Learn to Identify Antique Hay Rakes
If you are shopping for vintage farm tools or have some tools in a barn or attic, it helps to know a bit about antique hay rakes. People have been using these practical tools for centuries, and they come in several different styles. Some antique hay rakes are even quite valuable.
The First Antique Hay Rakes
Antique hay rakes can take two basic forms. The earliest hay rakes were hand tools and looked much like an ordinary rake with extra space between the teeth. These are still used in some areas of the world. There are also rakes pulled by teams of horses, mules or oxen, and later, rakes pulled by tractors.
Early Hand-Held Hay Rakes
Although the very first hay rakes were probably made of tree branches, people have been using simple handled hay rakes for centuries. This design was particularly popular during the 19th century. It features a wooden handle and a rake with wide-spaced teeth at the end. To use the rake, a person would drag it over the dried grass, allowing the teeth to gather the hay into a pile.
Construction of Old Hay Rakes
Old hay rakes have a simple design. Usually, the wooden teeth are mounted to a wider piece of wood that forms the body of the rake. Very old and primitive examples may have no metal used in their construction, but more modern rakes sometimes feature steel hardware.
Variations on Hand Hay Rake Designs
Hand hay rakes can also have subtle variations on their design, which can be regional. Some feature a rounded half hoop that extends through the pole and provides stability for the base of the rake. Others have teeth on two sides, allowing the rake to be used twice as long. These variations can be fascinating to explore.
Horse-Drawn Hay Rakes
Later hay rakes were horse-drawn. These were dump rakes; wide, two-wheeled machines that had curved wood or iron teeth. They were operated by the farmer from a seat mounted over the rake.
When tractors were introduced to the farm, hay rakes were developed that attached to the back of a tractor. Instead of horses, a tractor pulled the rake.
Parts of an Antique Hay Rake
The main part of the rake was made from wood while the wheels and teeth were metal, usually iron or steel. Later rakes were made almost completely from metal.
Purpose of the Rake
The hay rake was used to collect cut hay into windrows to prepare it to be baled or loaded on a wagon. The hay was fluffed up and turned so that it would dry. The rake made the entire process easier.
How the Rake Worked
The rake teeth dragged the ground, collecting the cut hay. When the teeth were full, the farmer lifted the rake, which left the hay in a pile. More hay was then added to the pile, or windrow with each pass.
Antique Hay Rake Values
If you're buying or selling an antique farm hay rake, it's helpful to have a sense for what these implements are worth. Hand held hay rakes tend to sell for $50 to $100, depending on their age and condition. Very old examples or those with interesting design elements can sell for more.
It's more common to find parts of horse-drawn and tractor-drawn hay rakes that complete pieces. Usually the wooden tongue of the rake will have rotten away. Very few old hay rakes can be found with all the parts intact, but parts like dump rake teeth can sell for $25 apiece in good condition. Parts that look nice for display are worth the most. Complete horse-drawn or tractor-drawn hay rakes can be worth hundreds of dollars.
Collecting Old Farm Tools
Antique hay rakes can usually be found sitting and rusting in abandoned fields. Many people feel there is no practical use for these reminders of days gone by. Antique farm tools are not a collectible everyone has room to display. Usually, these items will be found at living history museums and other educational venues.
If you have a large property, displaying a hay rake in your yard or garden may be a possibility. Whether you restore it or leave it as found, a hay rake can be an appealing, nostalgic decoration.