I just love old garden tools. I like using them and I like collecting them. They feel good in the hand, smooth and worn and I know I am holding a piece of gardening history. Every tool has a story to tell, a story I shall never know. But you can always imagine!
When you find old tools in antique centres, on market stalls or at garden or smallholder shows they seem dry and dull and lifeless. It is when I do them up that I feel in touch with the old gardeners who have used them for decades.
I have been amazed to find that for almost every old tool there is a modern equivalent and that today’s versions are often virtually identical. I enjoy trying out tools from my collection and find them just as easy to use. So it seems there are no new ideas in garden implements just new versions of the oldies.
The garden line below was used by Jude, The Undergardener’s Grandfather back in the early years of the twentieth century when he worked a market garden. We use it all the time on our allotment as it is far superior to any available today. It is a design that just could not be improved upon.
On a recent lottie visit we had hoeing and raking to do so I decided to take up my old triangular headed hoe and my “crome”. They worked really well, the sharp tines of the crome breaking down the soil to a fine tilth and with the hoe we could manouvre between winter onions and leeks a treat.
I enjoy trying out these oldies from my collection and I find them easy to use and often more comfortable than their new cousins. Perhaps it is the materials they are crafted from, the hardwood handles honed from local trees and the iron blades and tines. Today’s plastics and stainless steel give less and feel harder and colder. Of course the main difference is that old tools were individually made by craftsmen.
The art of repairing them and bringing them back to life is moat satisfying. I clean up the metal to prevent them getting any rustier and treat the wooden bits to a few coats of linseed oil well rubbed in. The smell brought back memories of my cricketing youth when I used to treat my bat handle in the same way.
Below is one of my pieces in need of some tender loving care, its handle dry and its blade rusted.
And here he is all spick and span!
This batch has been rust-treated, linseeded and given the first of two coats of satin finish varnish.
And here they all are in all their glory, decorating the back wall of our garage.
These two little hand tools are weeders better known as “daisy grubbers”. They seem so well designed with sharp forked tongues, a fulcrum point and beautifully shaped wooden handles, hand turned by a craftsman.