Letter Re: Recommended Sources for Gardening Hand Tools?

Preparing for our first garden, other than large pot/barrel gardening, next year. Headed down to our local ranch/farm supply store to pick up some gardening tools, e.g., shovel, rake, hoe, pick, etc.; figured they would be a bit cheaper this time of year. But what I found for sale just floored me. I can’t imagine anyone who had real work to do using any of the products available. The shovels had one tiny rivet holding the blade to a skinny wooden handle; it looked like if it were dropped it would break. The other tools had the same appearance. So, my question to you and/or to any of the blog’s readers is, “What is a quality brand or where might one locate a quality gardening tool product?”

On another note: I’m looking forward to the upcoming release of “Patriots” (with the index and glossary). My previously purchased copies seem to disappear when I loan them out. Have had to become “hard core” and not loan out my last copy, that happens to be autographed 🙂
Thanks. – Ken M.

JWR Replies: In recent years, the US consumer market has been flooded with a plethora of low quality, flimsy Chinese products. Sadly, this include hand tools .These have become so ubiquitous that you have to actively search for good quality gardening tools. The few American-made tools still available have had significant price increases, attributable to the recent spike in steel prices and substantially increased shipping costs.

I have found that it is now better to shop for used, American-made hand tools. Ironically, many tools being sold as “antiques” are more sturdy and a have longer potential service life than the the “factory new” tools that originate in Mainland China’s laogai (“Reform Through Labor”) prison factories. For used tools, watch Craig’s List and even eBay. Last year on eBay, I bought a lot of six “antique” hand scythes (five of which were still quite serviceable), all for $22 plus $11 postage. That same sum might have bought perhaps one or two factory new imported scythes, and I doubt that they would give me near the same service life.

If you can’t find a particular used tool, then one of the best mail order sources for new American, Canadian, and European tools is at Lehman’s.