Precision Tine Cultivator

Project is for: Farmers who need a flexible, multi-purpose, cultivating tool–  most likely vegetable farmers.
Range of cost: $750 – $1500

Skills needed: Simple metalworking (welding steel, or finding someone who can);  also available commercially with an Allis G belly mount from Roeter’s Farm Equipment, but their version may not be optimized for your application.

Summary: Tine weeders, like those built by Lely or Kovar, are often used on vegetable farms for cultivation of transplanted crops or sturdy direct seeded crops like corn and beans.  Usually they are used “blind” (see video), raked over a crop while being pulled behind a tractor, and therefore their use is limited to those crops that can tolerate the “raking” action of the thin, flexible tines, spaced 1.5″ apart.

This project creates a version of the tine weeder that can be belly-mounted to a cultivating tractor, so that individual tines can be lifted up so as not to engage the soil.  This allows the tool to be used in between rows of crops that cannot stand the raking, such as just-germinated small seeded crops like carrots, beets and greens.

This is a good tool for a smaller farm that cannot afford many different types of cultivators;  it can be used for many different crops, however by itself it is not an ideal cultivator for all crops, since it is not aggressive enough to kill more tenuous weeds such as perennial grasses, velvetleaf, bindweed, or weeds that have established beyond a “white thread” stage.  Horsepower requirements are very low.

How to build it:

This article focuses on building a tine rake to belly mount on an Allis G tractor.  Of course, if could be modified to be used on a different tractor.  Depending on your Allis G’s wheel spacing, and whether you have spacers on the front that give you a longer wheelbase, it may be tricky to design your frame to fit your particular tractor’s dimensions.  Be careful to leave enough room for the front wheels to turn. Also be aware of the placement of the mounting brackets for the frame and their relationship to the tine brackets. A non-obvious design feature of the frame is the separation of adjacent tines. The tines need room to wiggle and let trash and plants flow around. The only place there are two tines mounted together is in the center. These are known to be problematic and are the most likely spot to clog and dig small furrows in poor conditions. I have not figured out a better solution so they remain paired, one can be raised if they are creating a problem.

The Lely tines and brackets each cost about $15-  pretty pricey for not a lot of metal, but there aren’t many other options out there. Market Farm Implement in Pennsylvania seems to be the best source – they use the tines to build their Williams Tool. If they don’t have them in stock they could take several months to order. Another option is to find a used Lely and strip the tines and brackets. The tines should have a good 3-4” plus of wire after the bend. They do wear down over time.

Building the frame:  Here is a 3D model of the frame that I built, as a Google Sketchup file. The frame is built from 1/4″ thick steel:  1 1/2″ angle iron and 1 1/2″ flat stock. The front and back rails for mounting tines are angle (with the L facing the back of the frame) and the two middle rails are flat. Two pieces of angle facing out, 16 1/2″ long, tie together the three back rails on the outside edges. Two pieces of flat, on edge and 22 1/2″ long, tie together all three rails. The placement of these two pieces depends on the spacing of your lift arms but is also limited by the placement of the tine brackets. Two flat pieces, 5 1/2” long and cut at a 45 degree angle on top, are mounted just in front of the 2nd rail back. They are welded to two 4″ pieces of 2″ x 3/4″ bar stock, which sits in the lift arms of most Gs.

Tines are mounted every 6″ along each rail. With four rails that gives a tine every 1 1/2″. Starting at the center and moving right (looking from the drivers seat of the G), the first tine is a left (adjustment loop on the right of the bracket) and is mounted on the back rail. Second tine is a left on the second rail from the font, third tine is a left on the third rail from the front and the fourth tine is a right mounted on the front rail. Repeat that pattern until you get to the end. The first tine is mounted so that the tine comes out of the bracket 3/4″ from the center line of the frame. Once you have your first hole for each rail, the next holes are just 6″ over.

The left side of the frame is the mirror image of the right. Width of the frame depends on your beds and wheel spacing. The pattern that you mount the tines in may change depending on the width of your frame. The front rail needs to be shorter than the others for wheel clearance.

How to use it:

Tine rakes work best when used on very small weeds;  weeds in the “white thread” stage, which may not have visibly germinated yet, are particularly susceptible to the disturbance of the tine rake.  The quicker you can go, and the more frequently you can use the tool, the better control you will have.  It will rarely clog, except in very high residue situations.

It works well with surface drip irrigation systems and can be adjusted quickly in the field, without tools, to work on any crop.  It can also be used to mark planting lines on the bed which helps line things up for future cultivation. The tine weeder is fairly forgiving of poor driving, or crooked planting lines so it is a good tool to learn on.

The rake can be used with all of the tines engaged on many types of transplanted crops, as well as direct seeded beans, corn, and other sturdy plants.  When using the rake to cultivate between rows, it is usually necessary to lift either the two closest tines to the row, or the four closest tines.  For example, with newly germinated carrots, the tool could either be operated with four tines around each row of carrots raised, and driven at a moderate speed, or with just two tines raised, and driven at a very slow speed so as not to disrupt or bury the carrots sprouts.

