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Wheel hoe: wheely wheely good!

14 Jan 2010
Overcast 25°C / 77°F

That’s the verdict after I’ve built one and quickly furrow tested it. It handles well and traction is tear the track up terrific. groan
I admit the track was small and not really suited to a test, but it does show potential and I’ll now plan my (long) beds accordingly.

Okay, why a wheel hoe?…

  • They’ve intrigued me for a while
  • Anything that makes weeding FUN and easy has to be good!
  • Hand powered, but bordering on a machine (Ohh Shiny!)
  • Tim the Tool man has one (don’t tell me he doesn’t – although it would be V8 powered!)
  • I ran out of projects.
  • Ancestors would approve.

Hmmm, Why wouldn’t you have a wheel hoe?…

  • You have a hand hoe and it works just fine!
  • Short rows or a small area.
  • Hand hoeing is character building.
  • Cost is GASP, you’re kidding me!!
  • Other projects take precedence.
  • Ancestors wouldn’t approve.

Background
I’ve come across these a couple of times, the first time was when I bought a HO-MI and then found the Wheel Hoes while looking around the site. The price is a bit of an eye opener, but as they say for areas up to 1 hectare so we’re talking about a suitable return on investment for that area. For the home gardener they are overkill, for the allotment holder (shared amongst a few) they may be justifiable.
My most recent encounter was at the Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe site of the The Deliberate Agrarian. On that site Herrick details his version of the wheel hoe where plans and parts are available for a fee, or a set of images and photos for free (and some good reading glasses) The free ones were enough to get the gist of what was needed, and for the itch to be finally scratched.

The images that are supplied are only just readable, but dimensions are irrelevant once the concept is grasped. The key word is oscillating and after viewing a few youtube videos I finally got a handle (I think!) on what was happening.

Oscillating Blade
The oscillating part does nothing more than allow the blade to tilt downwards into the soil in the forward direction and then reposition itself so that it can cut, in the same fashion, in the backwards direction – in other words it can oscilate between the two positions – not that it does oscillate while cutting. The tool requires a push-pull action for heavy weed cover and this is when the repositioing of the blade comes into its own.
The blade passes under the weed and cuts the roots and lifts the plant and soil over the blade, this action ensures that the weed is severed below ground level. This action also disturbs the roots of the very small weedlings.

Handle angle and height
The other feature that appears to be important is the grip and ergonomics. For best use of that valuable resource – puff – the angle of thrust should be along a straight line that passes through the operators elbows, wrists and the contact point between wheel and ground. Once that line is derived, the hoe mechanism hangs off that and is then easily raised or lowered (depth of cut) by moving the hands (the handles or line) the minimal amount. Put another way, the correct depth just happens without any effort.

Parts required
The other reason this project kicked off (in my case) is because a metal cutting bandsaw blade at work saw the last of its useful life – no teeth were left (you can’t say we didn’t get value out of it). These are made from a high quality carbon steel (if not HSS) that is both hard and flexible. They can only be drilled with a carbide drill bit (a concrete drill with a touch up resharpen) and bent using orange heat (oxygen, acetylene set) but one blade makes a life time supply and best of all – it’s free, why waste useful material!
It could be said the old blade was a solution looking for a problem?

The wheel came off a golf buggy found on the local rat drive (council clean up). The steel was from scrap offcuts (thus the different design to Planet Whizbangs) and the handle came from an old mower (it’s temporary though, I may get around to making a better one – then again?)

Photos

  1. The money shot – pay no attention to the crude, but functional handles
  2. Side view, up close and personal
  3. From above
  4. The oscillating blade and stirrup held in the retaining clamp.
  5. Close up of the retaining clamp – note the clearance which allows the blade assembly to tilt. (oscillate)

So, that’s me, what if you want one?
Hopefully there is enough information and clues above to help you along your own path, accessing and utilizing your own resources.
If not then, other than paying a small fortune for one from a commercial supplier, a visit to the aforementioned Planet whizbang site will show some alternatives. That page lists parts that he supplies and where or how to get the remainder (wheel, handles?).

Do I recommend the Planet Whizbang hoe?
I can’t because I don’t own one. The plans that Herrick supplies detail his build, and while I didn’t follow those to the letter (as obvious from the overall design of mine), the important parts – the oscillating blade and handle layout – is well covered and mine closely follows it (there aren’t too many ways to build it after all.)
If I was in the USA and couldn’t source the gear myself, I wouldn’t have any qualms about splashing out for his kit. It’s simple, easily put together and being man-made it’s man-fix(able). There are no exotic manufacturing techniques in play with his setup, that’s a good thing.
I wouldn’t pay $500 for a commercial one though – but that’s me and my genes in play!

Do you need one?
No idea. They are of no use if you have short beds, a small area, or don’t plant in ordered rows.
If you have a large area then they could well come into their own.
They are easy to use, less so if the plot is covered in established weeds (but then try using a hand hoe and then compare!). If the weeds are kept well under control then this tool would make it an absolute breeze to go over the ground, then again, so is a hand hoe at that stage :)
They also have possibilities if used with other bolt on implements. (see below)

Question for you, the reader?

  • Anyone used these?
  • Any opinions on them generally.
  • Any opinions on the attachments that some of these come with – tines, cultivators?

Photos


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Comments

ceae

ceae

Folia Helper

Canada6a

That’s really cool! You’ve done a great job building it.

Posted on 15 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)
whirliegig

whirliegig

Folia Helper

United States6a

Lovely metal working. I just don’t understand why you keep giving me ideas! We already have plenty of projects for the warm weather and here you are making that list longer. ;)

Posted on 15 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)

Very clever! I’m all for tools that save one’s back.

Posted on 15 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)

Sweet!

Posted on 15 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)
cristyn

cristyn

Folia Helper

United States5b

I’m impressed.

Posted on 16 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)
graibeard

graibeard

Folia Helper

Australia9b

Thanks all, this one did work out well – they don’t always :)

As I think about it more I’m coming to the conclusion that the extra tools would be worth pursuing, It would be very little effort to add them now and the likes of the tine would be excellent in aerating the beds that I’ve compacted towards the end of the season.
The compost heap that I’m building in the middle of the central bed is causing problems in that respect, but the benefits of the heap far outweigh that negative, and there is no other way to get such a volume made without some collateral damage.
A tine, or set of tines if the depth was shallow, should be a lot less effort when attached to one of these. Certainly as compared to hand tools, and way less noisy and damaging (soil structure and me!) than a motor powered tool, which I couldn’t justify at this sandy location.

Posted on 18 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)
epiphany

epiphany

Folia Helper

Australia10

Let’s face it…if the ancestors didn’t approve, no doubt your shiny new tool would have been smitten (or should that be smote…or smited…smitten sounds too much like falling in love) in a huge cloud of fire & brimstone by now. I think lack of said smiting indicates the Powers That Be approve nods.

Posted on 19 Jan 10 (about 7 years ago)

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