Fred-in-the-shed's Guide to Garden Forks and Spades

Updated 4th January 2018


A collection of tools in use and my trusty old S&J Neverbend spade

In the UK many of us grew up using old blackened forks and spades owned by our parents.

These British made tools last forever and I still come across 100 years old examples still in use.

Most garden forks and spades sold today are of an inferior quality and design and made in the Far East.

They are made to cater for gardeners who don't want to spend much on tools.

Some are made to look like quality tools, and use posh sounding names to fool the public into thinking they are getting the best.

On This Page

Strongest Professional Quality Fork & Spades

Stainless Steel Forks & Spades

Best Value Solid Forged Forks & Spades

Lightweight Forks & Spades

Long Handled Irish Spades and West Country Shovels

Shorter Tools and Children's Digging Tools

Fixing Broken Forks & Spades - Spare Handles

For My Other Digging Tool Page Use Link Below

Specialist Digging and Cultivating Tools



Whatever the label says - No one really makes forks and spades in the UK anymore.

Luckily you can still buy top quality, solid forged forks and spades made using the original British forges and under the supervision of British experts.

 Spear & Jackson Neverbend Professional Treaded Digging Spade 1071AL

 You can also buy superb Dutch style tools if you don't mind spending around 80.

See the Sneeboer Stainless Steel Transplanting Spade

 This page is my attempt to help you find the best tools and avoid the shiny fakes.

Another piece of landfill from a "leading" manufacturer and sold by a "leading retailer"


If you try to buy a fork or spade you will find that they range enormously in price, for no apparent reason. Why does that shiny stainless steel spade cost less than that dull and boring painted one?

It could be because one is a poor quality duffer. But which one? I will lead you through the marketing hype to the truth about buying tools.







This is me being shown the Wigan forge by one of its owners.

The stages of a Bulldog Spade being forged from one piece of solid metal.

In 2009 I visited the forge in Wigan to see how the best forks and spades are made. It was the only factory left like this in Britain and was over 200 years old when the forge part shut and moved to India in 2014.

This hot solid forging technique makes the tool as strong as possible, and as importantly as light as possible. This is because the tool head is one piece of metal with the same crystalline structure. When metal is welded this changes and can introduce weakness in certain points.

Most forks and spades you find in shops and catalogues are NOT hot solid forged, they are pressed and/or welded. This is to cut costs, but creates inferior tools.





Fred's current recommendation for the best fork and spade

This Neverbend spade is solid forged and has the flat treads that you wont find on cheaper spades.

These Neverbend tools have an ash shaft with a wood and metal, double riveted, YD handle.

The Kew range are the same tools but with old fashioned, all wooden handles. Both ranges are very strong.

You can find prettier and cheaper forks and spades but they wont be as good.

You get a genuine 10 year guarantee from a company over 200 years old.

I rate these tools as the optimum for price/quality.

Please read on - and if you decide you like my information please come back here and use my links if you buy some tools.


Use the links below to buy proper full size - solid forged British style tools


Neverbend for metal handles          Kew for more traditional wood

 Spear & Jackson Neverbend Professional Digging Fork 1570AL

Spear & Jackson Neverbend Professional Treaded Digging Spade 1071AL


Links below for full size Kew gardens inspired digging tools

 Spear & Jackson Kew Gardens 1180SYDKEW Carbon Steel Treaded Digging Spade

 Spear & Jackson Kew Gardens 1680SYDKEW Carbon Steel Digging Fork


Links to S&J Border size tools below

These are smaller and lighter and more suitable for smaller modern gardens

 Spear & Jackson Neverbend Carbon Border Fork

 Spear & Jackson 1184NB Neverbend Carbon Steel Border Spade

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Claims By Various Manufacturers

Stainless steel tools look nice and do slide into the ground easier. However the metallurgic properties of stainless steel is weaker than solid forged carbon steel.

NO company makes solid forged stainless steel forks and spades

Hence, most of the stainless tools are inherently weaker than solid forged carbon steel,  especially forks, (even though they may cost more)

Sneeboer of Holland made hand forged stainless steel forks and spades but these are not solid forged, which would be even better.  

Made in the UK?

No-one really makes solid forged forks and spades in the UK. In either carbon or stainless.

