Year four cider equipment – update

As is usually the case, the 08 cider equipment preparations at this point are characterized by ambitious plans and relatively modest progress.  I’ve bought a lot of materials, but things are going to have to come together in a hurry in order to achieve our goals.  So far I’ve sized the stock for the replacement shredder cutters and cut the teeth into two of the four; the other two have to be cut, then the 15 degree angle machined and the screw holes added.  I’ve also got stock for the post-crusher, and I found a small raised-panel router bit that’s a reasonable size for cutting the shallow gear-like grooves.  I’ve got the stock and Holly lent me the famous Ebay 3/4″ hex broach.  I also bought some cheap pillow blocks, but I haven’t got the small 25 pitch chain to form the drive system for it yet.  I got a chunk of 1515 extrusion from McMaster to make a convenient bearing rail for adjusting the post-crusher.

Even less progress has been made on the press side, which is the most critical element of this year’s goal.  I’m still torn between the relatively pedestrian option of making another set of press grates and arranging to form one stack of cheeses while the previous set is pressing, and going for the gold with the belt press described previously in these pages.  I did get out a bunch of 5/8″x1.25″ maple stock when we were in Maine at Labor Day, which could be readily turned into more grates.  Ideally we would make a larger press pan at the same time, which would require fabrication from stainless steel or working up more of that maple stock into a double-size wooden pan.  The stock is in Maine, meaning it would take another trip up there before cidering to get that to fly.  That might not be such a bad idea anyway given that the orchard could use a fall mowing.

I did make initial efforts toward the belt press concept, in that I brought back two large half-cylinder chunks of red maple that I had saved with the intention of turning them into bowls.  I cut them to about 14″ long with a chainsaw and planarized the split faces using the tablesaw sled as a jig (followed by the usual work with a chisel and hand plane).  It appears that a drum nearly 16″ in diameter is possible if I bond the chunks together around a large shaft and somehow manage to turn the resulting blank (perhaps with a router as the cutting tool on an improvised lathelike jig; I don’t have access to a lathe that can turn a large mis-shapen round down to 16 inches).

Time will tell in the coming weeks how much of this apple madness will come to fruition.  Meanwhile Pete Collier (host of our Thursday night jam session dinners) is collecting apples for a pressing in a couple weeks time.  That’s a good incentive to get at least some of this stuff done sooner rather than later.

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