Most folks who did much plowing during the 1940s and ’50s knew about the revolutionary new “throwaway” plow shares from Oliver. An Oliver sales brochure from 1940 reads in part:
Characteristics of the Raydex Bottom
LOW COST INEXPENSIVE RAYDEX POINTS – Oliver was prompted to give the farmer something for his hard earned money so he can reduce his current cash outlay during plowing season. The absence of blacksmiths throughout the country, and the time wasted waiting on the blacksmith during the busy season and making trips to the blacksmith shop, gave Oliver Plow Designers the idea of the OLIVER RAYDEX POINT.
Our eagerness to help the American Farmer resulted in making a POINT for him that he can purchase for 75 cents in 12” size, 85 cents in 14” size, and 95 cents in 16” size.
The RAYDEX POINT sharpens itself until all of the suction is worn away. When the suction is entirely gone, a new RAYDEX POINT can be installed with a factory cutting edge and full width built-in suction.
ONE RAYDEX POINT will wear longer than one sharpening of a conventional share and costs no more than the average price that blacksmiths charge for resharpening.
Conventional shares are not capable of doing the same kind of work after they have been to the blacksmith as when they were new. The resharpened share may not scour as well and may not have the proper suction.
Let us assume that the blacksmith charges 75 cents for resharpening a share and 75 cents for repointing it once during its life of about three resharpenings.
Cost of a Conventional 14” Share.............................$4.00
One Repointing......................................................... .75
Total Cost of Conventional Share.............................$7.00
Compare this with the cost of four Oliver RAYDEX POINTS at 85 cents each, or $3.40. A TOTAL SAVING of $3.60. not mentioning the time and fuel saved in taking the shares to the blacksmith.
EXHAUSTIVE TESTS on Oliver’s Proving Grounds, the American Farmer's Own Field, has proven the RAYDEX BOTTOM AND THE RAYDEX POINT to be lighter draft than most bottoms. (Some modern horse farmers dispute this, claiming that a plow with a Raydex bottom pulls much harder than an equivalent one with a conventional bottom. S.M.) They scour better and pulverize the soil more thoroughly
LIGHTER DRAFT – The RAYDEX BOTTOM pulls easier because a large part of the shearing of the furrow slice has been eliminated in turning the furrow. On conventional bottoms, each furrow slice had a turning point on the mouldboard shin and near the wing. This is eliminated in the RAYDEX BOTTOM which starts the slice turning at the cutting edge.
EASY SCOURING – The RAYDEX BOTTOM scours easily because of a more constant and well distributed soil pressure over the entire point and mouldboard.
GREATER PULVERIZATION – The RAYDEX BOTTOM pulverizes the soil more because the scientific curverature (sic) of the mouldboard permits the furrow slice to turn naturally.
PENETRATION – The RAYDEX BOTTOM penetrates hard soils with the ease of any other bottom. The RAYDEX BOTTOM has suction built into the full width of cut. A 14” bottom has 14” of ground suction.
Simple and Unique Construction
The RAYDEX BOTTOM mouldboard is made from Oliver's Off-Center Soft-Center steel, while the RAYDEX POINT is high grade solid steel. The mouldboard and points are tempered to resist wear and prevent excessive breakage. The points are subject to breakage just like a conventional share, but cost only 85 cents to replace, while a conventional share costs four dollars.
The mouldboard and standard of the RAYDEX BOTTOM are built closer to the cutting edge to support the RAYDEX POINT. The landside extends farther forward than on the conventional base with a gunnel type share and adds to the support of the RAYDEX POINT.
Another sales folder lists the three distinct types of Raydex bases available. The General Purpose Raydex Base was available in 12”, 14”, 16” and 18” sizes. The General Purpose and Sod Raydex Base in 14” and 16” sizes, as well as the General Purpose and Clay Raydex Base in 12” size were also offered. All three bases could be equipped with replaceable shins if desired. Another paragraph reads: "Four RAYDEX POINTS do the same work as one old-fashioned share – and with every four RAYDEX POINTS, a farmer can put about half the original and maintenance cost of a conventional share in his pocket. RAYDEX POINTS come in handy boxes of six. In the 14” size, a package of six may be purchased for approximately the original cost of one conventional share.”
Oliver must have been on the right track since, during the 1950s, all the plow manufacturers went to the same style of throw-away share for their high speed tractor plows. The difference in cost between the old and new style shares is a lot more dramatic today than it was in 1940. Agri-Supply sells Raydex style shares for less than $20, while the old style shares, if you can find them, are somewhere around $100.
Raydex type bottoms and shares aren’t just for high speed tractor plows. Pioneer Equipment Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of modern horse drawn machinery, equips all their walking, sulky and gang plows with what they bill as “Oliver raydex type chilled steel” bottoms. Another major horse drawn plow builder, White Horse Machine Co., uses “419 Radex Bottoms” on their sulky and mounted plows.
During the past years I’ve plowed with both kinds of bottoms (using antique tractor-drawn plows), and the modern shares plow every bit as well as the old style. Besides, I don’t have to cringe every time the plow hits a rock when I’m using the much cheaper, throw-away shares.
This 4-bottom Oliver plow is equipped with Raydex bottoms and is being pulled by 12 Belgian horses. (Photo by Sam Moore)