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Source for GOOD garden tools?

 
David Good
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Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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I do a lot of hand-digging, spading, raking, hoeing, etc. and one thing that frustrates me is the poor quality of tools available.

Whatever happened to solid tools with good wood handles and good steel? Fiberglass and crummy metal seems to be the best you can get in Lowe's and the local farm supply places.

My spading fork recently gave out on me and I need to buy a new one; however, I'm not keen on buying another so-so Made In China piece of junk. I'd rather spend a few more bucks for a really good tool that will last more than a year or two before breaking. I have bought a few tools from antique stores that beat the living daylights out of the modern stuff - but that's hit or miss.

Any sources for well-made new tools? I've searched the 'net with little success.

Help me, Obi-wan Kepermies... you're my only hope.

(Thanks a bunch - I greatly appreciate these forums and all you contributors.)

-Vidad
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Find your local blacksmith. handles should be made for you not some standard that fits no one. so find the local black smith and have him make your garden tools. most times they will be cheaper than store bought and last decades longer.
 
Jesus Martinez
Posts: 166
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I found a local nursery that sells hand made shovels out of 3/16" sheet metal and the handle is also likely 3/16" rolled tube. Very heavy but great for digging up stumps too small to break out the tractor for. Also, the price is not cheap. I paid 80$ for it. If you have a welder you can probably make the same thing for about 15-20$, if you have a source of scrap metal and a welder, well, only the cost of the welding rods.
 
Matt Walker
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Location: North Olympic Peninsula
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Here's a hoe you can make yourself, or find someone locally who can.

http://www.permsteading.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Well actually my favorite answer is Ernie's above (thanks Ernie and Erica for your recent podcast - loved it!). But, if a blacksmith isn't an option for you, I will share my thoughts about 3 different types of tools. Large spade/shovel, mattock, and broadfork.

I just purchased the Husky Supersocket 39 in. Steel Round Point Shovel from home depot. This shovel has a fiberglass handle and is built like a tank with a LIFETIME GUARANTEE. No need to bring your receipt with you since Home Depot is the only place which sells it, so if it breaks in 20 years, just bring it back to HD for a replacement. See it here

On black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving I took my 50% off coupons to Ace Hardware and True Value hardware and bought several things. One of them was a very sturdy and heavy mattock for $16 (normally $32). It also has a fiberglass handle which is very sturdy. I am in love with it and am using it constantly to remove the rootballs of small trees and shrubs (and lots of invasive blackberry). I highly recommend it. It's made by Collins Axe:See it here

Finally, a world class broadfork (this one is made by a blacksmith). Made by hand on an island near Seattle. See it here
 
David Good
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Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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These are all good ideas and links - thank you. You've given me more to consider as I wait for a couple of checks to come in so I can pull the trigger.

Most of the blacksmith work I've seen has been decorative. It seems like the last holdout for blacksmithing is wrought iron fences, hooks and iron chandeliers. Oh... and jewelry. I contacted a local fellow a month or so ago and he mostly did artwork in his shop (which makes sense, since people are generally not using good hand tools anymore). I've been tempted to take some classes and work towards making my own tools - but the garden is always calling and that's where my real love lies.

 
Ernie Wisner
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Well thats where the mostly comes in; if he cant make them then i would lay money down that he knows who can. Around here its the farrier that can make tools even if his business is mostly stinky horse feet. I would bet the same goes for many areas in the US. the skills are around but most of these guys haven't done any honest smithing since school. Wake em up and get them to do good work that will actually sell locally.

our country went to production crap while we have been sitting on folks that could make us tools that are far superior. Like you one day i will set up my forge again but my love is the boats and stoves. maybe i will be setting up my forge to do hardware for the boat soon. then i might have to make a few new tools for the house. maybe a trammel or two and perhaps a few parts for the rocket stove. Ah well it will happen when it happens.
 
Ken Peavey
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I used to go through a spade in about a year. I suppose I've tried just about every brand on the market. I've had the best success with Vigaro products, but they beat the rest by only a few months. The most common problem is broken handles. A new handle is 10 bucks. A new spade is 15 bucks. I've got a fine assortment of shovel heads. I've also found a few hickory trees out in the back woods. Now to find the time to fashion a few handles...

I have found the practice of sharpening the edge of a shovel will extend the life of the handle. Put the thing to a grinding wheel, repeat as needed. The sharp edge cuts roots. Loose roots give way to the shovel rather than serving as a fulcrum which snaps handles. The same goes for other tools: hoe, pitchfork, action hoe, trowel. Those and a wheelbarrel are pretty much all the tools I use frequently.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Ken when you make the handles to your liking make a blank to hang on the barn. Do the same with all of the handles that you custom fit to your self. wasnt to long ago that you went to buy an ax and all you got was the head it was expected you would have a handle pattern of the handle you liked.

