It is still Saturday, I think. It should be last Saturday as I haven’t yet managed to get through last week’s sixes; nor have I yet managed to respond to any comments on my own post last week. Like Gill Heavens, I have excuses although they do not involve injury, at least not to me! I’m glad the last seven days are out of the way.
So here is the last of my Niwaki sixes. Apart from the first, the photos are all filched from the Niwaki web site as I haven’t got round to taking snaps of my own kit and it’s now blowing a hoolie out there, and it’s dark and scary.
1 Okatsune Shears
There are shears and there are shears. There are grass shears and edging shears. There are topiary shears and hedging shears. And with that bit of poeticism (work it out) I introduce Okatsune 60s. These are not grass shears nor edging shears, though they could conceivably be wasted on either task. But if you’re into hedge-cutting or topiary, these are the shears for you. I’ll ignore the satisfying noise they make: the swish as the blades cross and the snap as they come together in perfect symmetry. Rather, I’ll concentrate on their cutting ability.
Uh? You may well exclaim! But there’s more science to cutting than simply bringing two blades together. If you want a sharp, flat edge to your hedge you need tools that will be easy for you to hold, guide and, well, snap shut at just the right angle. If you’re into shaping your hedge to the extent that some people call “topiary”, you want tools with which you can achieve that delicate shape you want. Your shears need to be light enough to handle but not so light that you wave them around indiscriminately. They need to be heavy enough to give feedback to your muscles; to induce that element of control that makes the difference between chopping and shaping. And most of all, they need to be sharp!
These do the trick.
2 Secateurs (Okatsune and Tobisho)
You just can’t get by with a single pair of secateurs. I have two pairs of Niwakis (plus another make of anvil secateurs). In my humble opinion, Japanese steel is the best a man can get (I don’t use Gillette razor blades any more, mine are made of Japanese steel). They’re pretty much the best a woman can get too. I’ve found that my Niwakis stay sharper for longer than any secateurs I’ve had before.
Why two pairs? The cheaper Okatsunes are my main use pair. The Tobishos are my special ones, reserved for operations where absolutely clean cuts matter. Way back when I bought them, there were only three different types of secateurs in the Niwaki range. Now there are lots more, ranging up to well over £200 a pair.
Okatsune secateurs are simple, sharp and strong. The handles are covered in vinyl which isn’t cushioned (I prefer the feel to cushioned handles and have never had any problem with prolonged use) and can be removed if you like the all steel look. And these are all steel. No aluminium bits. If you leave them lying around, the red handle makes them visible amongst foliage and the white handle shows up when it starts to get dark. There are three sizes to suit different hands.
The Tobishos feel different and they are, giving a cleaner cut than the Okatsunes. Each half, blade and handle, is made out of a single piece of steel so no fixing of aluminium handles to steel blades. The handle covers, again uncushioned vinyl, are red and yellow (the yellow still shows up in the dark but make it easy to work out which pair you’re using).
Both types have springs that won’t pop out accidentally (and come with a spare spring) and chunky catches at the end of the handles which I really prefer over the flick lever type that you lock with a finger, or occasionally with a branch you’re working around. You’ll soon get the knack of opening and closing them by swiping the catch over your hip.
3 Snips (Okatsune)
When you need something for which secateurs are just too chunky, you turn to snips. Not as powerful as secateurs, these will still cope with flowers, fruit and veg and when you’re trimming as you fill a vase. And these match my Okatsune secateurs.
Some people carry tools around in a trug (something to trip over when you put it down). Some carry things around in their pockets (not good for the pockets). I use holsters. Some Niwaki tools come complete with a holster but secateurs don’t. So I forked out for two – a single and a double. The single holds my Tobishos and the double my Okatsune secateurs and snips. Strong, leather, nice.
5 Sukoppu (and Baby)
The golden spade is strong, sharp and light. All steel, welded, not riveted. It’ll cope with almost anything (you can abuse it by mixing cement if you insist). I’ve never worried about prising out large stones, thick roots (keep it sharp and it’ll happily slice through an inch or so of thick root). The gold will eventually wear off the blade but you can always respray it if you really want.
There’s now a baby version too. Just as strong though, because the shaft is shorter, it doesn’t have the levering power of its bigger sibling. I have both sizes. The biggie is great for ground work and the smaller one suits my raised beds which are anything up to half a metre high.
6 Tripod Ladder
Simply, a tripod is the most stable, and adaptable, support shape you can get, whether you be a photographer or a tree surgeon. After a ladder accident some years ago I forked out for a 13-foot one. OK, not cheap but incredibly strong, unbelievably light (I can lift mine easily by just wrapping an index finger around one of the side struts). Welded, not riveted. Double treads, a shelf on the top to put things down on, a wide base and an adjustable rear leg to cope with slopes.
The single rear leg can be pushed into a hedge if you want to get close and work head-on. Or you can work sideways; although you should never lean too far out from the side of any ladder, I’ve broken this rule a fair few times without ever encountering any instability.
And the range starts at 4 feet high and goes up to 15 feet.
Yup! I left the best till last.
So that’s my final Niwaki six. I’m off now to read the rest of last week’s posts and respond to comments on mine. Then I’ll start reading today’s posts. Probably tomorrow.
Meanwhile all praise and thanks to Prop for coming up with the idea for Six on Saturday and keeping the growing number of troops in check, coping easily with a range of languages from English, through Australian to American. Pop to The Prop and be amazed by the number of sixes to which you will find links at the root end of his post (unless you’re reading in Australia where they may be at the flower end).
Until next time, enjoy your garden.