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Adding a sleeve hitch, hitch rod and plow

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Email Jim


John Deere 317 - Sleeve hitch, lift rod and plow

We've had an offer in on a home for a couple months (short sale - you don't want to do one of these!) and in the time we've been waiting for word on whether we've gotten it, I've been trying to assemble the tools to get a garden going at the possible new place. I had been considering a plow and a disk harrow or maybe a #33 tiller for my little garden tractor.  I will admit to be a rank newbie at tilling land with anything more than a pick, shovel, hoe and a rented power tiller, so I had some basics to learn before I could make any decisions on what to purchase.

One of the things I learned was that even if I did manage to find a tiller, I would do better by putting a plow to the ground first to break the soil. After the soil was turned over for the first time, the tiller would have an easier job of breaking the soil into a consistency suitable for planting my crops. Seeing as it is getting late in the summer already (July), I would probably only get a chance to turn the soil over and let the vegetation decompose over the winter. Come spring, I could plow and disk or use the tiller to get ready to plant.

Since the #33 tiller comes with a way to attach it to the tractor and a plow doesn't, I needed to make a choice on how I would attach the plow. There are two basic choices: a 3-point hitch or an Integral (sleeve) hitch. The 3-point adapts to a wider array of implements and is more expensive. The sleeve hitch is about half the cost but doesn't adapt to as many tools.

I started watching Ebay for both types. I saw a heck of a lot more of the sleeve hitches for sale. On occasion a 3-point would come up for sale, but prices for one that fit the 317 often went for more than $500. Sleeve hitches started at around $150 and sometimes topped $250. For plows, the ones that attached to a sleeve hitch were more common. You could also purchase a new Brinly plow from Sears for under $350 and used on Ebay they usually started at $100 plus shipping.

I found a kind of rusty sleeve hitch for a decent price and moderate shipping and as soon as I heard that it had been shipped, I found a slightly rusty plow that had been barely used. The owner had it listed as both an auction and a buy it now - but for local pickup only. He was about 700 miles from me, so that wouldn't work easily. However, on a chance, I wrote him and suggested that I'd pay the full 'buy it now' price and pay whatever the shipping was if he'd strip it down and pack it up for me. He agreed and within a few days I had both the sleeve hitch and plow. I got no crazy deals, but think I paid a fair price for both items.

All I needed now was to clean them up and give them a coat of paint to prevent more rusting. Oh, and I also needed to buy or make the hitch lift rod that allows the tractor's hydraulics to raise and lower the sleeve hitch. With the sleeve hitches being a fairly common Ebay item, you'd think that the rod used to lift and lower the hitch would be as well.  Not so much.  What I did see more of were the tiller lift rods. These are similar, but have an extra piece that gives you a finer adjustment to set the tiller height.  Ebay sellers usually think these things are made of gold and price them accordingly.

However all is not lost. Some nice guys measured and drew up some CAD drawings for both the sleeve hitch and the lift rod. They're posted over at www.wfmfiles.com. I had actually considered building the sleeve hitch, but when I priced the raw steel, I decided that it was more cost effective to buy a used one. Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming more and more common. The price of raw metal in small quantities is exorbitantly high. Conversely, and not really applicable to this instance, the prices on manufactured imported items are ridiculously cheap in comparison to raw materials. Sometimes the quality of the metal is enough to warrant the difference in price, but in my experience, usually not.  It always strikes me as a little strange that even though I have the tools, I can buy something cheaper than I can make it.

Anyway, there were no lift rods available on Ebay or elsewhere at the time I wanted one, so I bought the raw steel and made one. It was a fairly simple project if you are fortunate enough to have an Oxy/Acetylene setup with a rosebud head to assist with bending the steel. A milling machine for cutting the slots isn't a must, but it turns what could be a 4 hour drill and file job into less than an hour of setup and slotting on the mill.

This would have been a good job for an arc or mig welder. Unfortunately, all I presently have is a gas outfit, so it would have to do. Because of this I decided to pre-attach the slotted piece to the bar by drilling and tapping for screws. I figured that this would not only prevent the two pieces from moving while brazing them, but would also result in a little more strength in the joint. It turned out that it worked as planned and after silver brazing the joint, I'm confident that this joint will take any abuse I can give it.

For the adjustment of the pivot on the hitch end of the rod, I followed the plans, but wasn't really too happy with the results. It worked OK, but the inside of the U bend is an inch wide and the tab it attaches to is only 3/8" wide. I'm pretty sure this was a design decision to allow a nut to fit between the arms of the pivot piece, but there's a lot of slop there. Don't get me wrong, it would work fine, but it just didn't look right to my somewhat critical eyes. After building and attaching the lift rod as it was designed, I ended up using some 1-1/4" bar stock and machining a pivot with .410" slot.  A .410 slot on a .375" tab made for a better fit and gives the rod a better look. (In my humble opinion.) If I were to do it over again, I would substitute a 1/2"-13 tpi threaded rod for the 7/16" rod called for in the plans. I don't think it is needed for strength, it just would look a little beefier. The nice thing about using the bar stock with longer tapped threads is that it will work for both the tiller and for the sleeve hitch. With my clevis (pivot), there is about 3" of adjustment available.  Since I used a 14 tpi thread, each 1/2 turn of the clevis adjusts the rod length by about .036".  That should be plenty fine enough adjustment for both tiller and hitch. 

Assembling the plow was interesting. I've never worked with a plow before. I had read the Brinly plow manual and a couple other documents on how one goes about setting up a plow to produce good furrows, but it wasn't until I had the plow assembled on the floor that all I had read made sense. Pretty neat technology.  Reading the manual also saved me from some grief later as I had read about how to adjust the swing of the coulter.  When I began to clean up the coulter, I found that the pivot with arms that support the coulter disk and swivel on the shaft was rusted solid and the coulter  wouldn't swivel. It only took a short while to drift the pin out of the shaft and remove the arm assembly, then clean and lubricate the shaft, but I would have missed that had I not read the manual first. The drift pin limits the amount of swivel to about 15°.

All in all, a fun couple of projects and I'm really looking forward to putting the plow into the earth.  Hope we get that new place.

If you've read this far, I'm sure that you'd appreciate some pictures, so here you go:

lift 1
Milling the 5/8" hole on the pivot (clevis)
lift 2
Milling the radiused ends of the clevis.
lift 3
Checking the angle for the bend
lift 4
Milling the slot on the attachment piece
lift 5
Two pieces attached by screws
lift 6
Pieces have been silver brazed
lift 7
A little file work to clean things up
lift 8
Finished, but not painted with the original clevis
lift 9
Back side of lift rod
lift 10
New clevis is tried out
lift 11
Another shot of the clevis
lift 12
The sleeve hitch and lift rod are finished.
plow 1
Plow parts are painted and coulter shaft has been cleaned, lubricated and assembled
plow 2
Plow is assembled.  The plowshare face was left unpainted. I've read that this surface will polish itself in use. I also read that sometimes the paint will cause the soil to stick to the share. I just sanded the rust off and coated it with some oil.
plow 3
Another view. It cleaned up nicely.
plow 4
Rear view.






© Fager 7-23-11