Friday, March 13, 2015

Dad’s Old Wooden Rake (w/pic)

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I think I remember it when it was new. However, it might have merely been ALMOST new. In other words, it might be younger than me, or it might be older. All I know is that I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t around. We always called it “the BIG rake,” as opposed to a much smaller, commercially-made model. The big rake was 24 inches from outside tooth to outside tooth and had an eight foot handle. The boughten one was probably 18 inches wide with a six foot handle and was technically a grain rake.

The big one was what is called a “bull rake” by experts, but we weren’t experts, except at using it. It was the rake that we used when gathering up hay cut with the scythe, and when gleaning the cut hay from the corners of hayfields, where the sickle-bar mower on the Ford Golden Jubilee could reach, but the tractor rake that we pulled behind the Ferguson 40 couldn’t. Dad never believed in leaving good hay in the field just because the tractor couldn’t reach it.

It got to where I probably used the old rake more than Dad, since he usually ran the tractors while I cleaned around the field edges. Besides using it on the farm, I used it in combination with Dad’s scythe, doing work for a couple who lived next door. Once a year, they’d hire me to scythe off the half-acre or so between their driveway and the hard road and haul off what I’d cut. Between those times, they often had smaller mowing jobs for me. Of course there was always some trimming and raking to be done at my great aunt’s, next door, and at my own place when I got a little older.

Of course, Dad’s tools passed to me when he left this life. For about 25 years, the rake remained in the barn that had always been its home. Then, it came to my place when the farm changed hands. I have no storage here, so it spent a few years under a tarp with a bunch of other tools. The trouble is, the tool cache is out of sight of the house, and sometimes the tarp got blown off. The tools rusted a little and the wooden handles got weathered-looking.

While once again replacing the tarp with a new one recently, I brought the rake up to the house. As fate would have it, it began its life either directly across the road, in the workshop of an old gentleman who once lived there, or in the log cabin that he lived in just beyond the back of my place, where he’d lived earlier. The rake has sort of “come home” in a sense, I guess. Not sure if the rake is really solid enough to use, I first asked my wife if she wanted it for a decoration, but she wasn’t interested. Then, I thought of giving it to a neighbor, slightly younger than I, who knew both my father and the man who made it. Finally, since I still have Dad’s scythe, and use it on occasion, I decided to make any necessary repairs and keep the rake myself. I think the basic frame is solid, but a couple of the hand-whittled, tapered octagon teeth may need replaced. I can do that.


I may try to give it to the neighbor someday when I grow too old to use it. Until then, I can hang it from the basement ceiling to keep it out of the way. Like most of my old stuff, the memories it holds are only for me. © 2015

Click image to enlarge.
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11 comments:

Lady Locust said...

I absolutely love it~ the rake and the story. When you do the replacements and repairs, would you be so kind as to do another post and maybe share some dimensions, measurements, and techniques? I have wanted to make such a rake for a few years, but since I have others (only store bought of course) it hasn't made it high enough up on the to do list.
Thank you so much for sharing especially with a picture. Most of the time I just see 'pretend' ones with round dowels for tines etc. mostly meant for decor. I would actually want to make one for 'real' use.

Mamahen said...

What treasure..so much character in these old hand made tools that the mass produced ones (especially these days) will never have!

Gorges Smythe said...

LL, I just went back and added a couple deminsions if that helps you any.

So true, Mh!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I can see how that would work in the hay field. I used a pitch fork to rake the hay into windrows but it would be neat to use a wooden rake. I guess he just pinned the handle into the head somehow. He did a good job on it for it to have lasted so long, he could probably have made a good wooden pitch fork as well.

Ralph Goff said...

Interesting rake. I can't imagine wooden teeth lasting very long here but maybe. Closest I came to making one was converting an old steel garden rake with an 8 foot long steel pipe handle with an "ergonomic" bend in it. Used it for raking up coarse gravel stones from the hilltops for various filling jobs around the farm yard. I haven't broke it yet.

Lady Locust said...

Thank you.

Gorges Smythe said...

Mortise and tenon, SF, plus a iron joining plate.

Actually, Ralph, you don't let the teeth touch the ground if you can help it. You try to skim just under the tops of the stubble to the degree needed to get the hay picked up.

You're welcome, LL, and more is on the way.

Chickenmom said...

Don't give it away! Turn it on end, attach it to a wall and use it for a towel holder or a coat rack! Instant country decor.

Gorges Smythe said...

Actually, Cm, I don't have a good rake, so I may end up using it.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

That's a nice story, I don't know that I have seen a rake like that before.

Gorges Smythe said...

They were once common on the farm, Kathy.