Introduction: DIY Levelawn/Lawn Lute/Leveling Rake
A Levelawn, Lawn Lute, Leveling rake, or whatever you want to call it, is a tool that is used to help level out areas of the yard. It's useful for top dressing your lawn, moving and leveling gravel, and works better than a landscaping rake when it comes to distributing soil evenly. The way that it is design allows for a back and forth motion to quickly distribute soil.
A very useful tool for those trying to level low spots in their yard or spread new top dressing. The biggest problem with getting one of these rakes is the outrageous cost. A small 17" x 10" rake will run you around $65 and for a 30" x 10" take expect to pay around $150. I wasn't convinced that a rake made out of a few pieces of stainless steel channels and angles were worth that much so I decided to see if I could create my own.
I did a lot of searching around the internet and although I found a lot of DIY solutions there weren't any that I was super happy with so I decided to make my own with inspiration from different sources.
I am not a welder, I don't own any welding equipment, and didn't want to spend a ton of money on this project and I wanted to be able to create something that any average person can make with simple tools and easily accessible parts. After looking around I stumbled on the website onlinemetals.com which allowed you to purchase pre-cut pieces of metal in many different lengths and wasn't incredibly expensive. I am sure that if you went to your local home improvement store and bought/cut the metal pieces yourself it'd be even cheaper. I didn't have the tools to do so when I began the project.
All the parts will roughly come out to $50-60 assuming you have the nuts and bolts and if you order the metal pieces precut from the site. The size of rake thst you can make for that price will be 24" x 12". Throw in an extra $10 or so and you can make a 48" x 12" rake if you wanted. The bigger you make the rake the more savings when compared to buying one.
The metal pieces are all aluminum which means it's really light, the thickness of the metal is 16 awg so it's thick enough for pushing dirt and gravel around. I've not seen any flex even while pushing large amounts of gravel. When I made my take I went with aluminum that only had a width of about 0.5", if I were to do this again I would go with 1" wide channels and angles due to the fact that you'll need to drill holes that are between 8mm to 10mm and at 0.5" It's pretty close to the walls.
The most difficult to find and important parts needed for this project was the broom adapter and bracket that swivels and connects the rake to the handle. I tried a bunch of different solutions which didn't work out, the best thing that I could find was a bracket made by Kraft Tools which was about $15 for both pieces.
Again, because I don't have any welding skills everything is held together by counter sunk M5 bolts. The bracket attached to the rake is held by M8 counter sunk bolts. I wanted the screws to be as flush and flat as possible so I decided to go with counter sunk bolts.
This is the equipment I used for the project, any similar tools would work just fine. Note that my links are affiliated and I do gain a small amount of commission if you purchase items using them.
Impact driver or ratchet
5mm Hex Bit https://amzn.to/2YLobHE
3mm Hex Bit https://amzn.to/2YLobHE
M8 Drill Bit https://amzn.to/2Qz0vBY
M10 Drill Bit https://amzn.to/2Qz0vBY
onlinemetals.com (Type in the Part # in the search bar)
2 x 12" aluminum angles Part #: 17856
2 x 24" aluminum angles Part #: 17856
3 x 24" aluminum channels Part #: 20189
10 x M5x20mm counter sunk bolts https://amzn.to/3b9gujy
2 x M8x35mm counter sunk bolts https://amzn.to/2YQwO3U
Various washers: https://amzn.to/3jsc7D3
10 x M5 lock washers
10 x M5 washers
2 x M8 lock washers
2 x M8 washers
Various nuts: https://amzn.to/34IoTt7
10 x M5 nuts
2 x M8 nuts
Kraft Tool CC493 broom adapter https://amzn.to/32BnBgV
Kraft Tool CC494 broom bracket https://amzn.to/2QDghM6
60" broom handle https://amzn.to/3bbOM5W
Step 1: Assembling the Frame
The first thing you want to do is drill M8 holes in the aluminum angles, the reason for M8 holes instead of M5 holes is due to the fact that counter sunk bolts don't sit very flush with 5mm holes. After some testing I realized that with M8 holes the bolts sit almost. completely flush against the frame which is what you want. For this process I used a piece of scrap wood and laid down my aluminum in a right angle, from there I did my best to hold the two pieces down and slow drill until I hit the wood. On my build have the 24" piece on top of the 12" piece. It is important to remember which piece is on top and which is on the bottom so you won't have misaligned holes. Drill the holes on all 4 corners and insert the M5x20mm bolts in from the bottom and add the lock washer, washer, and nut on top. Tighten the bolt down as much as you can with an impact driver or ratchet with the hex bit. Once the frame has been assembled try your best to make sure it's squared, I used the same piece of wood to check for squareness. I forgot to take pictures while I was going through this process so I went back and took pictures later, but they should give you an idea of what needs to be done.