Sharp shovels are great same with hazel hoes and all of your hand tools for grubbing in the dirt. there are a few tricks of the trade with hand tools.

1. sharpen them regularly once you get an edge carry a medium file with you to dress the edge up in the field.

2. take a bucket of water with you. if you are working in clay or dense loam dip the shovel every couple digs and keep the stuff from sticking to the tool.

3. custom fit the handles of your tools; this will help keep you from getting tired so fast.

4. warm and oil your tools every fall; this will help keep the tool clean and rust free and over time you will build a glaze much like that on a cast iron pan. (i suggest lard)

5. Oil the handles as soon as you get them fit; this will keep the handle strong and supple. it also helps keep heads on and tight longer. dont do this to older handles it can make the old wood rot in the core by driving water in. (brand new handles bought at the store are varnished and should be stripped and oiled)
6. clean your tools at the end of the day before putting them away. clay and silt can cause rust very quickly.

7. Some tools like axes and mauls are not tempered correctly now days. if you can find a black smith that will do it have the tools re tempered to the hardness needed to do the job.

8. mark your tools with something you can see. to often when things get busy a tool is set aside and then disappears into the background, A bright Florescent color will make them easy to find (dont use the green in places that see yellow green leaves, it is almost the same shade and will blend in).

9. grind the Rivets off a new shovel and replace with rockwell 60 bolt washer and nut. take a small punch and punch a few stops so the nut wont back off. (doing this early saves you the aggrivation late and allows you to get a good oil coat into the bolt hole.

10. unless you have been taught to do it right; dont ever boil the tools in oil. this is a skill that can be done well if you know what you are doing and it can cause bad things to happen if you dont.
 
Leonard Barrett
Posts: 23
Location: Portland, OR
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Doesn't apply to everyone here, but for those with a business tax ID, you can get wholesale prices at the following companies. Hida tends to specialize in smaller japanese hand tools, like kamas and hori horis, and other nice japanese woodworking tools as well...definitely worth perusing... Terrabonne has a much wider selection of gardening tools, including those that you mentioned. If you have a business tax id number, even if your business is completely unrelated to gardening, you can probably get a wholesale account.

http://www.terrebonnelimited.com/
http://www.hidatool.com/shop/shop.html
 
Paul Krum
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http://www.claringtonforge.com/

 
Clifford Reinke
Posts: 124
Location: Puget Sound
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Charles Kelm wrote:

Finally, a world class broadfork (this one is made by a blacksmith). Made by hand on an island near Seattle. See it here


My wife and I actually took a day trip to Vashon Island where we met the maker, and bought one of his broad forks. It is absolutely awesome! Way faster than a gas powered rototiller, and the thing is simply never going to break. I've pulled up 100 lb rocks with it, no problem. I use it before planting root crops. I also use it to break up my clay soil where I intend to dig a hole making it much easier to shovel out. It seems pricy, but it is well worth it, and is a one time purchase. I did a lot of research on broad forks before making my purchase. I believe this is the best one out there.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Another company which interests me is a farm tool supplier called http://durokon.com/ . I don't get the impression that these are overly high quality tools, but they are inexpensive and meant to be bought for farm laborers. Lots of great specialized tools like lettuce knives, etc.
 
M Carlson
Posts: 3
Location: Western WA, Zone 7-8
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The author, Carol Deppe, of The Resilient Gardener, always buys her tools from Red Pig Garden Tools and Blacksmith. Their website, www.redpigtools.com, only lists the handtools. She says to get long tools or custom tools, to call and tell them what you want. They are located 35 minutes from Portland OR in Boring OR. 503-663-9494.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Thanks M. Carlson for the tip about Red Pig - I checked them out and they look great. You aren't by chance from Bellingham are you?
 
M Carlson
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Location: Western WA, Zone 7-8
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Yes, Charles, I'm in Bellingham. You, too?
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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No, I live in Blaine. I only ask because I just met a person whose first initial was M who was a fan of The Resilient Gardener. Are you the beekeeper who gave me the hoses? If so - hi! Small world. I was thinking of you when I went to a lecture which spoke about growing edamame in our area (among other things).
 
M Carlson
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Location: Western WA, Zone 7-8
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Sometimes life is full of coincidences. No, I'm not the one you are thinking of (I didn't give you the hoses), but I did join MBBA last year. Beekeeping is on my list of things to do and I did see a lecture last Thurs. by Dr. Carol Miles who is the head of the vegetable section at WSU's Mt. Vernon research station. Edamame was her project that started it all here in the NW.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Wow, really small world. The "M" who I thought you might be is the president of the MBBA, Michael (never caught his last name). Yes, I was at the lecture by Dr. Miles. I really learned a lot there. She's done a lot of great work, and I was glad to see that she was against pesticides and such. I plan to join MBBA one of these days, so I guess I will see you.
 
