By Reuben Smith

Somewhere about 1985 I had finished building my set of 2” scale galloping horses and was trying to decide on another model to build. I had shortly before restored a Ransomes Sims and Jeffries No 9 RSLD 2 furrow plough as part of my other hobby, which was restoring vintage tractors and agricultural implements, and it occurred to me that this might be an interesting project. It proved to be both interesting and difficult.

Ransomes ploughs made use of many castings, some simple and some complicated, and they all had to be fabricated as I couldn’t source either castings or drawings, but the lack of drawings was less of a problem as I had the full-sized plough to refer to. I also had a friend who lent me a number of castings from dismantled ploughs.

As I had become used to working to 2” scale I decided to build the plough 2” also, and with one exception the following 17 or 18 were also 2”. The one exception was a New Zealand example which because of my stupidity turned out more like 3” scale – but more of that later.

Anyway, a start was made with the frame, a simple job as I could refer to the real thing. The drawbar was a little more complicated. Now to the wheels. First, the hubs were turned and bored to take the bronze bushes, and the holes drilled and tapped 6BA for the spokes to be screwed in. (2” nails were a very useful source of material). Spokes are round on the Ransomes but on a number of other makes they are oval, and oval nails are freely available). The rims were slices of round tube drilled close up to the clearance size for the spokes. When screwed in they make the assembly virtually self centring, tighten into the hub and soft solder the outside ends, cut off the surplus, clean up in the lathe then apply an undercoat immediately to prevent rust.

Wheels with oval spokes require a slightly different approach. Because you can’t pass the oval through a round hole in the rim, grip the spoke in the 4 jaw chuck, turn and thread the end then screw into the hub until it is tight, making sure it is facing the right way, then set in the lathe and skim the ends until they are a tight fit in the rim. Then drill 1/16” hole into the end of the spokes and fit a pin and rims can be rolled up from steel strip. Solder and clean up.

The rear wheel was a casting but was turned from a solid slice off a steel bar. The spokes were formed by drilling and filing.

The first really difficult part was the arm for the disc coulter, a hollow rectangular casting with a short tube at the bottom and a serrated adjustment plate at the top – three pieces silver soldered together (I find florists’ iron wire very useful for holding bits together. Trouble is it is now difficult to find).

The next difficult part was the mouldboard. In the first place you have to find a full-size one. Draw a pencil line from front to back as near the centre as you can then divide into 6” sections. You can now scale down to whatever size you are using. Cut a rectangular plate slightly larger than your mouldboard will be, draw a centre line, divide into scale 6” and you can measure from the centre line to the edge and connect the outside marks. Now twist the plate 90 degrees and cut and file to shape.

A lot of my early mouldboards were twisted by holding one end in the vice and using an adjustable spanner on the other. After making a number by this method I thought up a device which worked so well I have never needed to improve it.

When I started, I found model ploughs very hard to make. The Ransomes shares are chilled cast iron and fit into a triangular point in front of the mouldboard. They are held in place by a wooden peg driven through holes in both parts. The method I finally used was to cut out in mild steel the basic shape of the share and then bend up a piece to form a side, and the bottom making a triangular cavity to match the nose of the mouldboard. Silver solder the joint and tidy up with a file. Sounds easy but needs practice. It is useful to have a full-size share for reference.

The top of the share is slightly curved to blend with the mouldboard and the joint inclined slightly downward to encourage it to bite into the soil.

Quite a lot of old ploughs are fitted with shares which are bolted on. They have a top and a side and are usually held on by 2 countersunk bolts with the nut underneath. These are much easier to make. Round head counter-sunk with a square section underneath (you can omit the square bit but don’t use slotted screws, make plain-headed ones). Square-headed bolts and nuts were used extensively and are not commercially available so have to be made from square mild steel stock and threaded BA sizes. I started off using the 4-jaw independent chuck which was very time consuming, and eventually bought a self-centring 4-jaw which has been worth its weight in gold!

As a matter of interest Ransome bolts and nuts were chamfered on the outside edges.

Most trailer ploughs conform to a very similar pattern, although they vary a great deal in detail. They were made in 1, 2, 3 or 4 furrow versions, and probably even longer in America.

During the Second World War I worked for the Somerset War Agricultural Executive Committee as a tractor driver and used a number of different ploughs. Lister, Cockshott, International, Massey, Harris with the Fordson Model N tractor and later on an International TD6 caterpillar with a Ransome 4-furrow plough, a nice outfit that was used for all the difficult jobs.

The New Zealand plough appeared in a photograph in Old Glory magazine, which was showing a very old traction engine boiler lying on its side with a pile of scrap on top of it, and amongst this scrap was a very rusty single-furrow plough. It stirred my interest, so I made a drawing using guesswork for the dimensions, and although it looks alright it turned out looking like 3” scale.

Above: The pile of scrap featured in Old Glory magazine, March 2010

My nephew hunted for rusty New Zealand ploughs on his computer and came up with an identical model at a ploughing match near Christchurch, no date mentioned.

The other old one (above) I found in the Museum of Country Life in Sussex (Saxmundham, I think). No information was available, and I was without any means to measure it. So I used my walking stick instead.One and a half walking sticks long and three-quarters high. I took a number of photographs and built a model from that.
Rough measurements  were taken using my walking stick.

It appears to be for use in a small garden or allotment, and is propelled  by a small winch operated by the handle being pumped to and fro with a ratchet arrangement driving the drum with a steel cable, which must be attached to an anchor at the far end. At the end of the furrow the ratchet is disengaged and the plough pulled back to the starting point. The mind boggles!

In addition to those ploughs mentioned I have built Fisher Humphries, Oliver (2), Lister Cockshott 2 and 4-furrow (one of each), unknown one-way horse ploughs (2), Howard Riding ploughs (2), a Cockshott Riding plough and 3 Ransomes High Cut Match ploughs.

By this time I had gathered quite a lot of experience and they had become much easier to make.

Some years ago a friend’s daughter asked me to make a model of her father’s 2-furrow match plough, and I must admit I didn’t want to do it so told her I would think about it. I kept putting it off but I eventually decided to go ahead and do it, and in the end built three – one for him, one for me and the third one to be sold to pay for the first two. I finished the third one with different details – and kept it!

Above: Identical Ransomes 1 furrow high cut match ploughs, and below, the full-size plough at a ploughing match.

Left: Reuben Smith standing behind his models at a show near Corton, Wiltshire in about 2003. The red plough in the foreground is an Oliver, made during WW1 to go behind early Fordson tractors. A South Somerset Tractor Club member acquired a full-size Oliver, and visited Reuben to look at this model to assist his restoration of the full-size version.

More on Reuben’s ploughs here. -

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