Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quality Tools

As the shank of the little garden trowel broke, my hand shoved the handle on down into the soil, my index finger sliding over the edge of the blade. I looked at the finger and just caught a glimpse of the bone before the blood flow hid it. I said a few choice words about what a blankity blank piece of crap it was and slung it into the cedars. After letting it bleed for a while I headed into the house to get the cellophane tape. Lyn is big on getting cuts stitched up. I on the other hand, am not. I was able to get it taped up tight and just hoped she wouldn't see it with cellophane tape on it. It had worked before.


I got out another trowel and noticed it had a big notch out of it. It was crap as well. There just had to be a better garden trowel out there but I had never seen it. I looked at my Corona pruning snips laying on the porch and thought about what a quality piece of equipment they were. They are just a joy to use as were my Mom's Felco snips. They cost more than the cheap ones but here it is nearly thirty years after buying them and they still work perfectly. The Coronas still snap a limb right off and they have never even needed the spring replaced. Buying quality is always worth the extra price in the long run.


In snips, Felco and Coronas have long been known to be of top quality. What about garden spades and trowels? Uhhhh, I don't know. You never see any good ones in the stores or nurseries. There had to be some available some where. Before I started looking, I thought about what I would require in a good garden trowel. A strong shank from handle to blade came right to mind as I looked at the cellophane tape hiding my wound. I didn't want any soft or pliable material on the handle. It seems that it always wears off or breaks over as you push on the handle in really tough soil. Stainless construction for no rust and last forever tool. Tough blade, no aluminum here. I've got trowels with aluminum blades with notches and broken blades. Lastly, did I mention a strong shank between the handle and the blade.


Every one knows that the English make the best gardening tools, so I started out looking at them. The best of these are Snow and Neely, Spear and Jackson, and Burgon and Bull. Why each brand has two names I don't know. [I'll have to ask my friend Philip at East Side Patch Blog about that, he's from over yonder] The English love wooden handles and I could get by with them, even though they can crack, splinter and flat out break. The steel in the blades is top notch and you shouldn't have to worry about it...ever. Then we get to the shank. On every one of these, the shank is very small and is riveted or spot welded to the blade. I kept looking.


I tried Japanese gardening tools next. While they have some great pruners, weeders, hoes and sickles they don't use trowels. They dig with a knife. Keep looking.


Finally, I looked at American made tools and there it was, the perfect trowel for me. The Wilcox All Pro. I was literally giddy with delight. It was just perfect. Stainless construction, solid built handle with a good grip. The best part.....there was no shank. It was a part of the blade, just blending right into the handle. Did I mention that it was just perfect, well perfect for me, you might not like it at all.


I figured I would try to find one in the spring before I started planting and promptly forgot about it. I did however tell my wife, you know, the one that likes stitching for woulds and never forgets anything. Well while opening my presents for Christmas, I got to the ones from my Mother in Law, the best Mother in Law in the world, and there they were, a pair of Wilcox All Pro trowels. And yes, they are just like I thought they would be, the perfect garden trowels. Thanks Mom, your the best.



13 comments:

The Whimsical Gardener said...

Looking forward to hearing how you like your new tools! Lots of spring planting to be looking forward to - it won't be long now!

Patchwork said...

Thanks for this post. I like using a trowel, too. I'll be looking for these. They look perfect.

Stay warm.

katina said...

my favorite spade/trowel (is there a difference?) is one I got from my coworker - he had bought a bunch for family members and had left overs so I got it. But I normally don't use it for digging in the rock soil like you do...

Kathleen Scott said...

Way cool! Although I use a little pickax for the kind of digging you're doing with trowels (avoids the shank problem), I'm glad you posted this. Nice to know what to get next time.

PS Don't your taped-up wounds fester?

Tabor said...

Right tool for the right job. Perhaps your body strength and the particular job are not for trowel use...maybe a small shovel? Jest saying...

Meredith said...

Hope your finger is better! Those trowels look amazing -- guess I better add them to the wish list!

Kathleen Scott said...

Thanks for the bull ID at Hill Country Mysteries!

ESP said...

Bob...your welding hands must surely make for the best "trowels" for most of your gardening situations...no? Those Wilcox All Pro trowels look very nice indeed. I like rounded trowels that can scoop out a small shovel-load of dirt at a time...the Wilcox pointed variation looks like a good, sharp shoveler for stubborn soil, the other one I would want for..oh
I just want both of these, immediately!
Great informative product review Bob.

ESP.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Bob,

Good find! The brand name on the pointed, heavyweight, stainless steel trowel I've had for 12+ years is "Polar Products", but I don't even know if the company exists anymore. My friend Ruth gave it to me... we gardeners don't forget who gives us good tools, do we!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose (tend to use masking tape & carmex, myself)

Bob said...

I never saw that one in my looking at the web. I bet it's a good one though if it's lasted that long. It's nice to work with a good tool.

Lancashire rose said...

Ouch! I hope you keep your tetanus shots up to date, as every gardener should.
Isn't it wonderful to have a new garden tool? Trouble is I sometimes can't bring myself to start using it-particularly the new pruners I got a month ago. I'm afraid they will go the ay of my old ones. Left out in the rain etc.

Elgin_house said...

Hey Bob--

I've had this same subject on my mind, too, only about long-handled shovels and hoes. I wouldn't mind spending some money, but I want a well-balanced tool that will last a couple of decades or more.

I hope the Wilcoxes live up to your expectations, but if not, you might try the hefty solid aluminum trowel by Corona (http://www.gemplers.com/product/CT301/Corona-Trowel)--back when I worked at the Antique Rose Emporium (ages ago), they always had us use Felco pruners and Corona trowels.

Cheers--

Melanie

Anonymous said...

The other great part of these tools is their bright red handles- making it almost impossible to lose them if you set them down for a minute, get distracted and walk away! Good find!!