Gardening is fun, but the physical labor involved in soil preparation is enough to warrant the purchase of a broadfork. This tool will make your vegetable garden or flowerbed look beautiful with just a little effort on your end.
Want to save money on gardening tools? Get a DIY Broadfork personalized for your garden.
We’ll share some tips and tricks to help you build your own DIY broadfork using recyclable materials in this post.
Gardening doesn’t always need to be expensive. You need a clever mind and some time on your hands to see how creative you can get with what you have.
First, let’s talk more about Broadforks and how they work.
About The Broadfork
Humans have been using tools for over a century, and in that time, tool manufacturers perfected their designs to suit the limitations of humans. The broadfork was a prime example of early human-powered tool technology when people crafted items fitting the needs of a human’s capabilities.
The tines are set completely into the stubborn soil in just a few seconds by stepping on the crossbar to one side, then both sides, and using only body weight. Using only your own body weight against that of 48-inch long handles, you can loosen up stubborn soil with ease by working them back and forth like a rowing motion.
A broadfork is a tool that requires minimal effort for the work it produces. It provides a rhythmic, almost aerobic workout when used properly. It is ideal for those looking to build lean muscle mass in their upper body or provide an indoor workout space due to inclement weather conditions or climate.
What Is A Broadfork?
Broadfork or U-bar is a digging tool used to open the soil for air, moisture, and beneficial microorganisms. It is an affordable solution for small-scale gardeners today.
If you want to make your soil preparation faster and easier, the broadfork is a must-have tool. The device loosens the soil with minimal effort that ordinary gardeners and farmers can’t do by hand.
Broadfork began with a design requested by John Jeavons to two Stanford engineering students.
Since then, it has become popular as a garden tool. Some farmers have modified the design based on their own needs, and now you can find many different designs online if you search for Broadforks.
The redesign of the Broadfork is usually driven by:
- Function preferences
- Weight preferences
- The physical capacity of the user
- Availability of materials
Main Parts Of The Broadfork
Here are the specific components of a DIY Broadfork to consider when gathering recycle materials.
If you are looking for a good and cheap gardening tool, then make your own broadfork. To show the different parts of the wide fork DIY project, we’ll give you materials that can be bought or recycled.
You have a broad range of options when it comes to selecting the handle for your broadfork.
You may want to be aware that any metal pipe as handles can make the tool heavier. Remember only to use long pipes with a sturdy structure for weight-bearing.
I’ll share some broadfork handle material choices – which will you use?
- Old handles of other tools like old spade
- Old steel pipes
Broadfork Handle Stem Or Collar
The tricky part about the DIY broadfork is what material you should use for the handles. You can either attach a metal collar to connect the handles or supports taller than a collar by an inch or two.
A collar is a metal piece that attaches the handles through screws. You will need two collars for welding the fork and handle pieces.
Tines are the flat metal pieces that serve as the teeth of a broadfork. They are shaped with pointed tips to make it easier for assembly. The tines are welded at 30-degree angles to make it easy to get in and out of the soil.
To make broadfork tines, the following materials can be used as an option:
- Old flat steel from an old gate
- Old steel plates from old tractors
Broadfork Step Or Crossbar
Broadfork’s frame is the step. It comes in metal, but you could also make it out of wood too, as long as it could withstand high pressure when stepped on by weight.
The materials you use for the step should be durable enough to withstand the weight of your body. They must be safe since accidents can happen if it breaks and you become injured.
here are the different materials you can use as broadfork step or crossbar
- Rectangular tube stock
- Superstrut metal framing channel
Steps To Make A DIY Broadfork
Building The Broadfork Step
Following are the steps to make a broadfork step :
The length of the step you want for your DIY Broadfork will depend on the number of tines you have in mind. Here is a chart telling you how long to make each step based on how many tines there are:
7 tines: 28-inch step
5 tines: 20-inch step
The length of the broadfork should correspond to the size of the beds you will be preparing. For new gardens, a small-sized fork will suffice.
Cut The Step
Once you’ve cut the step using a chop saw, make sure to wear protective gear while wielding bladed tools.
Measure The Space
Use two stakes to mark the location of the tine. Mark a 4” space in between each tine, and also mark on which side the stem would be inserted at an angle of 30 degrees from ground level.
Building The Tines
The following are the steps to prepare tines for a broadfork:
Make A Shape Guide
To make this DIY tool, you need to take the tines from an old gate or metal sheet and use a shape guide to keep your cut straight.
Take advantage of the digital age! Draw your ideal tine shape or visualize it in software like AutoCAD or Adobe Photoshop.
