Historic wool handling and shearing display at Henty

John Kingston, of Wagga, will demonstrate his historic Koerstz wool press at the field day’s vintage machinery display.

Australia’s history of riding on the sheep’s back will be celebrated at Henty with a working demonstration of an historic Koerstz wool press and Lister shearing plant.

The equipment has been contributed by Henty and District Antique Farm Machinery Club members, John Kingston and Kerry Pietsch.

Mr Kingston has farmed in the French Park and Tootool area all his life until retiring to Wagga.

The family property is now run by his sons Charles and David but John likes to visit the farm most days, tinkering around the sheds.

He is restoring a 1925 Fordson tractor bought new by his father, and intends to display it at Henty next year.

Last year, he had his pride and joy on show at Henty as part of the John Deere centenary celebrations – a 1947 John Deere G Model he fully restored himself.

“To get the tractor done, I leased a shed in Wagga and would go up there on the weekend to work on it,” he said.

John, 76, is also passionate about Rover cars, owning a 1962 Rover 100 and a member of the Wagga Classic Car Club.

He is among the newest members of the Henty and District Antique Farm Machinery Club, joining two years ago, despite attending the field days most years since 1963.

He recalls inspecting a lot of grain augers at the first field day on the Henty showground and heading off to the wool sales at Albury.

“I enjoy talking to people about the old tractors and motors, and the fellowship of the group,” he said.

A qualified wool classer, Mr Kingston classed his own clip, training on a Koerstz, and for others around the district.

He said his favourite press was “anything electric”.

He will display and demonstrate his Koerstz wool press, once standard fare in the big woolsheds of the pastoral era more than a century ago.

“Originally my father had a similar wool press made in 1901 in the woolshed at Springvale but replaced it with a Sunbeam electric press,” he said.

“Once we bought this place, I wanted to buy another press for the crutchings and odd bit of shearing.”

John found the manually operated Koerstz at a clearing sale in pieces.

“It was in reasonably good order and I have used it a few times since,” he said.

“Anyone interested in the wool industry would find the Koerstz presses collectable.

“There is an art to putting in the wool and stamping it in these presses – you have to walk around the edge, pushing it down.

“There won’t be many people of the younger generations who have seen one working.

“It required a strong, fit man to operate the press.

“They make a beautiful bale due to the design of the press and the use of jute packs.”

The press will be demonstrated using modern nylon wool packs.

Prior to the development of mechanical presses, wool was baled by hand. It was a laborious process that required a number of farm workers.

Travelling box’ presses were introduced in the 1860s. There were many variations and most were too expensive for graziers of small flocks to buy. Those farmers would usually take their sheep to be shorn at larger properties.

In the 1890s, Christian Koerstz, in business with Frederick Mason, designed and made cheap, efficient presses for small landholders.

They transformed the industry. The presses occupied little floorspace and could be operated by one man.

By 1898, Mason had sold hundreds of the New Koerstz Selectors and Homestead Lessee’s presses.

Keenly priced at 15 pounds and originally designed for the smallholder, it weighed 610kg and could be worked by one man and handle the pressing of wool from flocks of over 20,000 sheep.

Koerstz was a large and successful exhibitor at the 1910 Sydney Royal Show and his wool presses, Little Wonder, Squatter, Station, Bosker, Conqueror and Improved Langley, ranged in price from 12 pounds 10 shillings to 35 pounds.

They had become standard equipment in the large shearing sheds around the nation.

By the 1930s about 12,000 small Koerstz Selectors’ and Homestead Lessees’ presses had been sold around Australia and the world.

Like Christian Koerstz, John Kingston has always been interested in innovation.

“I always like to see the farm inventors at Henty and did enter a feed cart in two bag compartments and old tyres made into a cattle yard in the awards in the 1990s,” he said.

“And now I have a design in my mind for temporary fencing.”