After adding topsoil or mulch to a yard, the next thing is spreading it out and getting it level. Just the thought of doing this with a shovel and rake can make a back hurt. Instead, rig up a box scraper pulled behind a lawn tractor that will lower the high spots and fill in the low spots. Making one involves some 1/2-inch plywood, metal corner braces, 1/2-inch aluminum molding, one or two cinder blocks, heavy chain, "S" hooks and eye bolts.
Making the Box Scraper
Start by measuring the width of your lawn tractor from outside of the wheels. This will be your box scraper's width. Cut two pieces of plywood this width and 18 inches high. Cut two more 18 inches square. Assemble the two large pieces lengthwise at a right angle using framing nails. Add one square section to each end. Use the corner braces to reinforce each of the five fastened sides of the open box scraper. On the wide open "front" of the box, attach an eye bolt at each corner. Attach the aluminum-molding rail to all sides of the box. This will reinforce the open wood edges. Finally, attach four six-foot lengths of heavy chain using the "S" hooks to each eye bolt.
Finishing the Box Scraper
The plywood box scraper will be used in the soil and will get wet and of course covered in dirt. Consider making it last longer than just a few days by priming and painting the entire construction. Spray primer is available for metal surfaces. Once primed, a durable urethane paint (such as an outdoor deck paint) will seal and protect the box scraper for many years. After using just rinse with a water hose and put away.
Using the Box Scraper
Attach the four chains to the hitch on the back of the lawn tractor. Add one or two cinder blocks to the box scraper floor. Remember: the box scraper is not to pick up and move soil but to even and level the surface. The cinder blocks will add weight and keep the box scraper in the soil and not riding over the top doing no work. Pull the box scraper with the lawn tractor at a medium to slow speed. If soil accumulates in the box scraper do not worry: it will eventually overfill and the soil will return to the yard. Make several passes over the surface and the box will act as a leveling tool pushing and moving uneven soil height. Try to avoid, however, any exposed tree roots or other obstructions from catching the box scraper. It's for soil leveling, not land clearing.
Wesley Tucker is a lifelong southerner whose politics are objective, whose sports are many and whose avocations range from aviation to anthropology to history and all forms of media. With a master's degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina College of Journalism, Tucker has been a writer for more than 30 years, with work ranging from news reports to feature stories.