favorite tools

Jamestown, NY(Zone 5a)

I am looking for tools that are easy to use. I have arthritis which is progressing steadily into all my joints. My knees, back and now wrists are becoming compromised. I have the radius hand tools, but have never tried the shovels.
I was wondering what other gardeners use.

SE/Gulf Coast Plains, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi Garden56! Hope you are still around. I don't get a chance to check the forum's main page as much as I would like.
Your soil type and particular garden style will determine your choice in long-handled tools. I've found I need only three long-handled tools. A combination shovel, a hoe and a rigid garden rake (bow rake). A spade is useful if you have heavy soils and for initially breaking up a new garden space. If you move around a lot of soft material a scoop shovel is a good investment. I have sandy soil for the most part and do a significant amount of gardening in large containers. A combination shovel serves my needs fine. It doesn't hold as much as a scoop, but it can be used for digging which would be next to impossible with a scoop. I have a narrow-bladed spade shovel for heavy clay, but rarely use it simply because a combination shovel will do what needs done 90% of the time and I don't want to walk back to the tool shed to get a spade or carry around more tools than necessary.
In my opinion, a short shafted shovel (Say that 3 times fast. lol.) such as those with a D-shape handle at the top of the shaft, are only good for camping trips or if you are small, as in 5' 2" or shorter. Longer shafted tools are easier on the back and give better leverage. Many people aren't aware that new shovels come unsharpened. I would suggest buying a metal file to keep your shovel blade sharp no matter what brand you choose. Files with handles are easiest to use in my experience. A shovel with a sharp blade edge lessens the stress and strain on your body. A 15 sharpening angle works best for a shovel. (20 for a hoe.)
Sharpening isn't hard once you get the hang of it. 75 to 100 strokes of the file is all that is usually needed. The important thing is to keep that 15 angle every stroke. There is no rule that says sharpening has to be done all at once. You can file a few strokes, then come back later and do a few more. I have no arthritis in my hands or wrist, but my hands and wrist aren't very strong so I usually do a sharpening in 3 segments. You don't have to sharpen the entire edge. Focus on the part of the blade that "opens" the ground. An 8" section is fine. Work from the center of the blade outward. After that center section is sharp, turn the shovel over. A thin ridge of metal has probably formed on the back as you worked on the front of the blade. You will want to smooth that away with the file. Job done. You will be amazed at how much easier working with a sharpened shovel is on your body.
I have no specific brand recommendations. A good guide is to buy whatever the professional landscapers in your area use. They probably work with your soil type every day and have already worked out the quality/price ratio for tools. . Professionals can't afford the cost of constantly replacing broken shovels or the time required to sharpen shovels that don't hold an edge well.
My only hard and fast rule for purchasing a shovel is I will never buy one that doesn't have a rolled or flattened edge on the top of the blade where you push down with your feet. A shovel without it will bruise the bottoms of your feet even through good work shoes. I like fiberglass handles, but that is just a preference because of my bad habit of leaving shovels out in the weather Where wooden handles quickly roughen. I've gotten splinters from wooden handles. But, if you take better care of long handled tools than I do, it probably wouldn't matter. I haven't noticed that fiberglass handles are inherently stronger.
Hope this info helps. It isn't really a tool, but do you have braces for your wrist. I have frail bony wrist and I like to work wearing wrist braces when shoveling. since that task does put stress on the wrist. mk*

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Kay, those magic words "I have no arthritis in my hands or wrist!" How simple, and yet how expressive!

Your measurement of the spade--you're tall and upright. I'm 5'6" but always sitting. I couldn't use a long shovel, but could probably use a short one.

SE/Gulf Coast Plains, AL(Zone 8b)

Good point, Carrie. I should have mentioned that I am 6' and that my arthritis is limited to my knees, hips and lower back with occasional flare ups in my elbows. Also, Jim, whose experience I drew on, is 6' 3" and his arthritis is primarily in his spine. Jim uses a wheelchair on bad days, but still works from an upright position most of the time. You never want to work bent over if you are tall and have arthritis in your back so we naturally prefer long-handled tools.

