Market report - Handheld tools

The latest kit ranges have been designed with the user's comfort in mind, Sally Drury discovers.

Eazi-Edger kit range utilises cast aluminium stirrup foot hole with slip resistant grip - image: HW
Eazi-Edger kit range utilises cast aluminium stirrup foot hole with slip resistant grip - image: HW

Digging is back-breaking and pruning work leaves fingers knotted and wrists sore, right? No. Most professional gardeners are fit. Long hours at work are often followed by evenings and weekends toiling over their gardens at home.

They are skilled and trained, understanding the techniques that help save time and effort. Above all, they know how to choose the right tool - one that not only does the job well but is comfortable to use and lessens some of the strain involved.

The tools you use day in, day out, have to be reliable. They must be comfortable and need to be easy to control so that they work like an extension to your body. There is an increasing range of tools designed to reduce the effort needed to work them and get the job done. Gardeners should take full advantage of the technologies that combine lightweight materials with strength, use soft grips and employ design concepts to give better balance and apply greater leverage. In many instances, the tools are faster to use, resulting in improved productivity while reducing stress on the body.

The recently introduced Eazitool range includes spades, forks, edgers and weeders. The range was designed by experts with one aim in mind: to make difficult, labour-intensive jobs easier on the user's muscles - especially back muscles - by minimising stresses and strains.

Each tool is made from lightweight aluminium and features a long, durable cranked shaft for greater leverage of the soil and to reduce the need to bend. The weight and easy cleaning properties of stainless steel are utilised in the blades' construction.

But the most noticeable feature of Eazitools is the stirrup. Instead of the traditional foot bar found on most spades and forks, Eazitools equipment utilises a cast aluminium stirrup foot hole with slip resistant grip. This foothold ensures downward pressure is centralised, making the operation better balanced and easier, even in hard soils, and so minimising strain on the lower back.

At the handle end, soft grips have been designed to fit the hand, add comfort and also act as a shock absorber to reduce the pain of injury when hitting hard objects in the ground.

Within the range, the Eazi-Weeder is a tool to aid the removal of weeds from lawns and difficult-to-reach borders. The Eazi-Spade is now offered in two version, the latest having a longer stirrup and head to make it suitable for digging bigger areas of ground. Eazi-Fork has an unusual tine configuration in which the two middle tines are set slightly back. This helps the tool cup the root ball. A larger digging version has also been introduced. With the Eazi-Edger, the design of the stirrup foothold comes to the fore as the user's foot provides straight down pressure, unlike tradition half-moon edgers, which tend to tilt to the side being pressed.

Collecting a Red Dot Design Award last year, Fiskars' ErgoPlus range of tools includes a spade and fork designed using the principles of ergonomics to promote comfortable digging. The tools have a terracotta finish to the blades/prongs while orange gel-padded handles minimise shock when hitting hard objects.

A 17 degs handle angle is intended to add to comfort and easy of use, while the shaft is designed with an optimised lifting angle to minimise strain and is made from steel tubing. The spade blade and fork prongs are made of boron steel for strength, with the head being welded to the handle.

Fiskars also supplies the Power Digging Spade and Fork. These have a lightweight steel shaft and a 40 degs lifting angle intended to maintain an ideal working posture. The shaft is coated for comfort and grip in all weathers. The heads are made of boron steel, the spade blade being sharpened for better soil penetration.

Joining the wide range of Spear & Jackson branded tools, Litework digging and border spades and forks are up to 25 per cent lighter than their standard equivalents and feature mirror polished heads and aluminium shafts with soft feel handle grips.

These tools comply with BS3350 standard load testing. The company has also develop the Litework cultivating collection of rakes, hoes and edging knife, again up to 25 per cent lighter than S&J standard tools.

Tool systems

Tool systems, where heads can be interchanged on a common shaft to give tools for various jobs, also provide an opportunity to find the most comfortable and easy-to-use implements. Wolf Garten's "Every Tool Fits Every Handle" Multi-Change range comprises 10 handles of different lengths to cater for tall or short users and to match the task in hand. When you find the handle you like best, any of 50 tool heads can be fitted by clicking them together. A quick-release button allows the handle and head to be separated.

Recent additions to the system include a Branch Hook to remove branches or shake fruit from trees, the Daisy Grubber for levering weeds from between small plants and seedlings, a Fan Rake with hardened spring steel tines and a new Multi-Change Aerator designed to loosen soil in confined spaces. There is also a Seed Sower to save time and effort by sowing seeds uniformly in rows.

QuickFit, Fiskars' mechanism to attach interchangeable heads to a shaft, collected a Red Dot Design Award last year. It uses an integral slider to unlock and eject heads in one fast, continuous movement. New heads are simply pushed into place until they click home. The system offers a choice of hardened aluminium shafts in telescopic or medium length. More than 30 heads are available for a range of tasks from cultivating and weeding to raking, sweeping and sawing. The collection also includes snow pusher, patio scraper and lawn spiker.

Now Wilkinson Sword has introduced an interchangeable garden tool system. Space Saver Click comprises handles of varying lengths and a full range of snap-on, forged steel tools. In a return to tradition, the firm has launched a range of stainless steel tools with weatherproof ash handles (Forest Stewardship Council certified). The tools comprise digging and border spades and forks, an edging blade, a variety of hoes, rakes and a cultivator, complemented by six new hand tools.

A new cutting collection from Wilkinson Sword sees the introduction of ratchet, anvil and bypass secateurs with non-stick blades for easier cutting, hedging shears and loppers of lightweight aluminium with soft-grip handles and ratchet and geared loppers to give a mechanical advantage when cutting thicker material.

For 2011, the Spear & Jackson brand has expanded its Razorsharp secateurs range with Advantage anvil and bypass models comprising PTFE coated SK5 carbon steel upper blades for lasting sharpness and hard chromed lower blades for rust resistance. The ergonomic handles have a soft-feel grip and there is an ambidextrous locking catch.

The Razorsharp lopper range sees the addition of Advance 28in anvil, 17.5in geared mini bypass, 28in geared bypass and 26in bypass with 2R blades. There is also a heavy-duty 28-40in telescopic ratchet anvil lopper, telescopic tree pruner with saw blade attachment and Razorsharp advance geared shears. The latter features S50C carbon steel blades with tubular aluminium handles and soft-feel, non-slip grips.

Continuing the lightweight theme from cultivation to pruning, Spear & Jackson is offering a complete Lightwork selection of secateurs, loppers and shears.

With so much effort being put into the design and development of new tools, every gardener should be able to find the right tool - one that is lightweight but strong, easy to control and that takes the stress and strain from the user.

MORE NEW PRODUCTS

Berger gardening shears are now available from Wellington & Barrow and Workwear. These German-made tools are designed to keep the wrist at a more comfortable straight angle, with 30deg angled head making for easier cutting, and feature one-piece drop forging for the blades and handles, the cutting head being chromium plated.

Bahco gives gardeners the opportunity to create their own secateurs, suited to their individual needs, with a selection of sizes, cutting widths and spring tensions from which to choose.

SuperLIGHT Telescopic Bypass Loppers from Bahco are designed for cutting back winter foliage or shaping overgrown fruit trees without the risk of strain or fatigue.

This season sees Darlac introduce new compound-action loppers with an advanced cutting mechanism to give a 45mm capacity but weighing just 1.2kg. The company also adds the SuperPro Shear to its portfolio. This tool has hard chrome-plated carbon steel blades and weighs just 900g.

The introduction of Fiskars' next generation axes coincides with a renaissance for wood-burning fires and stoves. The axe head, which has rounder edges for easier removal from the log, is integrated into the blade design to ensure that it always remains in place.

An ultralight Fibercomp handle is intended to minimise fatigue, while the hooked end features anti-shock material. The range consists of four universal/chopping axes and three splitting axes in various sizes, but mostly weighing just over 1kg.

Husqvarna's new axe range is made from Swedish axe steel and includes various sizes for splitting firewood and felling small trees.

Bulldog has launched a new range of fibreglass-handled striking tools, including sledgehammers, felling axes, lump hammers, log splitting axes, fencing mauls and hatchets. The tools are lightweight and feature additional comfort from soft-grip handles.

To remove surface moss, lichen and dirt as paths and patios are swept, Burgon & Ball is supplying the Miracle Patio Surface Cleaning Brush. Galvanised spring steel bristles, interspersed throughout the brush head clean the surface of the paving while tough but flexible polypropylene bristles gather all loose debris.


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