If you see any spade or fork labelled "made in the UK" - be aware this does not apply to the metal parts!

By law, fitting handles and painting the steel now qualifies as made in Britain - sad but true.


A so called "top quality" Stainless Steel Spade sold by a Top Brand Company.

This product has failed because it is made of 2 pieces welded together (badly).

It came with a 10 year guarantee and was a replacement for the previous one that broke. Your time and petrol is not covered by the guarantee.

The environmental cost of manufacturing product for landfill is not covered by the guarantee.

The retailer will not be interested in dealing with your warranty claim and will refer you to the manufacturer to whom you will need to send the broken tool.



Stainless Steel Forks and Spades

 (not solid forged)

Stainless steel digging tools look better and are easier to clean and also slide into the ground better than painted or rust covered tools.

However they are NOT as strong as the boring looking solid forged tools so take care to only use them in good soil for gardening - not building work.

I have used a set of these Spear and Jackson Neverbend stainless tools for many years and they are about as good as you can get.

My old S&J Neverbend stainless tools

They have lasted well but as they are stainless I have made sure they are only used in good soil

If your soil is stony or poor - don't buy stainless steel digging tools

Get yourself a Mattock and use that first


 Spear & Jackson 1560SF Neverbend Stainless Steel Digging Fork

 Spear & Jackson Neverbend Stainless Steel Digging Spade 1160SP/09




 Spear & Jackson 1561BF/09 Neverbend Stainless Steel Border Fork

 Spear & Jackson 1161BS Neverbend Stainless Steel Border Spade




Craftsman made Dutch Stainless Steel Digging Tools

 The Sneeboer family have been making garden tools for generations. Their tools are made from the finest steel and hardwood by a family of craftsmen with tool making in their blood.

Jaap Sneeboer is currently the boss and I have known him for many years now.

When you pick up a Sneeboer tool you feel the craftsmanship and take pride in the work you do with it.

The metal parts are hand forged and then welded together, which is different from solid forging but still makes a very strong tool.  I particularly love their spades.

A large range of Sneeboer tools are now available in the UK and there is a tool for every job. Jaap Sneeboer even made one for me some years back!

These tools are not cheap, but neither is a Rolls Royce.

The spade shown above is a rather chunky tool but Sneeboer also have smaller and lightweight ladies forks, spades and hoes.

As the forks are welded stainless steel and not solid forged do not buy them if you have hard or stony soil.

I think that for really tough conditions a solid forged carbon steel fork should be better.

See the Sneeboer Stainless Steel Transplanting Spade

see the Sneeboer ladies spade

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Solid Forged and British -  There was nothing better.

Sadly British made now means putting the handles on.

Which Garden Tool Companies are REALLY BRITISH ?

Wilkinson Sword -  American owned - forks and spades made in far east.

Spear & Jackson  - American owned -  tools made in India but using the old British forge equipment relocated from Walsall.

Bulldog - 100% British owned - some tools made/assembled in Wigan, most in India (including all stainless steel)

  Wigan Forge closed in 2013 and forged parts are now shipped in for assembly in the old Wigan factory.



Click here for my special page on Bulldog Garden Tools



Cheapest Solid Forged Forks and Spades

Bulldog Evergreen Forks and Spades

One range down from the Premier tools these Epoxy coated carbon steel tools have  hardwood shafts but plastic soft touch ergo handles. The metal parts are forged from one piece for strength and lightness.

Solid forged forks always cost more than spades as there is a lot more skilled work involved in making them.

The Bulldog Evergreen Range are the best value of the top quality solid forged tools

Evergreen Range - Same solid forged heads as the premier range, more modern handles, lower price.

As used by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Please come back and use my links if you are purchasing garden tools and help me find the best tools for gardeners across the globe!

 Bulldog 7104 Evergreen Border Fork

 Bulldog 7103 Evergreen Digging Fork

 Bulldog 7102 Evergreen Border Spade

 Bulldog 7101 Evergreen Digging Spade


Solid Forged Digging Fork with longer handle

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. It is also 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.

 Bulldog Premier Garden Fork with Long Handle

 Bulldog Premier Treaded Digging Spade

The handle on these Bulldog tools is 4 inches longer than the standard version.

