For a variety of lawn and garden tasks, both shears and shovels are essential. In both cases, the tool is designed to remove unwanted plant and earth from one place, so you can put it in another.
Though they have a relatively simple appearance, good shears actually have a number of criteria that all have to work together. Number one is the ability to cut. But that's a function of more than just sharp edges, important as those are.
Think of scissors. No matter how sharp the edges, if the two blades don't come together, cutting is impossible. That important geometric quality is even more important in certain shears. Some shears are really just strong scissors, designed to be used outdoors. But others are curved. Bringing those curved edges together with just the right angle and force requires careful design.
The only way to be sure that design goal has been expertly achieved is to test them. Fortunately, with computer aided design and contemporary materials, shears that work well are available in dozens of designs.
That leads to the next most important criteria, one that runs a close second place. The shears you use must fit your particular hands correctly. That individual choice is vital, since even the sharpest shears are useless if you can't operate them effectively.
In handle shears, the sort used to trim bushes or branches, they must be of the right weight for you, and have grips that feel comfortable and are non-slip. For pruning shears, the fit needed is even more precise. The style that has curved blades for trimming small herbs, flowers and the like often have circular blades in the handle section. A great combination for a wide variety of tasks.
Shovels are another essential tool for gardening and lawn work. They too come in a surprisingly large array of shapes, styles and materials.
With the development of sturdy, hard, plastic composites many parts are now made of non-metallic compounds. That's helpful for making them lighter weight, but no commercially available plastic produced yet has the sharpness or tensile strength to use in the blade portion.
So, look for a metal alloy that won't rust and will keep a sharp edge against digging in rocky soil. It should have the right weight and shape for the jobs you anticipate. That blade should be attached well to an unbreakable handle. Strong carbon steel screws, correctly placed in hard wood are essential for keeping the blade attached.
Most shovels die an early death because of a broken handle. The shovel portion will often outlive the other parts. To stave off that fate, the handle should be not merely of hard wood, but somewhat flexible. A good shovel handle will stand up to hundreds of foot-pounds of torque.
Metal handles are heavier, so wood and plastic are more popular choices. Wood is great, but it's important to get a type that will stand up to the pressure put on it for years. A proper coating will help prevent the wood from getting old, breaking prematurely. Plastic handles have also come a long way. They make for a lightweight shovel, but still very few are suitable for the heavy duty jobs.
You'll almost certainly want at least three different kinds of shovel. The most common are the rounded, triangular spade and the square scoop. The first are easy to insert deep into the ground, but the latter type can shovel more earth in a single scoop. But the type not everyone thinks of is equally useful for specialized applications.
A long handled, narrow blade telescoping shovel is like a trowel with a handle. Your back will thank you if you supplement the first two with one of these. They're ideal for removing weeds without stooping, digging small holes and getting into those smaller areas that a regular shovel won't.
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