Thursday, November 1, 2012

About the Kactus Kicker

Update 7-30-15:  The new website is fully operational.  It has all the information,  photos,  and videos anyone could ever need.  It is a turnkey site for selecting,  customizing,  and purchasing a production tool.  Shipping is available,  so sales of plans have been discontinued.  Some additional parts and labor have been farmed out to appropriate vendors,  to adjust to higher production rates,  so prices posted previously are now obsolete.  Go to

This article, plus an earlier one dated 12-28-2011, should give most prospective customers a good idea of what my cactus tool looks like, and how it is handled. This is a tool for the killing (eradication) of prickly pear cactus from pasture land. The key things to understand for handling the tool are how to pin the tow bridle into a lift sling, and how to pry up and prop the front for storage or debris removal. The tow bridle must be unpinned into the big V-shaped configuration for actual use in the pasture.

Transport from place to place is easy: a pickup or flat bed trailer is adequate. Your modern tractor's bucket can be used to hoist up the tool for loading and unloading. (Us old guys with antique tractors that have no bucket use a tree limb and a chain hoist.)

The CCT-002 “Kactus Kicker” cactus control tool is a drag-type farm implement somewhat similar to a simple plow, a hay rake, or a drag-type shredder. The cactus tool has no moving parts, and mechanically kills prickly pear cactus by running over the top of it, tearing it loose, and crushing it thoroughly, so that it bleeds out dry before it can re-root. It is not an earth-mover or grader-plow.

The tool is towed on a chain bridle that fits almost any kind of hitch. Typical tow loads in usage are around half a ton per tool. If used with a three-point hitch, care should be taken to ensure the hitch is braced to resist half-ton side loads per tool: these occur during turns. The tow bridle can be pinned into a lift sling with a single bolt (see below).

The tool comprises a 2-foot by 8-foot ¼-inch deck plate arranged to “cut” an 8-foot swath behind the tractor, a crushing rail at the back edge made of scrap railroad rail, a ballast bar at the rear, a “barge front” surface to wedge the tool over small rock outcrops, and a stabilizing “snout” that maintains the leading-edge geometry relative to the earth. Shipping dimensions and weights are as depicted in fig. 1:

Figure 1. -- Shipping Dimensions and Weights

The tool is of stick-welded construction, from standard sizes of plate, flat, tube, and angle. The railroad rail can be of any size from 4 to 6 inches tall; scrap is less expensive. The current configuration uses 4.5 inch tall rail, weighing 70.1 pounds per linear yard. The photo in fig. 2 shows a welded assembly being moved with a hoist (and temporary chain sling) outside for painting and rigging.

Figure 2. -- Finished Weld Assembly

The tool is painted on all upper surfaces and over all weld beads on upper or lower surfaces, with oil-based red implement paint, available from any hardware store. Fundamentally, the only need is to prevent rain and dew penetration into the welds, but having the upper surfaces painted presents a pleasing appearance. The photo in fig. 3 shows a freshly-painted tool drying before being rigged.

Figure 3. -- Freshly-Painted Tool Prior to Rigging

Each tool is rigged with a triangular chain tow bridle. It is towed from “chain towers” at the rear corners, with the “snout” out front providing both stability and ground clearance for the leading edge of the tool. A tow loop is “pinned” with a long bolt that fits any ball or pintle-hook type of hitch. There is a short length of chain through the “snout” braces that serves two functions: (1) an attitude-limiter on rough ground, and (2) the forward connection to the “snout” for using the tow bridle as a lift sling. The as-rigged chain bridle is depicted in fig. 4:

Figure 4. -- Tow Bridle Rigged and Extended Out Front

Fixed obstacles are to be avoided, since one is towing the tool on a steel chain, with essentially “no give”. If one hits a fixed obstacle, something somewhere will break, too fast for a human operator to respond. The intent is for the chain to be the “weakest link”, because a broken chain is easy to repair in the field, while the steel tool and the tractor hitch are difficult to repair. This action is analogous to the shear pin in a boat propeller mount.

This chain is a standard hardware-store item: either 3/16 inch or ¼ inch bar size proof coil chain is acceptable, smaller preferred, as long as the link dimensions can pass a standard 3/8-inch diameter bolt. The V-bridle piece is 16 feet, the short piece is 4 feet.

Each tool has a serial number and a manufacturer’s tag. Records are kept that indicate which tool went to each customer. These tags are located near the center of the ballast flat across the back of the tool. Between this ballast flat and the back end of the “snout” tube is the tool center of gravity. That is where one pins the bridle together with a single bolt, to create the lift sling. All of this is depicted in fig. 5:

Figure 5. -- Tags and Sling Lift Location Are Near Center-Rear

For short trips, the cactus tool can be carried in the bed of any half-ton (or larger) pickup truck. Just pick it up with the bridle in lift sling configuration, and set it down with the tailgate down. You will need two independent securing means to stay legal on the highways with a tailgate down. I use two small tow chains for this, as shown in fig. 6. Lashing it to a flat-bed trailer also works just fine.

Figure 6. -- Carrying the Tool in a Pickup Truck

Other Related Articles on this Site (date highlighted on this one)

2-9-17....Time Lapse Proof It Works cactus being crushed and composted
7-30-15......New Cactus Tool Website
...................turnkey site for info,  photos,  videos,  purchases
1-8-15……Kactus Kicker Development
………………production prototype & 1st production article
1-8-14……Kactus Kicker: Recent Progress
…………..….testing a revised wheeled design (experimental)
10-12-13..Construction of the Tool
………………building a “Kactus Kicker” (plain tool)
5-19-13…….Loading Steel Safely
……………….transport and storage of materials
12-19-12…Using the Cactus Tool or Tools
…………… the tool is employed (applies to any model)
11-1-12….About the Kactus Kicker
..…………….painting and rigging finished tools (plain tool)
12-28-11..Latest Production Version
………………new bigger snout and barge front (plain tool)


  1. Impressive explanatory post with images, happy to found this post. I found some other posts about lifting pattern tips for heavy items but those were not fit for proper explanations. It is visually easy for me to understand what you write as I am a visual person. Like to have a tour of your blog’s other posts.
    Lifting Chains

    1. Mr. Jens:

      I'm glad my post was easy to understand. That's what it was for. I have 3 up there about this farm implement. One is dated 12-28-11, the other newer at 12-19-12.

      Use the navigation tool by date and title at the left. If you click on the key word "cactus-killing", it will show you only those articles so labeled, in this case the 3.

      Many of the rest of the articles have to do with aerospace stuff, or alternate fuels, things like that. Some deal with current events. It's a mixed bag.