Shafts, Hilts & Materials


When choosing any garden tool, you should always ensure that it the right size and model for the job and that it is comfortable for you to use. This is especially true of cultivation tools where the wrong choice could place a strain upon your back.


The standard shaft length for spades and forks is 70-73 cm (28-29 in); however, if you're taller than 5 ft 6 in you may find a longer length more comfortable to use.

Rakes and hoes have a longer shaft length to allow you to stand upright whilst working. The standard length is 1.5 m (5 ft), but again, if you are tall, you may find a longer length will reduce the strain on your back.

Shafts are usually made from wood, aluminium or plastic-covered metal. They are all fairly robust, although metal shafts, unlike wooden ones, cannot be replaced if broken. You may also find the coldness of metal uncomfortable to work with in the winter months.


Garden forks and spades are generally available with one of three styles of hilt: 'D', 'Y' or 'T'.

The D style is the most common, although people with large hands may find them difficult to use, especially when wearing gardening gloves. The recommended approach is to handle the tools before buying to make sure they suit the size of your hands; bring your gloves along if you usually wear them.


The majority of garden tools are made using carbon steel. This material is quite adequate for most gardening needs, although you will need to keep the tools regularly cleaned and oiled, as well as occasionally sharpen spades.

Whilst stainless steel is more expensive, it does not require as much maintenance. You will also find that digging is a less arduous task as the soil readily falls away from the spade blade. However, stainless steel may not be sharpened.

Finally, some tools may come with a non-stick coating which makes digging easier and reduces the amount of cleaning necessary. Do bear in mind though that the coating tends to peel off after heavy use.