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Cool Tools, lesser known tools that can improve your life  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Hey Permies, I though it might be a nice idea to start a thread for lesser known or new innovations in tools to help share and spread these tools to the community. I am hoping to learn of some other tools besides the ones I will list from some of the great folks who have been discovering tools that really make life better.

Some examples to get the thread started.

*note links to where to purchase are just provided as examples for folks to get more info and ideas of pricing. I am not affiliated with any of these places or promoting them over any other source. You might be able to find better deals by searching these tools and finding other options to source them.

A couple examples of different Hori Hori style knives with some differences to the standard you see in all the garden stores.

The Barebones Hori Hori. While the Hori Hori knife is not that lesser known, this take on it is a bit different. With a more ergonomic handle, tempered steel that takes sharpening well, and a pommel that lets you use it to impact things. Though I am not a fan of the bottle opener.




*edit Feb 2 2018, the video link stopped working so put in a new video link

Can be found at http://realgoods.com/hori-hori-knife or https://huckberry.com/store/barebones/category/p/34748-hori-hori-gardening-tool?utm_source=shopping&utm_medium=googlep&utm_campaign=housewares.housewares&gclid=CjwKEAiA48fDBRDJ24_imejhwUkSJAAr0M5kUmh8cmBP9AdmscBRV88AI_8edw-2cyeVCWgDWt_t4BoC8Fzw_wcB

Lesche Digger. While not exactly a Hori Hori, these are very similar to Hori Hori style with some differences that make it worthy of consideration. Like the off set blade to give more leverage, or the downward facing serrations to give you root cutting ability when pushing into the ground, choice of left or right serration. Some folks might be familiar with the Garret Wade Pro Gardener's Digging Tool, which is similar in looks to the Lesche. The Lesche however is a superior quality version of these. The Lesche though might be lesser known due to it being mostly used by metal detector scene and not as well known in the gardening scene or even promoted or carried by garden suppliers.



Comparison of the Lesche vs Garret Wade.


Can be found at http://www.colonialmetaldetectors.com/lesche-digging-tool.html or https://www.amazon.com/Lesche-Digging-Tool-Cutter-Left/dp/B00AXB89PY

Next is the Magna Grecia hoe. This great hoe is catching on, but worth adding to let more folks know about. This is a special hoe design is like a combo of hoe and garden fork, that lets you penetrate deep into the ground with the tines to aerate and break up roots.





Can be found at places like https://www.thetoolmerchants.com/store/garden-tools/digging/digging-hoes/magna-grecia-hoe/ or http://scytheworks.ca/catalogue.html

My final example, is the Splitz-All. This is a slide hammer style wood splitter. While there are other slide hammer designs, this one has some great innovative features that set it apart and make it worth looking at. The two handed grip, the longer blade wedge, the multiple sizes/weight for different people's abilities and wood size, and the swiveling ability of the handles.



A decent review of these



Can be found at http://goodnuseful.com/splitz-all/

Hope folks find this thread useful and add to it with their own finds. There are a lot of amazing tools out there I suspect, that just don't get talked about enough or promoted by the industry. So giving us a place to exchange info on tools word of mouth I think is a great way to learn about things we might have missed.
 
pollinator
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One of the most useful tools we have is this small cart made from a baby stroller found at the dump.  We use it for all sorts of carting around the place, but mostly for moving loads of firewood from the woodshed to the house.  The deck will hold two 5 gallon buckets for carting liquids or soil, etc.
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Devin Lavign
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Tyler Ludens wrote:One of the most useful tools we have is this small cart made from a baby stroller found at the dump.  We use it for all sorts of carting around the place, but mostly for moving loads of firewood from the woodshed to the house.  The deck will hold two 5 gallon buckets for carting liquids or soil, etc.



Awesome, DIY and repurposed tools highly encouraged to be posted here as well as commercial products.
 
