I love my garden tools. Using quality tools, when doing any job, is a key to squeezing the greatest possible joy out of the experience. But how do you know when you are buying ‘quality’ with the inherent benefits like durability, long lasting performance and a tool that just works better with the passage of time? Ask me, I know a thing or two about it.
My Dad was a tool hound. He loved to use well-used tools. I learned from him that there is a lot of satisfaction in using a tool for a long time.
He left me many great garden tools and I have collected more of my own.
I have a garden-tool museum, of sorts. It is a celebration of craftsmanship that goes back a few generations.
What to look for in a great tool:
High carbon steel has great tensile strength. This means that a pair of hand pruners made from this material will resist breaking and will hold a sharp edge longer than a blade that is not made of high carbon steel.
It helps to have a metal file handy in the garage or tool shed to run up and down the blade before you begin work.
I don’t just mean ‘at the beginning of the season’ but at the beginning of each work session in the garden. I have several bastard files around my 10 acre property so that I don’t ever have to walk too far to find one. I use it for a minute — sometimes less — to put an edge on my hedge shears, digging tools like a spade or shovel and my weeding tools like the
Backhoe or Dutch hoe
If you make this simple task a habit before you head out to the garden with your steel tools, I guarantee you will reduce the stress on your own body as you work. And you will work more efficiently. I give the metal parts a squirt of oil too.
There are many heavy-duty handles on digging and weeding tools. If you find a shovel, for example, with a fiberglass handle, you will no doubt have trouble wearing it out in your lifetime. Maybe that’s because you will seldom use it. Unless you have arms like Sampson, lifting a fiberglass handled digging tool is a chore. Aluminium is soft and bends easily. Plastic is, well plastic and performs like plastic. Uggh.
I much prefer old-fashioned hardwood handles. They are light, heavy duty, provide just the right amount of flexibility and they are handsome when you care for them. After the first couple of seasons of use, either rub some linseed oil on them or apply a spar varnish and you will lengthen the useful life of the tool.
When you buy a wooden handled tool, be sure to wrap your hand around it before you purchase. Make sure that it feels confident in your hand. Some handles are ultra-padded and others are very thick: I don’t like either. I get all the padding that I need from a quality pair of gloves. A tapered, long handle is best: balanced and a fine fit to my hand.
Quality hand tools are always a little more expensive than the disposable lightweights that you find at many retailers.
It is my experience that a quality tool can make the difference between a job filled with joy and ‘work’.
In my books, I consider the added investment a good one.