Friday, 25 March 2011

A new spade ~ shopping carefully to get the best

I am now the proud owner of an excellent new spade, a Stanley, which you can see pictured at the left.

I had been promising myself a proper landscapers spade for years, and when my previous spade recently buckled under excess pressure I decided it was finally time to get what I had wanted for so long.  I knew it would be fairly costly so I weighed up the range of choices carefully.

It was surprisingly hard to find but after looking in three garden supply shops I eventually found it at Bunnings.  I don't ordinarily visit this store as I have doubts about the business ethics of any business promising to undercut all others, but having looked at the other places first I went there with a clear conscience!  I was pleased to find they had a comprehensive range to choose from, and in fact the spade I chose wasn't stocked anywhere else, I can't imagine why as it was far and away the best I saw anywhere.

I'm fussy about design.  I was looking for these features:
  • A handle that is in line with the shaft so I can get maximum energy down the shaft when digging.  Some spades now have handles which are set at an angle which wouldn't suit me at all: when I'm working the ground over there are times when I like to repeatedly drop the cutting edge of the spade to the ground in a chopping movement while keeping a light hold of the handle, and an angled handle wouldn't allow for this action.
  • A clean shaft with smooth joints at the point at which the metal wraps around the wooden shaft - my hand needs to be able to slide up and down it when I'm using it as a shovel.  Some have pronounced ridges at this halfway point or sloppily finished joints.  If you've ever used a spade which has a poor joint at this junction you will know exactly what I mean!
  • Good quality metal, tough enough for the work I do.
  • A reasonable assurance that the spade would stand up to hard work for a good long time.
The Stanley qualified on all counts: it has a ten year guarantee and the blade is stainless steel.  I expect it will last at least twice that long, possibly forever.  At $74.45 it wasn't cheap but it's a brand which has a sound reputation so I know I've made a good investment.  I will continue to enjoy using it for many years, long after I've forgotten what it cost me. 

Note: New spades are likely to be fairly blunt.  This is a safety consideration for the store owners, and you can expect to have your spade sharpened before it will be properly effective.  A good spade, properly sharpened, really is a pleasure to use.  One safety tip I will share is that I always wear closed footwear when I'm gardening - it's so easy for sharp tools to slip and cause injury, or blunt ones for that matter!  When I've taken proper safety precautions I know I can relax and enjoy myself.  The garden is a great place for that.

I've written two earlier articles about other gardening tools, the first entitled Gardening ~ tips about tools and the second about hand mowers entitled People-powered lawn mowers.

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