Alternative Digging Tools

Fred's guide to unusual and specialist digging tools

Tried and Tested By Fred-in-the-Shed

Updated 28th March 2018

Forks and Spades were designed to move soil -not rocks, roots and rubble

This page will help you find tools to compliment your fork and spade to make them last longer

GET THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB

On This Page

Contractors Fork & Spades

Pick Axes for Soil Breaking

Pry Bars and Root Diggers

Lightweight & Specialist Mattocks

Long Handled Irish Spades and West Country Shovels

Shorter Tools and Children's Digging Tools

Fixing Broken Forks & Spades - Spare Handles

Digging Tools For Gardeners with Backpain

 

 

BROKEN YOUR FORK AGAIN!

Garden forks with wooden handles are for digging soil - not rubble

Firstly - buy a contractors type fork or a mattock if you are doing building work

Keep your nice shiny forks for garden work

 Draper 36991 Contractor's Fork with Fibreglass Shaft

 Bulldog 5TFAM All Metal Trenching Fork

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Mattocks, Picks and Azadas

 

Best Tools For Digging Stony Ground and Removing Roots

Most people will use a fork or spade to try to remove large roots or rocks from soil and the most likely result of this is a broken tool. Over the last 17 years I have received hundreds of e-mails from readers who have broken their tools by using them inappropriately. Forks and spades were actually designed for digging SOIL and even the strongest of these tools can be broken if you lever it against an immovable object.

There are so many better tools for removing roots, stumps and rocks. Also they are relatively cheap and will save you a fortune in broken tools and time and effort too.

The Mattock is an incredibly strong tool that uses gravity to break into the soil. It origins go back thousands of years when primitive man used animal bones to dig and variations have been found through all ages and parts of the world.

Apart from digging holes, and moving soil this tool is fantastic at clearing weeds and removing smaller root systems.

Available in a range of sizes and qualities from many manufacturers.

If you are removing large roots or breaking stony soil buy a proper pickaxe, or a specialist root digger. So many people try to lever out roots and stones with their fork or spade but a big metal bar is far more effective. However, if you have not cut the roots properly even this wont work so make sure you have all the roots cuts before you lever. Having the right tool for the right job makes work more enjoyable and saves time too.

A wooden pick axe handle should last years but fibreglass is even more durable as it is not effected by heat and moisture.

I love the Roughneck fibreglass handled tools and the mini mattock is absolutely superb for weeding too.

 Roughneck 64011 Micro Pick Mattock with Fibreglass Handle

 Roughneck Fibreglass Handle Mattock With 5lb Head

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Pry Bars and Root Diggers

 

  The Best 3 Tools For Removing Tree Roots

 Draper 5166 Heavy Duty Scraper and Root Digger with Wood Shaft

Faithfull DIGBAR60 DIgging Bar 14Lb 60-inch x 1-inch

Roughneck Fibreglass Handle Mattock With 5lb Head

 

The Faithfull digging bar or pry bar will save your fork and spade from destruction.

The Silverline digging bar has a flat end for your hand and tamping down.

The Draper root cutter can also be used as a scraper.

Use a root digger and pry bar for deep work when removing stumps and large roots.

The mini mattock below is only 10 and its cutter end is very effective at cutting roots.

 Roughneck 64012 Micro Cutter Mattock with Fibreglass Handle

  

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Medium Sized Lightweight Mattocks

(For soil only)

The Chillington range of hoes and mattocks have been around for decades and are good quality tools

The head is not fixed in the handle but this is normal for tools of this type.

They come in a wide range of sizes and styles -see links below

 

 Very High Quality Chillington Canterbury Hoe/Fork

 Hoe Chillington Crocodile 6.5" x 7.5" 47" Wooden Handle

 Double Headed Hoe, Chillington Crocodile Garden Hoe & Fork 35.5" Wooden Handle

 

The Pull Spork

The Pull Spork is a hybrid mattock fork with  joined tines. It is seriously mean to weeds but kind to your back. It was invented by my friend from Oxford, Robert Todd and is manufactured in Holland by DeWit tools who also made my Stealth weeder.

Also known as the long handled Mattock Spork

Buy Spork Garden Tools from Fred's recommended supplier

 

Stainless Steel Mattock & Fork

(For soil only)

Sneeboer mattock & fork

Total length 59 inches (very long) - price around 67

This hand forged tool from Holland has to be the Rolls Royce of Mattocks. Using the skills developed by their grandfather, the Sneeboer family have crafted this impressive tool from high quality stainless steel and ash.

