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B2250 Chaffcutter, No. 1382, hand powered, 2-blade, iron / steel / timber, made by E. H. Bentall & Co, Heybridge, Maldon, Essex, England, c.1900, used at Luddenham, New South Wales, Australia. Click to enlarge.

Bentall chaffcutter c.1900

Made in England, United Kingdom, Europe, c 1900.
This machine is a hand-powered chaffcutter typical of those used to cut up hay and straw for animals, notably horses, both on Australian farms and in the cities. Crops were also chaffed before they were put into the silo, to ensure close packing and to prevent fermentation.

The chaffcutter is one of the labour-saving animal food preparations machines made by agricultural manufacturers in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Others included crushers, grist mills, cake breakers, root cleaners and cutters, and corn shellers. When hand feeding large numbers of stock the amount of feed required to be cut, crushed or broken became quite excessive, so through necessity mechanisation developed quickly in this area. The benefits of using food preparation machines ensured that livestock had better digestion, and the mixing of fodder was facilitated which encouraged fattening animals to eat more. Cut feed was also advantageous for hard-worked horses, horses which bolted their food, animals with worn teeth and young animals with incomplete teeth.

Hand-powered chaffcutters like this one were one of the most common pieces of machinery on Australian farms. Chaffcutters were an essential piece of machinery when horses were used on farms to pull ploughs, cultivators, harvesters and other machines. Their use declined after the widespread introduction of the tractor after the Second World War. Bentall chaffcutters were a popular make used in Australia.

Hine, H.J. "Good Farming By Machine" (Teach Yourself Farming Books), Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London, 1948, pp.145.

Simpson, Margaret & Phillip, "Old Farm Machinery in Australia: A Sourcebook and Fieldguide", Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, 1991, pp.75-79.

A Brief History of E H Bentall and Company Collector Café,

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry
October 2009


Object No.


Object Statement

Chaffcutter, No. 1382, hand powered, 2-blade, iron / steel / timber, made by E. H. Bentall & Co, Heybridge, Maldon, Essex, England, c.1900, used at Luddenham, New South Wales, Australia

Physical Description

Chaffcutter, No. 1382, hand powered, 2-blade, iron / steel / timber, made by E. H. Bentall & Co., Heybridge, Maldon, Essex, England, c.1900, used at Luddenham, NSW, Australia

The essential components of this chaffcutter are the two, curved knife blades fixed to the spokes of the flywheel, 3 ft 6 inches (1.1 m) in diameter, which cut the straw. The knives are attached to the flywheel with four nuts and bolts each and could easily be detached for sharpening and renewing.

Uncut straw or hay was placed in the chaffcutter's chute and was seized by two toothed rollers and then fed to the rotating knives. When the flywheel was rotated, by turning the handle, the knives slide against a stationary shear-plate. The gear on the side of the chaffcutter could be altered to change the speed of the rollers relative to the speed of the flywheel and knives. Since this changed the relative speed at which the straw or hay was fed towards the knives, it controlled the length of the pieces of cut material which made up the chaff. Horses and cattle were given chaff cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) long pieces while sheep had about a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm). The chaffcutter is mounted on a 4-legged cast-iron stand decorated with pieced brackets.


Number on side of machine: 1626.



The design of the chaffcutter has its origins in Somerset, England, when James Edgill of Frome introduced a chaffcutter with a single spiral knife. This was followed by a hand-powered chaffcutter patented in England in 1794 by the Reverend James Cooke of London. This machine consisted of rotating knives attached to the spokes of a flywheel which pressed against a stationary knife set in the floor of the feed box. In 1800 McDougall invented the three-bladed cutting wheel. Later designs added toothed rollers to grip the uncut straw and feed it towards the rotating knives. Hand chaffcutters usually had two blades on the flywheel while power machines had two to five blades, according to the capacity and length required.

This chaffcutter was made by the well-known English firm, E.H. Bentall & Co. of Heybridge, Maldon, in Essex. William Bentall began making ploughs and other farm machinery in Heybridge in 1805 where a large foundry was built. William's son, Edward Hammond Bentall, took over the firm which went on to manufacture a number of other machines including corn crushers, root cutters, threshing machines, reapers, horse works and oil engines.



The chaffcutter was donated to the Museum by Mrs G. J. Garard of Liverpool, NSW, in 1977. It came from her property at Luddenham which was originally part of the Crown Grant of 6710 acres made to John Blaxland in 1813.

Cite this Object


Bentall chaffcutter c.1900 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 15 August 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Bentall chaffcutter c.1900 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=15 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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