It is about 500 feet long, has a pretty deep, solid gravel base, but the surface can get pretty rough from some soft spots that turn to potholes and rainwater makes a rough wash pattern down the drive, even though it’s not all that steep.
For the moment I filled the larger potholes with packing base, the dry-cement like stuff that would go under paving bricks. Paving base won’t harden into concrete, but it tends to really settle down and get stiff, unlike gravel which easily washes out and creates another pothole.
So while the packing base is working for the moment, I need a more permanent solution to smoothing my driveway out. I am debating between buying a Box Blade or a Land Plane. At the moment I am leaning towards a land plane as they are supposed to be the specialist tool designed exactly for smoothing out a driveway. But two weeks ago I was thinking that a box blade would grade the driveway nicely, and it would generally be a more versatile attachment. Also, a box blade makes a very nice counter weight, though I guess the same could be said about a land plane. And just for the record, I have used a box blade before, but not a land plane, but land planes supposedly require virtually no skill to use.
So does anyone have any suggestions or feedback for me? I would love to hear from someone who is a bit more detached from the decision than I am right now.
Eric, I would do it differently.
The paving base may just break up and move away, I have found filling the holes with large rocks I find or 11/2" aggregate and pack it in with traffic.
Put a top layer of say 3/4 road base.
Box graders allow you to move and spread gravel with more accuracy than a land grader and some some with ripping teeth if you need to cut high spots.
Box graders tend not to spread sideways
Thanks for the feedback. Actually the paver base has proven to be quite stable stuff. Thus far, I have one hole that was filled with paver base and it has been very stable for over 18 months. The paver base gets pretty solid and really forms to the sides of the pothole.
As of about 2 weeks ago, I was convinced to go the box blade route. But the driveway is long, I don’t really need to drag material, and I do have long humps to level off. These weigh in favor of the land plane.
What are you calling a land grader, In Australia they are 20 ft wide and have along draw bar?
There is a site which sells, "any for tractors" I think and they have a series of videos to show how things are used.
Perhaps have a look.
I don't think you want either, you want a grader blade with its own axle.
I had the same problem when I was making a long roadway, and the problem with the scraper or anything that is carried by the three point hitch is that it is cantilevered off the back of the tractor. As the rear wheels go down in a hole, the box scraper goes even deeper since it is several feet back and cantilevered out. The opposite happens when the rear wheels go over a bump; the scraper raises even higher. The float feature of the three point hitch takes some of this out, but it ends up being a hit or miss thing as the scraper digs and lifts according to what it is pulling and the firmness of what it is riding on, so it might take several passes to make it right, and even then is not truly smooth over the length of the road.
A grader with its own axle works much better and much differently. If raises and lowers only half the distance between the rear wheels of the tractor, and its own rear axle. Since is spans over a broader distance and is slung, and not cantilevered, it makes for a VERY smooth surface. It cuts instead of rides over the surface being smoothed in other words. A pull behind grader blade thus works like a true road grader... long with a slung blade in the middle. With mine, I can get an absolutely flawlessly smooth finish in just two passes.
Part of that is its tires. My grader trailer has four, with a walking beam suspension. As the grader wheels hit a rock, it pivots up and over the rock without affecting the depth of the grader blade making for a very finite and smooth cut. On a roadway that is what you want because it is smoothness over the LENGTH of the roadway that matters. It literally takes out all the ripples in two passes.
But it works so well that I even use it to plow snow. Since my tractor can go through about a foot of snow with ease, I can tow my grader blade and push snow off my long roads in sixth gear, instead of trying to push with my loader in third gear. It is much, much faster. I am limited to a foot of snow or less, but lately we do not get many 3 foot snow storms, so its my snowplow of choice for 90% of my winter plowing.
There are a lot of other, similar ones, but I have ordered from this company before and I liked their products. This is a far cry from the box blade with its own axle that you pictured, but from what I have read, these are very good at smoothing out a driveway.
I went through a similar decision 2 years ago. After purchasing our new home, my first project was fixing our neglected 400' sloped gravel driveway. I knew nothing about it, so I asked a knowledgable neighbor in the gravel business, and he recommended a box blade.
I bought an Independence series Homestead Implements box blade and have never regretted my decision. Even with my limited operator experience, my driveway is looking great. I've never found myself thinking, "Huh, if only I had a better tool..."
Our driveway had very little gravel on it, lots of vegetation, poor drainage, and depressions everywhere that gathered water. I started by leveling with just the blade. I hit the middle first for two passes with the blade level, then slightly tilted the blade and did one side of the driveway at a time, in opposite directions to get the shape right. Not rocket science.
I then added 18 yards of crusher rock (all sizes from 1" to powder), and repeated the grading process, middle first, then each side. Looked great! But then a year passed, stuff settled, some water was collecting in spots, weeds poking through, so I repeated an 18-yd application of crusher stone. Now it's excellent and staying excellent.
I should note, not being a good tractor operator, I did a fair amount of hand raking to get the final shape right. I had forgotten that, until I saw the picture below of the almost-finished first application of crusher stone. FWIW, I think applying a small load of gravel and letting it settle a year, then adding another load, worked really well. Probably better than just doing two loads of gravel at once.
