Tools of the Trade

I am a Tool Guy. That is a fact that I have come to grips with over the past decade or so. Now, in my defense, it is primarily through a deep respect for quality instilled in me from my father that was honed to a razor’s edge through my adult life by rapping my knuckles against car chassis when an inferior tool broke, or wasting an entire day on a job that literally took 30 minutes once I broke down and bought the correct tool for the job.
I no longer spend my weekends under cars sacrificing my money and blood on the altar of speed, but the tool thing is still there. I am hard on tools. I have little, um, finesse and typically average 1.75 digging forks a season… don’t get me started on hoes and spades. While it is almost entirely the fault of the crappy “tools” at today’s hardware store’s, I accept the fact that I am asking them to do work that most of my generation is using either Skidsteer’s or Rototillers for. I am committed to carbon free gardening, so I was setting myself up.

Frustration built to a climax last year when I put in our mini-prairie and cut through almost 1000 sq ft of established quack grass sod by hand. My tools were poorly balanced and refused to hold an edge once I tried to sharpen them. I vowed to change this year. With revenue coming in from our cottage rain barrel business I took the plunge this week. At left is $225 (shipped) of the pinnacle of hand gardening equipment available. I didn’t get a digging fork because I have one that I am rather fond of and haven’t broken (yet).

I stumbled upon Earth Tools last year when researching walk behind tractors for a market gardening project, and then went nutso for their DeWitt line of English Spades. Some guys read Maxim-I read Earthtools. That may also be why Mia and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary this week, but I digress. I could try to explain the feel of the tool, but I will let Joel at Earth Tools speak for me:

All DeWit spades are forged to a hardness of approximately 60 rockwell;
incredibly tough. DeWit spades feature a more rounded cutting edge than the
English or American spades; the radius helps slice through tough root material,
crust, etc. with less effort…. All feature typical Dutch ‘T’ grip at the top
of the handle, which we have found to be overall more durable than conventional
‘D’ grips.

They start with the frickin rockwell rating for crying out loud! What is almost impossible to explain is the way the handle tapers to the blade, the balance of the tool, and the solid, yet supple feel of the handle.
I was also dumbstruck by their Rogue Hoes line from Kansas. Literally made from the steel of old plow discs these hoes are farm tough. One of my main uses for hoes is chopping, and the Menard’s hoes frankly suck at that-which is why I end up snapping them. As shown at right, these hoes come with a razor edge on 3 sides with enough steel in them to last a lifetime of resharpening. The welds are beefy, and all the weight is in the head-this tool packs a whallup! These tools are so sharp we had to hold a family meeting with the kids to instill that they are to never touch Daddy’s tools!
For lighter weeding work I also got their scuffle hoe designed to cut on the push and pull stroke and to float on the soil-disturbing less weed seeds for later germination. I got the smallest one with eyes on my lettuce beds which will be difficult to mulch.
Some of these tools are expensive (the spade is $70) but my children will use them in their adult gardens and at my historical breakage rate will pay for themselves in one season. Perhaps even more importantly they can actually be sharpened and will make my hobby more enjoyable and less like work. But most of all, I simply love the feel of a well designed tool.
I would be remiss if I didn’t plug Earth Tools even more. In one morning I had 3 phone calls with them fine tuning my order, despite primarily being an implement dealer, they were more than willing to take the time to answer my questions, and ask their own, to ensure I got exactly the right tool for my intended uses. On top of that I ordered the tools on Monday noon and they were on my door step literally less than 48 hours later. Joel and his team are simply top notch: they sell quality and back it with amazing knowledge and service.
Happy Gardening!

5 Responses

  1. Wow.

    I am learning what you have – that cheap tools are more expensive in the long run. Either because they don’t do the job well, or because they break. I have some surfing to do…

    [Speaking of tools, about that press I bought… In case you want to investigate further, the magic search term on eBay seems to be “wine press”. It appears that Enterprise and Brighton are (or were) the two most common manufacturers.]

  2. I also got a Rogue scuffle Hoe for the same reasons. You’re right. The thing is a tank. While I can’t say I’m excited to start using it, I can’t say I’m not either!

  3. I love the photos of the tools – they are beautiful! While this is a bit arcane for me (the beautiful rosebushes that were in bloom when I bought my house have slowly declined over the seven years I’ve owned it due to neglect), I appreciate the mindfulness that goes into nurturing your immediate environment this way.

  4. I used the scuffle hoe this morning to beat back the lawn from one of our mulched beds. In the space of 90 seconds I had succesfully weeded 30′ of border! This thing is the bomb. It is no good for tap rooted weeds like dandelions or rhizomitous Quack Grass as it just takes the tops off, but for clover and small seedling weeds it is simply unmatched for ease of use. Very, Very impressed at how fast it is.

  5. Rogue Hoes are awesome. I have one of their garden hoes, and it is both a solid tool and a good value.

    I’ll have to check out Earth Tools as well.

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