A rake is just a rake. Or is it? When you want to move stuff around in your yard, using just any old rake may not be the best strategy. There are actually a few different types of rakes, each with a specific function. And you really want to use the appropriate rake for the particular task at hand. Not only will working with the right kind of rake be more effective and efficient, but your task will be easier and more enjoyable as well.
There are two main reasons for using a rake: To collect, move or loosen things (usually leaves or other detritus and yard debris), or to incline or level earth or ground material. To accomplish these things, a rake requires two main parts; the tines and the handle. Let’s talk a bit about each one.
Rake tines are usually made of metal, bamboo or plastic (or some kind of polymer). Plastic tines are strong, and give you a greater sense of control over leaves, especially if you rake them only when you absolutely have to. They’re not very flexible though, and can snap, especially in cold temperatures. Metal tines are long-lasting and resilient. In my opinion, metal tined rakes are not quite as effective as plastic if you’re moving large amount of leaves or wet leaves, but it’s the longest lasting and most resilient type of tine. I like metal rakes for dry, lightweight detritus And bamboo tines are nice and gentle on your greenery. These are great for raking in beds or over moss or groundcover.
Rake handles are made of fiberglass, aluminum or wood. You want your handle to be somewhat supple, comfortable and lightweight. Certainly raking is beneficial to your fitness, but unless you want to turn yardwork into a weight training regimen, you don’t need the extra heft. Some rakes have padded handles. These are perfect if you prefer not to wear gloves while raking (I can’t imagine not wearing gloves while doing yard work, but that’s just me) or if you tend to get blisters easily.
Unless you have a project that calls for a specific type of rake, you probably need only three different rakes for regular yard care and outdoor projects.
Sometimes called lawn rakes. This is the kind of rake you usually picture when you think about raking leaves. And that’s just what they’re for – moving leaves and lightweight nature off your lawn. The tines are flexible and fan out in a triangle. Leaf rakes are sold in various widths, usually ranging from 18” to 24” wide, although you can find extra-wide rakes up to about 30”. You can cover a lot of ground with one of those!
Also called ground rakes or level head rakes. This type of rake is used more for landscaping projects than for raking leaves. This is the rake you want to use if you need to move or spread dirt, sand, gravel, mulch or other ground covering, work soil, or create a grade (a slope). The tines of a bow rake are short, thick and more widely spaced than those of a leaf rake. They’re made of rigid metal, usually steel, and are set on a straight edge. These rakes are tough and can also be used for jobs that are more demanding than a leaf rake can handle, such as gathering sticks and stones.
This rake looks like a leaf rake, but the tines are more compact and spread in a smaller fan, enabling it to fit into small or tight spaces. Usually about 6” to 10” wide, a shrub rake allows you to rake under shrubbery, around ground level softscape, close to and under fences, and around boulders or other hardscape obstacles.
You can really complete most any ordinary raking task using one of the three types of rakes discussed above. If you’re considering expanding your repertoire of rakes, there are a couple of others that might prove useful.
A smaller version of either a shrub rake or a bow rake, the hand rake simply has a shorter handle than a full sized rake. These are used for working close up in a bed of flowers or shrubs. In other words, you’re on your knees or sitting on a stool.
Also known as a cavex rake, these are used for removing thatch from your lawn. The tines are actually sharp, blade-like teeth that pull thatch out from the ground at the roots of your grass. This is a two sided rake, one side designed to break up the thatch; the other side is used to remove it.
These are pretty much the extent of the various types of rakes you’ll need for use in your day to day yard work. Even if you’re doing a bit of DIY work here and there, the rakes described above will usually suffice.
You don’t have to pay a fortune for a rake, but the quality of the rake’s construction will make a difference in what the rake will cost you in the long run. The leaf rake I use cost me about $30.00 ten years ago, and although it definitely looks that old, it works just as well now as it did when I first bought it. My friend bought a rake two years ago, on sale for about twelve bucks. Not such a bargain considering she needs a new one already. I’m just sayin’.