Friday, April 24, 2015


Gardeners and other DIYers grow fond of good tool that do the job well.  If a tool lasts years, however, it becomes part of one's life. For my part, I hate cheap tools like the "Garden Plus" one pictured. This week, the welded-on head the cheaply made Chinese hoe I'd found in our barn broke clean of its shaft. A search at our local Southern States turned up nothing forged except a $50 hoe with the blade attached to the handle by a really flimsy looking metal collar.  I passed. For $50 more, I could have a tool to last a lifetime.

I began learning this lesson from Andre Viette, the famous gardener of Viette Nurseries and the radio show "In The Garden." He gives workshops just over the mountains from us, in Fishersville, and I recall one where he held up an impressive looking shovel.

"Bulldog!" Viette exclaimed, showing us the brand name. This was not the well-crafted British line of forged tools you will find here; it was a relic from a big-box store. Viette's prop for a tool lesson cost less than twenty dollars.

Then he pointed out every detail about the shovel that made it less impressive than its canine namesake. It lacked a forged head, and the collar was merely bent steel. The rivets were wimpy. The handle was not quite long enough. But it was painted a vivid color!

Viette noted, wryly, that men like to buy tough-sounding tools, and he advised us to avoid sidewinders, rattlesnakes, sharks, and lions.  I have followed his policy every since.  I made that choice for a Spear and Jackson digging fork and spade. A local greenhouse stocked them for many years, until they realized most of their customers preferred cheap-ass tools made in cheap-labor nations.

Not me. We only presume that we can infinitely go to buy whatever we need, whenever something breaks.

What if globalization broke? I hope it does not; I'm no "Doomer." My Japanese Yanmar diesel in our small tractor, and the bigger Yanmar in the backhoe, brought the very best international technology to our farm.

Whatever the origin, I'm going to find the right tool and hold on to it. Kudos to companies like Duluth Trading for bringing that philosophy back to clothing and tools. An unnamed cheap-ass relative admitted about my Duluth socks, which are amazing, "they are expensive."

Exactly the point. You get what you pay for in work-socks, mechanical watches, tractors, and garden tools (all obsessions of mine). Incidentally, I never lend my tools, from tractors to chainsaws to garden spades, unless I come along to use them. But that is another post for Tractorpunk.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    Can you obtain tools locally? Perhaps there are crafters and/or collectors who make or would part with some.