Suggestions for improving or modifying this tool:

It would be great to create a version of this tool that uses less expensive components, such as Kovar tines.

Credits for this post: The first version of this post was published here by Josh Volk of Slow Hand farm.
The farmhack version of this post was edited by Benjamin Shute of Hearty Roots Community Farm, who built a version of this tool for his own Allis G, that’s what’s in the photos here.

8 Replies to “Precision Tine Cultivator”

  1. I just checked with Market Farm Implement. They said I would need to buy the holder unit for $18 + the tine for $15 so if I need 32 of these it comes to $1050 plus the cost of the frame and time. When looking at Roeders theres’ is 1250 plus shipping so I’m thinking it would be not much of a price difference to make one myself. Maybe if you lived far away from Roeders you would want to make one to save on shipping. Also Market Farm said they would make one. Sounded even cheaper than Roeders. I would love to see a basket weeder Hack. I am currently designing my own and may post the results here when finished. Good luck everyone !

  2. It’s sad but true that the individual tine brackets and tines are excessively priced by the piece. One way to go ahead is to keep your eye out for a used 3-point mounted tine cultivator which you might be able to pick up for a few hundred dollars, and then re-use the tines and brackets to build your own belly mounted one.

    Or maybe we can talk Market Farm or someone else into selling X number of tines/brackets as a package for a discounted price for those who want to build their own? Seems like it would be in their interest, they could get similar profits to if they built one for you, without them actually having to build it, saving money for both parties.

  3. Can anyone tell me what the angle is for the Allis G lift arms ? I am currently making a basket weeder for my G. I tried to read the file for this Tine weeder but I could not figure how to download and read it. So if the angle is on that schematic its unavailable to me. Thanks, Marc

  4. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the angle for the arms, Marc. If you’re looking for the angle of the “C” shaped lift points on the belly mount, they are 45 degrees from horizontal . . . download Google Sketchup for free to read the 3D drawing file in the post above. It is 2″ x 3/4″ bar stock metal that you use on the implement to mount into the “C” shaped lift points on the tractor (see “Close up of lift arm” above).

  5. Benjamin, I am trying to build one to fit my G and just wanted to check a few things. What is the straddle width that your G is set at? You give the frame dimensions in your drawing but you don’t say what bed size it will fit. Does your tractor have spacers or extensions to make the frame longer? It also seems like you don’t have any foot rest on your tractor? Did you take them off to fit the tine weeder?

    The reason I am asking is that the tine weeder that Roeters and Market Farm sell will not fit G’s that don’t have extensions to make the frame longer. Ralph says you need at least 40″ clearance from foot rest to tool receiver hitch. Mine is about 20″. I want to make one to fit and it seems that is what you have done.

  6. Kevin my bed top is 52″; probably I should have added an extra tine on each end to cover that width better, I think the design posted here would be good for a 48″ bed top. I did take the foot rests off my G, I just didn’t want them in the way, but I don’t know that I necessarily needed to take them off. Also I have spacers in the front that make the front wheels about 2″ further forward which does give me extra space; but they were there already, I didn’t put them in for this tool, and I don’t think that I would need those spacers for this tool– I know someone else who built a very similar frame with no spacers– you’ll need to check your own to see if it would work.

  7. Thanks for the response, Benjamin. Well, Ralph at Market Farm, said they were not interested in building a custom weeder. I have been talking to him about making one to fit my G. I know some folks above mentioned it and I thought I would pass the info along. I even included links to this page and Josh Volk’s page on how people are building them. This was his response:

    “Since the tolerances are so close, it is really best to have the tractor to fit it to the cultivator, so you should have someone build the frame for you with the tractor there to fit it up. I don’t want to build something that may not fit. We are busy enough for the next two months with standard equipment.

    I show that the minimum front to back length of the cultivator is 34″ with the times down and 45″ with the tines up. They are putting some tines in between the front tires inset so the wheels don’t hit them when turning. It might be easier just to make the spacer to lengthen the tractor frame or wheel base so you can lift the tines up higher for more ground clearance which sounds like one of the complaints with the short G frame.

    The tines came down a little with the exchange rate.

    They are $13.50 each and the holders are $16.50 each or $30 per set.

    Let me know how many tines you need in lefts and rights and we can quote shipping.”

    So, it seems like the price for tines has come down a bit.

    I do have a few more questions for you Benjamin. Do you have a problem with clearance when transporting the weeder to and from the field? Do you have to flip all the tines up? Could the bar stock that sits in the lift arms of the G be shortened at all to give a little more clearance? You say that it works well with drip systems, does that mean you don’t have to take your drip lines up to cultivate?

  8. Kevin– We don’t have a problem with clearance in general, and we put the tines in the 4th or 5th notch of the bracket. If we wanted to run it more aggressively, it would have clearance problems, but we haven’t wanted to. Sometimes if drip line headers are not flat on the ground, the tines will catch them at the start/end of a bed. But once we’re in the bed, as long as we make sure the drip tape is between the tines it’s supposed to be between, the tines usually just run right alongside the tape, even help straighten it sometimes, rarely do they catch it.
    Not sure if the vertical lift pieces could be made shorter, seems possible.

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