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Old 12-16-2008, 11:48 PM   #11
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Stampings can be recognized by their smooth surface or LACK of forging pebbles, and a close look at the edges reveals the tell-tale appearence of metal which has been sheared to shape. Stampings are less brittle than sand castings, but nowhere near the strength and springiness of a forging.
Do you have any photos of this to help me tell the difference? I continue breaking shovels.
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Linseed oil polymerizes when exposed to air, a chemical process that gives off heat and CAN LIGHT A FIRE if the rag is left wadded up so it traps its own heat.
I don't know what oil we are using for our tools but I know one thing, the rags are almost always wadded up and tossed in a corner of our garage. I will never do that again. Thanks for mentioning that.
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Old 12-16-2008, 11:48 PM   #12
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Excellent points and reminders, birdwhisperer. I the fall/early winter I normally set up a bucket of sand with oil added and dip/dunk/poke my shovels, rakes, etc in that. Then wipe them clean and hang them. Keeps them looking like new and are much easier to maintain.
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Old 12-17-2008, 02:22 PM   #13
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Am now in search of a potato fork that has been forged at yard sales, trade days, etc. When I find it, I will keep it oiled better than my current tools (hopefully...)

Thanks, guys!
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:01 PM   #14
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JennyC -- Can you describe a "potato fork"? I was recycling machine shop steel scrap last summer and I always scan the pile for useful goods to surreptitiously "trade" for the much larger volume of true scrap I bring in. There at my feet were a five-tine potato rake, a bit larger than the four-tine one I already have; a much larger thing I think is a potato rake, like a five-tine gardening fork with the tines bent 90 degrees to the handle, and a strange fork like I've never seen before with 8 tines heavier than a pitchfork but lighter than a gardening fork, the two outer tines a lttle higher than the other six so its edges are cupped upward. I think I stumbled on the entire potato harvesting tool collection of some deceased gardener, and the survivors had no idea what they were.
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:14 PM   #15
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Lorax -- Sorry, no photos. If you are regularly breaking shovels in the head (not the handle) they must be stampings. A properly finished forged shovel head will have the pebble pattern polished out in the blade but there are usually some left on the handle socket where they don't matter. It will also be slightly thicker and heavier than a stamping. Be prepared to pay a bit more for a forging; it will be cheaper in the long run. For example, this year I had to break down and buy a Chinese cup brush for my business when I ran out of time to look for better. It cost $11, and lasted for one usage. The next cup brush was made in Spain, cost $16, and lasted nine usages for the same production step. That makes the Chinese cup brush cost over six times more than the "more expensive" Spanish brush.
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:19 PM   #16
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Long-handled shovel (rounded blade) - digging trenches, making raised beds.

Garden fork (four very heavy tines) - digging potatoes and other tubers, loosening soil where root crops will be planted.

Manure/compost fork (at least five slender tines) - self-explanatory.

Heavy duty trowel (mine is one piece solid metal with the handle cushioned) - all manner of small digging chores.

Standard heavy duty hoe - general weeding between rows; chopping tougher weeds.

Sharp-pointed triangular-head hoe - precise weeding/cultivation near or between plants (especially useful in onion patch).

Pickaxe/mattock - for loosening really heavy soil; also have needed for breaking into frozen soil covering potatoes stored over winter in the garden.

A good pair of hand pruners - I use Felcos - cutting tough stalks such as sunflowers and dead asparagus.

Heavy-duty rake - smoothing beds, removing small rocks, etc.

Sturdy folding pocket knife - comes in handy for a myriad of small chores.


As birdwhisperer already mentioned, pay attention to quality when purchasing tools, and maintain them properly. These tools are going to get tough use on a regular basis, and there are few things as frustrating as having a tool break/malfunction at a critical time (do they ever break otherwise?).
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:42 PM   #17
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http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/items/2WE80

This is what I am calling a potato fork. I notice they are calling it a 'potato hook' and what they call a potato 'fork' is the same as a short handled British border fork.

The Brits seem to like these short handled tools. Not me I like a long handle. The short ones give me a pain in the back. They must have been made for 'Little People'.

The potato fork or hook is one of the most useful tools I have. I use it instead of a rake, I use it to gather up pecans, and bricks - I have a lot of them from the remains of the original kitchen which was demolished in the 1930s.
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Old 12-17-2008, 04:54 PM   #18
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Yes, I have been regularly breaking shovels. So far I have not destroyed the new King of Spades brand that I bought the past summer. I believe I would rather buy one that is forged the next time as suunto is right, they never blow at a convenient time.

And you know something, I am tiring of cheap Chinese junk products flooding the market to the point it is difficult identifying tools that will last. The last shovels I've bought have been in the $20-30 range and I would rather spend more for a quality shovel.
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Old 12-17-2008, 05:11 PM   #19
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suunco, is that you in your avatar in a cave? If so, that's a great avatar and I've got a few photos for you if I can find them. A really wonderful cave cricket and few other cave critters.
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Old 12-17-2008, 05:49 PM   #20
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Birdwhisperer: see what Gloria said about the potato fork. She's the expert here -- I'm just looking for one because I'm the fool who digs potatoes with bare hands.

Suunto -- Hi to a fellow caver! I just sent you a pm. Which cave is that in your avatar?

Last edited by JennyC; 12-17-2008 at 09:02 PM. Reason: Misspelled "Birdwhisperer." Sorry!
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