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«© 2011, Steve Hughes. All rights reserved. The Garagiste’s Crusher by Steve Hughes The fall crush is probably my favorite part of winemaking. The ...»

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The Garagiste’s Crusher

by Steve Hughes

© 2011, Steve Hughes. All rights reserved.

The Garagiste’s Crusher

by Steve Hughes

The fall crush is probably my favorite part of winemaking. The sweet, ripe fruit is in from

the field, and it’s time to break open the berries and take off the stems to get the wine on

its way to future greatness. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but the whirling and twirlling of the

gears, rollers, belts, pulleys and shafts gives me goosebumps as the grapes take their first ride on their incredible journey from vineyard to bottle.

In the last issue I described how I built the companion piece to this dynamic duo of winemaking equipment, the destemmer. Building the crusher and adapting it to operate in tandem with the destemmer posed a number of head-scratching challenges and required tapping my antique tool collection for my Dad’s old lathe and gouge (rounded chisel) and jigsaw. Then I needed to rig them up to operate with the motor that I’d already salvaged and cleaned up to serve as the motor for the CD. There’s something special about playing with tools that are over 75 years old and having them run like they were made yesterday.

Step 1. Building the Rollers Like the shaft of the destemmer I elected to make the crusher rollers from maple.

I hand selected a short piece of 2-½” thick stock from our local hardwood supplier. I ripped it down to square the piece up, marked each end corner-to-corner to determine the center end points, then ripped off the corners on a 45º angle to rough out the shape before putting it on the lathe. Once on the lathe, I was able to shape the shaft into a nice round rod about 2-⅜” in diameter, and about 2’ long. The gouge makes quick work to get the © 2011, Steve Hughes. All rights reserved.

The Garagiste’s Crusher by Steve Hughes corners off and then a carefully wielded flat chisel smoothes up the ridges and valleys the gouge produced. It doesn’t need to be perfect here as almost all of the surfaces will be removed when cutting the teeth.

After rounding up the piece, I cut it into two 9-½” rollers with my miter saw.

Step 2. Drilling the Ends of the Rollers Given the inordinate amount of time it took me to drill accurate in-line holes in the destemmer shaft to receive the steel shafts, I decided to rethink the approach.

After a few attempts that failed miserably on test pieces, I found success when I took a 2” long piece of the 2-½” square stock and trimmed it down so the width of the square matched the diameter of the new rollers, and drilled a ½” diameter hole through the center with a drill press to make it square and inline with the piece. It always helps to drill a small pilot hole to guide the larger drill bit when performing a step like this. Next, I clamped this piece to my table saw fence and table with the hole in line with the fence. I put the ½” drill bit in a drill motor and slipped the bit through the hole in the maple block, then shimmed and clamped the drill motor to the table saw, making sure it was very secure to avoid wobbling and keeping the bit in line with the hole in the block.

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I turned on the drill and locked the trigger. Then, with the table saw blade completely lowered, I put the roller on the table and against the fence and slowly pressed it into the drill bit, backing out and double checking the hole was perfectly centered. If not, the roller would wobble. Repeating this on all four roller ends gave me excellent results with holes about 2” deep into the ends of the rollers.

Step 3. Cutting Teeth For this step, I set up my router on its router table with a straight planing bit extended above the table one half the diameter of the rollers and adjusted the fence so it would cut about 1/16” into the rollers as they pass.

After the first pass, I rotated the roller counterclockwise enough so with the next pass, the router bit would cut into the roller at the lowest vertical part of the first cut. I repeated this all the way around the rollers until no curved portions of the rollers were left and some very sharp teeth remained. Some light sanding and the rollers are ready to roll.

Step 4. The Gears I began laying out the gears that will turn one roller into the other in my CAD program and was about to push the “Print” button when I heard about a gear template generator online.

Curious, I decided to check it out: http://woodgears.ca/gear_cutting/template.html.

