Introduction: Homemade Dethatcher Attachment for Tiller or Cultivator (Under $20)

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I normally use my mini tiller to get my small garden plots going in the spring, but now I have two more uses for the tiller:

1. Chipping ice from the entrance areas of my house (with the normal tines in place). Here's the video showing the tiller chipping ice from the door entrance area.

Chipping ice with mini tiller

2. Dethatching my lawn.

This Instructable is about making the Dethatcher attachment for the mini tiller/cultivator.


A quick look at the dethatcher in action (see video) shows the materials needed to make the dethatcher attachment. But of particular interest to those considering making the attachment is the material that I used to make the tines and also the tube or pipe that is necessary to support both the wheels and the tines.

As the video and the photos (below) show, I experimented with a couple of ideas to make the tines: first up was heavy duty grass trimmer line; after that I tried lengths of wire rope. But neither of these materials was stiff enough. That brought me to use the spring wire that I got from a scrap of commercial screening mesh.

The main point I want to make is that it might be relatively easy to locate some of this spring wire at quarries and other commercial rock and gravel concerns. As you can see in the video, I had some screen material left over from my soil screener project that I made a number of years ago. I got that from a contractor for free.

I found a length of aluminum tube that I had in my mechanical junk area. The tube (or pipe) need not be heavy duty for this application. The tube does not need a close fit on the shaft of the trimmer, a slightly sloppy fit works fine. Besides metal supply outfits other possible sources for the tube are old winter windshield scrapers/brushes, tent poles, etc.

Here's a list of what you will need to make the trimmer:

  • 5/8 or 3/4 inch plywood (I used pressure treated) to make two 8 inch diameter wheels
  • About 6 feet of spring wire (see notes above)
  • Two 10 inch pieces of aluminum tube or pipe with inside diameter to fit over the tiller axle (see note above)
  • 4 bushings with set screws to match the outside diameter of the aluminum tube or pipe. Washers and cotter pins may be substituted.
  • Bare copper wire (number 14 or 12)
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Grease for the wheels
  • A small block of hardwood to make the drilling jig for the aluminum tube (optional)

Step 1: Heavy Duty String Trimmer and Wire Rope Efforts (didn't Work)

The plastic grass trimmer line was a total failure as it merely stirred up the grass a bit. The wire rope was better but still not stiff enough to do a decent job.

So as mentioned, I eventually ended up using spring wire taken from scraps of commercial screening mesh.

I had a scrap of this mesh left over from my soil screener project. I did an instructable on that screener some time back. Here's the link.

Soil screener on Instructables

While on that subject, last summer I changed that soil screener from gasoline operated to electric motor operated. I will do an instructable on that modification in the near future. In the meantime here's the link to the Youtube video on the electric screener:

Soil screener from gas to electric

Step 2: Making the Wheels, Fitting the Aluminum Tube and Cutting the Tines

I cut out the two wheels with my jig saw... having a perfect circle is not necessary for this project. A hole made with a saw matching the outside diameter of the aluminum tube completes the wheel.

The aluminum tube-axle is secured to the tiller shaft with the same pin and spring clip that comes with the tiller to secure the normal tiller tines.

I located the center of the hole for the pin on the tube and made up a wooden jig to help center the hole in the tube while drilling.

An angle grinder makes quick work of cutting off the tines for the dethatcher. Once cut, the tines were pried out of the grid with the help of Chanellock pliers. Good idea to make up a few spare tines while you are at it.

The dimensions given are for my particular tiller. Other tillers in this size class might differ somewhat so you might need to make the necessary adjustments.

Step 3: Installing the Tines on the Aluminum Axle

The aluminum tubes were "peppered" with holes by the time I decided to go with the spring wire tines; as I didn't have enough left over new tubing I just went with what I had. To help me locate the new spring tines on the tubes I first inserted lengths of insulated wire in the holes to identify where best to install the spring tines. I marked the holes to be used with a red marker. The tines are spaced approximately 2 inches apart. Because the tines and tubes are relatively low weight, and the rpm is low, there is no concern about vibration due to imbalance when operating the dethatcher.

I stripped insulation of number 14 household wire and used the bare copper wire to secure the tines in the tube.

The ends of the spring tines are quite sharp so wear gloves and/or be very careful while wrapping the wire around them.

A possible alternative to securing the tines with the copper wire is to use hose clamps mounted diagonally as suggested in the photo. I had that idea in mind, but the copper wire method worked fine so I didn't get to try the hose clamps.

Once installed the tines should extend about 1/4 inch higher than the wheels. This distance was a lucky guess. As you can see (in the video) the dethatcher is very effective in doing what it was intended to do.

Step 4: Painting

I spray painted the 2 dethatcher halves with an all purpose paint to (roughly) match the color of my tiller.

Step 5: A Very Versatile Machine!

The dethatcher turned out to be much more capable than I thought. The sturdy spring wire tines held up without damage even when I used the machine to do some shaping of the gravel road.

As an experiment I spread grass seeds over an area that was covered with tree needles. I then used the dethatcher to dig the seeds into the ground. I do not have a current picture at this time, but I can report the area turned into a fine new lawn area that extended an existing grassy area in the garden.

As for its intended purpose, dethatching, I could not be more pleased. Not only will it loosen up thatched grass but it will effectively tear up any moss that exists in the lawn.

Note that it is always a good idea to where eye protection when using this type of equipment.

A final note: I would like to hear from anyone on what they might come up with as an alternative to using the spring tines that I made from commercial screening mesh. Other alternatives might make it more interesting to anyone contemplating the project but are held up by finding a source for that type of screen. But whatever source found, the wires need to be "spring" wire so that the tines don't get permanently deformed in use.