Posts: 7
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Awesome thread. As far as blades go, I don't have a particular item I recommend, but I'd like to point out the importance of a quality sharpener. My best knife was $3 brand new, only the best because with it I bought a $20 sharpener with it. Also, what's the purpose for the chains surrounding each three blocks of wood in the Splitz-All picture?
 
Devin Lavign
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J Howard wrote:Also, what's the purpose for the chains surrounding each three blocks of wood in the Splitz-All picture?



That is to hold the wood together so you don't have to bend over pick it back up to split again. There are many different videos showing different methods of doing this. From simple tying a rope, using ratchet straps, using a chain, or the very popular old used tire. The one smart and cool innovation the company put on their version of the chain, is they added a rubber elastic section to allow some give and expansion as the wood splits apart. Though this could be achieved by buying chain and adding a rubber bungee to it. And the videos of people using all the other methods the issue of needing a little stretch in the binding never seems to really come up as an issue.
 
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http://ecominded.net/news/fokin-s-ploskorez.html
I bought 2 of these... Used paypal, and had them shipped to the US... Grand total $35. A steal! I had to make handles for them, but a few minutes of work and I have tools that are AMAZING! I went to try them out, and the next thing I knew, an hour had gone by and my 4 strawberry beds were weeded and tidied up, ready for spring.

 
Posts: 55
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Great thread.  Anyone here use a broadfork?  They're expensive hand tools, so I'd like to know if they're worth it, and if so, brands and sizes you'd recommend.

Bonnie
 
pollinator
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Bonnie Kuhlman wrote:Great thread.  Anyone here use a broadfork?  They're expensive hand tools, so I'd like to know if they're worth it, and if so, brands and sizes you'd recommend.

Bonnie


I use the Meadow Creature broadfork. There are lighter less expensive ones but the Meadow Creature version is the strongest and most effective for breaking new ground.  It is capable of prying up a one man rock burried in the ground without damage. It is manufactured near me on Vashon Island, WA. I had mine custome made with the tines closer together for digging up himalayan blackberry crowns. That is another video project on my list.
 
Devin Lavign
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Another tool I just heard about on this thread https://permies.com/t/55529/Perfect-offgrid-welder#539094 is the Ready Welder.





It seems this has been well known in the 4X4 off road circles, for out in the field repairs. But for the same reasons the off road folks love it it makes this a great off grid welder option.



I am not going to go too deep into it here since I don't have experience with these, I would suggest if you are interested check out the thread I linked that specifically discusses it by someone who does have experience with it. One last thing to mention is that it is said to weld steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. So not only portable and small sized, but versatile too.

You can find all four versions at their website http://readywelder.com/products-page/?doing_wp_cron=1488198527.2970209121704101562500
 
pollinator
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I have a Wallenstein Trailer.

It can be use as a log trailer to haul out logs for firewood, building WOFATI's, setting rafters and timbers in place, picking anything heavy, moving big round bales, or any other number of things. But then the grapple can be changed out and a post hole drill put in its place so you can bore fence posts, posts for WOFATI's, or any number of things. But then the log bunks can be swapped out for a dump body that comes with it, so you can move brush and dump it, place big rocks you have picked up with the grapple in the dump body, or fill the dump body with soil or gravel to build driveways, paths, move manure, brush for hugels, etc. But wait there is more. You can then put a backhoe bucket on it so that you can dig trenches, make swales, make hugels, cover WOFATI's, etc.

I am in the process of building an upside down woodsplitter for it so that I don't have to lift firewood at all.

In short it is the swiss army knife of homestead equipment. And with its own 6 hp engine driving the hydraulics, it is self powered. I use it on my bulldozer, farm tractor, but honestly use it the most on my Ford Explorer! That is because it is so fast, can go down the highway, and is so versatile. Besides my bulldozer, it is the second best purchase I ever made.

 
steward
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Oh, my goodness, Travis! That is a magical machine! Having major machine envy over here . . . Tell me how much it cost, so I can get back to reality and realize that it's out of our price range.
 