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Lightweight Forks and Spades - Not Solid Forged - But Strong Enough

Fiskars Xact Range Including Extra Long Forks and Spades

Fiskars have made tools like this for many years and have now improved the design further and offer versions with longer handles.

 The oval section  aluminium shaft makes this possible without introducing a weakness and they back this up with a 10 year warranty.

 Other nice features are treads on the spade , a curve at the bottom of the shaft and a big comfy grip handle.

There are 2 types of spade, one has a pointed blade for tougher soil and both come in 2 lengths

The pointy edge spade is called the "digging Spade" and is the one I would choose.

The fork is available in 2 lengths 1.08 and 1.2m.

The longer tools are  1.2m so  ideal for the taller gardener.

The tallest tool is an excellent wide headed shovel for moving heaps of soil, sand or gravel.

Fiskars has been making tools in Finland since 1649 and from my experience offer the best genuine warranties


108cm total

 Fiskars Medium Xact Digging Spade

 Fiskars Medium Xact Edging and Planting Spade

 Fiskars Medium Xact Soil Work Fork


120cm total


 Fiskars Large Xact Digging Spade

 Fiskars Large Xact Edging and Planting Spade

 Fiskars Large Xact Soil Work Fork



 Fiskars Large Xact Soil Moving Shovel






These tools are smaller than the Exact range but a similar design so are even lighter!


Fiskars Light Fork

 Fiskars Light Digging Spade

 Fiskars Light Planting Spade


Lightweight, Forks and Spades -Traditional Style and Very Strong

Bulldog Premier Fork and Spade

The classic British gardening tool

 Bulldog Premier Border Fork

 Bulldog 5609 Premier Wood Border Spade


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Irish Spades and Irish Shovels


Spear & Jackson Neverbend Professional Irish Spade

These Indian made solid forged tools are the old design made using the old British machinery

They are good value and very strong.


Irish Spades and Irish Shovels in a range of handle shapes and sizes

For the above tools and any other specialist digging tool use the link below for my other page

Mattocks, Pick axes and Alternative Digging Tools

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Children's Garden Forks and Spades -Non solid forged

Draper Young Gardener Tools

 Draper 20686 Young Gardener Digging Spade

 Draper 20680 Young Gardener Digging Fork

These scaled down traditional looking tools are great for the younger gardener and are good value too.

Bulldog Tools make solid forged children's tools but they are rather expensive, heavy and a bit over-engineered considering there should not be that much force put on them.

Also as your children grow quickly they will soon need longer tools if they get the gardening bug like I did!

Spear and Jackson make some nice Stainless Steel children's tools that are reasonably priced.

 Spear & Jackson Traditional Children's Fork

 Spear & Jackson 4350CS Traditional Stainless Steel Children's Spade


Solid Forged Children's Digging Tools

Real Garden Tools For Children

4 Children's garden tools  

Most garden tools sold for Children are a bit flimsy and do not last very long. Bulldog make child size mini versions of their solid forged fork and spades.

These tools are so well made that your children could pass them onto your grandchildren.


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If you found my advice helpful and would like to support my work, please return to this page and use my links when purchasing your tools.

Also any other products bought from Amazon at the same time will produce a small commission that helps cover my hosting costs.

Or if you prefer you can make a small donation using the PayPal button below thanks, Fred




Sadly we now live in the throw away society so spare parts like handles are not available for most of the garden forks and spades 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 find a local woodworker or blacksmith type person to see if they can help. If you have a cracked shaft you may be able to repair it with FiberFix Repair Wrap tape.

Fibrefix is a new product that is designed to permanently seal holes and cracks in a range of materials.

It is widely used by boat and kayak owners in case of emergencies but I have seen it used to fix broken tool handles and legs of tables and chairs.



(that's fork handles - not four candles! )

 Faithfull Ash Yd Handle Straight Taper 28IN

 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

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

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If you found my advice helpful and would like to support my work, please return to this page and use my links when purchasing your tools.

Also any other products bought from Amazon at the same time will produce a small commission that helps cover my hosting costs.


Or - if you prefer you can make a small donation using the PayPal button below thanks, Fred










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                    Fred Walden 2017