Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hillbilly Ingenuity: The Roto-Flogger

Inspired by mechanical chicken-plucking machines, Mr. Farmer was determined to invent a device for easily removing the bristles and outer skin from pigs. The design was similar to the standing poultry-plucker, which has a revolving drum embedded with rubber fingers that beat and pull the feathers from a chicken. However, you can't just pick up a two to three hundred pound hog and lean it up against a rotating drum; that would be a bit much to ask of even Young Master Farmer, who is brutishly strong. Out of necessity, a mechanical pig stripper would have to be portable.

The scaled-down, portable design began with a 4 inch, PVC pipe end cap. Mr. Farmer drilled 4 equally spaced holes in the sides of the cap and inserted 4 rubber bungee cords as a replacement for the rubber fingers. The reinforced ends (with the hooks removed, of course) held the cords in place.

He drilled another hole in the center of the cap, inserted a long, threaded rod, and capped it off with a nut on each side. He attached the device to a hammer drill, and was ready to rock and roll!

We call this the ROTO-FLOGGER because of the long, whip-like rubber ends.
Other names we kicked around included the Hair-Whip and the Squealer-Peeler.

As usual, the hog was dispatched, and a 55 gallon drum of water was brought to a boil. Since Mr. Farmer and the Boy were handling this one alone, the old setup with the large, flat rock and metal A-frame were employed for the processing. The pig was dipped for the prescribed amount of time, and the Roto-Flogger made its maiden voyage:

(WARNING: I took this video of the second attempt, the side and back end of the pig, so it is less disturbing than the head view. BUT it is still a video of hair and skin being torn off a hog's hip with a homemade, miniature weed-whacker. Discretion advised. )

Ok, so maybe seeing the dark bristle and skin turning pretty pink looks impressive, but after the first minute, and the second, that small patch of pink was still the only progress that was being made. In fact, this was faster:

(If you were ok with the first video, you will be fine with this one, too.)

Actually, even THIS was faster and more productive than the Roto-Flogger:

(PG at best)

So, in the end, a couple clean patches on the side of the face and a couple cool-looking test patches on the hams were all that the machine produced. The rest of the processing was done the old fashioned way: Dipping in hot water, scraping with a knife, soaking towels in hot water, and picking off hair by hand. Even Mr. Farmer's attempt to improve the process by cutting notches in the rubber bands to grab the hair a bit did not help much.

We are not giving up, however. We are working on the design a bit. We may add more flails. Perhaps we will change the length or shape of the whips. Perhaps a leather whip would be more effective. We'll be doing a bit of research and testing, and I will report back.

Back to the drawing board...

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