Devin Lavign
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Tracy Wandling wrote:Oh, my goodness, Travis! That is a magical machine! Having major machine envy over here . . . Tell me how much it cost, so I can get back to reality and realize that it's out of our price range.



Yes I am imagining those cost a pretty penny, but it has me wondering if one could find them for rent somewhere. I could see how they could make a great rental for a homesteader to get some good log hauling wofati work done.

*edit to add, A quick search and I am finding the lower end ATV and side by side pulled version is $15-$17K I don't think I want to keep looking to see what the larger ones cost.
 
gardener
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James Kniskern, thank you. I just watched the video and ordered the set. I have clayey soil, tons of weeds all the time (not ones I WANT to eat, anyways) and foot issues so a hoe type item is the way to go. Might even be able to dispense with the tempermental gas powered weed whipper (part temper, part mental, that thing is always sulking instead of working).
 
Travis Johnson
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Tracy Wandling wrote:Oh, my goodness, Travis! That is a magical machine! Having major machine envy over here . . . Tell me how much it cost, so I can get back to reality and realize that it's out of our price range.



I got it because I needed a way to get wood out with my bulldozer. It can pull wood out dragging it on the ground, but when I hit a root, stump or rock, my bulldozer would break 3/8 chain chokers. Bigger chain would work, but really getting the wood off the ground was really best, plus I could move more wood since my dozer will go anywhere, but does so very slowly. When I saw this at a local dealership, I inquired.

Note: NEVER just go in to "inquire" at any tractor dealership, you may be surprised what you walk out with.

Tracy, it was $17,999 to the penny delivered to my driveway.  However, this was with the "powerpack", a 6 hp engine and hydraulic system that makes it work independently of the machine pulling it. It can tap into a tractor's hydraulic system, but honestly I use it on my Ford Explorer about 3 times as much as my bulldozer or farm tractor. I just got back from delivering two Spruce Logs to a guy about 10 miles away. He is a Luther (makes custom acoustic guitars) and wanted a few choice logs I cut while logging today. I could not have given them the logs without the ease of this guy.

Next to my bulldozer, it is the second best purchase I ever made. I use it almost every day.

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Travis Johnson
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Another thread got me thinking about this: My Cement Mixer.

We honestly use our cement mixer for a lot of stuff other than mixing cement. We have used it more for mixing potting soil, garden soil, mixing compost, mixing large batches of paint, mixing feed rations for my sheep, than we have for mixing concrete.

But cement mixers can also wash. As it tumbles around you can add water and rinse the dirt off rock for landscaping, pond edging, erosion control, even wash sheep fleeces, and heavily soiled clothing.

You can also use it to crush and pummel. Have a party and need to smash up a lot of ice? Put it in the cement mixer with a few bricks or clean rocks and in short order it will pummel the ice into manageable sizes. This works well if you are making lots of ice cream and are using your own ice taken from a water body of some sort.

It has worked well for that, and while it is a pain to do big jobs, a bag of cement costs $6 and takes (5) of them to make a cubic yard, where as delivered redi-mix cement costs $100 a cubic yard with a 3 cubic yard minimum. Some jobs do not require 3 cubic yards of cement, and $30 a yard is better then $100! Our kitchen counter tops are made from concrete mixed with gravel from our gravel pit and a bag of purchased cement. It is 42 linear feet of counter top for $6!! Its hard to beat the square footage cost on that!


 
Devin Lavign
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So I have been collecting some timber frame tools for building my house, and thought I would share a few cool tools I have discovered and picked up.

These are a bit expensive, but are the top of the line multi function multi generational lasting tools that are being made for a small nitch community so just don't have low price from volume production.

Timber Frame HQ's Timber Frame Layout Tool
It incorporates the features of a framing square, try square, speed square and a protractor all wrapped into one



A slightly cheaper version is Borneman Layout Tool or Big Al layout tool.



This is an earlier design video review


You can find Timberframe HQ's here http://timberframehq.com/shop/layout-square/

You can find the Borneman version here http://www.tfguild.org/products/layout-square

Chappell Universal Square
These squares include useful tables that can help you dramatically in building timber frame structures.



