Perhaps at this point you are fairly certain what model John Deere plow you have. The first hurdle to learning about your plow is over, but now comes the bigger challenge; What size and type of plow bottom is my plow equipped. There are basically two major types of plow bottoms; Conventional (primarily used before the mid 50's) and Modern HS or NU series (used from the early 1950's and up).
If you have the older Conventional style steel bottoms (a.k.a. Blacksmith Bottoms due to the shares being commonly sharpened or rebuilt by a blacksmith) you're in for a real treat as the options for various types of plow bottoms were numerous. The popularity of various types of plow bottoms varied greatly from region to region. Typically the NA bottoms were popular in wheat and small grain growing regions of the US and Canada. The SP blackland or rice bottoms were popular in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and a few other areas. The Scotch bottom was popular in pockets around the Great Lakes region in Ohio, New York, Vermont, and in the province of Ontario in Canada. The Syracuse chilled cast plow bottoms were most popular in the Eastern USA where sand, gravel, and rocky soils were predominant. I've compared the variety of plow bottoms to that of the ice cream shop with 31 flavors. The most common version of the conventional JD bottom is the NGP series. Other less common types are listed below with brief descriptions.
The HS series plow bottom arrived from JD in 1953. It is the first JD bottom to be the "Throw-Away" type meaning the shares were discarded after they became too worn to plow as compared with their predecessor bottoms which would require their shares to be sharpened or rebuilt any times before being too worn to rebuilt further. Most notably the HS bottom is easily identified by a Steel Moldboard, Steel Shin, 3 or 4 bolts holding the share onto the bottom. The landside also does not come up to meet the share like was typical on earlier conventional / blacksmith bottoms.
The HS series plow bottom lasted from 1953-about 1970. The successor of the HS series bottoms, the New Universal or NU bottom came in 1968 (1969 model year) as was touted as the New HIGHER Speed plow bottom made to handle speeds up to 6 miles per hour. The easiest way to tell if your plow bottoms are NU versus HS is to examine the moldboard end of the round moldboard brace. The HS series bottoms used a corrugated end on the brace and a corrugated washer that allowed for adjustment of the moldboard whereas the NU series bottom simply had a smooth flat end toward the moldboard which only had a bolt and nut through it. The NU moldboard braces were adjusted with adding/deducting shim washers on the lower end on the frog.
In the image gallery below there are numerous photos and diagrams that may help you identify the type of bottom that may be on your plow. Keep in mind that not every possibility is shown here and if after looking through the gallery you're not sure what you have, please email me with information about your plow (attaching photos to the email is a great way to speed up the process of identification).
To view even more information on John Deere Plow Bottoms see the PLOW BOTTOM PHOTOS page under the Identify Your Plow Bottom link on the above right.
While it is not exactly rocket science when it comes to measuring your plow's cutting width, it is often a confusing subject for folks who don't do it on a daily basis. Basically, determining the width of the cut of any moldboard plow is done measuring the plow frame as this is normally the easiest method. Essentially we need to know the cutting width of each bottom so we know what bottom size with which the plow is equipped.
When possible, measuring the width of the plow frame goes like this; using a tape measure begin on the left side of one plow beam (the metal bar or bars running front to back when standing behind the plow/tractor) and measure to the left side of the next nearest plow beam. Typically on John Deere Plows this will be 10, 12, 14, or 16 inches. Some exceptions are on model No. M1, MT1, MT1A, M2, MT2, M2A, MT2A, 44 series two-bottom trailer plows, and No. 57 moldboard plows all of which has adjustable cutting widths made possible by switching left & right offset standards. The frame widths on the aformentioned plows will typically be an Uneven numbers; example JD no. 44 with the 12/14 frame might measure 13 inches when using the above method.
If you have a one bottom plow, there is not always another beam to measure against, so it is then best to check the cutting width by determining the size of the plow bottom (gathering part numbers from Share, Moldboard, and Frog to use the JD part catalog for determination).
Knowing the cutting width of your plow is essential to determine if you tractor will likely pull any given size of plow. When in doubt it's best to remember that in most cases if John Deere originally advertised any of their tractors as a 4-5 plow tractor, the 4 bottom plow is most likely best suited for use with your tractor. There are a number of factors that contribute to how hard a plow will pull, but whether in your own field by yourself or at a local tractor club Plow Day it is advisable to pull one bottom smaller plow and be able to pull through any condition than be the one guy who everyone else is lined up behind because you can't pull the plow in anything faster than 1st gear.
If you still have questions after seeing all of these photos and information, please use the contact us link below to send Tyler an email.
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Tyle the Plow Guy is in no way affiliated with Deere & Co.