Friday, January 10, 2014

If It Ain’t Broke, It May STILL Need Fixed !


It bought this wheelbarrow a few years ago to replace the one my wife had when we got married. It was probably the same brand, but had cheap jungle-wood two-piece handles that didn’t hold up well to serious use. (Remember when handles for such tools were hickory or oak?) It also had a low-sided tub that let everything dump out the front if you forgot to walk hunch-backed.

This one had one-piece handles, but they may still be jungle-wood. If they’re an American species, they certainly aren’t hickory or oak. Though the tub had higher sides, it didn’t have enough back-slope, so you still had to walk hunch-backed if you didn’t want things spilling out the front. The worst problem, though, was that the tire was too small in proportion to the height of the front end of the handles. SO, when you were tooling along walking hunch-backed to begin with, if there was a bump on the ground, or if you started easing more upright in stature, the front of the handles jammed into the ground, slowing you, stopping you, or sometimes, spilling your load. Part of the problem is that the handles are too short. Longer ones would lower the angle of the frame, making it less likely to jam, while also making it less likely that you’d try running over yourself (catch your heels) when pulling the barrow behind you after emptying.

After several years of cussing and discussing the newer wheelbarrow’s short-comings, I decided to do something about it. The easiest fix seemed to be putting blocks between the axle and handles, so the front end of the handles would be farther from the ground and less likely to jam. Having raised the wheelbarrow 1-1/2 inches with my own version of a wooden lift kit, I must say that it works much better. It not only doesn’t jam into the ground during normal work, it raises the front of the tub a bit, making it less likely to spill things out the front. Of course the handles are still too short, but there’s no easy fix on them, only replacement, so I’ll wait a while before getting that industrious. After all, I’d have to make my own because you sure can’t buy anything worth taking home.

I suppose some folks might feel that my alteration would make it harder to dump the wheelbarrow, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. You either have enough muscle to do the job or you don’t. Also, just for the record, I’m not overly tall at 5-10, so it’s not like I dwarf the thing.

The bottom line is that that like most things these days, it was probably designed by people who’d never done an honest day’s work in their lives. Therefore, it was simply designed to be produced cheaply, not to work well. Oh well, It only cost me a couple dollars in longer bolts to make it a lot better. © 2014


M. Silvius said...

I need to do that to mine also.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

If you remember the old days when the US could make a wheelbarrow, the pans used to have a riser that lifted them up higher in the front. They also had a piece of wood that ran across between the handles to keep the whole thing from flexing, I have rebuilt them and put a piece across both pan bolts to really add strength, a piece of flat steel will also work. With that strengthened you can even saw the handles off just in front of the axle and eliminate that front piece which they are using as a dump pivot. That frees up the front for rough ground. I make my own handles out of what looks like 2 x 2 that was riped out of a 2x6 or something, anyway it isn't strong wood but when it is actually big enough it doesn't matter as it was cheap. Raising that front end was a good idea, I will have to try that as well. Hope your Chinese tire lasts.

buddeshepherd said...

I am almost positive I saw long hickory wheelborrow handles at my local Lowe's big box store. I think they had cheap china handles and slightly more expensive US made handles.
I am pretty sure it was this fall as I had to find a potatoe fork and a good shovel.

Gorges Smythe said...

It's worth the effort, Michael.

Sf, somewhere, I've got a photo of a n all steel wheelbarrow that my grandfather used to mix or pour concrete for steel oil rigs back in the 30's. I still used it a few times through the 80's, but the handle tubes finally rusted out, and the pan was in poor enough shape that the handles weren't worth replacing. If they could make that good of a product then, they could do it now.

I'll look sometime, Budd, I think I still have the old pan around for my wife's barrow somewhere. New handles would make it usable.

Scooney Adrift said...

Years ago, I found an old iron spoke wheel model down in the woods. Wood was all rotted, but the tub and the wheel were in great shape. Bought new oak handles at Ace Hardware, and for the cost of the handles I had a wheelbarrow that I never did wear out. I couldn't afford a good one at the time, so it was like "found money!" Yours turned out good also.

Gorges Smythe said...

Sounds like a deal to me, Scooney. Oak handles? You lucky dog! (Actually. I have a mis-sawn oak 2x6 that would make a couple handles. If I ever find the old barrow tub, that's what Ill do.)

Lady Locust said...

That's a nice one. You mentioned design. That one can haul a real load rather that those ones you see that are about 8 inches deep which were designed by folks who,as you said, don't know what work is. I good barrow is hard to find:)

Pumice said...

My dad used to get us up before school to push wheelbarrows of concrete he was having delivered. I can understand your issues. A real measure of good design though is whether you can push he handles down to the ground, tipping it backwards and sit in it like an easy chair. My dad never did seem to appreciate that position though.

Grace and peace.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yes, LL, I hauled a little firewood in it yesterday. It held as much as THIS old geezer needed to handle.

You know, Pumice, I forgot to check that! ;-)