It is designed for light garden work in soil and is not the type for heavy duty use.

As you can imagine it is not cheap but will be the pride of your shed and in my opinion is also a work of art!

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Old Fashioned Digging Tools

Irish Spades, Cornish Spades and West Country Shovels

Long handled round point Irish Spade, also known as Celtic Spade, Cornish spade, Irish Spade, and West Country Shovel

West Country Shovel

Known to some people as the Cornish Spade this tool is slightly wider and flatter than the Irish Spade and although strictly speaking it is a shovel it can be used for digging in hard ground.

This tool is superb for digging holes and can also be used like a shovel.

The sharp nose, or round point of the metal blade penetrates the soil easier than a traditional spade.

This is a large tool with a 54" wooden handle (you could cut it down easily). The head is 10.5" wide and 11.5" long.

 Bulldog 2309 West Country Shovel

British made

 Faithfull OSWEST Open Socket West Country Shovel

Chinese made

The Bulldog shovel is British made, the Faithful open socket shovel is the cheaper option and spare handles are available too.

Sizes are approximately the same and the tools weight about 2kg.

Square  Head Irish Spades

 

It is longer than a standard spade to enable trench and deep hole digging.

To make things clear a spade is designed for digging into soil and a shovel for moving material. However a very strong shovel can be used to dig sand and soil too, especially if it has a pointed end.

The T handled Irish Spades is one of my favourite tools. They are superb for digging planting holes, and of course trenching.

The quality and design of these tools have not changed for over 100 years.  Rabbiting or Agricultural planting spades are also good for digging holes or narrow trenches.

 Spear & Jackson Neverbend Professional Irish Spade

 

Other Easy Digging Tools

Bulldog T handled Rabbiting or Planting Spade

 Bulldog Premier Rabbit/ Planting Spade

 Spear & Jackson Agricultural Planting/Rabbiting Spade

These short handled thin bladed spades are great for planting jobs. Bulldog is one of the most famous brands of British digging tool and I have had enquiries from around the world for them.  I used Bulldog tools as a kid and my dad used them too, (in fact I still have one from that time).

 

Which is the best spade handle? T handle or D handle ? 

Answer

No significant difference more a matter of personal choice.

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Modern Lightweight Shovel

Fiskars Xact Shovel

This excellent wide headed shovel for moving heaps of soil, sand or gravel.

It has a huge comfortable handle and oval section shaft for strength and lightweight.

Made in Finland, this shovel is a quality tool, made to last.

 

 Fiskars Large Xact Soil Moving Shovel

 

 
 

  

Solid Forged Digging Fork with Longer Handle

 Bulldog Premier Garden Fork with Long Handle

 Bulldog Premier Treaded Digging Spade

The handle on this Bulldog spade is 4 inches longer than the standard version.

This traditionally made digging fork has an extra long handle to make digging easier for taller folk.

It is arguable that most forks and spades sold today are too short as they are the same length as tools made hundreds of years ago when people where shorter. I don't know about that but it is obvious that longer tools suit longer people and this fork has the strength to be able to take the extra strain *

* It is possible to bend any fork if you try hard enough or use it inappropriately

Garden or digging forks are designed for soil and are most commonly damaged when use to lever roots and rocks which is a task more suited to a crowbar or pickaxe.

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Digging Tools for Short People

Short Length Shrubbery Spade next to a Border size Spade

 

 Bulldog Shrubbery Fork and Spade

These shorter and lighter tools are suitable for people of a similar stature and are popular amongst ladies and older folk

The tools measure 35 inches in total length and the heads are smaller too.(5.5 * 7 inches)

 Bulldog Premier Shrubbery Fork

 Bulldog Premier Shrubbery Spade

Bulldog Premier Border Fork

 Bulldog 5609 Premier Wood Border Spade

 

 

Also if you are a bit short and want even lighter weight forks and spades then it is worth considering the Draper Young Gardener range which are cheaper and made of carbon steel.

 Draper 20680 Young Gardener Digging Fork

Draper 20686 Young Gardener Digging Spade

Spear and Jackson make some nice Stainless Children's tools

 Spear & Jackson Traditional Children's Fork

 Spear & Jackson Traditional Children's Fork

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FIXING BROKEN FORKS & SPADES

Now live in the throw-away society  spare parts like handles are not generally available for the tools that are sold in garden centres and DIY superstores.

Most of these tools are made in China or India now and just labelled and branded for UK sales.

If you have an old tool that was made in the UK and  the handle has snapped then the best advice I can give you is to either try to make the spare ones on the links below fit or contact a local woodworker or blacksmith type person to see if they can help.

