How to Make a Homemade Hay Baler

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Actually, the idea of a "stationary baler" such as this homemade hay baler isn't new, many farms formerly had such devices.

Here in Oregon, baled hay is now selling for between $50.00
and $90.00 a ton, If prices are similar in your area, maybe
you’ve looked into the possibility of raising your own and
given up when you found that balers, tractors, rakes, wind
rowers, etc, cost a small fortune, But what if you learned
that you could put up a ton of baled hay a day or even just
half a ton with no outlay other than the expense of a
barrel? Well, you can with a homemade hay baler!

First, it’s important to realize that many fields of grass
which go uncut because of the high cost of conventional
haymaking could be harvested by less expensive methods like a homemade hay baler. A
tractor mower is great if you can get the use of one, but
if not, a small meadow can be cut by hand (and raked in the
same way).

You may not even have to do any cutting. In this state, the
highway department owns a large amount of land in the form
of right-of-ways, some of which may never be used. The
tracts are mowed regularly each year and then just left
alone … and, with proper permission, the grass is yours for
the raking. Be careful, however, not to gather hay that has
been sprayed, or grown by the side of a really heavily
traveled road (motor vehicle exhaust does contain lead, you
know). Incidentally, straw left after the harvest of grass
seed or grain may also be collected and baled by simple
methods.

Amateur haying can be quite effective. One of us, in fact,
made a ton of hay in a single long working day just by hand
raking cured grass and packing it in a homemade gadget that
cost practically nothing and operated very well.

Actually, the idea of a “stationary baler” such as this homemade hay baler isn’t new, many
farms formerly had such devices. Although we’ve never seen
one of the old-time models, we understand that the machine
was basically a large, cubical mold into which cured hay
was piled. A horse was then walked in a circle to raise a
weight that, when tripped, dropped to compact the fodder.
The advantage of this system over loose storage was slim if
there was any at all. The invention we’re about to describe
is a much smaller unit, intended for use by those who want
to put up modest amounts of hay but have no access to
standard equipment.

The basis for our love-cost baler is a 55-gallon drum,
modified as follows (see image gallery for hay baler illustration):

  • Remove one end of the barrel.
  • Cut the container
    down the middle in half lengthwise to form two equal,
    semi-cylindrical halves.
  • Weld two hinges, appropriately
    spaced, to one of the long seams.
  • Welt! two sets of
    tabs (cut from scrap angle iron) to the edges of the other
    seam, so that the two sides of the opening are equipped
    with facing surfaces which can lie clamped together, You’ll
    also need an X-shaped configuration of wood or metal, with
    a hook or bent nail at each extremity. This device should
    just fit into the bottom of the container.

To prepare the baler for operation, close the drum and
secure the edges of the two halves with clamps screwed to
the tabs. Cut two lengths of baling twine —
no substitutes — and drape them down in the barrel so that they
cross each other at right angles with their center sections
held by the hooks at the bottom of the barrel and their
free ends hanging over the drum’s wall. The ends of the
strings are then fastened loosely to a band of twine
running around the outside of the barrel, to keep them from
falling down inside the container and being lost when the
hay is added.

OK, you’re all set to make a bale. Just pack the barrel
with loose hay, stomp on the fodder to compact it, and tie
each length of twine with a “trucker’s hitch”: Loop one end
of the string, pass the other through the loop, cinch up,
and secure the fastening with a double half hitch. Then
remove the clamps, open the barrel, and take out your
product. You’ll find a bundle weighing 50 to 70 pounds not
as neat or compact as those formed by the conventional
baler, but still a functional, easily stored unit. Yep,
this rather primitive method really works and the price of
the equipment is hard to beat.