I never used the teeth of the box blade on my driveway. I flipped them and just used the box and the blade. The teeth, however, being adjustable in height and removable, have given the capability to do lots and lots of other things around our large garden and forest. Our forest road has no gravel on it, and the box blade (with teeth) has been invaluable for shaping it correctly. I have also used it to shape my forest garden soil after running the subsoiler through.
I use the box blade so much that it is the default rear implement, and have thus discovered (as you noted), it also serves as great ballast.
I only know what I learned in youtube videos about land planes, which isn't much. But I faced the same decision, went with the box blade, and am very happy I did so. I detest storing implements that I rarely use. I get so much use from my forks, the grapple has become mostly yardart. My box blade + subsoiler combination is so awesome, I've never even unpacked my cultivator. Livin' and learnin'!
Steve, I have to say that I am downright envious of some of your equipment! Honestly, it is some of the coolest looking stuff I have ever seen. Several years ago I was clearing a lot of fallen trees out of my woods, and that log carrier (it looks like it a Wallenstein, correct?) would have been amazing. But I suspect that you added the grader blade onto the frame yourself? Is that about right? Either way, I bet it is an amazing piece of equipment, but I am also pretty certain that it is out of my price range. I was really hoping to spend no more than about $2K on this.
I do have a 7' grader/scrape blade by the same company and it is excellent. I use it to move snow, in a similar manner to the way you use your device to move snow. But I do understand what you mean by having the 3pt attachment undulate with every in the road, and it can be annoying. I was thinking that the land plane I was thinking about, with its floating 3pt hitch would ride along the road base and scrape off high spots while filling in low spots. That is what I have seen in videos I have watched.
And just to reiterate, in the past I have owned a Box Blade and I do know how to use one so that is still an option.
That is a beautiful picture of your driveway! You have obviously done a very good job maintaining it.
I built my house almost 20 years ago and naturally the driveway was the first part to go in. I watched and photographed it first being cut in--having the topsoil bulldozed off, then having fine limestone dust piled on and packed down with heavy equipment. That first load helped to stabilize the clay soil beneath. After that, the contractor started bringing in loads of 50/50 lime dust/.75 inch limestone rock which helped to form up a more solid base for driving. I forgot how many loads of the 50/50 mix went on, but it was several layers. And after moving in I have added in a few myself.
What I am getting at here is that there is a nice, deep layer of stone beneath the surface. I could bring in more finished rock, but it is probably unnecessary. At present, I have two main issues with the driveway. Both are loosely related to the fact that I have not brought in gravel in over 10 years.
1) There are potholes & water erosion marks on the driveway that make it rough to drive on. I have patched the worst of the potholes for now, but that is probably a medium-term fix.
2) I have a "W" wear pattern in the driveway from simple driving compaction. The sides are high, and there is a high center, but where the tires make contact with the road, the driveway is low. The big problem here is that the driveway catches rainwater and funnels it down to the lowest part of the driveway which is about 50 feet from my house. Don't worry, my house is not about to get flooded--it sits too high for that--but I would like to fix the driveway to shed some water before getting to 50' from my house.
I have thought that maybe I could grade the driveway down a bit to cut down on the funneling properties. I have also thought that I might cut some little water exit points. The driveway sits atop a slight ridge, so I would think that cutting in some drainage points would be fairly easy.
And one more complication to throw in to the equation: I still have a box blade--sorta. When I sold my last tractor (JD 2305 subcompact tractor), I did so to my neighbor. I also sold him my old 4' box blade. That blade is nice (same company as the one I might buy a land plane from, or maybe another box blade), and could be very useful in doing any cutting/minor earth works. So a part of my mental calculus is questioning whether I want to buy a specialized, single-function tool that reportedly does its job very well, or buy a very useful, multi-function tool to which I already have easy access.
Thanks in advance, I am certainly appreciating all the feedback. And once again, that driveway looks beautiful.
I think we are talking about the same type of implement. The brand I am thinking about is Everything Attachments. I have previously purchased a 4’ box blade from them for my old tractor and a 7’ grader blade with an offset that I use to clear snow. Both are excellent attachments.
At the moment I am leaning toward the land plane as I mostly just want to be able to drag and smooth my driveway and I hear land planes really excel at this application. I also still have access to my old box blade if I really need to use one for a box blade specific application.
At any rate, I am mostly bouncing ideas around so thanks much for the feedback.
I don’t have a specific timeline for purchase, but I would like for this to happen in the next couple of months. I still have time to change my mind.
The best thing you can do to improve any 3 point tool grading is to get a hydraulic top link. The ability to adjust the angle of attack on the fly really helps. I would call it required if you can’t reach back and twist the top link from the seat.
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Eric, I forgot about this sort of equipment which your link brings up. I think they would be good if it was used every year or so to just keep the shape.
Whereas the other 2 implements have to be used to reshape the whole formation.