Graham, NC(Zone 7b)

I have a little different issue...fibromyalgia. It tends to cause me a lot of trouble using digging tools like shovels, etc. It often makes the muscles in my neck and shoulders seize up. I am working on installing a food forest in my back yard and put a LOT of things on order this year. Thankfully I have talked my dad into helping with installation. Otherwise the process would have been extended over a very long period of time.

A few different tools that I got last year that have quickly become favorites are a pair of hand pruners from Bahco that are smaller so they fit my hands better and I was able to pick the option for a smaller cutting diameter too, to help meter my zealousness in what I try to cut with them. I like that they have replaceable parts so they should be able to last me a lifetime. I also picked the pair that have one of the handles that swivel as you cut because it is supposed to be easier on a person if using for an extended period of time. I will say that feature has taken some getting used to, but it doesn't phase me at all now.

Another tool that I got from Bahco was a pair of loppers that have telescoping handles. I can use them at the compacted length or extend out the handles 8 inches more. The most important thing for me, with this particular tool, is that it is made from aircraft grade aluminum so it will not only be durable and long lasting, but for me the best part is that they are very light. I fell in love with them the first time that I used them. I was able to stand up and cut things at ground level (handles extended) so it made it less tiresome for my back. I am only 5'5", though. I had a physically healthy friend that tried them out and, after a couple of cuts, was convinced and wants a pair of his own.

Jamestown, NY(Zone 5a)

Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I have never heard of Bahco before and googled it. Looks like a good line.
Amargia I appreciate all that you have said. My husband is 6'3" and I definitely feel that he would benefit from a long handled shovel.
I did get a pair of rachet prunners and loper that we both use quite a bit. I definitely takes the strain off the hands. I like the Radius hand tools for hand cultivation and digging. I have given a set to my Mom and she is happy with them.
I had one of those "rolling seats" but found that I was so bent over, I ended up with a tremendous back ache. I had to find a seat that was higher.
We have clay soil, so I often enlist the help of a relative if the task is large!

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

That's my favorite tool: a helper!

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Lol.. Right on Carrie.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I don't recall reading in any of your posts about the fiberglass handles on the longer tools. I would never buy another shovel etc. with wood handles. 'course now I doubt if I would be able to use any of them. But for the last several years it has been just fiberglass handles. They are so much lighter than the wood. Much easier to use.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

And they don't break, should they be used by somebody in an indelicate way! I've seen way too many clumsy people BREAK wood-handled tools.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

You're right Carrie, that too.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Huh, I don't recall even seeing tools with the fiberglass handles here. Makes a lot of sense though.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Really!! I am shocked. In Oregon? We have had them for several years. Maybe you just don't realize that is what they are. Most are bright red, some yellow, If you see any colored ones like that pick them up. Big difference in weight. Especially after you have been working a while.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I really like the Fiskars line of pruners and loppers with the ratchets and power-gear designs that give me a mechanical advantage. I would think they would be very useful for people with arthritis in the hands and wrists. It is so much easier to use these maybe I will delay getting arthritis!

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Yes Mim, I agree. I like the ratchet feature on them also. I have had so many joint replacements. Yes, arthritis and osteoporosis. There is a real good article in the Spokane newspaper, Spokesman Review, yesterday. You should be able to get it on the internet. Take a look. Very good. Wish I had seen it years ago and paid attention. If you can't find it, let me know and I will copy it and send it to you snail mail. Jen

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Maybe if I just *happen* to buy them for my DH, he will use them and have less pain.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Back to the topic of this thread, my favorite tool is the Hori Hori knife. I love it. You can dig with it, divide the roots with it, cut strings etc, just about anything you need to do for the plants. Especially perennials. Love it for dividing roots and also cutting the root ball on house plants to repot them. Try one.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

I love mine too, Jnette. I've dug trenches, dug up small trees, dug up sod. Also use it like a narrow trowel to move small amounts of soil. Cut grass, a handful at a time. And like you said, it's fabulous at cutting roots. It and pruners are usually all I need.

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