The Sunflower Seed Huller and Oil Press
By Jeff Cox
, April 1979, Rodale Press
IN 2,500 SQUARE FEET, a family of four can grow each year enough sunflower seed to
produce three gallons of homemade vegetable oil suitable for salads or cooking and 20 pounds of
nutritious, dehulled seed -- with enough broken seeds left over to feed a winter's worth of birds.
The problem, heretofore, with sunflower seeds was the difficulty of dehulling them at home, and
the lack of a device for expressing oil from the seeds. About six months ago, we decided to
change all that. The job was to find out who makes a sunflower seed dehuller or to devise one if
none were manufactured. And to either locate a home-scale oilseed press or devise one. No mean
Our researches took us from North Dakota -- hub of commercial sunflower activity in the nation
-- to a search of the files in the U.S. Patent Office, with stops in between. We turned up a lot of
big machinery, discovered how difficult it is to buy really pure, unrefined vegetable oils, but
found no small-scale equipment to dehull sunflowers or press out their oil.
A pound of oilseed produced just
under three ounces of oil.
The key to success, however, was on our desk the whole time. In spring 1977, August Kormier
had submitted a free-lance article describing how he used a Corona grain mill to dehull his
sunflower seeds, and his vacuum cleaner exhaust hose to blow the hulls off the kernels. A second
separation floated off the remaining hulls, leaving a clean product. We'd tried it, but because
some kernels were cracked and the process involved drying, we hadn't been satisfied. Now we
felt the best approach was to begin again with what we learned from Mr. Kormier and refine it.
Staff Editor Diana Branch and Home Workplace Editor Jim Eldon worked with a number of
hand- and electric-powered grain mills. While the Corona did a passable job, they got the best
results with the C.S. Bell #60 hand mill and the Marathon Uni Mill, which is motor-driven. "I
couldn't believe my eyes the first time I tried the Marathon," Diana says. "I opened the stones to