's ejected out the side of the sheller...


... where it's easily caught and tossed aside. It's not very easy to explain, so I found a video on YouTube. It shows the process in motion with a sheller similar to mine.You can view that video here.

Experimentation taught me that it works best for medium to large size ears. I can't say I get it 100% of the time, but I can say it makes quick work of an otherwise tedious job. Definitely worth it's purchase price!

Stray kernel clean-up service was provided by my personal chicken.


One question on my mind was what to do with the discarded cobs. I've been burning them in the woodstoves, but was curious if there wasn't something else they be used for. Here's what I learned from my internet research. Corn cobs are used for:
  • fire starter
  • biofuel
  • production of the chemical furfural, which can be further made into stockfeed, flavoring, herbicides, a chemical solvent, a wetting agent, and in the manufacture of abrasive wheels, brake linings and refractory products.
  • shredded as livestock and pet bedding for small caged animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, etc.
  • shredded for compost worm bedding
  • pot scrubbers
  • charcoal production
  • coarsely ground as a mild abrasive for cleaning surfaces
  • ground up for fiber in ruminant livestock feed
  • boiled in water to extract thickeners which can be used in soups, stews, and corncob jelly 

I'm not sure which of these need fresh corn cobs, or which can use dried.The last three or four I would be interested in trying as we work toward a no waste way of life.

About five pounds of the shelled corn was saved for seed, a gallon jar full was added to in the freezer for making corn meal, and the rest is for the chickens.

Corn Sheller © February 2013 by Leigh 

33 comments:

  1. One cool piece. Looks like shiny armor, all it needs is a KNIGHT. You people so motivate US people. Thanks

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  2. What a great idea, I always hated shelling corn by hand.

    Thanks for pointing out my brain fart; that's not my usual modus operandi and I don't know what I was thinking...or not thinking.

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  3. That thing is SOOOO cool!!
    Now if we could just get corn to grow here.....

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  4. That looks like a machine that will last you a lifetime Leigh. Fabulous piece of equipment. Will you dry the cobs for fire kindling or use them for some of the other suggestions.

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  5. Donna, blame it on Lehman's :)

    Jacqueline, thanks and you're welcome. :)

    Carolyn, it's other option, according to the manufacturer, is shelling walnuts!

    Pat, I've been using the cobs for kindling, but I'd love to try out some of those other ideas. I'm not sure which ones need fresh cobs though. I reckon more research is needed as well as a lot of experimentation!

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  6. Oh - I like that gadget LOL It would be a great help in removing all the pointy popcorn form their cobs.

    Leigh - I have heard that one should not give corn cobs to dogs - I don't know why. So - perhaps it shouldn't be used in dog bedding either...?

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  7. Dani, thank you for mentioning that about dogs. The suggestions seemed to point toward small animals kept in cages such as hamsters and guinea pigs. I've amended the text in the post to say that. Hopefully readers will understand the intended usage from that.

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  8. Do you have a wood chipper? Even a little one could make it into some nice chunks of bedding. You could test it for absorption--either goats or chickens. I'm sure they would oblige. It could also provide carbon matter for the worm bed.

    When you're not using it, you could mount it in the house as a sculpture! Another example of people applying their creative side to a utilitarian piece of ingenuity!



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  9. That is so cool! Thank you for sharing.

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  10. I've never seen a gadget like this - looks interesting! unfortunately maize/sweetcorn doesn't like our miserable, cool and wet summers here, so I haven't planted any for several years. pity, but then I would only ever have enough for nibbling here and there anyway:(

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  11. Oh my goodness! I remember using one of those when I was a kid! Granny would set it up for us, give us a bucket of corn and let us have at it. We'd shell enough corn for her on a Saturday between other chores to feed the chickens for the rest of the week. We kids loved it and thought it was great fun. I had forgotten all about that thing.

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  12. Good grief. First glance that sheller looks like some medieval torture device. I checked out the vid and am impressed with the simplicity of function. (That owner sure had it down pat.)

    I second the 'don't give cob of any kind to dogs' warning. Cobs will swell in their digestive tract and the results can be pretty grim (childhood experience).

    I like the idea of chipping the cobs to use as chicken bedding and, eventually, into compost (where they excel as brown matter). Glad your 'personal chicken' has a good work ethic. ;-D



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  13. SO interesting! Never seen one of those! Enjoy!

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  14. Barb, hmm. Actually we do have a wood chipper, though it's somewhat of a nuisance to use (runs noisily on gasoline and the chips fly everywhere). Still, that might be the best way to chop the dried cobs up. Worm bedding is another use I'll have to add to my list.

    Stephanie, you're welcome!

    Bettina, corn growing does have it's limits. :) (As does kudzu, eh?)

    Benita, what a fun memory. :)

    Kris, I was impressed with the video too. I especially like that he did the shelling in a large box and could sit down! I'll have to try that next year.

    I never meant to imply the corn cob bedding should be used for dogs, sorry. My research mentioned small rodents in particular.

    Daisy, neither had I until I saw it in Lehmans! Now all I need is a homestead sized wheat thresher and sorghum press. :)

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  15. I watched the video to get the full idea of the sheller's action. WOW. That's ingenious! I was fascinated by the way the empty cob is manipulated back upward and out. Engineering is fascinating!

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  16. I love well made, useful tools that actually make jobs easier. That is pretty cool. I'm sure the chooks will love the corn. Mine sometimes pick out the corn from their scratch and leave the rest.

