Six on Saturday: 1 December 2018 – The Tool Chest (Part the First)

It’s December already! Christmas is fast approaching. Gill Heavens has found the perfect, if a little extreme, way to get her long-suffering partner to cook the Christmas lunch and pander to her every whim (though she got short shrift from Mr Prop).

I’m saving a plant or two and an edifice or three for another week. This is an in-between time. I could get repetitive and re-show some last hurrahs. I could look ahead to the promise of tomorrow. I could mention bulbs and bedding plants ad nauseam. But, instead, I’ll take a break from plants and, with a simple mention of Thomas (who’s been taking a break from SoS and shares my love of all things Niwaki), and of Jim (who has seen the light and been converted to Niwaki secateurs so far), I’m going to share a six of Niwaki tools. Quake in your boots, dear readers, for such is my love of all things Niwaki that I already have enough material for several sixes.

So dust off your wallets or purses, as the case may be, and join me in a journey to excellence as I present my first Niwaki Six on Saturday.

If you want to find out more, please feel free to visit the Niwaki web site. Others sell the same stuff but why not go to the source of Japanese bounty? And before you ask, I ask nothing from the illustrious Jake Hobson, head honcho there, for these plugs. If he offers me a discount on any future purchase, I have a problem in that there are now few things I could get that I haven’t already got. And used. And loved. Thomas will agree with me. And maybe Jim too!

1 Goodie Bag

Niwaki stuff is just too good to languish over the winter in a cold, dark and occasionally damp shed so, after it’s annual clean and sharpening, it is stored in the relative warmth of the garage until it magically springs back into life in the New Year. This strong canvas bag (which is also fairly waterproof, I’ve found) holds my collection (and a few other hangers-on). Far better than a pile of tools lying around on the garage floor. Makes transportation easy too when I nip off to do a bit of helping out in another garden. The zip is quite noisy too, which alerts me to any attempt by the recipient of my gardening largess to nick something while my back is turned.

2 Herbaceous Sickle

I think back to the days when the autumnal cutting down of the borders was a long job. Secateurs only cut a few stems at a time and I’d be on my knees for hours. The photo doesn’t show clearly the serrated cutting edge of this light but strong little beastie which slices through clumps of lythrum, grasses, crocosmia, whatever, with consummate ease. It’s a lot sharper than it looks so keep fingers out of the way. Comes with a fairly sturdy plastic cover complete with reinforced hanging hole for hanging (what else?) on a nail or for proposing to someone with a very narrow ring finger.

3 Billhook Sickle

This is more of a woodland tool. It’s heavier and even stronger than its herbaceous sibling and has a sharp but smooth blade. This is for when you need a bit more oomph than the herbaceous sickle can provide but a hatchet would be overkill. It makes short work of brambles and other undergrowth when I venture beyond the fence to hack back the thicket in no-man’s-land next door.

This cones in a sturdy leather case, again with a hanging hole.

4 Weeding Hoe

We’ve all got one of those Dutch hoes. Great for weeding between the rows in your veg patch or cutting garden but we don’t tend to plant our beds and borders in straight rows. Sometimes you need something a bit easier to use when you’re down on your knees and working around in circles or other strange shapes, as your fancy is taken. You will quickly learn the secret that everything depends on the angle at which you hold the hoe. With the handle angled down (as in the photo) it’s great for a bit of surface scraping – things like moss removal or general breaking up of a crust that can form in dry weather. Hold the handle just above horizontal to gently lift small weed seedlings out of the soil. At a higher, but still comfortable, angle it slices through the weeds that you just want to decapitate. This is light and easy to manoeuvre in confined spaces, small enough to hang from a tool belt as you move around. The blade is sharp enough to slice through skin if you’re careless. An added bonus is the point which is great for making seed drills, whether straight or not.

5 Hand Hoe

Another alternative to the big dutch hoe and good for preparing seed beds and general cultivation in tight spaces. It’s also surprisingly tough and does a good job at prising out root clumps, stones and even larg(ish) lumps like bricks that I still find underground when I’m converting more lawn to beds.