Step 2: Assembling the Channels
This step takes some measuring but you can also do your best to eyeball it. The first aluminum channel I put in was the middle one, from there I did my best to place the other two in equal distance from the angle and middle channel. You only get one chance at drilling so please make sure that your channels are aligned properly. When placing the channels in the frame it might feel like a tight fit. To drill the holes, I again place the frame with the channels on top of the piece of scrap wood and did my best to drill and keep the channel in place and from moving around. These holes will also be M8, once you've drilled all the holes repeat the process of inserting the M5 bolts from the bottom, and lock washer, washer, and nut from the top and then tighten using the impact driver and hex bit.
Step 3: Aligning and Installing the Bracket With Broom Adapter
For this step you'll want to find the center of the middle channel, place the bracket on top and drill holes using the 5mm drill bit first to create pilot holes. Again, I do this on top a piece of scrap wood and drill slowly while holding everything in place and making sure nothing moves. Once the M8 pilot holes have been drilled you can make the holes bigger with the M10 drill bit. After the two holes have been increased, insert the M8 bolts from the bottom, place the bracket over them and the usual: lock washer, washer, and nut. Then tighten the bolts down with the impact driver using the hex bit.
Note: This pictures were taken before I did a final assembly so I didn't have washers installed.
Step 4: Tighten Down Bolts and Test
Making sure that the rake has no flex is important since this will be used to push dirt and soil around. Wiggle it around and test to see if anything is loose or if there is any flex. Tighten the bolts if necessary, once you start using the rake on dirt it's not as easy to re-tighten things because the hex holes get filled with dirt. Once everything is tighten down, attach your broom handle, throw down some dirt on your yard and push it with your rake. One thing I did notice is that if you have fairly long grass it does snag a bit so it's best to use this on your yard after you've mowed the grass a bit low. You should notice that the rake helps even out low spots fairly easy and levels out the dirt. I have even used this to level my pea gravel on my side yard and it worked out great, no flex and no issues with anything coming loose.
Step 5: Conclusion
Making a Levelawn or Lawn Lute wasn't as super difficult and honestly I'm surprised at the fact that manufacturers can charge so much for such a simple to make tool. I get that the ones being sold are made of stainless steel but I don't see an issue with making it out of aluminum. I'm not an expert on the subject of metal and their durability but for a tool that I'll probably use maybe once or twice a year, I think I'm okay with it being made out of aluminum and I just can't justify the cost. All I had to really buy for this project was the aluminum pieces and bracket+broom adapter, so the cost was just around $50. Even if you bought everything in my materials list you'd still be saving money over buying a leveling rake online. If you want to save even more money, find the aluminum locally, buy just the amount of bolts, washers, and nuts you actually need and you can build a rake for less than I did.
There are a ton of other guides out there on how to make a leveling rake out of PVC, other kinds of metals, and even wood, but aesthetically I think that this looked the best and I hope this guide will help out anyone who doesn't want to spend $150, can't find a leveling rake in stock, or just prefer to build one themselves. Unless you own a golf course or you're constantly leveling your lawn for whatever reason.
Hopefully this guide was helpful! Any critique or comments are welcome, I'm always looking for ways to improve on a project.
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