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Why and how the VersaTill Garden Grooming System was developed

As a life-long gardener, Alan Johnson developed an appreciation for the bounty of a garden, but a distinct dislike for some of the drudgery that went with it. His father was a lumber jack and sawyer in the 1920's who used a two-man saw and double-bit axe to harvest timber and later owned a retail lumber yard until he retired in the 1970's. His father taught Alan to appreciate hand tools – especially well designed and quality made ones.

After buying a hand cultivator that was a disappointment, Alan decided to try to design a more efficient cultivator. After many prototypes and testing, the Maxadyne Wheel Hoe was patented in 1988. With only minor design changes, it continues to be sold today and has won praise and appreciation, especially from market gardeners.

Realizing that there was a need for a tool that would get into places where a wheel hoe was not practical, Alan started trying to improve the common hand hoe in 2009. Again, many prototypes were made and much testing done, some of it by Hunt Utility Group, an unbiased nonprofit research organization. The result was the VersaTill Garden Grooming System, which is described below.

Design Objectives:

As gardeners weed and cultivate their garden, they inevitably encounter varied conditions such as a narrow gap between cultivated plants; larger areas with weed growth; perhaps a large area of small, shallow rooted weeds, and an occasional large deep rooted weed.

In the same garden, you may have weeds with thick, woody roots and weeds with shallow, succulent roots. You may encounter areas of hard-packed soil that need to be tilled deeply to improve aeration and water absorption. Obviously, one weeding tool is not efficient for all the weeding and cultivation situations a gardener typically encounters in the garden.

A wide cutting edge is most efficient when larger areas of small, shallow-rooted weeds are encountered. Conversely, a narrow cutting edge is best to ‘root out’ larger, deep rooted weeds or when weeds are between closely spaced plants. Other cultivation tasks might include forming a furrow for planting seeds or bulbs or forming a channel for irrigation. These tasks are best accomplished with specialized implements.

To meet the various garden cultivation challenges mentioned above, numerous hoe designs have attempted to make multi-purpose tools for weeding and tilling. The VersaTill Garden Grooming System has succeeded in making a multi-functional cultivation tool where others have failed. It took several years of designing and testing prototypes to arrive a practical design.

Design Considerations

The design goals in the development of the VersaTill was to make a tool that was:

A) Adaptable to various garden cultivation tasks

B) Economical to manufacture.

C) Capable of utilizing two distinct tools on a common handle.

D) Capable of quick and easy tool head changes.

E) Capable of utilizing a variety of ‘two-tool’ combinations on the same handle.

F) Configured so that the non-working tool head is not in conflict with the operator.

G) Easy to pack and ship.

H) Efficient in providing mechanical advantage for the operator.

I) Designed with ergonomic principles in mind so that long term or intensive use will not cause injury.

J) Capable of switching implements from a long handle to a short handle.

K) Easy and quick to be converted from right hand operation to left hand operation.

L) A tool system which will accept a wide range of tool heads for tilling, furrowing, hilling, raking, leveling, and various weeding tasks

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