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Posts: 129
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Does anyone know of any good places to find quality used garden tools (or, I suppose, quality yet inexpensive tools)?  Any tips on how to tell how a tool is going to hold up over time?
 
steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Good tool care is the number one thing!  On the farm, it seems that most people have no respect for tools.  They leave them out in the rain, they let them fall out of the cart and leave them there, they abandon them at the site where they were working.  It's maddening to see good tools so abused.

I've been buying more tools with a solid plastic handle.  I'm not a big fan of petroleum products, but that stuff tolerates abuse better - and ages better. 

What sort of tools are you looking for?

 
Posts: 131
Location: Bellevue, WA
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For used stuff, I always find success with Freecycle. You can wait to see what pops up, or you can post a "wanted" ad.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FreecycleCentralKingCountyWA/

Craigslist Farm + Gardening Section may also work for you:

http://seattle.craigslist.org/grd/

Some tips from a great MotherEarth.com article on the subject:

Older shovels and hoes are often stronger than modern versions because they were forged from one piece of solid metal. Where can you buy used tools? Flea markets, garage sales, auctions, estate sales, barn sales and second-hand stores are good places to start. The prices can vary, but you can usually buy common tools for less than $15.

The trick to buying secondhand garden tools is to look for solid construction on any welded points and pay special attention to where the metal attaches to the handle. If a tool has parts that are supposed to move, make sure they do. Another thing to look for on metal is heavy pitting and flaking, which weakens the metal so the tool might be better suited for decoration than garden work.

When shopping for edge tools like hoes or shovels, take along a file to test the quality of the steel. If the file cuts rapidly with minimal pressure, the blade is made of soft metal that won't stand much use.

Check that the handle is securely attached and be sure that it is not badly cracked or splintered. Inspect for cracks, past repairs and rotting. Watch out of handles and metal parts that have been repainted - the paint may be covering up cheap construction or damage.


 
rachael hamblin
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I'm looking for a combination shovel, common hoe, and wheelbarrow--pretty standard stuff.

It surprises me that plastic handles age better.  Is that compared to wood

Thanks for all the tips, I think I might have some trouble finding much on Freecycle here (here in Olympia people are pretty on top of that) but garage and estate sales sound promising. 

Is the main cause of tool damage getting left out in the weather or are there other things as well one should be aware of?  I was wondering today if I should be cleaning my tools before I put them away.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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One cool thing I read about years ago was where some guy filled a 5 gallon bucket with sand and a bit of oil.  Then when bringing tools back, he would poke the tool into the sand, pull it out and hang it up.  The tool would then get the cruddy stuff scraped off and have a thin layer of oil on it. 

Smart.

 
rachael hamblin
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Cool!  I'll have to try that. 

Have you guys heard anything about sharpening shovels and hoes with a metal file?  I'm wondering what angle to sharpen them to.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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While I suppose you could, and I suppose it might help a little, I cannot help but think that you would loose your sharp really fast in the soil.  Plus, handling the tools would suddenly become a little more dangerous. 

But .....  I could be really wrong about this.  If you discover something along these lines, please let us know!
 
rachael hamblin
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I did some nosing around today and found where I first read about sharpening tools with a metal file:  it's in a book called Gardening When It Counts:  Growing Food In Hard Times by Steve Solomon.  He recommends filing shovels to a 15° angle and hoes to a 20° angle and says they're good tools made of quality steel they'll go all summer without needing to be re-sharpened.  I think I'll try it in the next few days when I get some time, I'll let you know how it goes.
 
rachael hamblin
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Just came across this:

Tool Sharpening Workshop: Master Gardener Joshua Medaris will teach a tool sharpening workshop on Saturday, May 17 from 9 AM to 10 AM at Bradner Gardens Park (Seattle).  He will show us how to take apart hand pruners to clean and sharpen them plus he will demonstrate how to sharpen a shovel. To register for this free class, contact Joyce at jmoty@earthlink.net or 206-905-1601.
 
paul wheaton
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rachael hamblin wrote:
Just came across this:

Tool Sharpening Workshop: Master Gardener Joshua Medaris will teach a tool sharpening workshop on Saturday, May 17 from 9 AM to 10 AM at Bradner Gardens Park (Seattle).  He will show us how to take apart hand pruners to clean and sharpen them plus he will demonstrate how to sharpen a shovel. To register for this free class, contact Joyce at jmoty@earthlink.net or 206-905-1601.



I just registered.  I'll be there.
 
Posts: 296
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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For most of the garden tools you'll be using there are two elements involved...steel and wood.

For the steel part of a tool I would recommend looking for old stuff. Non-recycled steel that was made in America way back is the best. A lot of the stuff coming from China today isn't nearly as good (and I've heard rumors of possible radioactivity, but I can't confirm that...anyone have a geiger counter?). If you find a solid steel tool head that is rusty, don't be put off! Ten minutes with an angle grinder and a wire cup brush will make it look like new again. Flea markets and rummage sales seem like the best source for this stuff.

For handles we've been making our own on the farm this year. Someone cut down a cherry tree nearby and we brought home the trunk (it was about 10" diameter and 6' long). We laid it on it's side and used a splitting wedge and sledge hammer to split it several times. From there we used a shave horse and draw knife to get the desired shape. It was fun!

In terms of care, I've heard that a blend of linseed oil and melted beeswax applied on a warm, dry day will penetrate to the core and help to harden the wood and prevent dry rot from moving in. When you use a tool and get the handle dirty, keep a wire brush handy to give it a scrub down (the same goes for tool heads if you don't use them everyday).

paul wheaton wrote:
While I suppose you could, and I suppose it might help a little, I cannot help but think that you would loose your sharp really fast in the soil.  Plus, handling the tools would suddenly become a little more dangerous. 

But .....  I could be really wrong about this.  If you discover something along these lines, please let us know!



We actually find that sharpened shovels and hoes make a huge difference in doing the garden work. For some shovels (particularly tree digging spades) having a good sharp edge is essential for making neat cuts through roots.

Dave
 
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rachael hamblin wrote:
it's in a book called Gardening When It Counts:  Growing Food In Hard Times by Steve Solomon.



thats a great book! very practical and not eco trendy. my husband was involved in the sod business for a time and quickly found out that commercial grade garden tools are the way to go. I have lots of rakes left over that are all steel. They take incredible abuse.
 
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