Measurements for the tines are as follows:
Cut The Lines
You can cut the steel plates using an angle grinder with a cutting wheel. If you have access to machinery (e.g., laser cutter or CNC cutter), that will make it easier. Depending on the quality of your tools, there may be noticeable imperfections in the metal plate’s finish when using an angle grinder which leads to you having to polish them up afterward.
Smoothen The Rough Edges
Replace the rough edge of your tines with a smoother one by replacing the cutting wheel with a polishing wheel.
Building The Fork
Follow these steps to help you with fork building :
Assemble The Fork
The Assembly of the fork is straightforward. Weld the pieces together with a welding machine to protect your eyes and keep yourself safe as you work.
Welding The Tines
Use the vise to secure the step and start welding. Be sure that you weld at a 30-degree angle and be mindful of keeping parallel rows of tines.
Polish The Fork
You may polish the finished fork by attaching the polishing wheel to the angle grinder for a cleaner finish.
Building The Collar Or Handle Stem
Follow these steps to make a broadfork collar or handle stem:
Determine The Length And Where You’ll Connect
The difference between a collar and a handle stem is its length. The length, in turn, affects where you can connect the handles.
A collar would be cut from excess superstructure or metal tubing using a chop saw.
Mark The Bolts And Nuts Holes
Mark out the holes where you will be inserting the carriage bolts and nuts and connect the handles’ stems to their respective handles.
Make The Hole And Insert The Carriage Bolts
Use the drill to make the hole and insert the carriage bolts into it. Lock one of the handles onto a collar on the other handle using another set of carriage bolts, then do the same for this new combination.
Assembling The Step And The Handles
- Join the handle of the step to the stem or collars by welding.
- Make sure the handle is welded well because it will take on your weight while using the broadfork. Cover all edges to make the connection more secure.
- Use a polishing wheel on the angle grinder to smooth your welded area for a smoother finish.
- For a durable finish, paint your broadfork with high-quality outdoor paint to lock in its shape and keep it rust-resistant.
The Final Step Is To Test Your Broadfork
Your DIY broadfork will need to be tested before you can go on to use it for your entire garden. To do this, test how effective the welding job is, as it has to handle whatever you put on top of it.
Are Wood, Fiberglass, Or Steel Broadfork Handles Better?
According to the adage, we generally get what we pay for. This phrase is especially true for tools that are relied on not to break in the middle of a job. As any gardener knows, broken tool handles cause a host of problems.
Physical preparation of the soil is another task that can be expensive and time-consuming, and cause injury.
The broadfork is a pivotal garden tool that requires the operator to be strong and durable, not just the handles. The handles are used as a lever that reduces the force needed to loosen the soil.
The operator steps onto the crossbar, shifting his weight to establish a point of balance. The tine is then swung in an arc until it breaks through the soil, stabilizing on the opposite side. This repeats for about ten or twenty sections before being pulled back and reversing every five swings.
Broadforks with steel handles may be best suited to the task, depending on the condition of the soil.
Furthermore, the handles on a broadfork can be made of other materials different from wood or heavy-duty fiberglass. These types of materials are usually used in less intensive applications where reinforcing is not necessary.
Pros And Cons Of Wood And Fiberglass Handles
Broadforks are excellent for work on tight garden plots where space is limited. Fiberglass or wooden handles are less expensive than steel-handled models, but the handles can break over time, and replacement costs up in the tens of dollars each, not including shipping.
Fiberglass handles are often covered under warranty if they’re damaged from regular use. Replacing the handles is fairly straightforward, but there can be delays due to their rarity in stores. As fiberglass broadfork handle popularity grows, it will hopefully become easier to find replacements.
Wood for handles is usually some ash, oak, and hickory. While other types of wood can be used, oak should not be because it transmits toxins that eat away metal.
Without any apparent problems with the wood itself, weak handles are often caused by faulty attachments. Ideally, wooden handles should be bare to prevent them from drying out each year. These tools are typically coated in tung or raw linseed oil at the end of the gardening season.
Broadforks made with non-metal handles tend to be lighter than broadforks that are made with metal.
They weigh approximately 12 pounds, depending on the manufacturer and length of the tool.
Pros And Cons Of Steel Handles
The broadfork is an efficient human-powered tool that doesn’t require large amounts of power. Occasionally, when the soil is too hard or contains roots and rocks, steel-handled tools offer more help.
Combining heavy-duty steel tines with metal handles allows you to pull harder without fear of breaking anything, while additional weight makes inserting the tines into the soil easier.
We’ve designed an all-metal broadfork to last a lifetime. After using the tool, make sure it is cleaned and stored out of experiencing excess moisture for a long life of gardening. The handles will never need replacement or oiling with this design, so be assured that you won’t have to buy another rake in your lifetime!
