Churning Things Up


Cree Vicar Dave  - SASS Life #49907


 A butter churn probably would not be the first Cowboy Action Shooting™ prop that comes to mind for most cowboys.  It could be looked at as an inert prop, for looks only.  Nevertheless, to call a churn inert would seem to be an oxymoron.  It says in Proverbs 30:33 “For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”  One of the definitions for churn in Webster’s is,”…to shake or agitate with violence or continued motion.”  Some of us may have been alleged in the past of agitating, but far be it from me to produce strife. In Cowboy Action, many 19th Century items actively add to the atmosphere of a match just by sitting passively at hand.

Born over six and a half decades ago I’ve seen many mechanisms of yore.  As a youth, I worked for a neighbor harvesting wheat by bringing in the sheaves and tossing them into a thrashing machine.  However, I cannot recall ever seeing a churn, either active or inert.

In considering one for our town, I looked on line.  The cost was more than I wanted to go, however seeing images of a churn started the ole mind in motion to build one.  With a mental picture firmly etched, the process began.  I used some scrap pieces of cedar lying around the shop.  Most any type of wood would do for this prop.  Cedar is lighter than most which is a plus when moving it.  I made the staves around 32” long.  The bottom is 10” O.D. and the top a little under 9”.  The handle is a 1” wood dowel 4 feet long with a paddle connected to the bottom.  The top cover diameter firs over to top of the churn and has a 1” hole in the center allowing the handle to pass through.  There are two leather straps attached around the churn.  They are spaced around 6” from top and bottom.  These straps are mostly for looks, as is the churn, because all the segments staves are glued together.  You could use most any type of strap from a plastic belt to sheet metal banding material. 

The bottom was laid out on paper in a 10” circle.  Then a 30° - 60° triangle was used on the tangent of the circle to divide it into twelve segments.  The width of each segment was calculated to be around 2 3/4 inches at the bottom and 2 1/4 inches at the top with a 15° angle rip cut on each side of each segment.  This gives it a tapered construction.  Two 1” x 6” x 8’ boards could produce the staves.

I used ratchet straps to hold the staves together in the glue up.  The straps were laid out first, then clear Handi-Wrap was spread over them to protect them from the adhesive.  The staves were glued and laid in place.  They were then rolled up and held in place by the ratchet straps.  I used a coffee can to help hold the stave segments in place while rolling them up.  After the straps are in place, spreaders may be needed.  Cut and place them inside churn to align the segments and to form the top diameter.  Before the glue had set, the bottom was formed to fit inside the staves and glued in place.

The top cover was made out of two round pieces of wood glued together with a 1” hole in the center.  The larger diameter is on the top and fits over the top diameter of the churn.  The bottom circle of the top fits just inside the churn top staves.  The top of this cover had the corner rounded over.  The 1” diameter by 4’ wood dowel handle, with the paddle on the bottom, sets inside the churn and extends through the hole in the top cover.  The churn was then sanded and finished.  You could go the extra mile and round the outside contour to a circular conic before installing the straps. 

The churn is ready to work.  Now all that is needed is to find someone with enough energy to operate it.  As I have been accused of churning things up from time to time, I asked the Vicar’s Wife if she would like to test the cause and effect of this newly hand crafted apparatus.  She informed me that this magnificent mechanical mechanism used to manufacture butter is not her motif. 

We all have fond memories pertaining to the mystique of the 1800’s but few people today are willing to sign up for the complete package.  So although this 19th Century machine sits idle, at the same time it invokes agitation, hence producing an oxymoron.  Nevertheless, it appears in fashion sitting on the front porch of the Sucker Creek Assay office.

As always be sure to follow all safety and health rules when working on projects and using them.

Hope ta see ya on the trail.

God bless.

Cree Vicar Dave