How to Make Human-Powered Tools: Bike-Frame Cultivator

Human-powered tools are not only better for the environment than their gas and electric counterparts, they serve as an act of self-sufficiency, too. Learn how to build a bike-frame cultivator, and discover the difference human-powered tools can make.


| February 15, 2013



Human Powered Home Cover

"The Human-Powered Home," by Tamara Dean, is your complete guide to modern pedal-powered, treadled and hand-cranked devices for the home. 


Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers

What if I could harness some of all this energy my own body produces? An unusual question, to be sure — yet human power is a very old, practical and empowering alternative to fossil fuels.The Human-Powered Home (New Society Publishers, 2008), a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Book for Wiser Living, is a one-of-a-kind guide to human-powered tools gathered from a unique collection of experts. This book discusses the science and history of human power and examines the common elements of human-powered devices. For those who are beginning to understand the importance of a life of reduced dependency on fossil fuels, this book can be a catalyst for change. 

Buy this book in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Human-Powered Home.

Read more from The Human-Powered Home:
How to Make Human-Powered Tools: Treadle Sewing Machine 

The joy of working outdoors lies in appreciating nature. But birdsong and blossom-scented breezes are too often extinguished by the racket and smell of gasoline engines. Peace is the reason, many have told me, that they opt for human-powered lawn and garden tools. Others add that many human-powered tools work just as well, if not better, and as quickly as their motorized counterparts. Watch how long it takes someone to blow leaves off a sidewalk. Could sweeping them really take longer? Not only that, but human-powered tools are often more durable. In his book Homesteading: How to Find New Independence on the Land Gene Logsdon writes, “The [hand-pushed] cultivator makes no noise, always starts, never breaks down..., needs no gasoline, can be controlled easily to avoid plowing out vegetables — and mine is at least fifty years old.”

How to Make a Bike-Frame Cultivator 

Home gardeners might be familiar with the twisted back and cramped hands that result from hours of loosening dirt with a handheld cultivator. A cultivator attached to a modified bike frame, however, affords the gardener greater power and a more comfortable, ergonomic position. It also covers more ground in less time.

This plan is inspired by a bicycle cultivator mentioned in a 1981 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, though I’ve created a modified version that’s more durable in some ways and simpler to construct. The plan doesn’t call for welding skills or supplies, but if you have them, you could make your cultivator sturdier.





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