How To Choose The Right Broadfork
First, not all broadforks are the same. After years of trial and error, I’ve learned that design is essential when choosing a model. It would be best if you aimed for one made by professionals (such as gardeners and farmers) with a wooden handle over heavier metal models because they can be too heavy to use comfortably.
I’d rather replace a broken shaft every couple of years than spend my whole lifetime lifting extra weight. The ergonomics of the tines also play an important role in the overall efficiency of the tool. Better broadforks have parabolic curves that simplify the rowing motion.
Secondly, the environment in which the tool will be used should be considered. A broadfork should not be used in an area where there is stone or rocks to break up as this will cause excessive wear on the tines and blade.
There are certain tools, like the broadfork by Meadow Creature, that are designed for gardens. But after creating the beds in your garden and preparing handmade flowers or vegetables to sow, you might want a lighter tool. The right equipment is key to success when placing seeds and transplanting seedlings.
I used to grow food for a living, and I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of the broadfork. That’s why we named our farm “Les Jardins de la Grelinette,” or Broadfork Gardens – not just because it is what makes us tick, but because our bio-intensive system requires it.
It’s important to use the proper tools, especially for small-scale farmers and gardeners. Routinely using a DIY Broadfork will help soften your soil while making it livelier with moisture retention and better drainage.
In both the home garden and the large market farm, a broadfork is an absolute requirement. Your tiller might get left sitting out in the garage all summer!
Using A Broadfork
Broadforks are a lot of work but also more relaxing than powered tools. These broadforks, however, require you to handle heavy materials that would cause a lot of tension in your arms and headache from the vibrations.
Many people like using broadforks because they don’t compact the soil under the seedbed as tillers do, they don’t kill the worms and other microorganisms in the soil, and, once you prepare the soil with a broadfork for the first time, it is actually easier to use than a tiller.
How to use a broadfork as a soil aeration process in your garden:
- To use a broadfork, start by stabbing the ground.
- Step on the broadfork to extract dirt from the hole.
- Next, pull it back and press the tines up through the soil.
- Repeat the back and forth process by stepping on the edge of the just-tilled area.
How To Aerate Soil With A Broadfork
To create air spaces deep into the ground, gardeners use a Broadfork. This tool is pushed straight down into the soil and then pulled back about 12 inches to loosen it up.
The broadfork is a garden tool used for deeply working and loosening the soil without mixing layers present. It requires more physical exertion to use, but these motions are necessary for aerating the soil, which can be done less effectively with other tools such as the spade or fork.
In contrast, a broadfork is about twice as long and three to four times wider than an average garden fork, significantly reducing time.
How Broadforks Promote Healthy Soil
The broadfork is an alternative to buying more expensive tools used to cultivate landscapes. Its vertical tines allow water and air to reach the soil, promoting root growth and building fertile soil grounds while promoting ecosystem presence.
The broadfork is not a complicated tool. It works best in loose but unprepared soil; before it can be used, the soil needs to have had some time to decompose and loosen up.
Then, using the leverage of the long handlebars, loosen the soil by working the handles back and forth in a kind of rowing motion. Finally, move the broadfork back about a foot and sunk it again into the soil for an almost aerobic workout.
T’s a human-powered tool that requires minimal effort to use, but it isn’t always as efficient on large commercial farms. Dispelling two misconceptions can help you make smart decisions when purchasing this type of gardening equipment.
Why Do Soil Aeration With A Broadfork?
Aerating with a broadfork has four benefits:
- Properly aerated soil is more likely to hold rainwater without puddling or compacting the ground.
- Aeration through a broadfork is less damaging to soil composition than mechanical means like digging or double digging.
- Though it does take time, this method is much easier on your back and joints than other methods like stirring with shovels.
- With greater space for roots, crops will grow more per acre and thrive on well-aerated soil.
How To Improve Clay Soil?
To loosen and improve clay soil, reduce the percentage of clay in the soil mixture by adding organic material (which becomes silt) and adding sand.
Increasing the percentage of silt and sand in your soil would limit clay in that area, which is more difficult to work with when gardening. Eventually, you can create loam soil following this process.
Thanks to low-tech tools like broadfork, it’s now easier to loosen up the soil and improve its quality at a lower cost.
One benefit of using these tools is that they are available at a more affordable price than tractors or rototillers if you work on a smaller property.
If you don’t feel comfortable handling a welding machine, hire a professional to do the job for you. Using sharp gardening tools such as broadforks can be dangerous and is better off avoided if possible.
Before you start connecting the parts and looking for materials, figure out your preferences and the needs of the soil. This will make every step of the building process easier as it’s clear to you.
We hope this guide has been helpful, and we leave you with some DIY projects using materials from home for when the need arises.
Share the story of your DIY Broadfork in the comments, or try it yourself with our easy-to-follow instructions.