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

Available in the USA

 

Updated 20th March 2019

I am a UK based garden tool enthusiast, writer, researcher and garden tool inventor.

This page is for my readers in the USA to help you find the best digging tools, either from European or American manufacturers.

Garden forks and spades suffer enormous stresses and strains when used in heavy soil and need to be very robust to survive . Most garden forks and spades bought today are poor quality and are made in the Far East. They are made to cater for gardeners who don't want to spend much on tools.  However, some are made and cleverly marketed to look like quality tools to fool the public into thinking they are getting the best.

These tools will not last as long as the "old fashioned" tools that our parents and grandparents used.

Many Brits like me grew up using blackened old forks and spades owned by our grandparents.

These traditional tools last forever and I still come across people using tools that were made over 100 years ago.

 Luckily you can still buy top quality, solid forged American and European tools and some reasonable quality tools from China and India. However you need to know where to look and you need some inside information to avoid the lemons and shiny fakes.

      

My trusty old S&J Neverbend spade is over 50 years old.

The metal parts are still made  in the same way but the current model has a plastic handle.

 

On This Page

Strongest Professional Quality Fork & Spades

Stainless Steel Forks & Spades

Spades For Hard & Stony Ground

Lightweight Forks & Spades

Long Handled Irish Spades and West Country Shovels

Best Spades for Digging Roots

Shorter Tools and Children's Digging Tools

Craftsmen made Dutch Forks & Spades

 

CASE STUDY - BUYING A FORK AND SPADE

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.

 

FIRST I WANT TO MAKE A BIG AND IMPORTANT POINT

STAINLESS STEEL DIGGING TOOLS ARE NOT THE STRONGEST

EVEN IF THEY COST MORE

IF YOU WANT STRENGTH THEN DON'T BUY SHINY! BUY SOLID FORGED

 

 

What is a solid forged tool?

How a spade is made from one piece of solid (red hot) metal.

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 online are NOT hot solid forged, they are pressed and/or welded. This cuts costs, but creates weaker tools.

 

 
 

 

 
 

Fred's current recommendation for the best solid forged fork and spade

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

Spear & Jackson forge these tools in India using the same machinery they had in the UK for over a hundred years.

I went to the S&J factory when it was in Wednesbury UK, just before the forges were moved to India.  

These Neverbend professional 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 in the UK, but they are expensive in the USA.

Use the link below to buy proper full size solid forged British style tools as shown above with metal handle or with more traditional wooden handle.

 

Spear & Jackson Professional Digging Fork

 Spear & Jackson R400 English Style Heritage Forged Digging Spade 32"

 

 

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Stainless Steel Forks and Spades

 (not solid forged)

My old S&J Neverbend stainless tools

 

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)

 

 

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.

 

 

 
 

The Best 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.

 

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

Links below for full size Kew gardens inspired stainless steel digging tools

 

 Spear & Jackson Kew Collection Stainless Digging Spade

 

Links to S&J Border size tools below

 

 Spear & Jackson Kew Collection Stainless Border Spade

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

 

More Tools From The Kew Range

 

 
 

 

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Best Digging Tools for hard and stony ground

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

For ultimate strength you cant beat a fibre glass shaft.

And be careful with ANY garden fork and spade.

A pointed head spade is the best sort for stony ground -but-

Get yourself a Mattock and use that first.

 

  5-Pound Pick Mattock with 36-Inch Fiberglass Handle

 Spear Head Spade - Reinforced Fiberglass Gardening Shovel with Cushioned "D" Grip - Award Winning Shovel

 

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Lightweight Forks and Spades

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. I don't like these as much as the spades and advice using them carefully in hard soil.

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

 

 Fiskars 1003684 Xact Extra Strong Boron Steel Digging Spade Medium

 

Lightest Digging Tools Ever

 

Really Light but strong enough for most jobs.

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

 

 Fiskars Light Digging Spade

 

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Irish Spades and Irish Shovels

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

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

They are  very strong but hard to source and very expensive in the USA

Luckily you can get equally strong but low priced forged tools like this from True Temper

 

 True Temper Forged Round Point Digging Shovel - 2585600

 

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Which is the Best Spade to Buy for Digging out Roots?

 48" Root Assassin Shovel /Saw

Many readers tell me they break their forks and spades whilst digging out plants.

This is usually caused by having to use excess force because a root has been left and even the strongest tools will break or bend if levered hard enough.

The Root Assassin has downward facing sharp teeth to cut those roots and the long thin shape of the head gives easier access to those roots.

A tool with a similar head but larger circular handle is made by Radius who use the same design on edging tools.

If you have large shrubs or a lot to remove I still recommend using a prybar as well as the Root Assassin because it is essentially a digging/cutting tool and NOT a levering tool.

 Radius Garden Root Slayer Shovel 2017 Green Thumb Award for Most Innovative Garden Tool

 

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Children's Garden Forks and Spades -Non solid forged

 

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.

 

 DeWit Junior Kid's Spade with T-Handle

 DeWit Junior Kid's Pointed Spade with T-Handle by Tierra Garden

 

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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Craftsman Made Dutch Carbon Steel Digging Tools

The Dewit 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.

Brothers Sietse and Derek are currently in charge and I have known them both for many years.

When you pick up a Dewit 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 small range of Dewit tools are now available in the USA and there is a tool for every job. Sietse even made my special patented Stealth Weeder that I invented!

Dewit tools are not cheap, and craftsmanship costs cash - just like a Rolls Royce.

 DeWit Dutch Digging Spade

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FIXING BROKEN FORKS & SPADES

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.

If you have an old tool 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 2" Repair 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.

 

BUY SPARE & REPLACEMENT FORK HANDLES


 

Ames True Temper 2018600 48-Inch Bent Repair Handle with Ferrule

Dark Blue Plastic Shovel Handle Replacement Fork Spade

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

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SEE MY PAGE ON BUYING A CORDLESS MOWER IN THE USA

 

    

                    Fred Walden 2018