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Garden Tool Handles

What follows is partially a rant, partially advice.

I've found that for most garden tools, the handle is almost as important as the head, but most manufacturers seem to put very little thought into the handle design.

Most handles are too short, making you bend over too far to use the tool. This is probably a holdover from when our shorter ancestors were farming, but the average height of Americans has grown, so longer handles are a now necessity but still the exception to the rule.

Another critical aspect is the orientation of the wood grain of the handle. In most cases, wood is strongest when force is applied parallel to the growth rings and weaker when applied perpendicular. With this in mind, a shovel handle should be made so the growth rings are perpendicular to the blade. Rakes and hoes should have the handle oriented the same way. Pruners should have the rings parallel to the blades. Sadly, most manufacturers just orient them whichever way they happen to come off the assembly line, with no regard to maximizing strength. Finding a tool with a properly-oriented handle is like a scavenger hunt.

I can't help but wonder if this "engineering" was known by manufacturers a hundred years ago, but through mergers, acquisitions, and outsourcing, the necessary practical knowledge was lost. If it was "common knowledge" back then, it wouldn't be specified on the plans; once the masters died their successors might not carry on their wisdom.

A. Spruce
Re: Garden Tool Handles
A. Spruce

For these reasons, I tend to purchase fiberglass handled implements, especially when it comes to shovels. Another important shovel feature is that at the top of the blade, where the handle enters, it should have a collet ring around it to reinforce the blade neck and keep the rolled steel of the neck from splaying open under the force of use.

Another key point is that all these implements come in different shapes and configurations, the user much choose the size and style that best suits their needs and the way they use the tool. You don't want handles or grips to be too large or too small, they need to fit your grip comfortably, this is particularly important when you realize that if you hate a particular tool, you won't use it, so why buy it? Get one that fits both you, your needs, and the jobs at hand and you will enjoy using it, each and every time you pick it up. The quality of your tool does indeed affect the quality of it's performance and user satisfaction.

Re: Garden Tool Handles

A note about tool storage: both fiberglass and wood will be damaged by ultraviolet light. Wood will be further damaged by exposure to rain. Clean them up and put them away when you're done with them!

For your wood-handled tools, first sand off the factory finish then oil it with boiled linseed oil. Sand smooth (if needed) & re-oil every year.

Because boiled linseed oil is a "drying oil" your tools won't have an oily feel, and won't be slippery when wet.

Note that oily rags must be stored properly. DO NOT just toss them in a hamper or the trash; they could spontaneously combust.

  1. Let the rags air dry completely
  2. OR put them in a noncombustible, airtight container and don't store near other combustible items or surfaces
  3. OR store them completely submerged in a water-filled, metal container with a tight-fitting lid

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