WANTED: Bamboo leaf rake that doesn’t lose teeth or handle for at least one season. Preferably with a padded sleeve to grip, rather than just a skimpy, plain wood rod. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so; I fear my ideal of the bamboo rake—a tool I have always loved for its light weight, easy on the raker and the residents of the bed being raked—has gone extinct.
It has joined the perfect long-handled shovel, another tool I just cannot seem to replace since mine broke years ago. Sigh.
I am not a bruiser, nor is the person who helps in the garden part-time. We don’t try to rake gravel or too-heavy piles of wet, matted leaves, with a bamboo rake; we know it’s not the right tool for those jobs. But one recent spring we busted three brand new bamboo leaf rakes in their first month of use, raking borders and lawn. The crappy metal strap (above) that holds the tines in place let go in no time on all; on one, some teeth snapped, too.
One recent raking season we were virtually rakeless, down to a couple of those awful green plastic rakes that have become the fashion, purchased in emergency mode the previous fall when nothing else was available nearby.
Searching for my dream rake, I found myself in the tool aisle of the nearest garden center talking bamboo rakes. Three of us—the owner, a nursery employee and I—recollected the good old days when McGuire made them. No more. (I did find a vintage newspaper ad for them, though, above.)
Of the current bamboo contenders, the teeth are often too long and too curved, but most important: that damn strap is inadequate to hold the fan of tines together.
No bamboo types at any local outlet made the cut, so I reluctantly took home something called a Yard Butler rake (model LT-20). This unusual metal spring rake violates my rule of never buying any tool with a cute name. It’s very tough and flexible, compared to a typical metal spring rake, a tool I never use. The tines sort of float in a perforated metal strap that spans them (above), creating that combination of durability but extra flexibility.
The new rake cost much more and will presumably last much longer than my coveted bamboo one. It has a slightly too-small head and an unpadded handle. But I had leaves to rake, miles and piles of them, so onward it and I go together. So far, so good, I’ll reluctantly admit, though I confess to continuing bamboo fantasies. A couple of brands I cannot find locally are on mail-order–just in case they prove any good.
What tool are you armed with as you tackle garden cleanup? Steel spring lawn rake? Or maybe the telescoping, expandable metal kind some friends favor, but I’ve never fallen for? If you happen to know a source for vintage McGuire bamboo rakes or the equivalent, I’ll be forever grateful.
(Disclosure: Purchases from Amazon affiliate links yield a small commission.)
Okay, so that’s great for the rakes. I have a different problem. I have a 3 tined cultivator that must be 40 or 50 years old. It’s the only thing I use in my garden for weeding and working fertilizers into the soil. I’ve looked and looked and never seen one in my local stores. I live in Northern Minnesota. Anybody know what I’m talking about??? And yes, this probably is off-topic. Sorry.
Is it long-handled or short-handled, Donna?
Is that the “Garden Weasel” you speak of? I have one of those. The middle wheel is removeable and the long handle can unscrew to be used as a hand tool for more control around mature plants.
I have my dad’s cultivator. I haven’t used it, but if it’s great on weeds, I should try it out. Now is the time to get some of those favorite ( aka really good tools back on the market. I own 3 McGuire rakes and I’d like to replace one. I’m bummed that I might not find them available any more.
Know how you feel about a favorite tool not being made anymore. I, too, loved our old bamboo rake but alas, as you learned, they are made no more. You know what? With the emergence of bamboo being used for so many items, cutting boards to floors, I bet the rakes will be offered!
Totally my experience too….love using Bamboo rakes, gentle, don’t make noise and lightweight. But they seem to self-destruct. Have looked for quality replacements to no avail, the metal devices or the ties that hold bamboo blades seem to get caught & pull away. I still find the smaller 6″ or so which I use but find only the much too wide bamboos that don’t work for me. So I have just acquired from nursery center a bit noisy metal rake called Yard Butler –“World’s greatest rake” it curves in a bit, with spring-back tines for leaves and needles and cones…..testing so jury still out.! Supplied by Lewis tools, Poway, CA.
