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How We Bale Hay by Hand

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How we bale hay by hand

We don’t own a tractor, so we cut and bale our hay by hand. Last year, we stored it loose in several sheds and anywhere we could find a few square feet of dry storage space. This year, we have a hand baler. A friend in Texas sent us a link and Hubby set to work on it. The baler in the plans is for use in making a bale of pine straw, but it works just fine baling our mixed-grass hay.

Our hayfield is about 10-12 acres, so obviously we are doing this a little at a time. Hubby cuts the grass with our brush-mower. Once it’s dry, I use a fan rake to rake it up in windrows.

Baling hay by hand

This is the hand baler, all set up to make hay bales by hand.

Our homemade hay baler

Right now we are using baling wire because we had two rolls of it in the garage, left by a prior owner. The plans call for the use of baling twine, which will be much faster to set up, and we plan to buy some on our next trip to town.

Note that the wire/twine is not run through the eye screws on the bottom of the baler, but between the eye and the wooden piece, just to keep it in place. Once you finish tying up the bale, the wire/twine slips out. Quite ingenious!

Baling hay by hand

Setting up the wire to make a new bale.

How we bale hay by hand

So, first we string the wire/twine, then shut the door of the baler. Hay is added through the opening in the top. When full, the plunger is used to pack down the hay, then more is added. Finally, with the plunger depressed, the bale is tied up tightly.

Our homemade hay baler

Release the plunger, open the door, and remove the bale of hay.

Our homemade hay baler, how we bale hay by hand

They are larger than what we’d envisioned. My best guess is that they are about half the size of a regular small square bale. This will make storage and feeding so much easier.

How we bale our hay by hand

I've been asked for some additional photos of the hay baler, so have added a few more photos below. (Please excuse the pile of Stuff in the background.)

Instead of the rod where they attach the "eye" of the twine, ours has 2 small nails on the back of the baler for the same purpose. (Click on the photo to make it larger, then look for the nail. It's about 6" down.)

Homemade hay baler

Also, there are two screw-in eyes (as in hook and eye) on the bottom of ours - the twine is threaded between the wooden rib and the eye (not through the eye) to hold it in place as we put in the hay. It then pops out when the finished bale is removed.

Homemade hay baler

We found that the heaviest baling twine works the best; we had trouble with lighter twine breaking. We've also used baling wire with success.

How to bale hay by hand

Baling hay by hand with a homemade hay baler

I hope these are helpful. My hubby agrees that the plans online are pretty vague.

Baling Pine Straw using a Hand Powered Box Baler  Pine Straw Hand Baler Plans    A hand-powered, box baler can be easily constructed from common materials as outlined below. A average person should be able to bale approximately 100, 35-40 pound bales per day using this baler.:
I believe this photo is public domain. If it isn't,
please inform me so I can remove it. Thank you.


Unfortunately there are no step-by-step directions for building the baler. 
The following links are the only and best "plans" I can find.

UPDATE 8-11-2012:
I've found a website with directions to build a hand-powered leaf and hay baler. While this one is a different type - horizontal rather than vertical - the principle is the same, and some might appreciate the step-by-step building instructions.)

UPDATE 7/11/2016:

Plans to download:

12/2/2017 (Thank you, Laurie)

Here's a video showing how to use the hand baler.


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How to bale hay without a tractor.

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