Notable Edibles

Rickety Rakes Repair

By Larry Egan | May 10, 2017
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rickety rakes

Where does a shellfisher turn for repairs to trusty, and all too rusty, shellfish gear? He or she can simply reach out to Rickety Rakes Repair, a cobbler of the clam rake, to restore gear for scratching the clam beds of Cape Cod for years to come.

Originally, repairing rakes was just a hobby for a man named Ed Dutton. A founding member of The Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishermen (B.A.R.S.), Dutton turned the repairs into a fundraiser for the many programs B.A.R.S. offers, including scholarships for local students going on to marine or environmental fields of study. When it came time for Dutton to retire from the rake mending business, he turned to Fred Dempsey, a fellow founding member of B.A.R.S., to take up the cause.

Despite spending summers as a child on Shoestring Bay in Cotuit, Dempsey didn’t discover shellfishing until he retired to West Barnstable with his wife Mary around 2000. “I remember seeing a guy I went to B.U. with out there shellfishing,” Dempsey remembers. “And I thought, ‘What the hell is this guy doing out there in the middle of winter!’” He laughs. Shortly thereafter, Dempsey not only had taken up the hobby but in 2001 formed B.A.R.S. with Dutton, André Sampou, Ty Ranta, Dave Kicilinski and Kris Clark.

Sand and sea combine to take a heavy toll on a clam rake. The two most susceptible areas are the wood handle, which can rot, and the metal ferrule that protects the joint of the wooden handle and metal rake head, which can rust out. Sometimes the damage is too much and the wooden handle is too far gone. For a long handle replacement it’s a simple phone call to the R.A. Ribb Company in Harwich, makers of long handled rakes for both recreational and commercial shellfishers. The short handle solution wasn’t quite as easy. “I looked around and finally found The House Handle Company in Cassville, Missouri,”

Dempsey states, adding with a chuckle, “Funny thing is, out there it’s called a manure fork or cotton hoe!” Not much call for clam rakes in the mid-west.

The process of repairing a rake is surprisingly involved: cleaning up the rake head and perfectly aligning it with the new handle and ferrule; the application of the sealant and paint to protect the “wet” end of the rake; and finally painting the green “racing stripe” which is the Rickety Rakes Repair signature. It all takes a fair amount of time and costs a grand total of $25. Just don’t ask Dempsey what that breaks down to for an hourly labor rate. So, for far less than half the price of a new rake, you can have your lucky rake refurbished and help support all the important efforts of B.A.R.S. Dempsey was so excited about this venture that one day he came home to Mary and exclaimed that he had a jingle and a catch phrase: “Tine After Tine” based on the Cindy Lauper hit from the eighties.

At 82 years old, Dempsey is still going strong. In addition to repairing clam rakes, helping Mary tend to their gardens, and generally working around the house, he also volunteers one day a week on a Habitat For Humanity house build in the area. However, even a man constantly on the go like Dempsey needs to pause a moment and appreciate his surroundings, and that’s where shellfishing comes into play. He points out, with a knowing smile, “Being out there in the off-season, when all the boats and swimmers are gone, is so peaceful, so beautiful.”

So, for a good “Tine” call Rickety Rakes Repair (that one is all Fred’s), and you’ll be doing a world of good not only for your clamming hobby but for others as well.

– Larry Egan

Rickety Rakes Repair

Article from Edible Cape Cod at
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