You can find them here http://chappellsquare.com/

Ok for the bit more budget minded there is

The Universal Square
Which is made for the more standard stick and frame building. Sized for standard 2X4 construction.



A decent review of this tool


Can be found at Homedepot http://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-Universal-Square-HUS125/203951642 or Amazon, and plenty of other places.
 
Travis Johnson
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Felco makes a nice hand pruner. It is unique in that it is battery powered to give you two tons of cutting force with just a pull of your finger lobbing off 2" diameter brush. Holster, back pack battery, a charge that lasts 8 hours...

It is not for the frugal minded, but if a person needs to cut a lot of brush for Rocket Stoves, or needs to prune an orchard with a lot of cuts that require force, this little known tool might be the way to go.

 
Devin Lavign
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Well about time to mention another cool tool, or two related ones.

The Yankee Drill and Driver

I grew up with my mother having a Yankee Handyman drill, and was a bit upset when I became an adult and found they no longer made them. Stanley had bought the Yankee drill/driver name and stopped producing them because of the popularity of power drills, especially cordless ones. For them there just wasn't a market for these cool tools. A few years ago they allowed Garret Wade to have these start being made again under the Yankee name.

So thankfully new made all metal Yankee drills and bits are being made again to keep these great tools alive and out there.

Here is a collection of various Yankee drill types, the bottom right is 2 of the Handyman variety.


These make great drills for hanging pictures, or pilot holes, or many small drill tasks. Simple to use, and have storage for the bits in the handle.

Here is a video of the New made Garret and Wade Yankee drills.


You can find them and bits for sale here http://www.garrettwade.com/garrett-wade-yankee-push-drill-gp.html You can also find older versions on ebay for sale. Though quality bits can be pricey, I actually bought several drills that came with bits because they were cheaper than buying bits alone.

Also there are Yankee drivers,

Here is a few different sized versions.


Here is a video discussing and showing the restoration of some older ones.


There is a modern made hex bit insert to let you use hex bits like mentioned in the video, which you can find here http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=57809&cat= and you can get new made bits http://www.leevalley.com/us/wood/page.aspx?p=66021&cat=1,43411,43417


Garret Wade does make a modern new make in what they call an "Improved" version that only accepts hex heads http://www.garrettwade.com/improved-yankee-style-screwdrivers-gp.html?green=1B0A2093-834F-58B3-A4E0-B15B476B675D

There are also a few other modern hex only bit versions you can find on Amazon from lesser known companies that don't have the Yankee name. They seem sort of forgotten in the modern Ratchet Screwdriver world, but typical modern ratcheting drivers don't include the push mechanism to power the bit they just give a ratchet option.

Otherwise I think you are left with buying old used ones, as I don't thing there is any modern manufacture of the drivers that actually use the old proprietary bit style.

Anyways, hope folks enjoy this addition to Cool Tools thread. I absolutely love these drills and drivers. They are handy to have and really are great additions to anyone's home tool set.
 
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Someone's going to roll their eyes, but I gotta add these with their special uses.

1. A large flat head screwdriver. Not an attachment: the old wrist-powered type. It opens paint, stirs paint and cement/ plaster, prys up other stuff, opens bags, can help with tuck-pointing, spacing tile, cleaning out old caulk, and best of all, can be stabbed in the ground for pea planting or sometimes general small seedling planting. Poke it in the ground, swivel it around, you've got a hole! Oh, it also unscrews flat head screws. And, it is sturdy enough to not bend even in hard Earth!

