Friday, November 5, 2010

Tools for the job

My maternal Grandfather would give freely of his time, his knowledge and his love. He was a physicist, teacher and inventor who spent much of his life helping others. I never asked him for money but I have no doubt he would have seen me all right if I had. In fact, he was generous in almost every respect – except with his tools!

His theory was that if you needed to do some maintenance (or inventing), you should buy the necessary equipment, preferably of the very best quality, and not cost it into the job. That way you’d gradually acquire a set of tools that would be with you for life, and before long you’d be able to handle most practical tasks for free.

This theory is all very well, but it presumes in couple of areas: firstly, you can afford to buy the tools in the first place and secondly, that you might conceivably use them again in the future. So it’s a fine way to acquire basic tools, but less useful for say a dovetail jointer or if you are strapped for cash. 

I remember putting this to him when I wanted to borrow a masonry drill and he replied that my analysis was impeccable – except in his book a power drill was a basic tool, and as I had full time job I should be able to afford one. He took me to the hardware shop and showed me which one to buy; I have it still.

I was pondering all this yesterday as I went to buy some new secateurs. My old ones weren't up the challenge of the new garden and it was about time I bought a decent quality set. What are the best ones you have I asked? I was shown an impressive display and casually turned the price tags, thinking my Grandfather would have bought these.

Seventy quid for a set of plant snips!  

Do you have anything more, ehm... reasonable?  I was shown the mid range selection which still seemed pricey - and was recommended a pair of bypass cutters, costing about twenty pounds. I never knew there was such specialism in garden tools, or that people would be prepared to pay so much.

But now I come to think of it, why not? I regularly shell out fifty quid for bike tyres, more for a new gear mechanism, and I have some bespoke cable cutters that cost me forty quid more than twenty years ago – they are joy to use.  In every walk of life there are specialists and enthusiasts who are prepared to pay for the right or best equipment. So I suppose there’s no reason why horticulture should be different.

In fact, as I look at the prospect of my new garden, seventy quid doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Perhaps I’ll go back and exchange my purchase for the better pair – my Grandad would definitely have approved of that.


  1. Are you precious about your tools? Do you lend them out, would you expect a friend to let you borrow an expensive pair of cable cutters,or power tool? Do you look after them?
    My husband's late father was a stickler about his tools, and his tool shed was a joy to behold. He loved to tinker, to build things that were useful in the garden or to do with car maintenance, and he always had them tidily arranged, and clean, and made sure his sons knew that if they used them, they had to be put back exactly where they had been taken from, and cleaned. My husband does his best to emulate his dad, bless him... from which you might guess that he's not a hundred percent successful!
    Your garden looks lovely.. how big?

  2. Talking of Grandpas and their tools, the garage here is full of old stuff,, tins of carefully sorted screws, odd gaskets, saw blades, hinges and unidentifiable gadgets squirreled away, rows of get the picture. My Dad would have been in heaven! I bet they are all better quality than todays foreign stuff.

  3. Your Grandfather was a very smart man. You owe it to him to go and get the more expensive secateurs because they will last a lot longer. I've had the cheaper ones and it's not worth it.
    A lovely story.
    I love your garden too.

  4. Half the price, pay for it twice... I'm sure my Nan used to say that. The older generation knew their beans.

  5. I was lucky enough to win an upmarket pair last year having gone through the same thought process as you and consequently gone through many cheaper pairs.

    Having tested them for a year now, would I buy them? Yes I would.

    My dad was a carpenter and insisted on the best quality tools for his work. I now see I should have done the same from the word go for my gardening ones.

    Re that proposal I told you about - I have a meeting... in January (Christmas needs to be got over first) :)

  6. I use my dovetail joiner all the time. Don't you?

  7. You can't beat a good dovetail jointer. But seriously, I have always tried to acquire the best tools that I can afford, although logic and parsimony have sometimes persuaded me to go for the cheaper options.

    The practical advantages of good tools are clear, but I also find that they bring a certain pride of possession, that if used properly, (like the tools themselves) translates into pride of workmanship and a good job well done. Priceless.

  8. congrats! keep up the good work/this is a great presentation.

    Garden Tools