Questions about Craftsman front tine tiller

chele519(5)April 20, 2009

My neighbor loaned me his tiller to use while he was out of town. I'm using it on an area that has been my garden for 5 years, not previously untilled soil. The only tiller I have used before is the Mantis but I seemed to have a very hard time with this Craftsman. My back hurts so bad I could barely get dressed this morning but what is worse is that I will have to go back and till it again because it doesn't go anywhere as deep as the Mantis did. I know that you can lower the bar in the back but it seems that the wheels get in the way. The Mantis did not have wheels but my neighbor did not say anything about removing the wheels on the Craftsman so I did not try to. When I used the Mantis last year, the tines went all the way in so that the shield was almost on the ground. Am I supposed to remove the wheels on the Craftsman or do something else? If anyone can please help me out, I'd appreciate it.

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Now you know why I never recommend front-tine tillers, regardless who makes them. They're all muscle-ripping junk as far as I'm concerned. And yes, your beautiful little Mantis will till deeper than most, if not all, front-tine tillers will. To get the front-tine tiller to go deep, you have to remove the wheels but there should be an adjustable spike to take their place. It it this spike that holds the tiller back and allows it to dig into one spot.

However, in order to get anywhere near the depth of your Mantis, you will have to till up and down and back and forth twice. No tiller will till full depth in a single pass and all tillers miss spots unless you cross-till. Of course, the more friable your soil is, the easier it is to till deep.

I have the Mantis and I use it for weeding/maintaining. For the big tilling I use a Honda rear-tine.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 6:00PM
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I own both Mantis and the Poulan front tine tiller which is exactly the same as the Craftsman front tine tiller. Just want to make sure you are talking the big front tine with the B&S OHV engine, not the little Craftsman 25cc like the Mantis.

You cannot even start to compare the two. I love my Mantis....A lot. But the Mantis is almost not a tiller!!! It is good for dethatching, cultivating weeds and small flower beds and on soil that has been tilled before. It don't do well on untilled grounds, I tried.

The Front tine work very well for me. Of cause it does not till as fast or comfortable as the rear tine tiller, but because it is front tine, it can go places where the rear tine cannot go. Do a search, I talked a lot about it in the past 2 months.

I always leave the wheels on the tiller. If you are talking about the same tiller as mine, there might be something really wrong with your Craftsman. I tilled at least 3000sqft of untilled clay soil. It was hard work, but it got the job done. The Mantis won't even dig in, it just bounce!!! I have to Honda engine version already!!! DOn't get me wrong, I really think the Mantis is very useful....for what it is designed for. It is one of the most used piece I have.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:30PM
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Hey Chele,

I agree with Kompressor about front tine tillers. They are very difficult to use without getting exhausted, unless you're a young man in great shape with an ability to heal quickly. My opinion is colored by a yellow vertical shafted torture device I used at a neighbors many times over the years when I was in HS. I haven't tried one since. Maineman on here has spoken so eloquently of the Merry mid-tine tiller, that I am interested in trying one out. Not interested enough to go buy one, especially since I have a pair of very good rear tine tillers now.

Back to your issue - DO NOT take the wheels off. They should be height adjustable to make it "easy" to operate without stooping or having the handles too high. Front tine tillers are slow workers, but you should be able to till as deep as you want in one pass. The proper procedure(if there is one) is to put the tines into the ground on your first pass and slowly rock it forward using the wheels as the pivot point, letting it chew as it digs into the ground. When you have it as deep as you want to go, rock it back and let it roll itself forward 12 inches on the wheels. Then hold it back again and rock it forward slowly to let it chew into ground again. Repeat this over and over and OVER again until you've crossed the garden. Then turn around and do it again. It will fight you, but don't fight it back. If it wants to launch forward, don't try to hold it back. Just rock it back onto its wheels and work it into the ground slower. This worked for me ten years ago. I was still tired at the end of the battle, but the garden would be tilled.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 10:29PM
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I am 56 and I have no problem using my Poulan!!! It is tiring. Front tine tiller is smaller, for home owner, I think it's a better choice because chances you have a smaller yard and you don't want to spend over $700 for a rear tine tiller. The Craftsman is only $329. After the first time, if you retill, it is very easy, just walk behind and guide it.

