Mar 022011

On every prepper or survivalist wish list you will find the category “tools.” Everyone recommends a good collection of hand tools, particularly garden tools. That is, shovels, rakes, hoes and maddocks. I have a pretty good collection of gardening equipment purchased mostly at local hardware stores. But, there is a lot to be said for quality. Not all tools are equal.

Clearly, hand made, forged tools of high quality steel should last longer and sharpen better than the Chinese made stuff one finds at the hardware store.

If I were a young man today, knowing what I think I know, I believe I would try and pursue a career as a blacksmith. Blacksmiths are few and far between these days. There might be one in Whatcom County and a couple more in Island County. I have purchased some carving tools from Jim Wester at North Bay Forge on Waldron Island. He makes very high quality knives and adzes. The quality of Mr. Wester’s creations leads me to conclude that I need to upgrade my garden tools with hand-forged equipment.

Locally, one can find some high quality tools at Smith and Speed Mercantile in Eastsound. I’ve been lusting for an Orcas Broadfork for three years now and may just have to bite the bullet and get one.

Smith and Speed has quite a collection of hand tools for gardening, woodlot, woodworking and brush removal as well as many other “homesteading” items. This will be the year for a visit to Eastsound. In the meantime, their website is nicely done and they fill internet orders.

To the south, in Boring, Oregon is Red Pig Garden Tools a forge that specializes in garden tools, perhaps the only forge with that degree of specialization. They forge lots of hand tools for the garden as well as a broadfork that’s thirty bucks cheaper than Speed and Smith’s.

One of this blacksmith’s unique creations is a blackberry hoe, specifically designed to grub out Himalayan berry vines.

I read on the Soil and Health Discussion group that many of the Red Pig tools are made from old sawmill blades which should mean good quality steel.

Fisher Blacksmithing makes hand tools for the garden which are virtual works of art.

Square hoe

Large trowel

Clarington Forge has a full line of English made forged

tools including lots of spades and shovels plus this very innovative potato fork that has a little bulb on each of the nine tines so that the tine passes by the potato instead of spearing it.

Potato fork

Clarington also has the best collection of garden spades that

have long handles.

The Sustainable Seed Company offers a line of Japanese Garden Tool that are hand forged by some smiths in San Francisco. The Japanese tools are often unique like this window hoe designed to break up soil and let it slide right through the opening.

Window hoe

Chinese made tools from Ace are better than nothing but it might be smarter to spend a little bit more and buy hand forged tools that will last a lifetime.

Finally, I think everyone should buy a good quality scythe and tuck it away in the garage in the event that gasoline becomes to dear to run in a mower. A high quality Austrian scythe is fun to use, very effective in mowing grass and a better excercise machine than a stairmaster. I rambled on about scything here so I won’t do it again.


  4 Responses to “Beautiful Tools”

  1. Every family does not need a whole set of tools as much as the pionerring spirit may nudge you in that direction. Coordinate within your neighborhood. Maybe 4 wheelbarrows or chainsaws instead of 16. Save money and share work together.

  2. Some tools are great for sharing (high cost, rarely used). Others – relatively low cost or needed nearly daily at least some times of the year, depending on one’s soil and other things – are best in one’s own tool shed: wheelbarrow, other haulers, shovels, digging fork, small mattock (essential for digging in clay/rocky soil), hand-held mini-mattock to name a few.

    I’ve a favorite el cheapo hand-held mini digger/weeder from Hardware sales — *very* tough (don’t bend even when used as pry-bars on pretty good-sized rocks), although *not* tough enough to tangle successfully with a Kubota-powered tiller, as I found out when I put one down ‘for just a minute’ when I was hacking up deep weeds and rocks in the soon-to-be orchard. We found it, mangled, after working over the soil with the tiller. (Kubota was fine.) I bought two more to replace it (~$25 for both).

    My most recent acquisition (after bending one borrowed from a neighbor – fixed it, but it sure wasn’t tough enough for our soil) is an exceptionally sturdy, light-weight wooden-handled stainless steel Japanese San-Kaku hoe (Lee Valley tools). Price was high enough for this to be an anniversary present that I agonized over, but after using it for a year I can say it was worth it. Anywhere I go to weed where my mini-weeder/mattock isn’t tough enough, it (or my larger mattock/polish hoe) goes.

    Got my favorite stainless rabbiting spade and digging fork from Lee Valley, too, years ago when they were first introduced — good idea with Lee Valley, which seems sometimes to have lower prices and better quality when they initially introduce a product.

    My favorite tools don’t leave the homestead without me. Sharing them would be like sharing my toothbrush. Even Bill gets a bit of the evil eye when I see him looking at one. I’m happy to let folks try them here, of course. Or I’d be happy to swap some of my work with my tool in your garden for ?, providing my back and knees (also tools I don’t lend without good reason) are up to the job.

  3. Wynne, I’m with you on the loaning of certain tools.

    clean your tools after use
    and keep them out of the weather
    Oh a rough handle on a shovel or pick can make a project a chore

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