Six on Saturday: 8 December 2018: The Tool Chest – Redux The First (a.k.a. Part Two)

Another Saturday and so time for another six. Unlike our glorious leader, Mr Prop, I don’t buy lots of plants so that I can photograph six pots or multipacks of dormant plants. At least I’m spared the worry of wondering whether the neighbours will notice that the garden fence has moved a few feet into their garden overnight. Not that I don’t over-order. That happens occasionally (usually by mistake). But there are limits; in physical square metres if not in the imagination! I want to keep a bit of lawn here, at least until the current mower breaks down when, maybe, just maybe ……

But that’s for another day, sometime in the future.

I’m not into geese so if one of them’s getting fat, good luck to it. I’m a turkey man myself. But as everyone compiles their letters to Santa (in the hope he’ll pass them on to others who might be moved to donate the odd present), I thought I’d carry on as I started with another Niwaki-based Six. This week I have some stocking fillers that might tempt those whose wallets/purses are not bottomless. I don’t include pricing simply because prices change and the ever-generous Jake Hobson is always tempting us with special offers. So head over to the Niwaki emporium for the latest info (and, until tomorrow, you can get 10% off their wonderful tripod ladders with free delivery and a free Niwaki cap thrown in to keep your head warm).

1 Pruning Sheet

OK, you’ll need a big stocking. If you’re the type that tries to save some work by placing some sort of collecting sheet under your hedge when you trim it, you’ll probably be using something that’s squarish in shape. The Niwaki version isn’t. It’s 3.6 metres long and only 1.8 metres wide which is more hedge-shaped. You can easily practice some origami and fold it around a single tree if needs be. Made of strong nylon mesh, strongly hemmed, with eyelets to peg it down on a windy day it’s far better than an old sheet or tarpaulin and looks a bit more stylish too.

2 Arm Covers

And when you’re pruning away, particularly if you’re pruning conifers or some other plant whose sap can irritate, these can be a real boon. Mine are mark 1; the current offering is the same colour as the tool bag with red elasticated cuffs at the wrist so you can see where they end and your hands begin. Slip then under or over your gloves and over your arms or shirt sleeves up to the elbows and save yourself a lot of irritation.

3 Belt Clip

Lots of tool holsters come with belt loops. Great for sliding your belt through so you have somewhere handy to shove your tools. But what if you don’t wear a belt or get fed up with continually having to remove the belt from one of the loops on your trousers to feed it through the loop on the holster? These nifty little things could be the answer. Undo the screw holding the loop bit of the clip together and slide it into the holster’s loop before doing it up again. Then just slide the clip end over the waistband of whatever you’re wearing (or over your belt) and the job’s done. I have these attached to every holster I’ve got so I don’t need to keep messing around. They’re only a few quid each and, IMO, well worth it.

4 Sharpening Stones

You do sharpen your stuff, yes? Including your spades, yes? OK, you could easily get away with one sharpening stone but I’ve found it’s far better to get the right one for whatever it is you want to sharpen. Size and grit makes a difference! I have three. Niwaki sell a selection so you can take your pick of these or others. I tend to use whetstones rather than other sharpening tools. Yep, it can take a bit of learning to get things right but the finish you end up with is worth the extra effort. Japanese steel tends to stay sharper for longer but eventually …….

On the left I have an “Okatsune Sharpening Stone”. Small and with a 400 grit size, it’s ideal for sharpening secateurs and the like. Just whet it (well they spell them “whetstones” and sharpen away. Just remember to whet it well.

The large one in the middle is a “Shapton Ceramic Whetsone” Bug and bulky with a 1000-2000 grit size this is what I use to sharpen my spades (and chisels and stuff like that). Getting the exactly right angle of sharpness isn’t so crucial with spades but the area to be sharpened is bigger so this larger stone makes it easier. Again, thoroughly whet it and keep it whet whilst using.

On the right is a “Shapton Shears Stone”. There’s no point in buying high quality shears if you don’t keep them sharp. This handy little model has a 1000 grit size and, used right (and whet of course) you’ll achieve a precision-sharp finish. Just remember though that however good your shears may be, it’s a fact of life that shear blades tend to develop nicks and the like over time. No whetstone will repair a damaged blade – that’s a job for a diamond file.

All sharpening stones are delicate – don’t drop them onto a hard surface or they can shatter.

5 Crean Mate

I’ve separated this out as it’s not a sharpener but more of a cleaner. I wonder if its name is a play on our perception that Japanese people always pronounce L as R.  Rust, sap, resin all mess up our prized blades over time. This small block is like the rubber (eraser for American readers!) that a child carries in their pencil case. It’s a bit harder though! Small enough to carry in a pocket for that bit of cleaning as you go along but tough enough to go at a rusty blade when you find the secateurs you dropped in a border last year. The 50p is to show its size; you don’t get one in the pack.

