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Home made broadfork, cultivating tool

 
Posts: 29
Location: Burnet County TX zone 8a
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Looking over what I saw on the web, I figure I can weld one up that's sturdier and fits our womenfolk exactly.  
I have in mind a very simple design.

1) Starting with a 5" diameter metal pipe, about 20" wide, that will be the part to stand on. It will sit on the ground sideways, with handles on the sides. If 20" is too heavy to lift, I can reduce that.

2) A couple of post hole digger handles will come up from the sides. Custom length. Operator will lean back and pull on them while standing on the pipe.

3) The teeth will protrude straight down from the pipe.  Here I'm unsure on how deep to make the teeth.  I'm thinking only about 6" deep so they don't require too much force. And spaced about 6" apart.

Recall that the goal of a broad fork is not to turn the soil but just loosen it in place and allow aeration. Beneficial microorganisms seek their own level of favorite depth, so it's best to let them sort that out and not disrupt it by turning the soil.

Has anybody built a similar broad fork?  I reckon it will last forever, and be easy to fix should anything bend or break.  I don't see anything quite like my idea in this search.
SwissCowsSearch
 
pollinator
Posts: 283
Location: South of Winona, Minnesota
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Yes, we built a broadfork. About 1-1/4" pipe with elbows at either end that fiberglas handles from our post hole digger fit into and a wood tread. The tines are from grade #5 hardened steel rod about 11", about 4" apart. It does work but weighs about 17#, too heavy and awkward for me, a 5.5' mid 60's woman in good physical condition. Using the broadfork caused me to have a shoulder injury, a tendon that slipped out of its groove. The type of movement that is required to lift the broadfork is exactly the thing that can cause this injury. As we age, the groove in the shoulder for the tendon gets more worn and it makes it easier to have this happen. So ultimately it turned out that I can accomplish the task by using my regular long-handled forged garden fork. It's half as wide but over twice as fast to do the same loosening action on our soil with no shoulder complaints. Here's a link to a photo: http://geopathfinder.com/resources/Broadfork1.jpg

 
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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5" pipe sounds like overkill, but otherwise yeah.  I don't know what the balance between weight and strength is for you and your ground. I do know most broadforks you can buy are too big for my wife and too small for me.  I would make the teeth longer and grind them down if they are too much.
 
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I agree on the diameter of the pipe being much too big.  1" would probably suffice.  I'd also agree on making the tines longer.  The shape of the tines kinda depends on how rocky your soil it.  If it's not rocky, I'd aim for something like wolverine's claws.  Definitely sharpen them as my broadfork has crudely sharpened tines which makes it a struggle to get into harder soil.

 
pollinator
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Ideally you would have 2. One for breaking ground and the other for seasonal work on established beds. The requirements are different.

Weight is certainly an issue. You will quite possibly be lifting this thing 1,000 times, and when you lift it, it will be stuck in the ground. These things are easily over-engineered and you pay for it with shoulder issues a already mentioned in a previous post.
 
Reno Husker
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Location: Burnet County TX zone 8a
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Wow I didn't know about that shoulder issue. I lifted 10 heavy concrete pads to level our shipping containers and my shoulder has been toast since. But I refuse to become an ibuprofen junkie. Maybe I slipped out of the groove, I used to be a hippy and I was groovy back when that was the dominant social paradigm. But I digress. I'd hate for that injury to happen to my wife.

So for sure, I'm dialing back the 5" pipe idea.  We have a boatload of recycled oilfield pipe sold around here in varying diameters, and I keep a stock on hand for general ranch welding.

Our soil is decomposing limestone under 2-10" of Bolar Clay Loam. So we amend the bejeebers out of it and it's getting to be good. The broad fork will only be for working amended soil. I use machines and teen sons for earlier stages.

Thanks to all, I marked your replies "helpful" so surely the New Years Bunny will bring you eggs this year.
 
Nick Kitchener
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I wonder if you tied a strap between the handles so that it goes across your shoulders and behind your neck if it would help. You can then use your legs to perform the initial 4 to 6 inches of lifting.

The problem with shoulders comes in just as your arms pass level and one set of muscles takes over from another. That transition point is the danger zone so a strap won't help with that, but it may help engage your large muscle groups in the initial lift where the tines are deep in the soil.
 
Larisa Walk
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In my case the tendon dislocation felt like my arm was being ripped off and I couldn't raise my arm at all. Fortunately I was able to reseat the tendon into its groove by massaging it back into place. After healing for several weeks I was back to being able to lift stuff, but not with my arms out away from my body at shoulder level. Interestingly my friend has a broadfork with a single handle coming up into a T handle crossbar. I used this one afternoon in her garden with no problems. It's all in the ergonomics. I would suggest this type of design for others with shoulder issues or those who want to avoid them.
 
Mike Haasl
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With mine I grab it with my elbows roughly at my side and lift it and stab it into the next spot without my elbows getting very close to the height of my shoulders.  Maybe the short tines (8") on mine are a good thing in that they keep me from lifting it too high...
 
Reno Husker
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Location: Burnet County TX zone 8a
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Update:  I considered all the info you guys gave me, thank you.  I don't want any shoulder injuries, so decided to go much lighter, and with tines only about 8" deep. If those rae too deep for my wife, I can always shorten them. She's the garden CEO.

For the backbone of the device, I'm still going to use an old oil field pipe laid sideways.  But only about 2.5" diameter. Its width I'll tailor to what the CEO wants.

For the handles, I'll cannibalize one of our post hole diggers (we don't use them much anymore because I have augers on the FEL).  I took it apart, and will weld the lower sides of the digging "clams" onto the pipe. This will give her an infinitely variable height which she can grab to lift and move it, but then once it's sunk in full teeth, she can reach up higher for more leverage to pull it rearward and work the tines.

I'll post updates as the project comes together.
 
Mike Haasl
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If you're interested in the PEP stuff, there's a BB for Weld a digging or broad fork
 
Reno Husker
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Location: Burnet County TX zone 8a
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Mike Haasl wrote:If you're interested in the PEP stuff, there's a BB for Weld a digging or broad fork



I had a look at the vid, but would rather build something more substantial, especially given our soil. I hope that gentleman uses welding gloves, bib, and gauntlets by now. My first flash sunburn was welding a kids teeter totter in shorts, decades ago. That taught me.
 
Mike Haasl
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Oh, the video is just one possible way to do it.  The requirements listed in the post are all that matter.  
 
Reno Husker
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Mike Haasl wrote:Oh, the video is just one possible way to do it.  The requirements listed in the post are all that matter.  



I don't understand these "requirements" to which you refer.  Is meeting them how users here get Apples? (whatever those are) My summary shows -1 Apples. Because I haven't met requirements, or wut???

Mysterious ...
 
Mike Haasl
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In a PEP BB thread it lists what the task is, often a video of how you could do it, and the requirements for certification.  Copying from that thread, it says:

This is a badge bit (BB) that is part of the PEP curriculum.  Completing this BB is part of getting the straw badge in Metal Working.

For this BB, you will be making a digging fork or broad fork!

Here is one way to do it:



To document your completion of the BB, provide the photos or video (<2 min) of the following:
 - The supplies you're starting with
 - Partway through the build
 - The finished digging fork or broad fork



So the requirements for certification are those last three photos.  As you make your broad fork, just take those three pictures, then you can submit it to the BB to get certified.  The PEP program is huge and there's more info about it Here

Apples are independent of PEP.  They're just a way for permies to say they "like" another post.  So if you make good posts with helpful info, you tend to gain apples.  Unhelpful posts that violate publishing standards tend to get negative apples (symbolized by an apple core).  Here's more info about Apples
 
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