Read This Before Your Buy a
HOSS Wheel Hoe

[Dateline: March 2010]
[Updated: March 2011]

The New HOSS Wheel Hoe

I’ve been getting e-mails from people who are seeing advertisements for the new HOSS wheel hoe, and they're wondering whether to get themselves a Planet Whizbang hoe or a HOSS. What follows is my take on the subject. [Yes, I’m going to be biased, but I think you’ll find this surprisingly objective and interesting.]
The working end of the HOSS wheel hoe looks to be an exact replica of the old Planet Jr. wheel hoe. According to my copy of the 1945 Planet Jr. tool catalog, the HOSS would be a reproduction of the Planet Jr. Model  #17-1/2 (which sold for a whopping $6.75 back then).
The Planet Jr. was a fine tool. You can’t go wrong with an old—or new—version of the Planet Jr. wheel hoe. It will do the job of cultivating, and do it well.

But I do believe the HOSS hoe has a couple of significant shortcomings. First, the plow-style handles on the HOSS are not true to the Planet Jr. hoe handles and they are not in any way, shape, or form ergonomically suited for the push-pull action that is used to operate a wheel hoe.

Plow-style handles are ideal for grasping and “steering” a tool that is being pulled by an animal. Such handles were “standard issue” on horse or mule-drawn Planet Jr. equipment, as this next picture, taken from the 1898 Planet Jr. catalog shows:

Planet Jr. Horse Hoe From The 1898 Catalog

And all the way into 1945, that horse hoe was still being used by farmers, as this catalog picture shows:

 Planet Jr. Horse Hoe In Use 
(from 1945 catalog)

The Planet Jr. company understood very well that a different style of handle was needed on their human-powered equipment, so they developed a very distinctive pistol-grip handle shape. This understanding can be seen all the way back in the 1898 catalog, as this next picture shows.

Planet Jr. Wheel Hoe From 1898 Catalog

But by 1945, the company was offering its wheel hoe customers the plow-style handles as an option. The catalog states:

“Pistol grip handles are standard equipment on most Planet Jr. machines. They are shaped to fit the hand and are so designed that the thrust of the operator is directly in line with the handle, making them easier to push. However, if you prefer the Bent or Plow Type handles they can be furnished on special order at no extra cost.”

Here is the picture that accompanies that text, showing the two different handle options:

Planet Jr. Offered Two Handle Styles in 1945

My guess is that some of the old farmers of that era were sentimentally predisposed to the plow-style handle, and Planet Jr. aimed to please—even if the ergonomics were terrible (I don't suppose anyone even used the word "ergonomics" back then).

But, having said that, it’s worth noting that the Planet Jr. plow handles offered back in ‘45 looked to be much different than the current HOSS handles. This can be seen by comparing the previous Planet Jr. handle to this next picture of the HOSS handle.

Update: 5/13/10—
This picture has been removed at the 
request of the person who owns the web site 
where these handles are sold.

Plow-Style Handles offered by HOSS

Notice that the curve on the Planet Jr. handle is so sharp that it is practically a 90-degree bend, but that is not the case on the HOSS handle.  The sharper bend would make all the difference when it comes to comfort and ease of use.

I predict that the good folks at HOSS will eventually offer the Planet Jr. pistol-grip handles on their hoes. Such handles just make a whole lot more sense.

Update March 2011: 
I see from the HOSS web site that they are now offering the option of handles with the traditional Planet Jr. pistol grip. 
Problem solved.


The second shortcoming with the HOSS hoe is not so much a shortcoming as it is an inconvenience (at least it is an inconvenience in my mind). I’m speaking about the sweep-style cultivator attachments, as shown in this next picture.

Close-Up of HOSS Sweep Cultivators

Those sweep cultivators can be adjusted to a multitude of configurations, which is great if you like adjusting things. Some people do. I don’t. I just want to grab my wheel hoe and go, with a cultivating attachment that is universally useful, just as it is, and that’s exactly what you get with an oscillating stirrup blade.

I want to make it clear that I own a Planet Jr. wheel hoe with sweeps and, like I said, they do the job. But I also own a Glaser wheel hoe with an oscillating stirrup blade. I used both tools a lot in my garden and I came to the conclusion that the stirrup blade is better than the sweeps. That’s why I adopted that kind of blade on the Planet Whizbang.

Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe With Oscillating Stirrup Blade
It’s worth noting that, like the HOSS hoe, the Swiss-made Glaser (pictured below) is a Planet Jr. copy, right down to the Planet Jr. pistol grip handles. But Glaser dies not offer any sweep attachments for their tool. Clearly, they concluded that the oscillating stirrup blade is superior to the sweeps.

The Glaser Company Does Not Offer Sweep Cultivators on Their Planet-Jr.-Inspired Wheel Hoe

The same could be said of the Valley Oak wheel hoe as you can see in this next picture.

 The Oak Valley Wheel Hoe Also Has A Stirrup Blade

As with the handles, HOSS can make a change in their line to at least offer the stirrup blade as an option. Doing so would make the tool much more “user friendly.”

Update March 2011: 
I was just over to the HOSS web site and see that they are now selling an oscillating stirrup blade attachment for their hoe. But I'm not sure what to think of it. Frankly, the mechanism looks cheesy. Hopefully they have tested it sufficiently. Time will tell. And the stirrup blade is described as high carbon "stamp steel." Hopefully "stamp steel" is comparable to the very durable tempered spring steel blades that are standard blade material on other stirrup hoe blades.
Now, after pointing those things out, I’m sure there are some people who will disagree with me on both points of criticism. That’s always the case with such things and it’s to be expected. To each his own. I’m not looking to argue.

But I can tell you that I have hoed a lot of garden rows with  my old Planet Jr., my Glaser, and my Planet Whizbang. The observations and conclusions here are based on a significant amount of hands-on, in-the-field comparison.

If you’re in the market for a wheel hoe, I hope this essay has helped you make a better informed decision.

Now, with the idea of better informed decisions in mind, I’m going to do something that is practically unheard of in the world of marketing....

Listed below are links to every wheel hoe maker that I know of. All of these hoes will do a good job for you. Of course, I firmly believe my Planet Whizbang design is your best choice, as this web site hopes to make clear. But, in the end, it is your choice to make. The important thing is that you get yourself a wheel hoe and use it, because it is an amazingly useful tool.  I thank you for your consideration. 

Here are the different wheel hoes currently "in the field" to choose from.