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How to improve your wheelbarrow.

I've had a long love-hate relationship with a wheelbarrow - as a builder of tract-housing, as a dairy farmer, and extending to early childhood, when the more familiar term around the house would have been "Irish taxi."

There could be little doubt about the accuracy of the latter description, since I knew my grandparents came from Ireland, though the phrase was less often employed by grandmother, who preferred to speak Gaelic.

If gardening were your only need for a "people-power" cart, a two-wheeled type would be more suitable, such as is advertised in Organic Gardening, and whose back issues contain plans for a homemade version.

The high-wheel (bicycle or motorcycle) cart pulls or pushes much easier through weeds, high grass and across rough ground. They are a lot more expensive, and if you lack the $175.00 (plus freight) cost of the largest, $115 (plus freight) of the smallest from Gardener's Supply, Co., 128 Intervale Rd., Burlington, VT 05401-2850, you can make one for about $30.00.

If you lack the skill, tools, or a nearby junkyard for used wheels, you are going to settle for a wheelbarrow. A word of advice, don't settle for just any wheelbarrow - the difference between worst and best (in price) is too small.

Get a "contractors" wheelbarrow. Mine is a six cubic foot "True Temper" brand from "Sam's Warehouse" or Walmart at a few cents under $40.00. For reasons I cannot ascertain, they cost about $60.00 from the chain hardware stores. Either they pay too much, which is their problem, or charge too much - don't let that he your problem.

Wheelbarrow manufacturers are a fiendish lot. They take perverse pleasure in cross-braces so designed or so placed as to guarantee you will at least bark your shins, and preferably be crippled for life. "True-temper" so far has not succumbed to this temptation, but their products have other nasty surprises, at least one of which you must remedy or acquire a whole new vocabulary of profanity.

To empty a wheelbarrow, you tip it forward until the crossbar on the handle forward-extension (from the wheel-axle) contacts the ground. A small further raising of the handles empties the contents of the tray.

This and many other wheelbarrows require a simple modification to be anything more than a perpetual nuisance. Unless you are three-feet tall, the forward crossbar will dig into even the shortest grass in your yard or garden - into the ground on the uneven surface of a building site.

The distance between crossbar and ground (unloaded) is 6-1/4 inches. This needs to be increased about two inches. Cut two 2" x 2" x 6" hardwood blocks. Turn the wheelbarrow upside down. Look at the bolts holding the axle-brackets to the handles. Drill two holes in the hardwood blocks the same diameter as the bolts, and the same distance apart on centers. (Mine are 5/16", 2-3/8" on centers.) Take off the nuts from the bolts, slip the hardwood spacers between the handles and axle-brackets, reinstall the bolts and nuts and you now have a more useful, less-frustrating piece of equipment.

It will still tip over sideways at the least provocation, and you must keep rubbing linseed oil into the handles so they don't split and introduce you to a whole new world of blisters and splinters. Storing out of sunlight helps.

I saved the best for last. The cheap @#%&*@! tire from Taiwan goes flat and you are totally, humiliatingly unable to re-inflate it. What to do, except has Father advised, "Use a bigger hammer"?

First do what True Temper et. al. should have done. Wipe the inside edges of the rim with very fine emery cloth to remove all rust or other residue. Second, wipe the inside edge with a stiff lubricant - wheel bearing grease will do. Third, wind a rope tightly around the center of the tire several times, expanding the beads against both sides of the wheel-rim. Now you can connect your air pump to the tire-valve, and the air will stay in when you pump. And remember, it is a lot easier to check and reinflate the tire at reasonable intervals, than go through all these gyrations a second time.

Haul the compost, move the potted plants, mix the manure tea, mix lemonade for the family reunion (you might wash it first, then again, knowing your relatives, you might not) - your wheelbarrow is now your friend!
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Author:Godfrey, Richard
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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