Great Inventions: The Incredible History of the Garden Rake

October 09, 2017

Great Inventions: The Incredible History of the Garden Rake

Gardening has been around since the beginning, and the history of the garden rake goes back nearly as far.

As humans developed from hunters and gathers, so too did gardening. It was about 10,000 years ago when the first gardening tools were invented. In fact, it was in the Neolithic period when plants first became domesticated that we have the earliest record of farming inventions in the form of garden tools.

The very first tool was a microlith, a small sharp stone blade that was set into a handle made of wood or bone. It was used similarly to a spade and was considered a multi-use tool. During this time period, we also saw the invention of the garden rake.

The History of the Garden Rake 

The first mention of the garden rake can be found in 1100 B.C. in China. 

At that time it was used to gather and harvest hay and grain while also clearing fields of leaves and plant refuse. The first rakes were made of all wood—wooden tines attached to a head through holes—but even then, their basic shape was the same as it is today.

Then, in the Bronze Age, humans developed the smelting process.

This allowed us to take tin, copper, and iron and transform them into purified ore that could be turned into easily workable metal. With these new processes, many garden tools, including the rake, were made out of solid pieces of material, which made them sharper and sturdier.   

Over the centuries, little has changed about the garden rake except for how it has been made. Before the industrial revolution, garden rakes were handmade just like every other tool. This made them highly valuable and important possessions for farmers of all types. It was only after the industrial revolution that things began to change.

Once the world could use machinery and metalwork to mass-produce items, the garden rake become a common household item.

In America, the Charlotte Genter and Bernard McMahon Company sold most of the garden rakes produced the 18th century, and every family that could afford one owned them.

At this time, many different types of garden rakes were also introduced. While most rakes had metal heads, which made them stronger and gave them the ability to pull up tough layers of soil and stones, there was variety in the handle length and shape of the head. Some rakes were long-handled for extended reach while others were short for close-up work. Some heads were wide while others were fan-shaped and still others were narrow and rigid with strong prongs. 

Modern Garden Rakes 

Not much has changed in the last thousand years of the history of the garden rake. It still has the same basic design, the only difference being small changes such as an ergonomically shaped head and handle.

Garden rakes can be made from a number of different materials and they come in a range of sizes. Most often, the common garden rake harkens back to its history beginning with a wooden handle attached to a metal head. However, you can find garden rakes made of almost any type of material from all plastic to all metal, bamboo, and a mix of everything in between. 

The latest improvement to the garden rake is the telescoping handle. This type of handle provides a new level of variability for the user, allowing the gardener to reach areas that would have been impossible to reach in the past.

Types of Rakes 

Nowadays, there are a few common types of garden rakes that you’ll run across:

  • Spring Tine Rake: This is a fan-shaped leave rake also known as the springbok.
  • Bow Rake: Also known as the soil rake, this type of flat-topped rake has strong prongs for difficult tasks.
  • Lawn Rake: This rake is also referred to as a de-thatching rake and is used to de-thatch a lawn. 

There have also been many specialty rake inventions for a variety of specific tasks from small ones (short-handled) for working up close at the base of delicate plants to long-handled rakes for greater reach. 

Garden Tool Inventions 

Now, in the 21st century, we still use garden rakes that are similar to what was around back in 1100 B.C., but we also have many new tools and gadgets that make our lives easier. For example, Rake-n-Tamp is a multifunction yard tool that rakes and then retracts to reveal a flat tamping device.

If you think you have the next latest and greatest garden tool invention that rivals the rake, we’d love to see it.