6 Camellia Oil

I don’t really fancy covering my secateurs, and thence my plants, in machine oil but tools need lubricating and this may be your answer. As its name suggests, it’s made from camellias. Totally natural. The photo shows two separate products – the bottle of oil on the right and a dispenser on the left (sold separately). The dispenser unscrews in the middle so you can fill it and then the lid unscrews to reveal a felt pad with which you rub over your tools, either a bit of lube as you’re hard at it or as a bit of protection over winter. Use some camellia oil with the Crean Mate to make cleaning easier and the finish better.


So there you have six little goodies. For six more goodies (which may actually be plants) head over to the august blog of the lunatic plant buyer, Mr Propagator where you’ll find easy-to-follow instructions for submitting your own six to the growing international collection to which you’ll find lots of links encapsulated in the host of comments appended to his own six of the day.

I’ll be back next week with my final Niwaki six. For those who care, I never accept freebies in return for reviews. If I want something, I’ll buy it and maybe something is so good (or sometimes so bad!) that I’ll be moved to blog about it. Or sometimes I discover something to which I alert my readers. And I have one such alert today to finish off.

Like other Sixers, I’ve discovered that the local avian population go nuts for Flutter Butter, a peanut butter-based food that comes in jars (also called “pods”) which fit into a hanging feeder. I’d bought my initial trial supply from Thompson and Morgan but thought I’d scour the internet to see if I could save a bit elsewhere. And it seemed I could as several places were offering multipacks in multiples of three and it looked like I could get six for little more than the price of three at T&M. But there’s a catch – these places didn’t mention how much was in each “pod”.

This is a T&M jar:

And this is a three-pack of pods:

I’ve included the images so you can compare the look with the offering at the place you choose to buy from. The difference is that a single T&M jar contains 330g and each of the pods in the three pack contains 170g. When I worked it out, g for g, the T&M size works out cheaper. And you don’t have to go out as often to replace an empty jar/pod. FWIW, at the time of writing, Ark Wildlife sell both sizes and their large jars are a bit cheaper than T&M.

There we go. Until next time, enjoy your garden.

16 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 8 December 2018: The Tool Chest – Redux The First (a.k.a. Part Two)

  1. All these products look like they would be welcome on any gardener’s Christmas list. Great tip about the peanut butter for birds.

    1. Aside from price, the larger jars of Flutter Butter last about a week and a half here. The smaller ones get emptied in about three days. And it’s cold and wet outside …..

  2. Very handy hints. You make me ashamed of the state of my tools. Those arm protectors would save me a fortune in sticking plasters.

    1. The protectors are fairly cheap and very effective. In my case, they’ve been used heavily when I’m working on conifers, to whose sap I’m allergic.

    1. You’ve just given me an idea for next week. My Christmas list. Thanks for that.

  3. Hello John. An interesting post to read and see these sharpening stones reminded me of the one I have in a corner of my garage … I don’t know its grit size, but I remember it didn’t sharp very much effectively my secateurs. I use a metal file and a Dremel to polish.

    1. Hi Fred. I’m not sure I’d want to use your sharpening tools for fear of wrecking the blades. But yo do need to choose the right sharpening stone for it to be effective. Plus the size of the stone makes a difference – a giant stone on a small blade just won’t work.

  4. Sigh… It’s all I can manage to keep my kitchen knives sharp, now you are telling me I need to sharpen my spade?
    I remember a time when a man with a horse and cart would come along and my mother would run out with scissors, secateurs and shears for sharpening.

    1. You should try occasionally sharpening your spade and see the difference. You want it to slice easily through the soil, not press it down, remember.

  5. Mmm, I’m planning on visiting my sister in Arundel in January and there’s a branch of Architectural Plants near to her and it’ll be by way of a late Christmas and they stock a fair range of Niwaki tools…….

    1. Hope you have a big enough boot. This week I managed to convert two Felco enthusiasts, one of whom dashed indoors to order a pair after using mine for about three minutes. Sod left me outside in the rain; I thought he was nipping in to the loo. Then had the cheek to try to forget giving mine back when I left.

  6. Once again my betters remind me of all the things I should be doing, and looking after tools is so important. Very useful information on whetstones, crean mate and the camellia oil. I could be doing some niwaki shopping soon.

    1. There’s no such word as “could” when it comes to Niwaki. “Will” is the correct turn of phrase. If I only had ten minutes to spare and had to choose between pruning a rose or sharpening the secateurs, the secateurs would win.

    1. It’s really nice stuff and you know you’re being kinder to your plants when you bring them into contact with your secateurs.

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