2. A hammer. The back end is a small hoe and an excellent weeder. Grab the root like a rogue nail and pull it out. Excellent for harvesting dandelions for roasted root tea. Mmm! You can dig with that back end too, not excellent, but if you lost your shovel or need to break into tough ground, it works. The other end gets nails and stakes where you want them. It can also grind up things like nuts for food or rocks for paint.  It can bang in a wedge to split wood, though not the ideal tool. I've also managed to keep the same hammer for 20 years despite regular use, but when I tried to use trowels I broke 1/month.
 
gardener
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Travis Johnson wrote:Felco makes a nice hand pruner. It is unique in that it is battery powered to give you two tons of cutting force with just a pull of your finger lobbing off 2" diameter brush. Holster, back pack battery, a charge that lasts 8 hours...

It is not for the frugal minded, but if a person needs to cut a lot of brush for Rocket Stoves, or needs to prune an orchard with a lot of cuts that require force, this little known tool might be the way to go.



This tool is freaky expensive, but I think that I could justify buying it. I often take on big hedges which require hundreds of cuts in the 1 to 2 inch size range. These cuts are currently made with my small Makita chainsaw. It appears that this would be faster, and would allow me to reach out further. It would also be very handy, when trying to process Twisted branches, so that they pack into the vehicle better. If I were to charge a premium of $20 per hour more, when using this tool, it would be paid off in approximately 130 hours. Seems like a lot, but it could actually make sense for me.

I would definitely use it to process all of my rocket fuel. It would probably work to chop corn stalks and to harvest salal, for flower arrangements. Also the perfect tool for most infestations of Scotch broom and English ivy. I currently use hand loppers, and that same small chainsaw, when processing these. The chainsaw would still be needed, but this thing cuts branches better than my large Fiskars loppers do.

I sometimes free climb, through fruit trees and large hedging. This would allow me to keep both hands active, while climbing from place to place.

I'm sure that these are meant for people with big Orchards and Vineyards , so it is bound to be super durable. The video made it look very promising.

A couple years ago, I spent $2,000 on Stihl cordless long reach chainsaw and hedge cutter. They were paid off with one good week of cutting. This tool could be used in conjunction with that stuff. The hedge cutter struggles with anything over three-quarter inch.

It would be absolutely awesome, when I'm maintaining trails on the farm.

Just imagine the self defense applications. I'd be more dangerous than Edward Scissorhands.
 
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These are not the brand I have mine are unbranded, but they are excellent, cut up to 1.5 inches without any strength being needed, the only downside is if you're trying to reach in somewhere crowded, they do need a bit of space to operate.
 
pollinator
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The cone. Without the cone it would be impossible for me to harvest logs.



The cone at work. The logs don't catch, are cleaner and consequently much nicer to sawmill blades.



When I first used this trench digger I fell down to my knees and cried. I use it to break new ground, remove small stumps, cutting roots, unearthing rocks, etc.
Before digger = hell
After digger = pleasant workout
 
Devin Lavign
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So it has been awhile since I added anything to this thread, but i just recently got some new cool tools that I wish to share with folks.

The Worx Areocart

This is a great multi function tool. While usually multi function tends to mean something does not do as good a job in specific tasks, this is one multi function tool that doesn't sacrifice much for being able to change tasks. While yes it does have some sacrifices for not being 100% dedicated to one task, it isn't that great in sacrifices. In fact these folks actually solve a lot of problems and make some great improvements that make up for the few issues that might seem like sacrifices.



Short Worx video


the Worx rather long video about this


This tool can be expanded further by adding additional accessories. Like a snow plow attachment, a wagon attachment, firewood carrier attachment, etc..

A video of the accessories



Can be found at https://www.worx.com/aerocart-wheelbarrow-yard-cart-wg050.html or https://www.amazon.com/Aerocart-Multifunction-2-Wheeled-Dolly-Wheelbarrow/dp/B00KCIZ5SM or https://www.homedepot.com/p/Worx-4-cu-ft-AeroCart-WG050/205310994


The Superwinch Winch2go

A winch can be a handy item to have on the homestead. But you might not always want it just mounted in one place on your vehicle. Superwinch has a great portable winch here that can be moved and used various ways. It can be transferred from one vehicle to another or used independent of a vehicle, as long as you have a 12v battery to power it. This means you can use it for a lot of different tasks, for getting a vehicle unstuck to moving objects around a work site on your property.





