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Tools for the toughest garden jobs.

Tools for the toughest garden jobs

For garden hacking, your best bet is one of the hefty hand tools shown above.

The Pulaski axe has a very sharp blade and should be be used only on wood (when removing a tree stump, say).

A pick loosens compacted, rocky soil; its pointed end cuts through the toughest hardpan, its chisel end is good on less daunting surfaces.

A mattock is right far soil not quite hard enough to require a pick. It's also useful for working ground choked with roots. Use the ax side of the head to sever largest roots and the horizontal chisel blade for smaller ones, to puncture tough soil, even dig narrow trenches.

Choose heavy? Choose light?

These tools can be dangerous if they're not in good condition or they're used incorrectly. Make sure the tool you choose fits both you and the job you have to do.

If you're strong and have no back problems, you can probably use even the heaviest tools (about 5 pounds). Otherwise, select a lighter alternative, such as the 2 1/2-pound cutter mattock or the pick mattock. Bear in mind, though, that some are designed for less demanding tasks.

How to use these hacking tools

With the full-size tools, be sure to let the weight of the head work for you. The circular swing we show develops momentum which helps drive the head into the ground (the circular swing also lets you switch arms, so you won't get tired as quickly). The overhead swing basically lets the tool's own weight provide drive.

Although a properly attached head shouldn't slip, any one might. The circular swing generates centrifugal force, which helps keep the head in place. The overhead swing, while easier to control and aim, doesn't; it also puts you in a dangerous position if the head does slip.

Most heavy-duty picks and mattocks are sold with heads and handles separate. After attaching the head, you may want to add a woodscrew below the head for further insurance. The lightweight tools often come securely assembled.

Wear protective goggles and sturdy shoes. Be sure to use caution when working with any of the tools. Maintain blade edges by sharpening occasionally with a file.

Most nurseries and garden supply centers stock some versions of these tools. If you can't find the one you want, mail-order it from a garden tool supplier.

Photo: For tough garden jobs, these tools have no match (three at far left are for heaviest, toughest jobs). Most have standard 2 1/2-foot-lont handles, but mini-pick mattock's handle is only a foot--and mattock hoe's is 4 feet

Photo: Alternative ways to use a mattock. At near right, he swings in nearly full circle, starting on the side of his body opposite the point of impact. At far right, he lifts tool overhead and brings it straight down in front

Photo: A vital first step: attaching the head so it stays on

1. Use rag or paper towel to spread lubricating graphite inside head. Use dry graphite, with no added oil

2. Push head firmly down onto handle; graphite will mark points of contact. Then remove head from handle

3. Use wood rasp to smooth out dark areas on handle; repeat this process until fit is snug

4. Remove excess handle by first marking it 1/2 inch above head; then saw off wood above line

5. To seat head, tamp handle firmly on hard surface. Force drives head to top of handle
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1987
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