Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Oldest Spade?

How old can a spade be and still be in use?

If you kept it clean after every session and gave the shaft (assume it’s wooden) some linseed oil, say, once a year, how long would it last?

I’d have thought 100 years was quite feasible. 200? More? Would the blade wear out before the shaft?

Comments, answers and examples please.

And let’s not have any “Grandfather’s axe” answers!!

You’re not familiar with Grandfather’s axe?

“This is a really good axe. It used to be my Grandfather’s. Mind you, I had to put a new head on it last year, and it’s had a couple of new shafts too.”


UKBob said...

Hi Woody, I've just been reading your blog during a rest from pacifying the upper? classes. As usual I found much of interest so much so that I'm going to do a post about a couple of items tonight if thats okay with you. I will show you my spade and I also want to throw something in the ring with regard to taking on an overgrown allotment. Anyway must be getting back to work, take care, Bob.

Woody Wilbury said...

That's fine Bob. Look forward to it.

Stonehead said...

I have a very good carbon steel fork that's on its third handle in 12 years, a shovel that was my father-in-law's that's at least 30 years old, and an assortment of draw knives, handsaws and planes that are 50+ years old.
My wheeled ridging plough was made in the 1950s, my wheeled hoe predates World War 2, and one of my wire strainers was made in 1932.
With regular maintenance and sympathetic refurbishment, good tools last a very long time.
Eventually, though the steel does wear down and a couple of my old screwdrivers have now reached this point. They're still good for non-screw driving jobs though.
I make a point of reclaiming old tools—they last longer, keep an edge better and have more feel than modern ones. I also like the sense of history I get from using them, feeling the wear marks that previous users have left on them.

Ruth said...

I found your blog today after it was linked from Veg Plot. I've subscribed to your feed, but you don't put your title into the title field, which makes the feed a bit rubbish. Is there a reason? It's not like your posts don't have titles.

Woody Wilbury said...

Sorry, don't understand this. No-one else has made this comment in the last two years.

Did you have any thoughts on the spade issue?

Puzzled, of Allotment 81

Woody Wilbury said...

Thanks Stonehead, that's pretty much how I feel about them too. I've only ever owned three 'normal' spades in my life, two of them new, and the best by far is the one I inherited from my dad when he died. He'd clearly broken it in for me because it immediately felt right in the hand. But I've also got an Irish long-handled spade I'm quite partial to, because it gives me lots more leverage.

Ruth said...

Hello Woody,

See the top of this comments page, just under where it says "Post a Comment on: Allotment 81", how it says "Untitled"? That's because your title is not in your title place, but is just a sentence in your post. I just wondered if there was a deliberate reason you don't like using the title field?

My reason for asking was that Blogger makes a news feed of your blog here:
Which I have added to my reader, so I can always see the latest news headlines from your blog. Except that your recent posts are all untitled, and therefore unfortunately all look the same.

I'm afraid I don't have an informed opinion on the spade issue. My Mum grew up in a house without much of a garden and my Dad grew up in India, so heirlooms of the gardening tool kind have I none.

I would surmise that if you properly maintained and oiled it, then the metal part of a spade should last until you bent it out of shape doing something daft with it. I once broke a spade handle trying to dig in my new garden on a Welsh mountain...

RHIANNON said...

I've noticed that at car boot sales old tools command quite a premium price watever their condition. So it is unlikely that your spade would be allowed a working life of hundreds of years. If it gets too old it would just end up in a glass case and called antique. Or a decorators item and placed on a pub wall

mel said...


Having just got my first allotment an especially lovely neighbour, just turned 90 & now retired from gardening, gave me some tools which he inherited from his grandfather. They are an absolute pleasure, and privilege, to use, though I wouldn't like to say how many parts are original.