With the all the people wanting to learn to scythe and their increasing use for managing wildflower meadows or making hay, there’s a need for good quality wooden hay rakes for collecting and turning the grass.
When I couldn’t find a good one for myself I decided to make my own and have spent a few years researching traditional designs and construction techniques from several countries. I now make hay rakes for sale but, since they don’t fit in an envelope, they’re a product for a local market only. This suits me fine and I’m now keen to teach the craft to other makers with the hope that one day there will be hay rake makers across the country supplying their local market with a regional style of rake.
Last week I was teaching a group in the woods in Cumbria on a beautiful sunny weekend. As much as I want them to take home a rake I also want to try and pass on the knowledge I’ve picked up to make the most of the materials, cope with problems and design rakes for different uses. Starting with green ash we split and shaved the heads and bundles of small billets to knock through my tine cutters to make the teeth (tines). I’ve several tine cutters now, some commercial and some homemade to show the differences. It looks simple but there’s a knack to getting good, clean tines and Ian was especially good at this.
Overnight the tines and head are dried and then comes a lot of drilling. It’s easier to get the holes straight with a helper though with time I have learned to do this on my own. Knocking in the teeth is always nerve-wracking in case the head splits but all the heads came out fine. We made split-handle rakes and also single bow rakes, improvising the steam-bending for the bow in the kitchen and with a carefully-selected and straightened hazel stail (handle), the rakes came out looking very fine indeed.
If you’re interested in a hay rake workshop, either for yourself or your group, please email me for more details.