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Exclusive Article
Box Plow Blues
Tom Schwarz

One of the first implements most tractor owners obtain is the box plow. For very little money, this piece of equipment promises to plow and flatten any hill or vale on your ranch road or farm. At least that's what I thought! As simple as a box plow appears, it can be rather challenging to make work correctly.

In our sandy soils of Florida, traction is king. You can never have wide enough tires or heavy enough weights to get all the traction you want unless you own a monster tractor. Unlike today's tractors, many antique tractors suffer from low rear wheel weight and their traction problems. Couple this with a three-point hitch that doesn't offer a power-down or auto-float feature and you end up with a sure case of the "Box Plow Blues".

So what are the "Box Plow Blues"? Simply put, it's the inability to control the plow height properly. This results in the plow either digging in and stopping the tractor or "plowing air". With soft sandy soils, digging in the plow usually means digging big holes with the tires.

Controlling the raising and lowering speed of the plow can solve the "Box Plow Blues". I have three simple rules to obtain control of a box plow:

1) Set your desired lowering speed while standing still. The lowering speed should be slow enough so that you can stop the lowering without getting to much bite in the dirt and fast enough so that you're not missing the area that you want to plow while moving.

2) Many three-point hitches move slower at lower throttle settings. On my tractor, the normal engine operating speed is 2700 RPM, but I run at 1500 RPM with the box plow. Lower your engine speed to make the raise and lower speeds of the three-point hitch match. This will result in predictable up and down movement of the plow.

3) Select a gear that allows you to comfortably operate the plow with this new throttle setting and lowering setting. The faster you go, the more likely you are to lug the engine. With that said, go as fast as possible to take advantage of the momentum of the tractor while avoiding lugging.

These rules are essential for forward travel with a box plow. Working in reverse adds one more rule that you probably already know. The faster you go, the less likely it is that you will lose traction.

I'm convinced that a Chiropractor designed the box plow. Turning around in the seat and twisting the neck to watch it really causes a good neck ache after a while. As for managing neck strain when using a box plow, I recommend going home to your husband/wife and getting a good massage and a hot bath after a long day on the tractor. Now that makes it all better!

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