One of my properties is only used 6 months a year and the rest of the time the leaves and cut grass build up, choking out any new grass growth.
Being CHEAP and lazy by nature, I wanted a way to to let my tractor pickup the dead leaves and remove the dead grass as I mowed and bagged. If I could rake it as I went along with the tractor, the tractor and bagger would do the rest.
Of course there are commercial thatching units available for tractors but for some reason they are all towed. The ones for push mowers are mounted in front where they should be to pick up the debris. As I said, I'm pretty lazy so I don't quite understand the theory of towing it behind the tractor so you have to make another trip around just to pick up the thatch and leaves it pulls up.
This Instructable shows my attempt to build a quick (about 3 hours - lots of breaks!) and cheap (about $5) thatcher that I mounted to the front of my tractor. How much depends on what you have laying around. I was lucky enough to have everything I needed except the rake.
Step 1: The Thatcher (Rake)
The photo at the top shows my big expenditure. I bought a metal spring rake at a flea market for $5. I bought this one because it was relatively square and would provide a straight raking surface on the ground. It's shown after I removed the handle. As I said I'm cheap so I left it so I could use it as a rake if I needed it.
Step 2: Modifying the Rake Teeth
I bent every other tooth on the rake in a couple inches so the rake would cover the ground in alternating swaths and not clog with leaves easily.
Step 3: Determining the Tractor Mounts
Most larger tractors have mounting holes on the front, ahead of the axle, that allow for mounting accessories. I'm going to be using the lower two holes on each side for my mounts.
Step 4: Mounting the Arm Brackets
I needed two heavy steel mounting arms on which to mount the rake. I had two 1 ft pieces of an old bed frame left over from another (failed) project. I drilled a 1/4 in. hole about 1 in. from the end of each mounting arm and inserted a bolt (from my nuts and bolts collection). I threaded a washer and nut on the bolt and cranked it down before I added the arms and another nut to hold them on.
Step 5: Trial Fit the Rake to the Arms
I found that the mounted arms fit inside the rake frame (albeit with some bending) and would hold the rake at the approximate angle I desired, allowing all the rake teeth to touch the ground simultaneously. I already had one hole on the end of one bracket so I marked where the other bracket and the rake frame needed to be drilled.
Step 6: Bolt the Rake to the Brackets
Once the holes were drilled I inserted bolts into the drilled holes and ran nuts on them until tight. I should note that there is plenty of give to this framework and it's bolts which allows it to flex and give when it runs over uneven ground.
Step 7: Ready for the First Test.
Here's an overall picture of the whole assembly and Yes, that's my big foot in the picture!
Step 8: Failure!
The first test lasted about 6 ft. Right to the edge of the carport. When the teeth grabbed the grass and dirt the whole unit went down and under the front of the tractor. Needless to say I backed sheepishly back into the carport. Obviously I needed to find a way to keep the arms from folding under while still remaining flexible.
Step 9: The Fix!
My fix was to run a threaded rod I had lying around through a hole just above the bracket arms on both sides. Using one solid rod allows consistent strength on both sides without worrying about individual bolts and nuts. I locked the rod in place with a couple of washers and nuts. I also added a piece of thin wire shaped into a hook to lift the whole unit up for transporting when not in use.
Step 10: The Results!
The first picture is the Before picture. Those Oak leaves are a pain in the butt to get up and you can see the dead grass down in the dirt.
The second picture is the After picture. I must admit I was surprised how well it worked. I intended to just do a couple laps to see how it worked and ended up doing the entire front yard. It's not perfect, of course. You have to make more turns around due to the small width and I believe it'll take a couple of mowings to get about 90% of the thatch and leaves but soon I'll be able to seed and fertilize the lawn and hopefully something will take root this time.
Step 11: Conclusion
I hope you've enjoyed my first attempt at an Instructable. Remember, I said it was Quick and CHEAP!