(Note: I have no relationship with the folks who graciously posted this handy, free website.) With this you can determine the gear spacing, number of teeth and shaft hole size and it gives you a great to-scale template to print out from your computer. Again, trial

–  –  –

and error got me the final template that would give the rollers the correct spacing that I wanted with enough play not to get jambed up when spinning against some resistance as grape clusters are being drawn through.

–  –  –

when finished and then I deburred the cuts by searing them over a candle flame. A little sanding and the gears are ready to turn.

To finish up the rollers, I installed steel shafts in the holes by taking three 2-½” x ½” and one 4”x ½” bolts and cut off their heads and filed the cut ends smooth. After that, I mixed up some 5 minute epoxy rated for steel and wood and placed some in the holes of the rollers and on the smooth ends of the shorter bolts and the threads of the longer one and drove them firmly into the holes making sure that the roller teeth will turn towards each other and the longer shaft is on the left with the rollers pointing towards me. Finally I

–  –  –

slipped the gears over these shafts and drilled, countersunk and installed three screws through them into each roller.

Step 5. The Crusher Frame The functions of the crusher frame were three-fold: (1) to hold the rollers in position and be secure enough to allow for the spinning and crushing that would occur; (2) it needed to cover the infeed end of the destemmer and channel the crushed clusters into the destemmer; and (3) it needed to support a hopper so several folks could drop in the bounty at the same time.

I laid out the main box of the frame on ¾” plywood with the first piece being a square with a flattened V cut into it. The sides were cut from ⅜” plywood and the opposite end was a smaller piece of ¾” plywood, flat on top and angled on the bottom. The sides also

–  –  –

angle from the gear end of the box to allow the crusher box to extend past the end of the destemmer and align the pulley of the crusher to the pulley on the destemmer shaft.

Along this angle, I installed some slippery ⅛” high density polyethylene (HDPE) sheet to channel the crushed clusters into the mouth of the destemmer. Drilling ½” holes in the two ¾” pieces of the box allowed for the shafts to spin freely and the gears to mesh perfectly. I considered making the roller spacing adjustable, but, following the KISS theory, decided that stupid should keep it simple at this point. I can always modify it if needed, but have never adjusted the roller spacing on my other crushers in the past. I set the spacing a little wider than on a typical store-bought crusher, however, as I like to keep crushing more gentle and end up with a high percentage of whole berries in my fermentations, so I settled on ⅜”. For a higher crush rate, the spacing could be reduced down to as little as ⅛” With the box at this width, there was still about 4” open on top of the destemmer mouth that needed covering so a couple of pieces of ⅜” plywood with some 1-½” edging bridged the gap. These were screwed into the sides and end of the crusher box.

To complete the box frame and support the hopper that will sit on top of the crusher, a couple of top-angled 3-½” pieces were attached to the sides and bottom pieces.

Finally, I added a piece of ½” HDPE on each end of the box to act as bushings for the metal shafts. The advantage to these is that they are much quieter than metal bushings or washers.

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Step 6. More Laminating I must say that this project (including the destemmer) was a huge exercise in plastic laminating but was worth it in the long run for how easy it makes cleaning up at the end of a long day of crushing.

Each piece of laminate is cut out slightly larger than the piece to be laminated. Cutting the laminate can be done by using a laminate knife along a straight edge, scoring about 4 times on the finished face, then snapping the laminate by bending it back on itself. It makes a startling pop, but the cut is straight and clean and quick. For smaller pieces or inside corners, a sharp pair of metal shears works well.

Then, one by one each piece is glued with a brush and contact adhesive with two coats on each piece, and after each coat, the adhesive is allowed to dry to just slightly tacky so it doesn’t stick to your finger when touched -- about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the adhesive is ready, the laminate is laid onto the wood and pressed firmly using an edge of a board or heavy roller. Allow the adhesive to set a bit longer and then trim the laminate flush with the edge of the workpiece with a laminate trimmer or router and touch up with a wood rasp or orbital

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sander. Flip the piece over and laminate the other side; trim and finish, then laminate the edges. Tedious, and the task gets more difficult as the fumes of the adhesive begin to addle your brain. A respirator and plenty of ventilation is a good idea when working with laminates and adhesives.

