Farming and gardening are tool driven activities. But how much is enough, and how much is too much. Since I run a zero-waste farm, I also encourage others to source used tools. Used tools are often better tools. Why? Well, the quality of materials has made a sharp decline in the last 10 years, but a drastic drop in quality in the past five years. I enjoy going to resale shops in search of things made of metal and wood. On one such scavenger mission, the lady checking me out said, “hmmm a bunch of junk.” I smiled and said in return, that “metal junk is better than plastic junk.” and she agreed. For $5 I picked up some hand tools, and an adjustable spray nozzle. They did look rough, agreed, but they were made of metal and will far outlast their contemporary counterparts that you find in big box stores.
I decided that I didn’t need “pretty tools” but I do need durable ones. Not to mention giving them one last use is always on my mind. The spray nozzle is hard to find now, as many have been replaced with bright colored plastic that does not do well with all the things garden tools need to handle, like heavy usage, and sun. Same goes for the tools, some of the metals that are used for lower end tools for both the garden and garage are flimsy. The metal has bent in my hands. I would choose rusty over new any day. Check and see if the tool can be repaired. Can a good solid head for a hoe be put on a new handle? Granted a new handle can cost the same as a new hoe, but some of the new heads on hoes and shovels are almost a throw away from the start.
The pruners in the image are a junky new ones, that are not fantastic, unlike the quality (and cost) of the high end European ones. With some oil and care, they can be put to use again. The scrub brush on the other hand is a new brush made of palm fiber. They are brought into Hawaii from Japan. I like them, because I dislike plastic scrub brushes. This one is cheap, natural, breaks down in the compost (leaving only a piece of wire behind) and it dries fast in the hot sun, which is important for sanitation.
So take a look around next time you are at a resale shop or tag sale. Don’t be afraid of a little surface rust. They will serve you well, and if you get a rainy day, you can look up online or in a library how to care for them, or even refurbish them. My $5 shoebox of tools would have cost over $100 new, and I have avoided a lot of cheap plastic and cheap quality metal. It just makes sense in so many ways. Ask yourself, “does it need to be new?”