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Young Collector Has Impressive Antique Ag Equipment & Tools
At 35, Kenny Walthes already has more than 20 years of experience collecting farm tools and equipment. Touring the three sheds and the basement of his rural Illinois home is like stepping into agriculture’s past.
“I go after unusual and rare items from the 1860’s to 1930’s, especially horse-drawn equipment and anything corn-related,” Walthes says, noting he is influenced by his dad, who worked with draft horses in his youth.
Many items are small, like fanning mills, wrenches, walking plows, cast iron toolbox lids and equipment seats, and corn jobbers (mechanical hand planters) that fill the shelves in his 50-by 100-ft. shed.
“I can tell you where everything is and when and where I bought it. I take pictures of everything,” he says.
He cleans each item, then coats it with an equal mix of mineral spirits, boiled linseed oil, and turpentine to preserve it and accentuate the color and lettering. He rarely repaints the antiques.
But there are exceptions such as the 1900 horse-drawn veterinary wagon in poor condition that he purchased because it had local significance. With the help of an Amish craftsman, he restored it from the wheels up.
“Now I’m working on a fire wagon with a dual-stage pump. It’s rotted out, and I had the wheels redone and rebuilt the pump from 1890,” Walthes says, noting he does about 75 percent of the restoration work.
His oldest items are 1815 corn scrubbers, early versions of a corn sheller. One of his favorite pieces of equipment is a Keystone Mfg. Co. 2-row wooden corn planter, built around 1875. It’s a dropper planter that requires a person to move a lever to plant every seed. Stored in an Iowa corncrib, it’s in excellent shape, even the stenciled ears of corn are still visible.
Walthes has purchased antique equipment from many states. He finds most items at auctions listed in magazines and through collector groups. Besides fulfilling his passion for collecting and preserving the past there are other benefits.
“It’s a good way to get your whole family involved,” he says. He and his wife and three children (11, 8 and 5) attend events together, and the children like the activities that show how life was 100 or 200 years ago.
Walthes shares pieces from his collection at eight shows annually and gives people tours of his treasure-filled sheds by appointment. In the future, there will be a new attraction; he’s building a general store for the antiques that fill his basement.
“I think if you’re looking to get into a hobby with people willing to teach you, there’s not a better hobby. People are always willing to help,” he says, adding that if you can afford it, now is a good time to buy while some collectors are selling their collections.
As a collector, he adds that he’s always looking for items, including 2-row wooden dropper corn planters, cast iron corn planter lids, cast-iron toolbox lids, and unique hand jobber corn planters.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kenny Walthes, Illinois (ph 618-407-2428; kwalthes@taylorroof.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3