Friday, June 28, 2013

Three Point Hitch

Most of what we're going to be doing building our unabomber cabin and making a little farm is all new to me.  We're learning as we go.  Not knowing what I'm doing has never stopped me before.  Why start now?

Take Bessie for example, our 1952 Ferguson tractor.  I never owned or operated a tractor before.  I did a bit of research on Al Gore's interwebs, found it on Craig's List, and bought it.   It has a manure bucket on the front that's very simple to use.  Pull a lever back, the bucket goes up.  Push it forward, it goes down.  I had that mastered in no time.  There is also a release lever for the bucket that dumps it.  Easy.  I've been loading the bucket with kindling, rocks, and fill and dumping it in piles here and there or my rental cabin's driveway.

The three point hitch is more of a challenge, as evidenced by the fact that I've bent the steel struts on it twice, and actually breaking one once.  It is hydraulic and goes up and down.  What I've figured out is that it shouldn't be engaged when the drawbar is mounted.  It's not designed to go up and down.  

There are many implements that can be mounted on the three point hitch that can go up and down. The first one I bought was the back blade. which I wrote about here.  Attaching an implement to the three point hitch is pretty simple.  There are two bottom links that attach on each side of the implement.  The third, the top link, can be a little tricky.  One end attaches to the tractor and the other to the top of the implement.  When attaching the back blade, I simply raised the two bottom links with the hydraulic control on the tractor until it lined up.  The top link also turns just like a turnbuckle on a sailboat, shortening it or lengthening it as needed.  Connect the top link, level the implement with the crank on the starboard bottom link, and you're good to go.

In the pic below, you can see the two bottom links connected to the blade.  The top link is not connected yet.

The pic below shows me aligning the top link.

What is really cool is that the three point hitch, invented by Harry Ferguson in 1926, was standardized across all makes of tractors by the 1960s.  The parts are all the same for each category of tractor (0 through 4), regardless of make.   Bessie is a category one, which is 20 to 45 HP.  I waltzed into Tractor Supply and bought a category one 25" top link and a 3/4" pin right off the shelf.  For a 60 year old tractor.  Imagine doing that for a 1952 automobile.

These little tractors are impressive machines.  They're really not much more than an engine and transmission with wheels bolted on.   Bessie only has 30 HP, but is all torque.  The geometry of the three point hitch and the drag force of the implement creates downward pressure and gives the little tractor more traction, enabling it to do what would require a much bigger tractor previous to Harry's invention.   And what it can do is very impressive.  I used the back blade to knock down the middle hump on the dirt and gravel road leading into our property, which is about a quarter of a mile long.  It took about three minutes.

Yesterday, before it rained AGAIN, I filled the bucket with two loads of sand and gravel and drove the mile to our rental cabin to fill in the driveway, and then smoothed it out with the back blade.

So I'll leave you with two thoughts.  If you're considering buying some land and being a mini-farmer, find yourself an old category one tractor like a Ferguson or Ford with a three point hitch and PTO (power takeoff, which I'll discuss in a future blog post).

And the second thought I'll leave you with.  I'm not a hillbilly.  I'm not a woodchuck.  I'm not a redneck.  I'm an Adirondack American.


  1. Is the ferguson gasoline or diesel? Please describe the engine and carb, if applicable. Enjoying your blog.

    1. The engine is a four cylinder gasoline engine built by Continental Motors in Muskegon, Michigan. On the nameplate is the phrase "Powerful as the Nation". It's 129 cubic inches, long stroke.

      The carburetor is an updraft. According to the specs, it is a Marvel Schebler TSX 458 updraft carburetor.