Apart form these links below I do not supply or know anyone who supplies wooden handles for garden forks and spades.

 Faithfull Ash Yd Handle Straight Taper 28IN

 Am-Tech Replacement Fork/ Spade Handle

 REPLACEMENT FORK SPADE HANDLE

 Replacment D shaped handle for shovels, spades or forks  

 5 x Rivets for shovel spade fork handle repair 50 x 6mm rake hoe garden lawnmower

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Soil Cultivating Tiller

Wolf Garten Soil Miller

This well made German tool that has been in production for at least 25 years. It is ideal for re-cultivating large areas of soil without the need to dig or bend. It will not clear away large weeds as they will get caught in the spiked wheels that are designed for breaking down the soil.

The rear of the tool has a swinging blade that cuts down to 4 inches in the soil. It is used in a backwards and forwards motion to enable the spiked wheels to break down the soil dug up by the swinging blade.

I have used this fantastic tool for over 15 years and recommend it to people who have good soil and regularly prepare open soil for vegetable planting.

The Wolf Soil Miller is part of the excellent Wolf Multichange system where around 50 tools and handles are interchangeable.

Many manufacturers have introduced this type of tool system but none have lasted as long as Wolf or made them to the same quality or had the consistency of distribution in the UK.

Wolf Garten DAS Multi-Change Soil Miller

Price approx 40 with handle (sold separately)

Click here to see the range of Wolf Multichange tools

Click here to buy Wolf Multichange handles

 

Ridging Tool

Another superb attachment to go with Soil Miller is the plough shaped ridger which is a popular tool for allotment and small holders who grow a lot of plants in lines.

 

Wolf Multi-change Handles

As far as I can tell there are currently 12 different handles available in a range of lengths, including telescopic and D handles. Also the superb add-on handle is coming back and will be featured here soon. Wolf XO-02

I have Wolf handles in my shed over 10 years old that are used regularly and are in perfect working order. The ability to be able to change handles is particularly useful for saving space and accommodating different size users.

 

Digging without bending - new accessory under testing

The  Kikka Digga clamps to virtually any fork or spade in seconds

 

 Kikka Digga Garden Digging Gadget Fork & Spade Attachment Tool

I am currently testing the UK made Kikka Digga

This product fits onto your existing spade or fork and then enables you to flick the soil over rather than bending and lifting.

The resulting job can look a bit of a mess but then you can easily rake the soil level , having avoided any lifting or bending.

I will be reporting more findings as members of my team use the tool more.

 

 

 
 

Backsaver Garden Tool and Wolf Terrex Autospade Spares

 Backsaver Spade

The obsolete Wolf Terrex Autospade has a replacement from a new company and was improved with stronger components and the availability of a fork head AND stainless steel spade head!

The new version is known as the backsaver (for obvious reasons) and is available with a carbon steel or a stainless steel spade head. It also has stronger springs than the original Wolf Terex Autospade

This excellent tool is used for digging over open soil and enables larger areas to be dug without the user having to bend or strain.

It was developed around 40 years ago and was very popular with allotment holders and vegetable growers. Although it is a spade it is not suitable for digging planting holes or shovelling.

A special technique is used which requires a shallow trench to be dug first across the width of your plot. Then you start behind the trench and flip the soil into the trench using the lever and spring to do the hard work. As you work backwards you will also be digging the next trench.

John Smith - the "re-developer" of the new autospade

(STAINLESS STEEL VERSION SHOWN)

John has sold hundreds of these new spades over the last 5years and I am pleased to say they are performing as well as the old model and there have been minimal issues with this product.

Autospade Tip

Remember to release the small spring when you store your spade as this will make it last longer!

The main problem with an old autospade is likely to be broken springs which are more likely to occur if you dig into the soil without making a trench first.

The good news is that the parts for the new version also fit the original version.

TOP TIP FOR BACKSAVER AND TERREX AUTOSPADE USERS!

To prolong the lifespan of the small spring it is necessary to unhook it when you store the spade to prevent it weakening. This job can be difficult on your fingers and they can get trapped.

Fredshed reader Phil Clements came up with this great idea of using 2 cable ties to pull the spring on and off. He leaves it in place and ready to go. If you have any clever ideas you want to share with others please mail them in.

 Backsaver Spade

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USE LINKS BELOW TO FIND MORE GARDEN AND DIY TOOLS

 

 

GARDEN TOOLS

 

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Vacuum Cleaners-cordless

 

Fred Walden 2018