Originally many garden tools were 'user' made, forged by the local smithy and that accounts for the local variations in design which still continue, particularly in preferred handle shapes and some tool patterns. Quality garden tools should be of sturdy construction with good balance and functional design. This requires a high quality steel content forged and formed to shape, still by traditional craft skills.
Garden tools can be classified into a number of categories: digging (spades and forks), planting (trowels and dibbers), cultivating (hoes and rakes), cutting (pruners and shears).
Digging tools (spades and forks) are often abused during use, and even when used correctly the leverage from the blade and handle (particularly when digging a full spit) is very substantial, which is why a really good quality wood shaft is required for resilient strength.
Strength and durability are derived from a solid forged blade with a solid socket.
The metal part which closes onto the tang at the blade end of the wood handle.
An extension of the neck into the blade area and thicker than the surrounding metal thus giving backbone to the flexible blade.
Handles should be made from weatherproofed hardwood or for some long handled tools from tubular steel or alloy. A recent innnovation has been the devlopment of fibreglass handles. Fibreglass is a tough synthetic material which is lighter and stronger than traditional timber. It is very light in weight and is resistent to moisture combined with being a good shock absorber.
Hardening & Tempering
This gives the blade hardwearing characteristics while remaining springy so that it will not break or take a 'set' when bent.
The handle ('T', 'PY', 'MYD' or 'WYD') at the top of a spade/fork shaft.
'T' - Traditional 'T' shaped handle
'PY' - Plastic 'Y' shaped handle
'MYD' - Metal 'YD' shaped handle
'WYD' - Wooden 'YD' shaped handle
Hilts or grips can be of traditional wood or popular polypropylene.
Blades are ground across the section so that only the cutting edges are touching at the point of cut thus reducing drag.
Where the socket joins the blade or tines.
A small half moon notch set at the correct angle near the sheer bolt, used for cutting thicker stems when hedging.
There are two types of secateurs or lopper, the anvil type which has one cutting blade which cuts against a soft anvil and the bypass type which has two blades and cuts like a scissor or shear.
ANVIL SECATEURS Anvil secateurs have one cutting blade which cuts against a soft anvil. They are traditionally used for cutting dead wood.
BYPASS SECATEURS Bypass secateurs have two blades which cut like a scissor or shear. They are used for cutting back growing, healthy branches.
The tube of metal extending from the blade to receive the shaft.
The tool is formed from one piece of steel being worked and re-worked, this in itself giving strength to the finished tool.
Where the tube of metal extending from the blade to receive the shaft is forged as one piece with the blade and completely encloses the end of the shaft.
Stainless Steel Garden Tools
Stainless steel garden tools, while more expensive, are much easier to use, particularly when digging, by remaining cleaner and less liable to clog.
Usually of hardwood fitted to the shaft by means of a tenon joint and secured with a hardwood dowel.
The extended part of a tool (such as a trowel) which fits into the wood handle.
Another name for a prong.
A small platform of metal fitted to the shoulder of a spade blade to prevent footwear damage.
Care & Maintenance
All garden tools should be cleaned after use and stored correctly.
Never leave rakes with the heads projecting forward on the shed or garage floor. Purpose made tool racks or spring clips will help solve this problem.
Never garden in soft shoes or trainers.
Always wear good heavy-duty shoes or boots.
Always keep your tools sharp with either a garden file or coarse silicone carbide stone.