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  17. I'm pretty sure my Mom would reminisce about this post and shelling corn as a kid. I love your clean up service and think burning them in your stove is probably the easiest!

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  18. I think using the cobs for kindling is a good purpose for them, I'll be interested in seeing how your other use experiments go though.

    We saw one of these shellers at a children's farm in Michigan. They let the kids have a few cranks each. Our guide didn't mention what they did with the cobs though.

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  19. Debbie, and to think someone designed this before electricity and electronics!

    Nina, they all love corn! Chickens and goats too, even squirrels (after pecans).

    Sherry, it's true, burning them is easiest. When I saw those other uses though, I thought I should try some because kindling I have aplenty. The scouring powder may be an intriguing first experiment.

    Renee, I hope they didn't throw them away! Dried cobs can be composted, but they take awhile to break down.

    Besides a cleaning powder, I'm curious if any of the goats would eat the chipped dried cobs. It's used in pelleted goat feeds as "plant roughage products" anyway. My goats love dried corn leaves and tassels. The cobs would not be nutrient dense, but when pickings are slim, the extra roughage and carbohydrates would be good for them as filler.

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  20. Ah, Leigh you are girl after my own heart. Love the corn sheller it reminds me of the one my grandparents had. They shelled corn to feed livestock and cobs were ground up for bedding animals. I am an old fashioned girl at heart and the old ways are just about always the best ways for running my little homestead.

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  21. Awesome! I must check into this tool right away. I super love how you are using everything, waste not... Fantastic and seriously inspiring. Have a great day!

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  22. I use my great grandfather's large corn sheller and your model looks like the actual metal parts that are inside. The old one shakes the corn out to where it falls in a bucket and the cobs go out the end. I shelled 110 gallons last fall and sealed them in plastic barrels to where they fermented and smell like wine, the calves love it.

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  23. While the children's farm had a lot of crops around it, I don't think that they were all too worried about making money from any source than admission to the farm. They had rabbits for sale and I just wanted to rescue all of them.
    That area in Michigan grows a lot of corn (my niece's house is in the middle of a corn field) so I would assume they use all of it...but who knows.

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  24. Well you can always save the cobs and throw in a bucket of water for , you know when yor run out of tp sometimes.

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  25. Growing up we shelled corn for livestock feed. Our feed box looked a lot like a hope chest, and the sheller was mounted on the side so that when you shelled it the corn would fall into the feed box and the cobs to the floor. I've really missed that tool since we started our own homestead.

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  26. Our cornsheller similar to that one was mounted on a box on legs, bringing it up high enough to use without totally breaking your back. The shelled corn went into the box or into a bucket we set in the box.

    I became very proficient at shelling corn.

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  27. I thought is was a suit of armor at first. :)

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  28. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My parents had one exactly like yours except it wasn't new. It seemed ancient back when I was a kid. It mounted to the side of a large wooden box and we had a metal shield that we used to contain the kernel shrapnel and direct it back into the box. My brother and I would take turns running the crank while the other fed in ears as fast as he could. We mostly used it for shelling popcorn though we would shell stray ears of corn that we found in the fields to give to the barnyard animals. I'm guessing my parents still have their sheller somewhere on the farm. I'll have to ask them the next time I'm home.

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  29. That's pretty darn nifty and what a time saver. What would be the best storage to avoid aflatoxins developing in either the cobbed corn or on the cobs themselves if used for feed?

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  30. The first picture looks like some sort of medieval torture gadget! Don't you wonder who (and how!) ever managed to design this sheller so it worked so well?

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  31. Martha, it's interesting how many folks remember these from their grandparents. I agree with you that so many of the old ways seem so much better. Especially for those of us with small homesteads.

    Jen, not wasting anything is the best part!

    Sunnybrook Farm, I think I know the one you're talking about. I found some really nice ones as I researched them. You must be shelling fresh corn to get the cobs to ferment like that(?)

    Renee, seems a lot of corn nowadays is used for ethanol. Since I've done some research, I'm guessing that they use cobs and all.

    Anonymous, well, that's an idea, LOL

    Michelle, I like the idea of attaching the sheller to a box. Also I like not having to store it on the cobs! Maybe someday though, well have a real corn crib for that.

    FFG, legs would be great! The sawhorses were a bit too low, but it got the job done. Next year, I'll see if I can't come up with a better set-up.

    Cloud, LOL. I can see a knight in it too.

    Ed, sounds like a great memory. I can see how it would be really fast with two to do it. Maybe next year I'll enlist family help. :)

    Theresa, you've given me something to research! I don't have a clue what aflatoxins are, but it sounds like I'd better learn.

    Mama Pea, LOL. I wondered about who designed it the entire time I used it. Ingenious, really, and without an electric or petroleum motor!

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  32. Thanks for the review. I have been thinking about getting one of these, but debating between taking a risk on an antique from Ebay or a new one of unknown quality. It's nice to hear that your newly made version was well built.

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  33. Lee, good to hear from you! I have to say that with the one I bought, Dan was not impressed with the machining (if that's the right word). It's pretty rough, actually, with lots of paint. Seems that back in the day, more pride was taken with products and manufacturers could proudly imprint their name on their work. Not the case here. I'm guessing, Lehman's is better in that regard, or at least it should be for the price! I agree though that buying antiques off eBay can be risky. All that said, mine should last a lifetime. Very heavy duty and I can't imagine it breaking.

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