Roto-tiller conversion
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    Roto-tiller conversion

    I was given a large front tine tiller by a family friend, but when I tried to use it last fall I found that it is nearly impossible to control. I'm only 160 pounds with my boots on and there simply wasn't enough of me to keep the darn thing in the ground. My wife was watching my attempts to control the tiller from the deck and after she was done laughing, she suggested that I just sell it and get a small plow and a 3pt cultivator for my M. I was very ready to go along with her idea until I came across a few videos on YouTube showing walk behind tillers converted to garden tractor attachments. I shouldn't be allowed on YouTube because it fuels most of crazy ideas. My little Sears already has a 3pt hitch, this tiller is only a little narrower than the rear tires, and I'm a professional fabricator with an overactive imagination.

    I have a few ideas on how I want to do this, but rather than build something completely from scratch, I was wondering if anyone has attempted something similar and would like to share pictures or important lessons learned.

    I have been told by my better half that I must "clean and organize the garage before starting another one of your crazy-a** science projects." So needless to say this project may be on hold for a little while which gives me some time to figure it all out. If there is enough interest, I would be willing to start a build thread in case someone else is contemplating something similar... or if the rest of you just want some comic relief. Apparently I'm good for that sort of thing.
    rtgt, Levi, BigJim55 and 3 others like this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    Superglidesport's Avatar
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    Many years ago my Grandfather's next door neighbor bought a Craftsman front tine tiller and I damn near killed myself using it in the garden. It just bounced around and wanted to climb out and run away on me. I had blisters on my hands and sore arms for weeks. My Grandfather decided that the wheels were too close to the tines so he made a new set of brackets to move the wheels back about a foot. He also fabricated a center drop drag bar to keep the tiller from running away. These modifications made quite a difference. It was actually usable. The backset of the rear wheels moved the weight forward and the drag bar kept the tiller in the soil. We used it to till sand into the soil in the strawberry patch. That was about it. It wasn't any faster than turning the turf over by hand. But that was back in the '60's.

    As far as modifying the tiller for use behind a small garden tractor I'm sure it could be done. You'd probably need to add some weight to keep it planted.
    Last edited by Superglidesport; 02-21-2016 at 09:14 AM.
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    I had a front-tine tiller 20 or so years ago. It was only usable on loose soil. Once a garden plot was tilled, you could use it in the following years to turn the soil over before planting but there was no reasonable way to use it to till up a new plot. I couldn't get it to beat it's way through sod so I'd have to have someone else come in with a rear-tine tiller whenever I wanted to expand the garden area.

    I'd think one could be modified to drag behind a tractor and it might even be a fun little project but I'd bet that for the time & money invested, you can find a tiller meant to go behind the tractor on Craigslist.
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    rtgt's Avatar
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    This could be interesting.
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    Oh my, does this bring back memories. I used a front tine for years. It nearly pulled my arms off at shoulder when the ground was packed. It wasn't so bad after I got the soil broken up and fertilized a couple of years straight. Once I bought the tractor, that little tiller never saw my dirt again.
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    Had a front tine in TN, hated it. I agree with the sell it and buy a plow suggestion.


    That said, if you do decide to convert it I don't think it would be too hard. Leave it's own engine on it, and basically just add a hitch where the handle is now. You could even offset the hitch since it's narrower than the tractor so it would till out the tire track on one side.
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    The ground I tried to use it in had been a garden a few years ago, but is now grass. When I tried to drop the tines into the ground, I ended up crossing the whole backyard in about 3 giant steps before letting go and landing on my face. In hindsight, I guess it was probably pretty funny.

    My current plan is to keep the tiller as a self-powered unit and add a hitch to the front. I would probably make it semi-mounted in that it would still ride on its own wheels and the tractor's manual lift hitch would simply pick up the front. With the tractor's hitch setup for the back-blade it could use the blade's swivel point for turning. The old Sears weighs almost a thousand pounds with its wheel weights so I'm not worried about it being pushed around. Sears sold them with a bigger tiller than this one back in the day. I would have to come up with a way to move the throttle and tine clutch to a control box which I could reach from the tractor. The handles would probably be the only part of the original machine that I would remove.

    As of right now this is just in the "what if" stage. I might still take my wife's offer to sell the tiller and buy a plow and cultivator because I think that might be more versatile in the long run.
    Levi and BigJim55 like this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    Evergreen, why not sell the front tine and pick up a used PTO Tiller to run on the M? I see you already have done the 3 point hitch conversion, and would likely be cheaper than a plow and disc. Just a thought...
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    Evergreen's Avatar
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    I've considered a big tiller for the M, but I haven't found any used ones in good shape near me. A new one is out of the question as they are far too expensive. I'm trying to save up for a newer truck as my plucky old Ford is finally starting to die and any money I spend on gardening equipment is going to come out of that piggy bank. I can get both a nice one bottom plow and a one row cultivator for $300 to $450. I figure the steel needed to convert my existing tiller will be about $100.

    Good idea though.
    5304, Levi and BigJim55 like this.
    '50 Model M w/electronic ignition, 12v conversion, and a 3pt conversion plus a homemade snowplow, a Deere Model 51 trailer plow, a Woods RM59 finish mower, a Bark Buster splitter, and a few other toys.
    '69 Sears Suburban 14 48" deck and 42" back blade, an estate rake, and a sweeper.
    '07 F250 XL Powerstroke, crew cab, short box, 4x4.
    '85 F150... I finally sold my very first truck after racking up over half-a-million miles on the original drivetrain.

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    spferdil's Avatar
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    When we first moved here I had a Sears garden tractor with a Cat 0 3-point hitch with electric lift and a tiller for the 3-point with its own 8hp engine. It worked pretty well, first time I used it I dropped it on the ground with the times running full speed and had the clutch in on the tractor, it took me for a ride about 20 miles an hour across the yard.

    They still sell tillers like this for sleeve-hitch and even tow-behinds, you might get some ideas from looking at pictures of some these. One of the main things as you said would be to have the throttle and clutch where you can reach it from the tractor.

    Here is pics of one from TSC.

    Tow-behind Tiller
    Levi, BigJim55, Evergreen and 1 others like this.
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