The Right Tool for the Job

The other day I had to fix a piece of wood to the stone wall in the old cowshed. Drill a couple of holes, pop in the rawlplugs and screw one to t’other. 10 minute job done! Well that was the plan, anyway. The facts were a little different.

First of all, find the drill, extension cable, screws and so on. That took up 10 minutes of itself. I’ve got tools in boxes, some in the shed and some in the house and it’s chaos. Happily, the builders have basically finished now so soon I can get sorted and restore order.

Next part of the job was to drill a hole in the wall. Now this wall is made of granite rocks and lime mortar. Lime mortar is very soft indeed and no way would it hold a screw, so drill into the rock.

My 10 year old, trusty hammer drill screamed away for an hour. 2 drill bits were burnt out and I had one hole drilled. So, more searching around and find the no-more-nails glue. 2 hours work to fix up one small bit of wood.

The next day I chatted to one of our builders who was finishing a few snag jobs. He drilled two holes into a granite rock as if it was made of wood! He explained it was his drill being an SDS type which is much more effective than old hammer drills. The hammering action is confined to the bit, rather than the whole chuck so it concentrates the force.

So straight onto Screwfix and on Monday I’ll be the happy owner of  an effective bit of kit. I bought the cheapest one they had, which had quite a few very positive reviews and should be all I need.

When buying tools I try to consider how much it is likely to be used. If it’s something like a drill, then I’m a light user (compared to a builder) so something cheap is sensible. Buying a super-duper one for a small fortune just means I’ll never get value from it. Anyway, in 5 years they’ll have something even better out.

When it comes to gardening tools though, it’s a different story. I’d always suggest a new gardener get the best basic set of tools they can afford. A good spade will last a lifetime and outlive your back. Don’t be afraid to go through the motions with it in the store – OK, they might think you’re mad but we know better.

A handle that is too short for your height on a spade or fork is a recipe for backache, weak tines or blade means it will break. If you’ve a clay soil, then stainless steel is worth considering, they make light work of heavy soil

Don’t feel forced into buying an expensive tool just because it is expensive. Get the one that is right for you and then look at the price. My favourite spade cost just £12, which was quite a lot at the time but not the dearest by far. It’s lightweight but strong and the handle is right for my height. Hopefully it will last another 20 years.

Posted in Tools & Stuff
One comment on “The Right Tool for the Job
  1. Colin says:

    As you imply, John, the spade is probably the tool that it is most important to get right first time. I didn’t!
    When my inherited ‘Dig for Victory’ Neverbend spade wore out (it was so thin that it would bend like a biscuit tin lid) I treated myself (or so I thought) to a beautiful new stainless steel spade with handsome ash shaft and D-handle.
    But I soon found that the wood had been designed to look good on display with little regard to comfort in use or durability. There was even a sharp-edged groove turned in the shaft that made it easy to attach a price tag but raised blisters on your left hand. When trying to prise up large stones or tree roots the shaft would creak and threaten to break off in its socket.
    And so I was delighted when I found a ‘Dig for Victory’ pattern spade in a local Garden Centre.
    It was expensive, and I hesitated. Serve me right! It had been sold when I picked up enough courage to buy it.
    But I had noted that it was a traditional design sold under the ‘Bulldog’ brand and so I searched the internet to find one. And I did!
    Bulldog sell low-cost tools but also the very best traditional designs. These are from forged steel and have strapped and riveted (as opposed to fancy socketed) connection between the steel and the hefty shaft. I defy anyone to break one!
    I took a deep breath and bought one. It is a joy to use and can be sharpened like an axe (try that with stainless steel) to cut through turf and roots under its own weight.
    I have now parked the Rotavator in favour of the rediscovered joy of digging.

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