There is a wire rope or synthetic rope version. Both have plus and minuses, if your not familiar do your research to figure out which is the right option for you.

Can be found at https://superwinch.com/products/winch2go or https://www.amazon.com/Superwinch-1140232-Portable-Synthetic-D-Shackles/dp/B0166H2WFG?th=1 or https://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200676483_200676483

Next the DR Field and Brush Mower which I actually picked up used via craiglist and immediately was thankful for the investment. If you have woodbrush that needs chopping down, this is a huge time and energy saver. I have a 1/4 mile easement road that I needed to brush the sides of to keep it clear, using a weedeater, lopers, and pruning saws it took me weeks to do the entire 1/4. But in 30 min, withe the brush mower I was able to do that entire thing. I was then able to continue to use this tool to do other brushing around my property clearing woody brush and maintaining the trails I have put into the property, as well as clearing the area I am planning to build my house at so I could get a better idea of the site.







Like the Areocart one of the things that is nice about the DR Brush mower is they have attachments that can add function to this already useful tool. A lawn mower, snow plow/grader, snow thrower, and wood chipper. I picked mine up with the snow thrower attachment, and hope to pick up the wood chipper attachment sometime this year so I can chip up a lot of the dead branches I have all over my property and start covering the pathways and trails with wood chips.



A video about the attachments


Can be found at https://www.drpower.com/power-equipment/field-brush-mowers/ or a local DR dealer, most places you can find chainsaws and lawn tractors you will find these cool tools. And like I did, you might find a used option you can pick up for a good deal.
 
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J Howard wrote:Awesome thread. As far as blades go, I don't have a particular item I recommend, but I'd like to point out the importance of a quality sharpener. My best knife was $3 brand new, only the best because with it I bought a $20 sharpener with it. Also, what's the purpose for the chains surrounding each three blocks of wood in the Splitz-All picture?


Don't know if you ever got an answer to your question.  The chains hold the logs as they're being split, so you aren't chasing around after the pieces to split again or just load out.  Why did they use three logs? No idea, I've generally seen the trick used for axe or maul splitting and usually just one log at a time...
 
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Firewood processors are workhorses, they cut and split the wood quickly, especially the hydraulic units . However , cost some money. Leasing is worth looking at. Usually  you only need 2 months payments and you,re in business. You will make all your own fuel and be able to sell to others. We bag the wood and deliver it. Nice stream of hundred dollar bills...

THere are firewood processors to mount on front or rear of a skidsteer/traktor or stand alone units with 18 hp gas engines.

Look up firewoodprocessors.ca

Cheers ,

Mark the woodland farmer
 
Mark Deichmann
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Man Ya I have an old yankee scewdriver that finally siezed but it did alot of service.. I got it in scandinavia where they would also jokingly call a hammer  an " american screwdriver " 
 
Mark Deichmann
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Here s 2 handtools that are very useful and not expensive.

The bill hook is the greatest for pruning unwanted branches close to the main tree trunck. Fiskars makes this one , hardware store $30.00 called brush axe but its a traditional bill hook or leaf knife, very good steel. Originally used in pollarding/cutting browse for cattle. Grass feeding beef fairly recent development...

The other is a pickaroon which is an axehandle with a steel beak on it for picking up and even tossing wood with.  Saves alot of bending. This one is old beak on new handle.

Sorry for the poor photo. I think my camera froze !
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I saw this at the mother earth news fair. My mouth dropped. Why havent i seen this years ago? Simple but brilliant.

Its a pruner with the cutter bent at 90 degrees.

It allows my old achy body to cut baby junipers in an upright position. The key to killing it is getting the bottom leaf cut. It doesnt always happen when cutting at an angle with traditional pruners. The handle has an adjustable length also.
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Get out of my mind! Look! A tiny ad!
Do you prefer white or black rocket ovens?
https://permies.com/t/90003/prefer-white-black-rocket-ovens
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