Heritage Crafts

Rake making

The making of rakes with wooden teeth, heads and handles.
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area practiced currently
Origin in the UK
Current No. of professionals (Side income)
Current No. of leisure makers


There is no real record of the origins of rake making, but wherever agriculture has thrived so has rake making. Rake making became more industrialised in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, taking over from the individual makers who were usually seasonal makers.

Hand rakes were once an essential piece of farm equipment, used for collecting hay ready for loading into wagons, combing and straightening the sides of ricks, combing thatch etc. Until 1930, the hay harvest was a vast communal affair, and hay rakes were in considerable demand – and wherever there was suitable coppice wood, there would be a rake maker’s yard. Between c.1930-1965 the harvest was greatly mechanised and hand rakes were only required in limited quantities. By 1965 the demand was so low that it couldn’t occupy one craftsperson fully for a year – many makers gave up or developed secondary occupations making clothes pegs, hurdle and tool handles.

As hay rakes were primarily used at harvest time, it was a seasonal market with customers mainly buying April to July, and production was also seasonal (for example, Rudds Rake Factory used to employ a lot of people seasonally to meet the demand). Today the main outlet just isn’t there and people are using rakes for other purposes and buying all year round. Because the rakes are used less intensively, they tend to last for longer.

Today, production in any quantity is the reserve of Rudds Rakes Factory in Cumbria, who make about 5000 rakes a year, and small manufacturers such as David Wheeler in Norfolk, who makes about 100 rakes a year. The last full-time rake maker in the south of England was Trevor Austen of Smeeth, Kent, who died in 2010. Some members of the Association of Polelathe Turners and Green Woodworkers make the occasional rake, and there are several courses run across the country in rake making. There has been a noticeable rise in interest in traditional rakes and rake making due to the resurgence of interest in scything, and the rising popularity of green woodworking.


A rake is a simple tool in its structure – the skill lies in selecting suitable timber and knowing the best orientation of grain to make the strongest possible tools that will last for several seasons. The skill also lies in knowing what a rake user needs and the conditions and environment in which they work, paralleled with recognising the best sources of wood and understanding the seasoning process.

A combination of hand tools and machines are used for batch production, including such items as a traditional tine maker, shave horse, and a rounding machine for producing handles more quickly.


  • Scythe handle making, also known as ‘snath making’, is directly related to rake making

Issues affecting the viability

  • Market issues: Lack of demand because modern equivalents made of plastic and steel are predominant in hardware shops or garden centres.
  • Supply of raw materials/market issues: The demand on ash as firewood and the impending Chalara Fraxinea (ash die-back) are pushing up the price of timber so the price of wooden rakes tends to become uncompetitive.
  • Supply of raw materials: Ash die-back is also leading to a shortage of materials and alternatives might have to be sought.
  • Market issues: However, an upsurge of interest in scything is leading to an increased interest in using traditional rakes.

Support organisations

Training organisations


Craftspeople currently known

  • Rudd’s Rake Factory, Dufton, Cumbria – make around 6,000 rakes a year. They make far fewer than 50-60 years ago, but production has evened out in the past 5-10 years. John Rudd passed away in 2023 but his son Graeme continues to make rakes.
  • David Wheeler, Suffolk – makes around 100 rakes a year.
  • Mark Allery
  • Peter Jameson
  • Ian Barnett, Amberley Museum

The Coppice Products website has a list of rake makers in the UK

Other information

Status: The APTGW believes this craft to be at risk of dying out, but John Rudd doesn’t believe the craft will die out in the foreseeable future.
Rake making is a good foundation for learning the basic woodworking skills that can be developed into more advanced skills in woodworking.
It is believed that the chair industry in the Chilterns is directly linked to the technology, tools and methods used in rake making.


  • Jenkins, J Geraint, (1978) Traditional Country Craftsmen (Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd) pp. 70–78.
  • Arnold, J, (1977) The Shell Book of Country Crafts (John Baker Publishers Ltd) pp. 91-93.
  • Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading (MERL houses a film of Trevor Austen at work and rakes made by him)
  • Heritage Crafts Association, Trevor Austin
  • The Natural Garden, Handmade Wooden Hay Rake
National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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