For years I have needed to aerate my lawn after we got our septic replaced.  The churning of the backyard got rid of our topsoil, turned up many, many rocks and the long winter compacted it all into a type of natural concrete.  Our grass barely grows, while weeds have had no problem.  The rest of our lawn needed a bit of aerating, too.

Rentals are pricey, even for only four hours (the trip to Home Depot and back is nearly two hours, leaving only two hours for a rental that costs nearly $100).  Aerators aren't something a neighbor has, either, so borrowing was out.

I've read of people using a pitchfork, but our lawn is a little big for that.  A few years ago, I picked up these aerating shoes.  They didn't work, as they kept falling off of my shoes (I'm sure there is a solution, like duct taping them to an old pair of shoes, but....).

I was contemplating how to create a solid, heavy cylinder to role when I spied an old bucket of sheet rock mud that had sat in the barn for ten years.  How would I attach the spikes to the side?  And then, how to roll it?

Seeing an old bag of Quikrete that I keep meaning to get rid of next to that useless sheetrock bucket and inspiration hit.  Enjoy!

Step 1: Materials

Empty sheet rock bucket.  I used a shorter one, because I feared that a taller one would be too heavy to roll.

Nails.  Because this is a prototype, I used some old common 8d nails I had around.  They bend easily, and rust.  When I remake this, I'm going to use something more solid (rail road spikes!).

Quikrete.  I had an old sack laying around the barn.  Whatever you use, it needs to be a) heavy, b) fluid, yet sets, so the heads of the nails will set deep into it and hold there under duress

Pipe.  You will put an axle through it, but a common copper pipe should be okay.  It needs to be slightly longer than the sheet rock bucket is high.

Lawn mower handle.  Since you can't put your hands on the spikes to roll it, you'll attach this rolling mace to the handle.

Axle.  You'll need to connect the rolling mace to the lawn mower handle.

Washers and axle caps.

Step 2: Drill Holes in Sheet Rock Bucket; Insert Nails

I drilled a series of holes in the sides of the sheet rock bucket.  They are the same diameter as the nails I will be using for aerating spikes.  I make the rows pretty uniform, hoping to keep the balance while I pull this really heavy rolling mace.

Then, I inserted a nail into each hole.  I push them halfway.  When the Quikrete is poured in, I want the nail heads and some of the shaft to be deep enough in to be anchored.  As I pull it around later, there will plenty of forces trying to push the nails sideways.  Leave enough to anchor the nails.

For now, they will hang loose.

Step 3: Put Pipe in Center; Add Concrete

Using a 1 inch bit, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the sheet rock bucket.

Then I placed the pipe into the hole.  This will be where the axle goes through, so it needs to be centered. 

(As an aside, this reminds me of the show "Mr. Merlin" where the young protege pulls a crowbar from a bucket of concrete, as a modern day Excalibur.  Anyone remember "Mr. Merlin"?).

Next, mix and add the concrete.  Because this is a prototype and I was using ancient Quikrete, I was not too fussy with the mixing (it was pretty chunky, but set okay).  For an alpha version, use fresh cement--do it right.

As you add the Quikrete, you need to push the nails half way back into their holes.  The nail heads need to imbed into the Quikrete so they are anchored while the whole thing is pulled around the yard.  They also need to be straight out.  I used a hammer to knock them into place as I added more Quikrete and it set.

Step 4: Attach the Rolling Mace to the Handle

Now that you have a dangerous rolling mace made of concrete and nails, you have to move it around the lawn.

Using an old lawn mower handle salvaged from a dead mower, I simply put an axle through the pipe and attached it.  Put some washers between the pipe and the handle, although I found it unnecessary because my entire set-up was so loose.  Also, because the hole at the end of the handle piece the axle went through was so tight, I found I didn't need caps at the end of the axle.

Pushing it is hard and unwieldy, so I pull it.  When you turn you cannot turn on a dime.  This requires slow arcs because either a) the nails will rip apart the earth more than you want or b) the earth will cause the nails to bend.

When not using it (most of the year) leave it in the brush.  The nails are going to rust, and then I'll build a new one.  You can do it right the first time: Use sturdier nails and a fresh bag of Quikrete.  See "Afterthoughts" for more.

Step 5: Afterthoughts

As you can see from the photo, the nails bent.  They were pretty small; I'm not surprised, but as a prototype it taught me a lot.

You want bigger nails.  I would use railroad spikes or big bolts if I can find them.  I figure five across, five or six rows for a total of thirty.  The larger spikes will not only hold up better, but they will leave decent size holes for aerating.  And deep.  I had taken a picture of the track this left, but the holes were so small they didn't show up.  You want bigger, deeper and sturdier.

While lifting the bucket/mace was heavy, pulling it was a breeze.  If your lawn or large (or you're feeling lazy) it would be pretty easy to hook up a hitch for your lawn tractor and just pull it around.  My neighbor has one of those barrels that you drag to smooth/flatten the lawn--I assume the same thing could be done with this aerator.
<p>Simply piercing the ground doesn't help. You're only pushing the soil and compacting it even more at the sides of the hole. The holes rapidly disappear after the first rain or watering. You need to remove plugs. The plug aerators have a slightly narrower opening at the cutting end, so the plugs are slightly smaller in diameter than the tube. That allows the plugs to be pushed up and out at the open end. The most common diy corer uses a metal pile with slits or notches cut on one end... then pushed together and welded to get the narrower cutting end.</p>
<p>Wud u have a pic of the DIY corer u mention, with slits/notches for ease of understanding. Most kind if u cud share.</p><p>Thank you!</p>
<p>It&rsquo;s a simple and fun project; I have used (tedious and not easy) myself the spikes <br>sandals and investigated on a DIY roller. However, any aerator that doesn't <br>actually remove a core (plug) of soil is not doing the purported job. If you do <br>think about it, it actually may make it worse, since as the spike pushes to enter <br>the soil it will be further compacted, the opposite of the intended result. Also <br>good luck pushing spikes if your lawn is high clay content. <strong>An aerator that removes a soil plug loosens it <br>(not compress it) re-distributes the soil and truly aerate it.</strong> You can see the <br>holes left by a true aerator while you cannot see the nail size holes of a <br>spike. </p>
This is an awesome idea, I swear my yard is like 50% clay. I always thought that a good aerator needed to have hollow spikes on to pull out little cores instead of just pushing it off to the side? Maybe instead of nails you could use something with threading on it so you could add a coupler and small steel pipe to it? I guess it would have to be sharpened at the end, but then it would also be interchangeable/ replaceable if it was damaged
The large industrial ones I've seen in parks do have hollow spikes; they pull up little dirt pods. I'm not sure why they don't just instantly clog up. This is designed for my backyard and on the cheap, and I think any holes will do. Plenty of places recommend the shoes (featured) or using a pitchfork (too much work), which is as much about makes holes and a bit of turnover. <br> <br>I do strongly recommend using some type of think spike--my nails bent pretty quickly. Something interchangeable would be great, but, again, I'm going for cheap/things found around the barn. For the amount I'm going to use it, I'd just make a new one in five years or so.
<p>the top of the hollow spoons or &quot;spikes&quot; in the larger aerators have an opening at the top so the plug can be pushed out of it as it grabs another one. </p>
this is a great idea!!! I live in a small city lot and while close to home depot it would be awkward as a single female to move the rental around. I may have to try and make this! you could repurpose the spikes off your shoes for the next version!

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Bio: I like to explore with my hands, but I trouble choosing one area of focus. I have completely renovated my house, but nothing I do ... More »
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