There is almost no equipment on the farm Rosslyn near Barkly East in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa that hasn’t been modified in one way or another to make life easier. Each solution has been well thought out and is cheap and practical.
Sherine Dormehl smiles when asked how she manages to run her home with a husband who is such a perfectionist, and who keeps his workshop so clean and tidy that you could literally eat off the floor. “Well, that’s just how he is. He is obsessive about his handiwork, and does everything himself. You should see the beautiful furniture he makes.”
And that is Andre Dormehl in a nutshell. Many of these qualities can be attributed to the genes of his Lebanese forefathers. He had a granny who wouldn’t buy him toys for his birthday or Christmas, but would rather give him a set of spanners or good pliers. And most of these items are still displayed in his workshop today.
His late father, Coeny, who also had a knack for working with metal, built a neat workshop for Andre when he started farming at age 22. The first machine that he dismantled and fixed up was a blue 1962 Fordson Super Major tractor. When his father saw how enthusiastic he was, he bought him a set of wrench spanners and a welding machine in Bloemfontein. This welding machine is also still in the workshop, and in tip-top condition.
André singles out two people who had a major influence on his life and from whom he learnt the finer arts of workshop techniques. One was Boet Cloete, his neighbour, who didn’t have any sons and gave him advice on dismantling and repairing equipment. The other person who gave him many technical hints was Kok Schoeman, who worked at the Barkly East Co-op and was known as the Lister King.
Before long everyone in the district knew of André’s passion for metalwork. They would shamelessly bring their broken implements to Rosslyn for repairs. André also started to make gates, rebuild lorries, manufacture railings for pick-up trucks, animal lick troughs, implements, and weighing crates for cows and sheep. With the money that he made, he purchased new tools. “I only buy the very best spanners and tools that I can afford.”
He recommends Gedore, with its roots in Germany, Stahlwille, also a German brand, and the American brand Snap-on.
André says that although he occasionally attends the Nampo Harvest Day, and is impressed to see all the home-built patents that are on display there, his approach is to rather design something practical that saves him money. He has no love for gadgets. He also consults the internet when he wants to build something. “Instead of buying a new lick trough or scale, I will go and see what is available commercially and then build it myself, with some adjustments.”
Since 2009 when André resigned as the managing director of the Eastern Cape Agricultural Cooperative, he has concentrated on the manufacture and repair of any type of equipment that his neighbours ask him to make. In 2015, he built a steel barn for his brother, Peter, and helped replace the new axle (with a key groove) of his broken feed mixer. “If he had bought a new one it would have cost him thousands of rands because there aren’t any engineering works in the district. I did it for him out of brotherly love and didn’t ask a cent.”
André adds, winking, “My only condition for other people is that they must not rush me or haggle about the price.”
ENQUIRIES: André Dormehl, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel. 045 971 9081; cell 083 407 1597.
Here are some of the practical solutions André uses for everyday farming equipment: