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making wooden pitchforks

 
Judith Browning
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My husband is making pitchforks this week...I thought I would try to post pictures of the process...not as a tutorial, just for fun. He has made them for ten years having learned from two other fork and rake makers here and an excellent book "Country Woodcraft" by Drew Langsner, 1978 Rodale Press. It is a process that needs all of his attention for a several days in order to get all of the forks in jigs before the wood dries out too much. I'll post more over the week.....
Picture 008.jpg
my well used ten year old fork was made in the following way.....
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Picture 009.jpg
white oak cut to length
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Picture 007.jpg
roughing out a fork
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from split log to roughed out fork with tines marked ready to saw...and a few scraps for firewood
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Picture.jpg
driving a handmade dowel
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Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Judith,

Thank you so much for the photos. Until today I had not notice your location, as my clan is from the Ozarks and Southern Missouri on my mothers side. "Wood" farming tools was a common skill set by many of that region...kinda the norm, and you would be odd not to really know how, or at least the basics of it. Nothing like today, and we are lucky to have folks like you and your husband documenting and keeping the craft alive.

Can't wait to see more.

Regards,

j
 
Judith Browning
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The first picture below is after sawing along the pencil lines and then separating, wedging, doweling and tacking as preparation, before putting in the jig.
Unfortunately, while bending this one into the jig, two of the tines cracked. This is not uncommon, and sometimes he seems to expect it, although it was a 'grrrr, grumble, grumble' moment for a bit. That was the first of twelve to fourteen that he will get from the one white oak tree, plus some bucket staves (he is a bucket cooper) and a bit of firewood. So, for now, the second picture is of the empty jig.
Picture 017.jpg
tacking dowels...the wedges will be removed
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Picture 020.jpg
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Judith Browning
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He has been in the shop all day.....the second fork is in the jig successfully this time. This fork is from the split out bolt with the bark on it in one of the above pictures.
This is whats happening here this week. I can take some more detail pictures and might replace some of these with better ones.
I am open to suggestions for pictures and sharing information, just ask
Picture 028.jpg
ready for at least a month in the jig
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Picture 029.jpg
front/top
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Picture 030.jpg
back/bottom
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Ann Torrence
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What do you do with them?
There's a joke to be made about arming mobs and mob-grazing, but I can't quite get there.
 
Judith Browning
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Ann Torrence wrote:What do you do with them?
There's a joke to be made about arming mobs and mob-grazing, but I can't quite get there.


We use one here for moving loose hay piles. They are very functional for light weight scythe cut weeds/grasses/hay...not as heavy duty as a metal pitchfork but close. The attraction for many is that they are replaceable on the homestead with no outside input. The ones he is making this week are a special order for a living history farm...they wanted four. The additional ones will go to his seasonal shop in town for sale with his spoons and buckets. It is an every few years event so he is generally eyeing trees on our land that would be good candidates for pitch forks and bucket hoops and hickory bark for chair seats.
 
John Polk
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That's really nice. I am glad that there are still people keeping this from becoming a lost art.
When a tool goes kaput, it becomes fire wood rather than landfill.



 
Peter Ellis
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Wonderful stuff. I have a couple of questions, if I may?

The finished fork at the top of the thread - it does not appear to have the dowels through the tines. Is it an example of a different style made without the dowels? I cannot imagine taking the dowels out from one such as is shown in the jig.

The one in the jig - it appears the dowels are nailed at each tine, is that correct?

I would guess that the holes for the dowels are drilled before the tines are cut. Would I be right?

Do not know when I will get around to trying this - so much on my plate already - but I definitely want to give it a go!
 
Judith Browning
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Peter Ellis wrote:Wonderful stuff. I have a couple of questions, if I may?

The finished fork at the top of the thread - it does not appear to have the dowels through the tines. Is it an example of a different style made without the dowels? I cannot imagine taking the dowels out from one such as is shown in the jig.

The one in the jig - it appears the dowels are nailed at each tine, is that correct?

I would guess that the holes for the dowels are drilled before the tines are cut. Would I be right?

Do not know when I will get around to trying this - so much on my plate already - but I definitely want to give it a go!


Peter, I am posting better pictures of my old rake below...yes, the dowels are still there and nailed in place (very small, counter sunk finishing nails), the wedges are removed when the pitchfork is in the jig.
...and yes, the holes for the dowels are drilled before the tines are cut.

The book I mentioned in the first post is wonderful...try to find if you don't have it already. Good Luck and ask away. I am running things by my guy as I post but after this week he can go over this thread more thoroughly and I will correct as necessarily.

edit to add: the rivet stopping the splits is a ten penny nail with washers.
Picture 032.jpg
front
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Picture 031.jpg
back
[Thumbnail for Picture 031.jpg]
 
Judith Browning
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This is day three.
Below are pictures of this mornings trip to remove today's 'fork' from the leaves that are helping to hold in moisture...then pulling the cart up the hill.
Picture 035.jpg
log split into sixths
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Picture 036.jpg
two at a time up the hill
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Manfred Eidelloth
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Does the wood simply stay bent after drying? Or do you need to do something special to it?

I wonder why the wood is not cooked/steamed and then the wedging and bending done in hot condition? That should eliminate the risk of splitting and make the bending much easier?

Or would that have any negative effect on the finished product?
 
John Pollard
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Judith Browning wrote:My husband is making pitchforks this week...I thought I would try to post pictures of the process...not as a tutorial, just for fun. He has made them for several years having learned from two other fork and rake makers here and an excellent book "Country Woodcraft by Drew Langsner, 1978 by Rodale Press. It is a process that needs all of his attention for a few days in order to get all of the forks in jigs before the wood dries out too much. I'll post more over the week.....


I've got that book. I like anything from Rodale. The library here is revamping their collection and giving away what they take off the shelves and this was one I snagged quickly with big eyes. I need to get my shop built this year so I'll have someplace to work next winter on projects like this. This winter about killed me being stuck in the cabin with nothing to do but dream and plan. I'm the type who always has to be doing something and have been working with my hands all my life. Every wood handled tool I have could use a new handle. I need to cut some bolts for axe handles soon and get them curing. I've done mostly metal working but would like to get into wood working. Cutting and welding metal makes for nasty fumes.

Has he made you a whorl yet?
 
Ann Torrence
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This is fascinating. On the first fork, it looks like the handle has a most ergonomic bowed curve. Is that true? Natural? or another step in the process?
 
Judith Browning
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Manfred Eidelloth wrote:Does the wood simply stay bent after drying? Or do you need to do something special to it?

I wonder why the wood is not cooked/steamed and then the wedging and bending done in hot condition? That should eliminate the risk of splitting and make the bending much easier?

Or would that have any negative effect on the finished product?


Manfred, The forks will stay in the jigs for a month, he says longer if possible, and then they do stay bent. My fork in the picture is 10 years old and in use, with close to the same bend as when it came out of the jig. It relaxes a bit at first. I keep it in the house and oil with linseed oil often.
I'll be sure my husband sees your questions...we are out of my area here and I wouldn't want to give you misinformation...as far as I know this is one traditional way to make them, using green wood, worked fairly quickly to take advantage of the white oaks natural suppleness and, sometimes, not often, one just cracks.

edited a bit just now.
 
Judith Browning
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Ann Torrence wrote:This is fascinating. On the first fork, it looks like the handle has a most ergonomic bowed curve. Is that true? Natural? or another step in the process?


it does! and I love it but it was a natural thing and not intentional...I think it was why he gave me that pitchfork The ones for sale need to be straight handled...more regular in appearance.
 
Judith Browning
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John Pollard wrote:
Judith Browning wrote:My husband is making pitchforks this week...I thought I would try to post pictures of the process...not as a tutorial, just for fun. He has made them for several years having learned from two other fork and rake makers here and an excellent book "Country Woodcraft by Drew Langsner, 1978 by Rodale Press. It is a process that needs all of his attention for a few days in order to get all of the forks in jigs before the wood dries out too much. I'll post more over the week.....


I've got that book. I like anything from Rodale. The library here is revamping their collection and giving away what they take off the shelves and this was one I snagged quickly with big eyes. I need to get my shop built this year so I'll have someplace to work next winter on projects like this. This winter about killed me being stuck in the cabin with nothing to do but dream and plan. I'm the type who always has to be doing something and have been working with my hands all my life. Every wood handled tool I have could use a new handle. I need to cut some bolts for axe handles soon and get them curing. I've done mostly metal working but would like to get into wood working. Cutting and welding metal makes for nasty fumes.

Has he made you a whorl yet?


Excellent find! I wondered if the book was back in print or not...it is a gem. Woodworking and metalworking, what a great combination for you!
Yes, I have several drop spindles (whorls) that he made...I have been weaving since the early seventies and much of his early woodwork was weaving and spinning tools..ages ago...inkle looms, shuttles...beautiful things that I treasure.
 
Judith Browning
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John Polk wrote:That's really nice. I am glad that there are still people keeping this from becoming a lost art.
When a tool goes kaput, it becomes fire wood rather than landfill.





thanks, John...We are very fortunate in this area...lots of traditional craftsmen and women, classes and 'old timers' who remember 'when'.
S. has been working this way for thirty years plus and he is not worn out quite yet His seasonal 'off the land' work is as an interpreter and demonstrator of Ozark bucket coopering including wooden ware...all with tools used between 1820 to 1920. He was already in that era (at home) tool wise so he slipped right in easily. The chainsaw at home has been the compromise... other than that his woodshops, both in town and at home, have wonderful varieties of hand tools.
 
Judith Browning
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Judith Browning wrote:
Manfred Eidelloth wrote:Does the wood simply stay bent after drying? Or do you need to do something special to it?

I wonder why the wood is not cooked/steamed and then the wedging and bending done in hot condition? That should eliminate the risk of splitting and make the bending much easier?

Or would that have any negative effect on the finished product?


Manfred, The forks will stay in the jigs for a month, he says, longer if possible, and then they do stay bent. My fork in the picture is 10 years old and in use, with close to the same bend as when it came out of the jig. It relaxes a bit at first. I keep it in the house and oil with linseed oil often.
I'll be sure my husband sees your questions...we are out of my area here and I wouldn't want to give you misinformation...as far as I know this is one traditional way to make them, using green wood, worked fairly quickly to take advantage of the white oaks natural suppleness and, sometimes, not often, one just cracks.

edited a bit just now.


Manfred, I was able to gather a bit more information before my husband (S.) headed out to the shop.
He says, that this is an old "Pennsylvania Dutch" pattern. He has met Germans, Austrians and descendants that recognize it, and Arkansans that grew up using them.

DrewLangsner (Country Craft) uses hot water,and S. does do this to bend the dowels, ... Langsner does mention bending greenwood. It is the simplest, most direct, most traditional, least equipment-dependent way.
For S., right now though, the rush is on and the last pieces are no longer green. The remainder may get bent with boiling water, he says.
 
Manfred Eidelloth
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Thank you very much. 
I have seen similar forks before (most of them with 3 tines) but I did not know, it can be done with green wood without heating it.
Most interesting.
 
Dale Hodgins
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One thing not evident in the photos, is just how light these tools are as compared to strength. My brother uses a big heavy 7 tine steel fork to move light straw and hay. This is all he needs.

I have used a light 5 tine fork as a rake when cleaning up lawns after tree cutting. Regular fan rakes and garden rakes quickly clog with debris. Turn it over and it's a fork for loading the debris onto tarps or into garbage cans.

Do you have any rake photos ? Does he ever make forks with more tines ?
 
Judith Browning
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Dale Hodgins wrote:One thing not evident in the photos, is just how light these tools are as compared to strength. My brother uses a big heavy 7 tine steel fork to move light straw and hay. This is all he needs.

I have used a light 5 tine fork as a rake when cleaning up lawns after tree cutting. Regular fan rakes and garden rakes quickly clog with debris. Turn it over and it's a fork for loading the debris onto tarps or into garbage cans.

Do you have any rake photos ? Does he ever make forks with more tines ?


You are right, Dale, these forks are very light...I just weighed mine and it looks like barely two pounds. Very light once dry and very graceful feeling....and multi purpose as you say. I would like a five tine for leaves, smaller bits of stuff and I am not sure why he doesn't make them. He has done an occasional three tine but the majority are four tine.
The rake he made is at his shop in town. He uses it, but it is too large for me to use comfortably. I think that is a another plus for handmade tools...they can be sized to the individual person and use.
 
Judith Browning
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Day four...
Picture 039.jpg
[Thumbnail for Picture 039.jpg]
 
Jay Grace
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Does your husband make them just as a hobby or as a business?

Has he made any snaths?
(a handle for a scythe)
 
Judith Browning
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Jay Grace wrote:Does your husband make them just as a hobby or as a business?

Jay, Neither a 'hobby' nor a 'business'.....making them is a part of our lifestyle...we use them, sell a few and share knowledge about them.

Jay Grace wrote: Has he made any snaths?
(a handle for a scythe)


Our scythe has an aluminum snath...so he has never replaced
 
Judith Browning
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Day six (pictures from yesterday)...today he is working on a three tine. There are four nice forks in jigs and a HUGE pile of shavings....and I have put in a request for a five tine pitchfork for me
day five 001.jpg
draw knife at the shaving horse
[Thumbnail for day five 001.jpg]
day five 004.jpg
a few simple tools and the all important cup of tea
[Thumbnail for day five 004.jpg]
day five 008.jpg
[Thumbnail for day five 008.jpg]
 
Dale Hodgins
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You waited long enough on the 5 tine request. Maybe thirty years too long.

When I saw hard, dry wood, I wear ear, eye and lung protection. In a greenwood shop you don't need any of that. There's just the zip zip zip of the draw knife, the sound of the brace and bit going round and other minor sounds which may include some heavy breathing. Even chisels and hand saws are quieter when the wood is green. There's no need to heat the shop most days, since these tools provide a good workout and you don't want to dry out the materials too quickly.

Mr. Browning appears to have the forearms of a 30 year old.
 
Judith Browning
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...a few more 'detail' pictures from today.
day six 004.jpg
[Thumbnail for day six 004.jpg]
day six 006.jpg
cut off 10p nail used as a rivet to hold split
[Thumbnail for day six 006.jpg]
day six 007.jpg
[Thumbnail for day six 007.jpg]
day six 008.jpg
[Thumbnail for day six 008.jpg]
day six 009.jpg
[Thumbnail for day six 009.jpg]
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Judith...I am loving this...THANK YOU so very much!

Please thank your husband as well (his name please?) and without "front loading" too much as a teacher, as him some afternoon when using the draw knife (please don't say too much as this is part of a little experiment that has been going on for over twenty 30 years...I'll PM you the details, then post here later) ask him to try for just maybe 20 to 30 minutes using the drawknife with the "bevel side down" not up as he is in the photo.

Warm Regards,

j
 
Judith Browning
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Judith...I am loving this...THANK YOU so very much!

Please thank your husband as well (his name please?) and without "front loading" too much as a teacher, as him some afternoon when using the draw knife (please don't say too much as this is part of a little experiment that has been going on for over twenty 30 years...I'll PM you the details, then post here later) ask him to try for just maybe 20 to 30 minutes using the drawknife with the "bevel side down" not up as he is in the photo.

Warm Regards,

j



Jay, he does use it both ways, depending on the grain and the shape of the wood he is working...I happened to catch that photo with the bevel up but it could have just as likely been bevel down in another photo and different application. At the moment of the picture he was planing straight grain wood with the flat of the back of the blade which was appropriate for that particular bit of work.

...and we can call him S. here
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Thanks so much...I should have known after that many "forks" he was flip'n the blade around...good for him.

Regards,

j
 
Judith Browning
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day seven...we did a town trip and then this afternoon S. raked and piled some scythe cut grasses that he keeps mowed under the power line's right of way (so they don't spray their toxic gick here). He cut it in the fall...wet weather and snow and ice kept him from raking and piling until now. Here are a few photos.
day seven 001.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 001.jpg]
day seven 003.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 003.jpg]
day seven 006.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 006.jpg]
day seven 005.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 005.jpg]
day seven 012.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 012.jpg]
day seven 025.jpg
[Thumbnail for day seven 025.jpg]
day seven 029.jpg
spring!
[Thumbnail for day seven 029.jpg]
 
Judith Browning
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Here are a few more pictures...

in the jig.jpg
[Thumbnail for in the jig.jpg]
first dowel.jpg
[Thumbnail for first dowel.jpg]
flipped over second dowel.jpg
[Thumbnail for flipped over second dowel.jpg]
three tine.jpg
[Thumbnail for three tine.jpg]
 
Judith Browning
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...anyone else tired of pitchforks
a weeks work 003.jpg
...and my requested five tine!
[Thumbnail for a weeks work 003.jpg]
 
Lightly Burdwood-Porter
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Not even a little!
I have loved this thread and, now, will have to try my hand at it, thank you so much!
 
Sue Rine
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Beautiful, so beautiful.
 
Peter Ellis
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Do I see you got your requested five tine? Great thread. Thank you for sharing.
 
Becky Mundt
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Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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This is amazing and beautiful! Thanks Paul for the tip to look at this in your daily-ish email.
Just spectacular. I think I learned something from almost every picture. Truly ancient art and wisdom.
Makes me want to start a collection of old tools. I have a few I've picked up over the years but
now I know a few more I want! Really lovely work.
 
Mr. Bill Anderson
Posts: 10
Location: Zone 8A Hartwell, GA, USA
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Lightly Burdwood-Porter wrote:Not even a little!
I have loved this thread and, now, will have to try my hand at it, thank you so much!


I agree, wholeheartedly. I can't post enough +1's. "Not even a little tired of seeing pictures" (and reading the commentary that goes with) You should really make up some sort of picture album or at least a small publication to sell along with the forks / rakes, etc... they call that value-added.
I don't usually get excited about anything, but this... but this... Looking at your pictures, I see that I already have most of those tools. Definitely going to have to give this a try.
Huge Kudos to you and yours!!!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Judith Browning wrote:...anyone else tired of pitchforks


NOPE! Bring it on!!

...and what else have you clever people got up your sleeves?
 
Holly Turner
Posts: 11
Location: Potosi, Missouri (zone 6a)
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These are great! I have a pitchfork & a rake I use for yard work. Mine were made by a treen ware craftsman from Illinois. And I love mine! Thanks for sharing the pictures & notes.
 
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ...   2016 PDC and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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