Introduction: Wheel Hoe - Hand Tractor - Garden Implement Extraordinaire
“Honey, they have a “Trash to Treasure” Instructables contest. You should enter it, you certainly have a lot of one of those laying around.”
Any thus, with the Gauntlet of Snark thrown down by my wife… the challenge, is accepted.
There is a lot of nice stuff in this contest so far. I dare say first place may not be mine to win…
BUT! I contend if there were ever a “Trash to Treasure then back to Trash then again to Treasure Contest” I would be a shoo-in.
Allow me to elaborate. Several years ago I decided that in the interest of maintaining a garden that was not all weeds I needed a Wheel Hoe. Being the resourceful (ahem *cheap*) man that I am I looked at some pictures and said yes, I too can build that. And I did.
Then I lost it, for the past year under a pile of mulch. So in this Instructable you guys get a twofer! The first, how to make your own wheel hoe from trash, and second, how to restore it after losing it for a year under 20 yards of wood chips.
You are so lucky.
Step 1: Eternal Vigilance
Whenever I see leftovers from construction projects or a pile of stuff on the side of the road I find myself looking for items that I can use, for something, at some point.
I figure its genetic and I can likely trace my lineage back to a cave man who wandered around picking up already pointy sticks or pre chipped stones before carrying them back to his cave and being side eyed by his cave woman for bringing home junk.
Regardless of where I get the habit one fact remains: to build things you need supplies.
It just so turns out if you are handy and can weld, drill and tap, and are inventive, then the supplies can be of various sources, even from what others consider trash.
In this case I used: A wheel from some broken wheelbarrow type thing
A 10’’ section of I beam
2 partial pieces of ¾’’ electical conduit
2 90 degree electrical conduit couplings
Sections of 1’’ and ¾’’ perforated box steel
1 section of bedframe angle iron
I will admit with some shame that I did buy some epoxy putty and some paint
Step 2: What Does This Thing Even Do?
Maybe you are wondering what on earth a wheel hoe is?
Well... Its like an old school tool a horse would pull, but smaller, cause you’re gonna push it.
If you have multiple attachments they are quite useful. I’ve made a cultivator tine, a single furrow, and an Oscillating Scuffle Cultivator – AKA “wiggle hoe” (not that kind).
All three are nice for their intended purposes and being attached to a wheel makes tending the garden a bit quicker.
Its comprised of 4 main parts:
1.) a frame
2.) a wheel (hence the name)
3.) a handle
4.) an attachment/implement
A suggestion: Don’t make any part too big. There’s a reason we don’t measure engines in “human power”.
Step 3: Totally Flexible on Materials Choice, As Long As It Doesn't Flex
You want the frame to be solid. If there’s lots of flex then you’re wasting power and humans don’t produce enough to waste.
You can use: I beam (like I did), a big piece of box tube, a railroad nail plate, bike frame, ¼’’ steel plate, pretty much anything solid.
The frame needs attachment points for the handle, I suggest making these adjustable. If you are either less or more than the perfect height of 5’10’’ then you may find the angle I used uncomfortable and want to change it to better suit your frame. See my detailed scientific picture regarding the biomechanics of wheel hoe usage.
I used a piece of bed frame for the angle iron that holds the wheel. I welded it to the frame, if you don’t have access to a welder or better yet, a friend who welds things for you, you could certainly bolt it. In fact, many portions can be done differently, instead of welding nuts to the body for the attachment points a tap set comes in handy. But honestly I couldn’t find the right size drill bit for a 3/8’’ bolt tap and I could find the stick welder so….
FWIW I had welded some nuts onto the front of the bed frame so I could thread a bolt through and use a pedal powered hand winch to pull the hoe as well as have someone push… I suggest you don’t bother doing that, although it is amusing pulling yourself across a garden while pedaling a cobbled together winch contraption, just don’t expect the wheel hoe to work any better.
Step 4: This Protects It From the Mulch
Paint any bare steel. And if you plan on leaving it under a mulch pile for several years you might want to go with thick steel. Luckily I beams are made to weather well.
My 7 year old son and I ended up spending about 20 min with a hammer and sand paper wheel and now she looks a bit less trashy than the day she was built.
A coat of rust reformer followed by Massy Fergusson Red and we were in business.
Step 5: Don’t Pick Something Square
Ignore this step at your peril. Its hard to push without a wheel. I suggest something round.
The size of the wheel for a design like mine would typically be around 12’’ if you are making the wheel/axle supports straight off the frame.
You can make a number of different wheel sizes work by changing how you attach the wheel or angle the handlebars though. For a smaller wheel, put the attachments angled down or under the front of the frame. For a larger wheel make them from the top of the frame or angle them upward.
Step 6: Use Both Hands
You will want a handle that allows good control with both hands. I have found that something that’s about shoulder width is most comfortable. You can use wood, metal, fiberglass, vacuum formed space age epoxy impregnated carbon fiber, whatever you have. Just use something you find comfortable and has enough strength.
Make it as ergonomic as you can, unless you just hate the person that’s going to use this. (this is not a good size for a 7yr old)
Step 7: The Tools That Do the Works
Attachments: without them you have the world’s worst little wheelbarrow.
Decide what you want. A couple ideas are:
Ripper/Single tine cultivator
V Planter (like potato plow)
Wiggle hoe (I just can’t help myself)
You are going to want the final location for the attachment to be approx. 2’’-3’’ below the wheel for anything that pierces the ground (cultivator, planter, V planter) so plan accordingly. It doesn’t have to be exact because you can raise and lower the wheel hoe a couple inches while using it pretty easily but only so much comfortably.
Step 8: Stop Before You Pass Out
Once you get it all adjusted go try it out. If you are like me you will try something absurd like tilling a sodded area with the tine cultivator.
I don’t recommend it.
See my videos of a tarped area using the 3 tine and the wiggle hoe attachments. Took about 1 min to til up about 36 sq ft. Keep in mind this was an example, the ground was way too dry and its so early in the year there's not many weeds to mess with but you can see the few there are getting cut easily.
The tool could probably do more but we mere mortals don’t have the ability to run it to that capacity… maybe if there was a pedal powered winch…
Step 9: Enjoy Your New Treasure
The wheel hoe is meant to do whatever you would use a normal hand tool for, only quicker: weeding, planting, furrowing tilled soil, covering seeds etc.
It makes shooting up and down isles very fast to weed around plants. Makes digging a straight line for seed rows a breeze, and makes covering the same seeds and compacting the ground super simple. It has a plethora of uses but you need to think “finesse” vs “brute force”. It won’t replace a tractor anytime soon for shear grunt work, but it also won’t blow a hose and puke hydraulic oil in your garden.
If you want more power you’ll probably have to upgrade to a horse, or harness it to your spouse.
Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest
2 years ago
You, sir, are a hoot! And, since hooters are owls, you are very wise, too. 🤗 TY for sharing this awesomeness.
2 years ago
Add a small engine and gearbox and you got yourself a "wheelhorse." Be able to do it for a couple of hundred $$ and you got a huge money-maker.
Reply 2 years ago
There's an idea I can get on board with. I do have a leftover mobility scooter motor and battery laying around
2 years ago
That looks really professional :)