Ever since I read Eliot Coleman's "New Organic Grower", I've been interested in the concept of using soil blocks to start my seeds. Soil blocks are exactly what they sound like. Instead of filling plastic seed trays with potting mix, you mix up a variety of things, and then use a glorified Play-Doh tool to make little square blocks out of the soil. These blockers will usually press a little divot in the top of the block to place your seed in. They're not terribly expensive, and you can buy them online at a few different places. One of the main advantages that they have over seed trays is that the seedlings roots will naturally prune them self at the edge of the block, rather than circling the inside of the tray and becoming potbound. This makes potting on easier and reduces root shock when you transplant to the garden. Sounds good so far. Besides, if it's good enough for Eliot Coleman and the Dervaes family, it's worth a shot...right?
The cost of a block maker that produces 2" cubes ranges from $35 to $100+. My German heritage didn't take long to kick in and say "That's highway robbery, surely you can make one yourself for next to nothing". So I cobbled together so random things that were laying around my classroom.
The lid fit snugly inside the plastic jar. I drilled a hole in the middle of both of them.
I put the bolt through the holes.
I fastened the lid to the bolt in between two nuts and a washer.
I can now pull the handle back, fill the jar with soil, and push it out. The nut on the bottom creates a divot for the seed. The commercial block makers can make 2, 4, or 6 square blocks at a time. This contraption knocks out 1 round block a shot. We'll see if they are worth the trouble.