Choose Garden Tools

When you buy equipment or materials for your garden, you usually get what you pay for. The things which do the job well and last are usually the more expensive choices. A good top of the range pair of secateurs, for example, should last 20 years or more, but a cheap pair may only last one or two years.



* Loose parts: check moving parts in particular, as well as bolts and screws.

* Adequate joins: where parts join (eg: the spade blade to the spade handle) should be strong enough, and firmly fitted, to withstand the rigours of hard work. For handtools such as spades, shovels and forks the most likely place for breakages to occur is where the handle meets the tool head. It is important to ensure that you purchase tools with strong durable handles, and that these are subsequently well maintained.

* Sharp edges: Newly made, or repaired tools will often have sharp edges that can easily cut you, particularly if they have been poorly finished off.

* Splinters: Tools with wooden (ie: handles), or fibreglass parts, will often have splinters, if they have been poorly finished off, or if they have been subsequently damaged.

* Leaks: Check carefully for evidence of water, petrol, oil or other leaks. If there is evidence of some sort of leakage, check to see if this simply a result of a loose cap (eg; petrol cap), a loose connection (eg: on a hose clamp), or if machinery has been tipped, dropped, etc, during use or transport.

* Wear & Tear: Tools with obvious signs of wear and tear are more likely to break down, or to operate less efficiently.

* Possibility of obtaining replacement parts if needed.


Quality of Materials:

* Rust/Corrosion: This is a good indicator that the tool or machine has been poorly maintained or stored.

* Good grip (to ground, hands): Good quality tyres are very important for machinery such as ride-on mowers, particularly when they are being used on boggy or sloped areas. Good hand grips are vital to ensure not only safe handling so that tools and machine won't slip, or get loose from your control, but also to ensure comfortable handling.

* Safety guards: These are extremely important for machines that have parts that could readily catch or grab you or your clothing; and for machines that are likely to throw up debris such as stones or wood chips. Safety guards should always be kept in good condition, and in the correct position while machines are operating.

* Anti-Vibration: Some machines that have high vibration levels (eg: chainsaws, jackhammers) come with anti-vibration handles. These are not always available on cheaper models. Such handles help reduce fatigue from trying to hold such machines, and reduce the likelihood of problems, such as 'White Knuckles' (permanent damage to the hands) from occurring.



The tools you might use for pruning or trimming are:

Secateurs, pruning saw, bow saw, shears, lopper, & hedge trimmer

Of these, the bare minimum is a pair of secateurs.

Secateurs are hand cutting tools which cut when the handles are squeezed, and spring open when released. There are two main types:

1) The scissor cut where two blades shearing past each other create a cutting action. If the blades are in good condition then the cut is clean and will not bruise plant material.

2) The anvil cut has a sharp blade cutting straight down onto a flat (anvil) surface. This type generally cuts more easily than the scissor type , but can bruise or tear plant material more readily


Maintenance of Secateurs

Moving parts should be regularly oiled. Any parts susceptible to rusting should be wiped with an oily rag, or sprayed with a lubricant/protectant such as CRC or WD-40.

The cutting blades should be regularly sharpened - anvil types the blade should be sharpened on both sides, for scissor types the blades should only be sharpened on one side (the outer edge or side furthest away from the other blade).



Chainsaws should be treated with respect, and the manufacturer's instructions followed carefully.

By practicing your cutting you will soon be ready to tackle interesting work. The two basic chainsaw cuts are:

1) Crosscutting...the typical cut at 90 degrees angle to the log.

2) Ripping...cutting the log length ways. This is generally made by lying the log on the ground.

When using the chainsaw, you will need a combination of these cuts.

All types of garden furniture and features can be created using a chainsaw - tables, seats, fences, steps, pergolas, buildings, etc. Some of the cuts you might use are outlined in more detail below:

BORING...To begin the cut, hold the saw so that the bar points up (this counteracts the tendency of the moving chain to crawl up the log). Cut a slot 3 cm or so deep in the surface of the log. Now pivot the body of the saw level with the slot and press the bar straight in to the slot. This type of cut is essentially putting the tip of the saw on the first slot you cut and then pushing it straight into the wood. This cut is used for making corner joints.

CORNER JOINTS...By boring then crosscutting into the bore, a section of log can be notched. This notch is a few inches from the end of the log. A second cut is made, creating a second notch at right angles to the first notch. You will finish with a piece of timber which is round along the full length except close to one end where it dips in the notched section to a square piece.

LAP JOINTS...An end lap joint is simply a crosscut and a rip made at the end of a log. Two such joins enable two short logs to be joined together to form one long log...such as in the wall of a log cabin.

CORNER NOTCHING...Round notching is best because its shape prevents the collection of water. Here a rounded notch is cut so that one log will fit on top of another. It is useful to use chalk to mark the width of one log on the other to know how much to cut out. They should fit together tightly.



There are a multitude of uses for a ladder in the home and garden, including pruning taller plants, painting, changing light globes, and clearing gutters. As with other tools it is important to choose the right one and to use it properly. Falling off a ladder is pretty common, and it can be quite serious.

Also have a stable footing for the ladder - for extra support on long ladders have a friend hold on, but make sure they don't lose concentration.

If the base of the ladder is stood on concrete or other smooth surfaces, then wooden or rubber stops should be used for the feet of the ladder to prevent slipping.

When putting up or taking down long extension ladders, get help. They are difficult to handle and even if you don't strain yourself putting it up, without help you might not set it up properly.

NEVER over reach when standing on a ladder; instead, get down and move the ladder.

Wear appropriate clothing on ladders - shoes with good grip; clothing which is tight and  won't get hooked on a branch or something else.

When a ladder is leaning up against a wall, the base should be 1 metre out from the wall for every 4 metres in height.

Scaffolding and "Step Ladders" should be kept stable by using on even ground, as flat as possible.

Secure ladders at the top whenever possible (eg. Tie it to a branch), particularly on uneven ground.



The two main materials for constructing ladders are wood and aluminium. Fibreglass is used, but mainly for small domestic ladders, and usually in conjunction with aluminium.

Wood is solid, secure, warm to touch in cool weather, and generally cheaper than aluminium. Wood, however, is heavier than aluminium, and requires greater maintenance.

Wood ladder is safer to use when working near electricity. Aluminium has the advantage of lightness, and lower maintenance, but can be very cool to touch in cold weather.

There are three main types of ladders. These are single section, push-up (in double or triple sections), and rope-operated pull-up (in double or triple sections). For small single section ladders wood and aluminium are both commonly used. For larger mobile ladders, two or three section push-up aluminium ladders are most widely used. For very large ladders, particularly rope operated ones, then wood is often used. The extra weight of aluminium stiles for the pulleys nearly eliminates the weight advantage, and the cost of the aluminium is much higher than for a wooden one.


Maintaining Ladders

If aluminium ladders are handled and stored carefully then they will require very little maintenance. If they are damaged, however, they are often difficult to repair, and whole sections may have to be replaced. Wooden ladders need regular care to prevent cracking, rot, or loose rungs. They should be periodically cleaned and painted with linseed oil or a similar preservative. They should never be painted as this will hide any defects. Wooden ladders should be stored under cover, and off the ground. Ropes should be inspected regularly for signs of wear and tear, and worn or damaged ones replaced.

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