Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grandkids Go for an Oxcart Ride

Scout the Ox is a little over 8 months old now. He pulls the cart like a champ, however he doesn't overlook an opportunity to head for the ditch to grab a few mouthfuls of grass. Get-up is mastered, he knows whoa but doesn't always do it. He needs a lot more work on gee and haw. In general he is more responsive to touch --- to push --- or to pull than to verbal cues. He does very well staying with the program --- if I'm walking near his head or shoulders.

Photos taken on July 2, 2010

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Noelia said...

Hi, Looks like a nice steer doing good work. I think you need to make a different yoke. I'm not going to say that yoke is not well made, I saw your youtube videos on making it, but it is very poorly DESIGNED. I think this is simply because you don't understand how a bow yoke functions exactly? Maybe never seen one used up close? You are obviously a good woodworker and have all the tools an knowledge to make a much better yoke for Scout than that thing. A good reference would be "Oxen: A Teamster's Guide" by Drew Conroy. There are measured drawings of ox yokes and instructions for making them in the book. Another good reference would be Tillers International. They have plans and tech guides for sale and for free for yokes and other ox equipment. Just google them. Traditional yokes are hewn from green wood and then dried before use. This is a pain. I usually use plained dimensional lumber and laminate it up to the size I need, you obviously know how to do this as you used the technique more or less when making that yoke. The problems with that yoke are first that your neck seat is all wrong, if he was pulling anything like a real load it would be incredibly uncomfortable for him, and he'd never work to his potential, you'll also find training him and working him much easier if he's in a yoke that is comfortable. The other problem is your hitch points are way to high, the center of gravity of the yoke is way to high, not a problem with no load in shafts but try getting him to pull that sled with anything like a meaningful load and you'll want something better right away.

LTD said...

Noelia —

Thanks for your comments! I’m very pleased to hear from you.

You are right on about the yoke!

It works quite nicely on the cart without a load and not too bad with the kids on the cart, however — with one or two adults riding it does not function very well — and he refuses to pull anything like farm equipment (not that I force the issue).

Now if I may explain myself a bit.

There is a dearth of information available on yokes for a single ox. What I do find about yokes in the kinds of places you’ve mentioned seems steeped in an aura of 19th Century tradition. I decided one day to put together something without spending any money, to see what I could learn about what works and what doesn’t work — and why. I started with a scrap four by four.

I found the hitch points were clearly too high on that, so I lowered them by gluing a block on each side. (At this point I did spend some money — I bought the longer eyelet bolts.) This improved the function of the “Yoke.” I also added the width, from head to toe, to distribute the weight over more area of the neck for comfort. The improvements helped but the hitch points are still way too high.

So I’m contemplating how to lower the hitch points without interfering with the forward swing of the shoulders. I have several poorly formed ideas in mind. Meanwhile Scout is very patient and rapidly outgrowing “that thing!”


Noelia said...

You don't need to worry about the forward swing of the shoulders. The shoulders of cattle are loose, if the ox is wearing a properly fitted yoke, the bow should slide between the shoulder and the neck on the forward stride, look at some of the youtube videos that Tillers has, there is at least one of them where they show this specifically. Modern American bow yokes are descendants of 19th Century tradition but they are the product of a continuous evolution towards a better more efficient yoke system due to the desire to beat out their neighbors at the pulling contests at the fairs. One of the biggest differences between modern yokes and old fashioned pioneer or 19th century yokes is emphasis on a smooth elliptical neck seat. This eliminates pressure points as the yoke rotates and maintains maximum bearing surface. The neck seat on your yoke is going to give more concentrated pressure the more the yoke rotates. And it is SUPPOSED to rotate down into the shoulder pockets, that is the other main difference between modern yokes and older yokes, the hitch point dropped much farther, this turns the bow into additional bearing surface, spreading the load out further. Since scout is growing I'd just make a new yoke for him. Don't pooh pooh the yokes you see in the tillers videos untill you've tried them. I'll try to link to a photo of my cow when she was at a similar age to Scout. If you can see the pic, the firewood behind her was all moved by her in that yoke. Notice the dropped hitch points. http://i413.photobucket.com/albums/pp217/Oxbowfamily/Daisy%20Pics/P1200009.jpg

LTD said...

Thanks again — especially for the photo of your ox and yoke — it made my day. I’ve been carrying around a piece of paper in my pocket with a rough sketch on it that looks just like your yoke!

Did it work well enough for you that you have continued with the design? I’ve been concerned with the shoulders bumping into an A shaped yoke like yours — apparently that’s not been a problem for you? The single yoke in Tillers International PDF booklet is narrow and doesn’t come down the side of the neck, only the bows, which fit behind the forward swinging shoulders.

When you laminated the wood did you start with very wide boards or did you use narrower boards overlapped and joined at the apex of the neck?

“A smooth elliptical neck seat” and a yoke that “rotates.” I think I’m beginning to get it.

I took elliptical to mean concave, from side to side — but am I right to say you are talking about from front to back —so in cross section the neck seat has a convex, rocking chair shape to accommodate the rotation that occurs when force is applied at the (lowered) hitch points? With a flat yoke seat (like mine), when it rotates it tips up onto the “corner” resulting in a very narrow pressure point?

I have two other ideas sketched on my paper — neither of which looks much like a yoke at all — but I’ll save those for another day.

Too bad the ox doesn’t come with a trailer hitch as standard equipment.