Please manufacturers out there hear are plea!….Jan
That’s the one I got, too, Jan, about two weeks ago. It works well, but as you say: noisy, and not my dear old bamboo rake. But for now it’s my best choice, or at least the best one I can find.
I sell vintage things online and haunt my local Habitat for Humanity Restores. They always have old tools. I’ve gotten many handy things to use around the house for $1 or less….and old things that were quality made….not the cheap junk manufactured today. I would pay a visit there every now to see what they have……you never know. Craiglist too. People clean out old garden sheds all the time. I have several of the little version of the bamboo rakes….inherited from my grandfather….probably dating to the 1950s. Still going strong. Excellent to use in my rather packed flower beds.
After reading about your “perfect” rake, I went out and lo & behold my favorite
rake is a McGuires too. Mine is still in good working condition and has only lost one
tine. I wonder if you could remove the padding and put it on the new rake?
Funny, Colleen; a good old McGuire! I think there are probably DIY methods of applying foam tape or foam tubing to the handles…so I will investigate (if I ever take a break from raking up winter’s mess). :)
Just a thought, their is a foam wrap used for the handlebars on bicycles. Perhaps that might work.
Hi, Jeanne. That’s what I am thinking…
I love bamboo rakes for their light weight. The next best thing, however, is the Flexrake. It’s a California classic that has been made in the USA for many years. See:
A shared experience certainly can bring a smile. I refuse to give up my bamboo rake which is missing 8 tines ( I just went outside to count). The gentle sound of a working bamboo rake is indeed part of its appeal. I will keep an eye out for bamboo rakes lurking in some old hardware store’s back room.
Oh how I relate. I must gather one whenever i spy one. Oh if we had known when we were young and bamboo rakes were what were available. Ahhh the gentle memories.
Bamboo rakes are in CT Star Hardware stores by a co called Rudd out of Greenfield, MA. made in china but have 30″, 24″ and small 6″ ones for under bush cleanup.
Too bad McGuire are not made anymore. Sad that US can’t reboot a good product like that.
Rudd of Greenfield MA makes the only bamboo rakes I have found. Can order online or through Ace Hardware. I have the 24″ & 6″ ones on order now. I plan to slit the still good foam handle cover off my Martha Stewart/K-Mart 30-year old bamboo rake & clasp it around my new rake handle with a little glue to stabilize.
As a retailer, I to am frustrated by the lack of quality bamboo rakes that are available. The ones I have been able find so far, are at best what I would refer to as disposable after a single use, if that.
The idea of a rake with a padded handle concerns me though. Within the industry, most of the padded and painted handles are sold that way to disguise the inferior quality of the wood, and or the poor alignment of the wood grain. Never buy a long handled wooden tool where the grain is hidden in any way, even if it is a so called beneficial feature.
Buy some nice padded palmed gloves, that way all of your tools will have padded handles!
Thanks, Jack, for sharing your common frustration — my local garden center owner says the same. Disposable is right. Ridiculous. Interesting on the padded handle/disguise aspect. Thank you.
I just did a search and came across Arett Sales….they have a bamboo garden rake manufactured by McGuire. Is it the rake you are looking for?http://arett.com/catalog/ProductDetail.aspx?ItemNo=F58%20CFP30
In addition to seeking a well made. used bamboo rake at yard and garage sales, try Freecycle in your area. Tools don’t get Offered too often here at the Jersey Shore but if you ask if anyone has one to get rid of, you may get lucky and it will be free.
Hida Tools and Hardware in Berkeley CA has bamboo rakes both large and small. Their store and catalog are fascinating for gardeners, lovers of kitchen and other knives and woodworking. I enjoy visiting the store when I visit my brother in Berkeley and have found their tools are of high quality and often a comfortable fit for a woman’s hands.
Thanks, Anne, for the recommendation!