It got to be the technique, The first day, It was like bull fight for me, but it gets easier and easier. Don't fight it. I just hold the handle as light as possible to prevent it from moving forward, let it dig until the right height then push it a little to move forward and dig again. Take a while to get use to. Not any hard than the Mantis. I had the Poulan first and then bought the Mantis, I had a hack of a problem using the Mantis and I wrote here to complain about it too. Took me even longer to get use to the Mantis. The Mantis bounce so hard on me that I bend the handle bar and it is still bent. So be patient, it'll come to you.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 3:21AM
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Thanks for all the answers. I don't own a Mantis but have rented one the past couple years and it tilled my garden fine. It did bounce at first but it was much easier for me to handle. I'm a woman but not frail, this Craftsman still killed my back, even 3 days later it still hurts. And no it is not the 2.5 hp, I think it is 5.5. Definitely better for me to rent the Mantis for $30 than to injure myself.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 8:27AM
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I your case, the Mantis is better. The Craftsman do kick harder and particularly when you want to change direction, it does take strength. Mantis is light.

If you till and cultivate all the time, you should consider buying one. If you only use once in a few months, consider a eletric Mantis. If you have a lawn, the Mantis is very very good for dethatching if you buy the dethatching tines. I love my Mantis. It is very good for cultivating weeds in tight areas.

Buy direct from Mantis even they are slightly more. Their service is second to none. I have very very good experience with them. Read my post on buying from dealers here for detail.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 12:58PM
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I had planned on buying the Mantis this year but with the economy I can't justify the money for something I use once a year. I hope to get one someday but this year I'm not even putting in flowers, only veggies. Thanks for all the help.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 1:26PM
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flatcat(z9 sTexasUSA)

I need information and a manual for a 6hp craftsman front tine tiller model #917.29930. Any info would be appreciated and also where to find a manual.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 4:30PM
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If you have the older model( over a year old) with B&S Intek engine, it should be the same as the Poulan front tine. I have the Poulan and I went to Sears and compare. Looked the same and the engine was exactly the same model.

If you have engine problem, you better off get the info from B&S. The number is close to the valve cover area. Go on to B&S site and look for the engine normencrature ( number and letters that identify the kind of engine) I can tell you it is an Intek.

For the new one, I have no idea, they change and the engine screaming Chinese All Power to me!!!!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 3:44AM
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flatcat(z9 sTexasUSA)

I made a mistake on the model# of the 6hp front tine tiller I posted. The correct number is 917.299360. The Sears parts no longer have this manual so I really would appreciate anyone who could help me.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 4:04PM
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Concur with yungman, I am in my middle 70's and have no problem using a front tine tiller. I grew up with horse drawn equipment and these things guide the same way just light pressure on the handle, push down on both handles to slow down and dig, lightly lift to go forward faster, gently push down on the left handle to turn left. right handle to turn right. Just like riding a bicycle, takes a little practice at first. Front tines are more maneuverable, you can take off the outside tines and work narrow rows, dig ditches etc. also work in tighter spaces. Size for size till as fast as the rear tines and will actually till deeper. Rear tines are limited to the radius of the tines. You can bury a front tine. The key of course is proper adjustment of the drag bar. Most cases for deep tilling the wheels are either swung up out of the way or removed depending on the make.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 7:18PM
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Hey Flatcat,

I have been on this site for a while, I really don't recall people talk about Craftsman front tine tiller except me!!! Go to the Poulan site, look at the picture and compare with yours. The handle bar might be different, but look at the rest of the tiller, you might be able to match up one you have. You can down load their manual and see whether it match yours.

Also, why don't you post your question here to see whether people can help you. It is a belt drive and it is not that complicated. It does not have multiple speed, you just squeeze the trigger and it turn, release and it stop!!! I think it has a reverse button that you can pull to reverse, I never even use that, I just yank it back!!!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 7:29PM
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flatcat(z9 sTexasUSA)


Many thanks for the info. I'm going to go to the Poulan site and check it out. It seems like this Craftsman tiller I have is about a '79 or '80 model

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 9:15AM
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Holly!!! 79 or 80 model!!! Good luck on finding any info!!!

As I said, if you describe what you want or what problem you have, people here might be able to help.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 1:25PM
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dmullen(Southern CA)

I have an 8 hp Craftsman front tine tiller that was bought at about that time. I will look up the model number and if it will help, will see if I have a pdf file for it. My machine has two speeds forward and a reverse gear.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 10:13PM
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flatcat(z9 sTexasUSA)


I was having problem with the carb., but found parts for it luckily. Now I am having problems with the tines engaging. There are two belts a large and a smaller one. The gears are turning, but the belts aren't.
Thanks dmullen for the help. I'm not sure which engine I have as yet. I'm having trouble finding any numbers on the block.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 10:21AM
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What do you mean by "the gears are turning"? You mean on the engine side is turning but the belt don't follow? Your belt tight? If so then could be your transmission.

If the engine is B&S, then go to the web site and they'll tell you how to look at the part number. The number is not on the block, it is on the valve cover on the newer B&S engine or near it.

If you can start the engine, don't even have to find info of engine, concentrate on the drive only. Find out exactly what is stuck. If it is the transmission, maybe it's time for a new one.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 12:01PM
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