A hydraulic toplink! Absolutely! This is one of those modifications that I really want to make to my tractor that I think will help with a lot of different applications. As I get older, I want to twist my back and reach behind me to manipulate the 3pt attachment connections which can be difficult on level ground. A hydraulic toplink would be amazing for just about any 3pt application. I know that I would love to have it when I mow with my 6' rotary cutter to get the deck level. Unfortunately, adding this means that I have to add some additional hydraulics and they are not cheap. At the moment, I think I am looking at adding about $1000 just to add the hydraulic connections and controls. To be clear, when (not if) I do add rear hydraulics, I plan to add in 3 connections as I would like to have a hydraulic offset flail mower in my future in addition to a toplink. Finally, I may add in a hydraulic 3pt arm so as to be able to angle a 3pt implement. This would be waaaay down the road, but I figure if I am adding in hydraulic points, I may as well do it right. I might just go ahead and add in grapple hydraulics while I am at it, but we are really starting to get into some money now even before adding in attachments.
But your point about a hydraulic 3pt link is spot on!
Yes, you hit the nail on the head. That land plane looks perfect for maintaining a nice, smooth driveway. I do have some driveway reshaping to do, but I think I will enlist my neighbor who loves to do this type of stuff for that task. He has my old box blade so at the moment I am thinking about why I should buy a duplicate of what I already own.
Steve, you are right about the potholes needing to be ripped out as opposed to just filled in with loose fill. I have filled with loose fill and it works--for about 1 week before the pothole comes back but bigger/worse than before. That being said, the packing base is a different story. In the places I have applied packing base, the potholes have sat basically undisturbed for over 18 months now. When I put the packing base in I deliberately mounded it just slightly so that it would spread and pack deeply into the hole. That first, deep hole I filled now sits basically flat. I am not saying that this is a truly permanent fix, just that it has lasted longer than filling in a hole with loose stone.
And I think you are right that ripping the base to the depth of the pothole is a good, long-term way to get rid of that pot hole.
In my case, for reasons I can't understand, I have a little spring that seeps out of my driveway. But this makes no sense as the seep sits at the high point of the land! I can't figure out how/why the water would pop up at that particular point. But there it is.
Eric, what product are you naming 'packing base', I cannot get my head around this miracle product!
As I have said in the past, I have been lucky just filling the pot holes with 1 1/2 inch aggregate and ensured nobody does more than 160 kph down the drive!
Actually I try and limit it to 20 kph, unsuccessfully.
I understand your confusion. The "packing base" I am referring to is a bagged product I get at the local big-box store. Its intended use is for using under masonry pavers so as to give the pavers/stepping stones a very solid base on which to settle that nonetheless grades and levels very easily just after it is put down. It does have a few pebbles in it, but mostly it has the consistency of fine, beach-like sand to fine dust. It is very dense stuff. After I put it down, I really pack it in, then I roll over it with a vehicle. After that I either wet it down or just wait for rain. After it dries, it is extremely solid, yet remains slightly pliable. It will not turn rigid like actual cement, so it does not crack.
I was first introduced to this stuff when I was laying down a sidewalk in my backyard using masonry pavers and I needed a base material. I was going to use either sand or even dried cement, but I got talked into packing base instead. Honestly, the paving base even looks like a the contents of a bag of dried cement but with a few larger pebbles thrown in and maybe a bit more sand to boot.
I don't know if that description helps you, but it is what I have at the moment. Maybe I can get a picture of it sometime for you.
Seepage out of your driveway is easy to understand in terms of aquifer behavior…
As the US Supreme Court ruled many years ago, “it is not for man to understand, and therefore only God knows its rules”.
What they were saying is, no one can understand it because it just behaves differently than conventional wisdom. The tube channel Practical Engineering did a video on ground water and shows some unexpected outcomes. Surface topography has nothing to do where water migrates.
My parents get 60 gpm from their artesian well 50 feet deep; I get 2 gpm at 300 feet… we are 517 feet from one another. Had I known that I would have dug a trench to their well
Could you explain to me how water could seep up to the highest point around? I can accept that water flows in the earth are different that those on the surface, but the point where the seep is coming from stands at the high point. I just can't wrap my head around the concept that water could flow uphill.
Eric, your 'packing base ' may be our crusher dust from quarries.
It is used under concrete slabs for filling, raising and sets very hard when it gets wet.
I understand its a waste product in reality, put to a good use.
Water up hill
I will find the video Steve spoke of, but from my knowledge there are two types of underground water;
- artesian under pressure it will rise above the ground.
- subartesian not under pressure it needs to be pumped.
The pressure comes from water entering the aquifers in high country.
In Australia there is active work in some areas where 'recharge' areas are being created and reserved on hill tops.
It wouldn't surprise me to find out that this packing base is actually granite dust. Once the packing base hardens it is more dense than the limestone that makes up the rest of my driveway. I can easily get limestone dust or a 50/50 mixture of lime dust and 3/4 inch sized limestone pebbles to use as a road base. The 50/50 mix is good stuff, but it is certainly not as solid as the packing base is. This might be a problem down the road if I use a lot of the stuff, but hopefully I will be grading more regularly by then, and as Steve has already pointed out, I will engage rippers from a land plane or box blade to really dig down and rip the pothole out and smooth it back in.
Some places need to be wild
please buy this thing and then I get a fat cut of the action: