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Bronze Tools – article in ‘Which? Gardening, Jan/Feb 2014

A customer kindly copied this article and sent it to us. Here is the text in full:

“An archaeologist wouldn’t have made the mistake that I used to make with my gardening tools. He or she would have known about the change in tensile qualities produced by mixing copper and tin. Copper and tin can be bent easily – but bronze doesn’t bend. My bronze gardening tools are therefore lighter and stronger than any steel tool I’ve owned or used.

Thick clay soil bends gardening tools quickly. I once bought a spade and fork set in a famous DIY shed at 7am and angrily recycled it by 8am. My bronze tools are a pleasure to wield. The blade on my trowel is thin, pointed and cupped sufficiently to hold a mound of loose soil, and the edge is sharp enough to slice through woody perennial roots. However, there is a problem – the handle has that rustic wooden look, which means I frequently misplace it. I need to paint it red!

My bronze spade is also slightly cupped. The blade is angled only slightly from the straight, relatively long handle, making leverage and balance perfect. The top of the blade has been wrought to give it integral treads – I have several steel spades where one of the treads (added at the end as part of the manufacturing process) have disappeared and my wellingtons have concomitant holes in their soles.

The bronze spade is a pleasure to dig with. It’s shiny and beautiful to look at. Wet clay sticks to it, but then wet clay sticks to everything. I reckon it would even stick to spades coated with PTFE (Teflon). It certainly sticks to stainless steel. My stainless-steel spades are heavy and very bendy.

It’s true that bronze gardening tools are pricey. Perhaps you shouldn’t buy them as presents – it would be awful if you bought one for a friend with an allotment and for some reason it was never used. But they are invaluable in clay soils like mine. So treat yourself – they’re worth every penny.”

Praise indeed, coming as it does from such a fiercely impartial magazine as Which?Gardening. We didn’t know anything about it until our customers told us.


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