Thanks for the compliment. My family invented the flexible lawn rake and manufactured McGuire rakes for years. So sorry to see that the company that purchased the business from us has let them die. They WERE the best. – Jessie McGuire
So wonderful to hear from you, Jessie. I miss your family’s heirlooms! :) Thanks for saying hello.
I just read the rest of the comments. McGuire Industries is NOT the George W. McGuire Co. I guess that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I think they started in rafia lawn furniture from the Philippines.
The McGuire rake was unique for many reasons: the choice of a certain species of bamboo and only the male of that species; the fact that the larger ones were made from the a single piece of bamboo. A stalk of bamboo was fed thru what looked like a bicycle wheel with blades as spokes. Normally when the tines fall, they are put into a bin. Someone grabs 18, or 24, or 36… and assembles them into a fan shape. When the larger McGuire rakes were assembled, all the tines were from the same stalk in the position in which they came out. Their tendency was to pull together. It’s a small thing, but it definitely led to the sturdiness of the McGuire rakes.
My grandfather invented the flexible lawn rake and it was a product we were always proud of as a family. It’s very nice to hear that the name at least is still respected. I tried to buy one a couple of years ago also… couldn’t find one. They were just too labor intensive for the firm that bought the company. We had the raw heads shipped into the country and assembled them in Queens, NY. The little rakes you mention were originally made for my cousin who wanted to rake under her porch steps in Florida. My grandfather sent her a dollar for the idea! They were made by a school bus driver on his down time.
It was a nice, small family business for several years. Thanks for remembering it.
Here it is nearly 2019 and my bamboo rake which I have many times tuned and replaced screws had finally died after 25 years. I’m surprised to find there’s none to be bought locally in the San Francisco area. There’s only metal tined rakes which I can’t stand the harsh sound against pea gravel. It also doesn’t lay the gravel more flat, nor is able to quickly access between boarder rocks. The sound and process of a bamboo rake is tranquil and even meditative. Wish me luck, ordering online. Any idea why metal not bamboo is marketed in stores?
I have been able to get fairly good life out of the cheap bamboo rakes. I replace the inadequate tine clamp with a hose clamp. They are not very expensive and can be reused on the next rake after the tines wear out. Next problem is I can even get a bamboo rake locally. Last one I ordered online and picked up in an Ace hardware store to avoid shipping cost.
I’m nursing five bamboo rakes of various ages and spans, one I’ve repaired with new steel wire binding, three missing at least one tine each, so I was browsing to shop for enhancing my collection, given their tendency to fail with age and raking too close to a chain link fence which occasionally catches a tine. I’m reading good reviews about a poly something Lowes has, so there’s something here to contemplate. Sad news that I can’t find a source for new bamboo rakes.
Maybe pad the handle with bicycle handlebar tape?
Plastic rakes leave micro-plastics. Get rid of them!
Braid the tines to the metal comb using twine. You’ll end up with x-shaped braids across pairs of blades. Paint the braids with shellac to cement them solid. You’ll never tear out a blade again. New shellac every season or two. Same concept at the head of the splines where they all come together at the handle; wrap in twine, cement with shellac.
My bamboo rake just lost two tines after raking leaves in 45 mph winds. The only bamboo rake found online is the one made by Rugg for $100.00 at Walmart. Anyone know where the reasonably priced but well made ones are?
I am a Bamboo or nothing rake guy. If you can believe it I needed one in 2013 and in all of Canada not one to be had! We were going to Palm Springs in our motorhome so I checked with an Ace Hardware store near the resort we had booked. EUREKA for $12.99 ( I think) they brought it in for me and when we arrived I picked it up. Our new friends at the resort thought I was a bit ‘off ‘because I was so eager to get home on use it!!
Now in 2022 I want to get another one ( new summer spot we just bought) as a backup ‘just in case’ and we are headed to Phoenix next week. I hit a roadblock at a store near where we are staying…..I will try again when I chill a bit.
Cheers to you.