Gary Abshire
Posts: 8
Location: Western Utah (Zone 5b) (Soil order: Aridisols)
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Lehman Brothers is a farm supplier for Amish farmers in Ohio. Lehman's ships old-fashioned, non-electric tools and appliances. They have alot of stuff I didn't you could get anymore.


http://www.lehmans.com/store/catalog?Args=
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Gary Abshire wrote:
Lehman Brothers is a farm supplier for Amish farmers in Ohio. Lehman's ships old-fashioned, non-electric tools and appliances. They have alot of stuff I didn't you could get anymore.


http://www.lehmans.com/store/catalog?Args=


I love Lehman's and shop there (I live kinda nearby), BUT... in most cases if they've got something for sale in their catalog, the exact same thing can be had for significantly less elsewhere.

A lot of their pricing structure is based on selling goods to people (the Amish, mainly) who have no other avenue to get them. If you have and can use the internet, you can usually spend quite a bit less with a bit of searching.
 
George Lee
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I find that most flea markets have awesome antiquated tools (nice hickory handles) typically.
 
John Polk
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If you live near farming country, keep checking Craigs list, or the local paper for estate sales on old farms.
I know people who have outfitted their homesteads this way. Few new tools can match the older ones for durability.
 
Vladimir Horowitz
Posts: 23
Location: N. Idaho, zone 5
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I borrowed a friends digging spade for a few days this summer and I think it is worth a mention. It is made by Fiskars(the scissor folk...) and was super heavy duty construction. All steel, not obscenely heavy, looked solidly welded, and very ergonomically shaped(nice big foot steps on the shovel). Pretty sure it had a lifetime warranty too, and I have seen them for sale in big name stores for $35 i believe. I am planning on picking one up for the upcoming season.....
 
Sam White
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We have a couple of axes from Gränsfors Bruks. Hand forged in Sweden, seem to be hard wearing and great to use in my experience.
 
David Rogers
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Johnny's Selected Seeds has great garden tools. Eliot Coleman is their tool guy. They have alot of Swiss made tools.

Dave Rogers
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Lee Valley Tools--good quality and prices.

www.leevalley.com/
 
David Good
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Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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That site is amazing - thank you, Victor.
 
Darcie Rolph
Posts: 5
Location: Victoria, BC - Zone 7b
books forest garden hugelkultur
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I highly recommend Lee Valley's Radius Ergonomic Weeder. I've tried various spades and forks to loosen up our rocky clay soil, and the experience is very frustrating. This tool makes planting out perennials easy.
 
Alex Ames
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Location: Georgia
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Victor Johanson wrote:Lee Valley Tools--good quality and prices.

www.leevalley.com/



I have bought several tools from them. There is a sleeper in their lineup: the hoe mee/ little ground spear it is
very affordable and comes as a hand tool or with a long handle. I have the hand tool and when I first got it I thought
it was too light. Then I got out and started using it a turning it different ways to perform different functions. It is kind
of an all in one hand tool and it is of ancient origins.

I also found some great trowels at Tindara's Orchid site. I don't know how I wound up there I am glad I did. They have
a line of English inspired tools that are green and have nicely stained handles. They are very well made and extremely
inexpensive. Almost too pretty to use is what my sister said about her Christmas gift.
 
Casey Homecroft
Posts: 20
Location: Ohio, Zone 6a
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My favorite garden "tool" I got at a local garage sale for $5. I call it my Garden Caddy. Wonderful because it keeps everything I use most often within easy reach and carts away to store. I heartily recommend one for fellow absent-minded gardeners!

2011gardenCaddy.JPG
[Thumbnail for 2011gardenCaddy.JPG]
Garden Caddy
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Http://www.roguehoe.com
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Was thinking about this thread last night when I broke my short trenching shovel planting sycamore treelings out in the swale. Gave it a good hard pull in the ground to open up a channel and ended up on my ass with just the plastic top in my hands...
 
John Polk
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I like that golf caddy tool cart.
When I had a patch @ the local pea-patch, I put a rural mail box (that I bought for $1 including a broken 4x4 cedar post) in. Used it to store everyday things, such as gloves, pruners, etc.

 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Charles Kelm wrote:Another company which interests me is a farm tool supplier called http://durokon.com/ . I don't get the impression that these are overly high quality tools, but they are inexpensive and meant to be bought for farm laborers. Lots of great specialized tools like lettuce knives, etc.


Chris, I saw on transition whatcom you mentioned you were going to place an order.

Did you ever? How was the quality?

Thank you,
Jason
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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