Hillside or Two-Way: A Name for Every Plow

How do you describe plows that throw furrows all the same way? Sam Moore ponders this question and thinks he might have the answer.

| October 2018

  • two-way plow
    A modern Kverneland 2-bottom, two-way plow, loaded with hydraulic cylinders for every adjustment imaginable, behind a Case-IH CX90 tractor at the 2003 World Plowing match at Guelph, Ontario.
    Photo by Sam Moore
  • two-way plow
    Top view of a McCormick-Deering P&O Success two-way sulky plow. The tongue is offset to the right for three horses.
    Photo courtesy Farm Collector archives
  • plough
    A Fowler 7-bottom balance plough in use in England; one engine pulled it across the field in one direction and another engine on the other side of the field pulled it the other way.
    Photo courtesy Peter Longfoot
  • one-way plough
    A Ransomes one-way plough, made by Ransomes, Simms & Jefferies from an 1894 publication.
    Photo courtesy Farm Collector archives
  • plough
    A Kentish turn wrest plough. The curved strip at the bottom right side is the mouldboard and was removed and placed on the other side when throwing the furrow to the left, and awkward and time-consuming feature.
    Illustration by Sam Moore
  • hillside plow
    A Vulcan No. 12 hillside plow with an adjustable clevis, gauge wheel and automatically shifting jointer shown in a 1934 tool catalog.
    Photo courtesy Farm Collector archives

  • two-way plow
  • two-way plow
  • plough
  • one-way plough
  • plough
  • hillside plow

Some time ago, someone asked me what the correct term is to describe plows that can be used to throw all the furrows one way. I'd never thought much about it but realized that I'd always thought of the walking plows, on which the bottom swiveled, as "hillside" plows, while the riding or tractor plows that had both right- and left-hand bottoms were "two-way" plows.

Fields with steep hills were the primary reason for the development of plows that could throw all the furrows the same direction whether coming or going. In plowing around a field with a conventional plow, half of the furrows must always be thrown uphill, a feat that's difficult to accomplish in thick sod on a stiff grade. When a hillside or two-way plow is used, one can plow back and forth on the same side of the field and turn all the furrows downhill.

Such plows were handy as well for plowing small, irregularly shaped fields whether or not they were hilly. In addition, in areas where the land had to be kept perfectly flat due to irrigation, these plows eliminated dead and back furrows in the center of the field that might impede the flow of water.

Early development in England

One-way plows, as they're sometimes known there, were first developed during the latter part of the 18th century in Great Britain, where they were also called "turn wrest" plows. The Kentish turn wrest was a heavy, wooden affair, with two large wheels out front. A thick wooden block underneath had a sharp iron point at the front and a long, wooden moldboard that could be moved from one side of the block to the other.



Later British one-way plows had a bottom at each end of a V-shaped beam, facing each other. The center of the beam was supported on a two-wheeled carriage so that when one bottom was in the ground, its opposite number stuck up into the air. When the operator reached the furrow end, he unhitched the horses, turned them around and hitched to the opposite end of the plow for the return trip.

There were handles (which the British call stilts) at each end as well, and the plow was drawn from the wheeled carriage in the center. Called "balance ploughs," multiple-bottom plows of this type were used with the steam and cable ploughing system popular in Great Britain for many years.