With all the pieces laminated, I reassembled the box, and attached the pulley. To hold the crusher on top of the destemmer, I used a pair of small draw clamp latches (think lunchbox latch) on each side. This allows the crusher to be quickly removed from the destemmer for cleaning and storage.

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Step 7. The Hopper Keeping with my mantra of minimizing the space that my winemaking equipment consumes in my garage, cellar, basement, attic, etc.

, I like to be able to make my equipment as flexible as possible. The hopper was designed to do double duty: (1) to sit on top of the crusher and, (2) for the rare times when I want to do a whole berry fermentation, it will rotate 90º and sit on top of the mouth of the destemmer without the crusher attached. All four sides slope at a 45º angle to allow for continual feeding to the crusher rollers. I cut the two long sides of the hopper first and tacked them in place in the crusher cradle, and then measured the between these pieces to determine the lengths of the top and bottoms of the end pieces. A little quick math determines that the compound angle that the edges of the end pieces should be cut is 30º to fit the sides. The bottom edges are cut on a 45º angle to sit flush on the flat ends of the crusher frame.

Laminating the hopper was made more difficult due to these angled edges, so the laminate pieces were cut much closer to final sizes than normally would be done with square edged pieces and then trimmed to final angle after gluing them in place using a belt sander and a wood rasp rather than a

–  –  –

laminate trimmer. Once the pieces of the hopper were all laminated, they were screwed together using finish washers and wood screws.

I use the crusher with the hopper just sitting in the cradle with no mechanical attachments.

My crushing crew is aware that it can move if bumped so they can relocate it if necessary, but it rarely happens.

Step 8. Connecting the Drive Shafts In laying out the shape of the crusher, one of the criteria had to be that the pulley on the crusher had to line up with the pulley on the destemmer shaft.

As a result the crusher overhangs the destemmer necessitating the angled chute on the pulley end of the crusher below the extended rollers.

The pulleys I used were about the same size, but could be changed out to speed up or slow down the roller rotational speed. If it goes too fast the destemmer won’t keep up; too slow, and the hopper will fill up. I’m happy with the speed of the crusher closely matching the speed of the destemmer.

With the crusher clamped in place on the mouth of the destemmer I determined the size of the V-belt that would drive the crusher by wrapping a string around the two pulleys and taping it together to form a circle that will be the length of the inside of the V-belt I would purchase. To get the string off the pulleys, I just unclamped the crusher and tipped it down to free up the string and I was off to the auto parts store.

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9. Mating the Crusher Destemmer with the Folding Rolling Cart In the last article, I described how I built the cart that will support the crusher destemmer and how I can fold it up flat to store it. It can also be pulled out to serve as a table on bottling day or a rolling cart for other purposes like moving full carboys around the winery.

With the crusher in place on the destemmer and the motor connected, I added a hole and bushing in the end of the cart that now supports the speed reducing mechanism that I originally had attached to the destemmer. I attached the destemmer with a couple of

–  –  –

small metal plates and three screws to keep the box from shifting, and with a cordless screwdriver, the destemmer is removed in seconds by removing two little wood screws.

10. Storing the Whole Shebang Because the destemmer is only slightly attached to the cart, the crusher disconnects from the destemmer, the hopper is independent of the crusher and the motor is mounted with a couple of wing nuts, the components all come apart in minutes to make cleaning a breeze. Each component is very light to facilitate moving things around unaided. When they are all cleaned up and ready for storage, I can put them on one or more shelves so they can be stored in any number of locations in my winery keeping space requirements to a minimum.

And I can use the motor to power any number of other gizmos or gadgets when the crusher is not in use.

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