Making a Hand Baler –

This article is reprinted with kind permission from the Oak Hill Homestead blog. They cut and bale their hay by hand. One could modify the size and application of the baler to bale straw by hand. This solution could work very well in areas where mechanical balers are not available.

We don’t own a tractor, so we cut and bale our hay by hand. Last year, we stored it loose in several sheds and anywhere we could find a few square feet of dry storage space. This year, we have a hand baler. A friend in Texas sent us a link and Hubby set to work on it. The baler in the plans is for use in making a bale of pine straw, but it works just fine baling our mixed-grass hay.

(UPDATE 7-16-2016: It seems that the link to the baler plans is broken once again. Here is another; hopefully this one will stay active for awhile.

ALSO, I’ve found a website with directions to build a hand-powered leaf and hay baler. While this one is a different type – horizontal rather than vertical – the principle is the same, and some might appreciate the step-by-step building instructions.)

Our hayfield is about 10-12 acres, so obviously we are doing this a little at a time. Hubby cuts the grass with our brush-mower. Once it’s dry, I use a fan rake to rake it up in windrows.


loosely cut straw

This is the hand baler, all set up to make a bale of hay.


hand baler frame

Right now we are using baling wire because we had two rolls of it in the garage, left by a prior owner. The plans call for the use of baling twine, which will be much faster to set up, and we plan to buy some on our next trip to town. Note that the wire/twine is not run through the eye screws on the bottom of the baler, but between the eye and the wooden piece, just to keep it in place. Once you finish tying up the bale, the wire/twine slips out. Quite ingenious!


hand baler detail


Setting up the wire for a new bale.


man building hand baler


So, first we string the wire/twine, then shut the door of the baler. Hay is added through the opening in the top. When full, the plunger is used to pack down the hay, then more is added. Finally, with the plunger depressed, the bale is tied up tightly.

 making a hand baler


Release the plunger, open the door, and remove the bale of hay.


making a hand baler


They are larger than what we’d envisioned. My best guess is that they are 1/2 to 2/3 the size of a regular small square bale. This will make storage and feeding so much easier.

 trailer with straw


While I’m down in the hayfield, I fill up the cart with loose hay for today’s feeding.


wagon with straw

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23 Responses to Making a Hand Baler –

  1. Casey Sun, February 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    For straw bale building production, I’d suggest that you over-build this design a bit, and make a longer lever for more compression than for feeding bales.

    Two 4-tine hayforks can “comb” the straw to orient the lay into a pre-loading box or pipe, which can be tapped on one end to align the ends of grass, making for a much-improved cut face of your bale. Ask a fly fisherman who ties deerhair flies to demonstrate a “hair stacker” for you, and you’ll get the idea. These procedures are not necessary for feed bales, but really improve building bales.

  2. Bobbie Eddins Tue, June 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi, awesome page however there is a problem whereby sometimes I get redirected to the base page when I look at different pages in your page.

  3. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, July 3, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Thank you for letting me know Bobbie! Generally this is because the link has been broken (which is not great but it unfortunately happens). If you come across any more and are up for it, we’d love to know which links on which pages are broken so that we can fix them. You can email Thanks!

  4. Blake Barnett Tue, October 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Do you have instructions on how to build the hand hay baler?

  5. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, October 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Hi Blake. I don’t have the details of making the hand baler; however, I believe you can find more details by doing a Google search. I think there may also be a YouTube video about a hand baler as well. Good luck.

  6. Kim Chance Thu, April 3, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    That is so clever! It occurred to me that at least to bale straw for construction purposes, you may want even more material compression. Try Googling a photo of an Australian wool press, they use the same concept except that the two compression levers are mounted on ratchets on each side of the box. The compression plate, called a “monkey” in a wool press is either lifted out of the box when more material needs to be added (Ajax system), swung away (Cyclone system), or simply elevated above the box with either hydraulic or screw/motor Cyclone systems.

    Wool bales are a bit bigger than hay bales, but these presses can really pack some material in, wool bales weigh between 180 to 200 kilograms (405 – 450 lbs). Because wool is very springy it is necessary to retain the packed load when the monkey is lifted to repack new material, this is done with two sharp spears or by side mounted, spring loaded retainers, but neither hay nor straw need that retention.
    It is exactly the same concept though, all that is different apart from the size, is the means of applying compression.

  7. Zackt jossen Thu, May 15, 2014 at 6:23 am #

    Thanx for the educative initiative you came up on the hand baler..i like it,im on the other hand an agricultural engineering student and would love to come up with an animal draft powered baler,i need some help on the tighing mechanism…

  8. Risus Rules Fri, August 1, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I am curious, I suspect that I already know the answer, but the links took me to a site baling pine-straw. Would pine-straw be a viable alternative to straw?

  9. Andrew Morrison Sat, August 2, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I don’t know enough about pine-straw to say, but my gut feels like they would be too flammable.

  10. Max Sun, October 26, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    How much did it cost you the bye what you need to make the hay baler

  11. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, October 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Hi Max. I did not make the hand baler, personally, so I can’t accurately answer your question. That said, I can’t imagine it would be very expensive to make.

  12. bobby Tue, March 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Can this work with corn stalks

  13. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Tue, April 7, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    Corn stalks are very thick and rigid and are harder to work with. It can be done, but resizing the bales will take work beyond just a simple needle. You will need to use the hand baler to make custom sizes, most likely.

  14. GENAR0 TEXIDOR Sat, May 16, 2015 at 6:39 pm #


  15. Chris Green Mon, June 1, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    or those wanting to build a hand powered baler, start here with this how-to from Texas A&M University: This is used for pine straw, but can easily be modified to produce house building bales.

  16. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Sun, June 7, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    We don’t actually sell the plans for the hand baler. You can create one from the images here or search on line. Sorry.

  17. Gwen Thu, May 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    Is it possible to post a picture of the back of the baler, showing the plunger mechanism?
    Thank you

  18. Gwen Thu, May 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    To answer the question about pine straw vs. straw, pine straw is long leaf pine needles. Very pokey and sharp, not very absorbant. Used usually for mulch and plant bedding.
    Straw is very absorbant and softer to lay on as well as warmer.
    Those baler plan links will not work for me, but the baler for pine straw will work for regular straw, no problem.

  19. Tommy hood Sun, August 7, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Put the plans on here or just quit showing it

  20. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Mon, August 8, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    That’s a bit aggressive Tommy. If you read the article you will see that it is shared from the hand baler creator’s site. I can’t just pull down their plans and spread them around the web without their permission. If it is too much to ask for you to click on their link after enjoying the free information presented here, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  21. Dustin Clark Mon, April 9, 2018 at 9:45 am #

    i dont need to know how to use a hay baler, i need to know how to build one. Plz send me the instructions. i need them for a school project fast

  22. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Fri, April 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi Dustin. I don’t have instructions other than the ones listed in the two “Hand Baler” specific blog entries. I use a standard, tractor operated baler. Sorry I can’t help further.

  23. Don Baker Tue, August 7, 2018 at 4:15 pm #

    Here is the Texas one. I built my own from this plan following loosely what was presented. Then I went on Youtube and looked at other peoples. This one works fine.

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