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Durable Rakes Help to Sort Things Out

August 17, 1996|From Associated Press

You don't need a rake if you leave grass clippings on your lawn. You don't need one if smoothing out and cleaning up topsoil, mulch, gravel or sand isn't a priority. And you don't need one if you're not bothered by a thick blanket of fallen leaves.

However, if any of the above are a concern, then chances are you've already developed a working relationship with this vital tool for landscape maintenance.

The basic rake, no matter which version, comprises a row of tines designed to comb through your landscape medium. Unlike hoes, which simply pull and push broad sections of soil, a rake selectively distributes loose material over a broad area. In this way, it serves as a tool for leveling out and smoothing soil and gravel.

The tines also act as a filter to pick up large debris, leaving finer bits in a uniformly dispersed layer. This filtering action allows rakes to be used as selective collectors to clean up leaves or grass clippings.

The tine structure also makes the tool light. Imagine trying to clean up your lawn with an oversized hoe and you'll begin to appreciate why a rake is shaped the way it is.

Like many other garden implements, rakes at one time were made totally of wood--you can still buy lawn rakes made of bamboo. Most today use wood for the handle, and lightweight, strong aluminum tubing is becoming commonplace.

The tine material depends on the kind of rake, which corresponds to the job at hand. Rakes fall into one of two categories: rigid-tine rakes and flexible-tine rakes.

The business end of a standard, wood-handled, rigid-tine rake is generally made from forged steel. The more expensive and more durable models have a one-piece forged rake head. Welded construction is more often used on economy rakes.

Standard rigid-tine models come in two styles: bow rakes and level-head rakes.

You'll recognize a bow rake by the curved teeth and the two curved arms that connect the head to the shaft. Level-head rakes have straight or slightly curved teeth, and the handle joint is centered directly behind the head.

The straight-tooth version is best suited for leveling material such as gravel with a back-and-forth raking action, while the curve-tooth design offers better gathering ability in garden work.

Both the bow rake and the level-head rake have a metal ferrule around the handle to keep the wood from splitting around the rake tang.

Flexible-tine rakes are often called lawn or leaf rakes, although you'll find uses for them in your garden, as well. This type has steel tines arranged in a fan-shaped configuration. Bamboo and plastic versions are also available.

Lawn rakes either have a straight-tine edge or a curved edge that permits a sweeping action. Both versions are designed to be light and flexible. They're not suited for heavy-duty chores such as leveling topsoil or gravel, but they're ideal for grass clippings, leaves and other light cleanup jobs.

Besides the standard configurations, variations are available that are either designed for a specific use or increased effectiveness. Other examples of rakes more common to the construction scene than to the backyard or garden are the concrete rake, the asphalt rake and the lute.

A concrete rake has a long, hoe-type head similar to a typical rake in proportion only. It is used to spread and level concrete.

Asphalt rakes and lutes have similar functions. The rake is characterized by long straight teeth and an extra-long tang that joins the head to the handle. Lutes generally have 36-inch-long heads with a saw-tooth-tine configuration.

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