6 Hori Hori

Don’t carry one of these around in the street at night. It’s a bit of a multi-tool. One complete side and around the tip and part way down the other is sharpened. As it comes, it’s sharp enough to slice through softer roots but, with a bit of judicious use of a sharpening stone, I’ve got mine really sharp. After all I bought it primarily to help with pond clearance a couple of years ago. There’s a large planting shelf at one end which I’d covered with plants in planting baskets, as you do. Over the years, the individual root clumps had broken out of the baskets and intermingled, leaving me with something like a square metre and a half of tangled roots with the remnants of the original baskets somewhere in there. The hori-hori sliced through this mass of dense mess with little effort on my part.

Since then, I’ve used it for weeding (great for tap roots), occasional bulb planting. It’s other name is “Japanese Trowel” which gives an idea of its versatility. Comes in a strong canvas holster complete with belt loop.

Whew! I’ve made a six. Jobs need to be done and I’ll get rather wet getting to the greenhouse where I have an afternoon of potting up and on to look forward to. Like the proverbial bad penny I’ll be back next week, I hope, with another six (which may or may not be the second instalment in this little series).

Meanwhile, enjoy your garden, share some pics of it with the rest of us via Mr Propagator’s blog and/or pop over his way to have a butchers at others’ gardens. Remember that as we in the UK head into winter, our antipodean contributors are heading towards summer and can offer things for us to look forward to (grammar pedants be damned).


26 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 1 December 2018 – The Tool Chest (Part the First)

  1. Mmmmmmmm good six. Only got the Hori hori, recently rescued from a garden I left it in and de rusted, but I also have a mini fork/ hoe thing in one which is currently filthy dirty on my deck and in need of some tlc which I will give it tomorrow.

    1. Have a butchers at Niwaki’s Creen Mate. Fabulous little thing for de-rusting and cleaning up generally. It’s in next week’s instalment of stocking fillers..

  2. I have a pair of Jake’s seceteurs on my santa list. I’ve gone for the more utilitarian okatsune brand. Will still be much better than my various third rate pairs. I like the herbaceous chopper thing too. Perhaps I should add…

    1. I have a pair of Okatsune and one of Toshibo, so far. They’ll be in part 3.

  3. Oh, dear, I had my own list of Niwaki kit I wanted & none were in this lot, so my list has grown. Now how to convince grumpy ole St Nick that I’ve been very, very nice this year? Hmmmm . . .

    1. Dream away! There are two more instalments in this series ……

        1. Well if you want a little push towards the sales counter, OK………

          1. Can I borrow your card? I seem to’ve misplaced mine somewhere . . . .

    1. With more to come ……. Including some stocking fillers next week!

  4. Love them all, I’ve got secateurs, the hand hoe and a hori hori (which I call my japanese fighting trowel). And a golden spade to go with my golden boots. x ps I will be cooking Christmas dinner, by then I will be a ninja master on my crutches.

    1. Jokes aside, if you still need your crutches for support, think carefully about cooking. Trying to lift a turkey out of the oven, pans of boiling water and all that! And after emptying your refilled baubles. xx

    1. Got! Maybe you have some place over there that stocks this stuff. Hope so.

  5. I think I will be very polite this week – that’s a frightening array of impliments! Would the hand hoe cope with clay soil efficiently? Very interesting and even less colourful than my Six-on-Saturday!

    1. My soil is heavy clay. Both hoes do the (different) jobs I want them to. I tend to use the hand hoe for planting massed bedding as it’s a lot easier and quicker than a trowel (particularly when I’m planting the bedding over bulbs – the hoe doesn’t dig so deeply into the soil as you might push a trowel).

  6. From Niwaki, I just knew the name but also the cloudy shape of some japanese trees. Out of curiosity, I visited their website to know the prices … You’re right … it’s not cheap but they are very beautiful tools …thanks for sharing

    1. Jake (the head honcho) writes books, lectures and runs courses about that style of pruning. I accept the stuff is not necessarily cheap but you get the quality you pay for. I’ll be covering some potential stocking fillers next week.

      1. Not really scary when you realise you’ve got something that will outlive you and probably the next few generations.

  7. I saw the first couple of items and thought I was safe from temptation but then I saw the hoe and I used to have one quite like it and lost it and it really would get used, not adorn the shed and I don’t think Sue knows what to get me for Christmas. And I can’t find my Niwaki catalogue and that’s more unsettling than it should be.

    1. I can understand the impact a mislaid Niwaki catalogue can have as you then need to visit the web site to see what’s what. And the web site has far more goodies on it than you’ll find in the catalogue. Don’t let Sue near the kitchen section!

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