King of Spades Review
Seven years and still going strong.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s always fun to stumble upon new and unique tools, and especially so when they promise to be well designed and durable. Especially again when they are American made garden tools.
I recently discovered The American Garden Tool Company, who has been manufacturing quality, all steel tools in New Jersey for the past 43 years or so. Well, technically the W.W. Manufacturing Co. has been making the tools, and The American Garden Tool Co. (AGT. Co) sells them. Stefanie Modri owns the company with her husband Ryan, and she is the granddaughter of Walter Lesche, who founded W.W.Mfg in the 1960’s.
What follows is a mini-review of the King of Spades “Ultralight” spade.
An All-Metal Spade?
An all metal spade is a bit of a novelty for me, as I mostly use wooden (and some fiberglass) handled tools, and the first thing I notice when I unpack her is that she is cold. Ok not so cold that my hand hurt but cold enough that I thought about putting on gloves.
I haven’t experienced it yet, but I’m curious to see how hot she gets if left in the sun a period of time. She has a nice red powder coat, which is pretty, but after a little digging it has come off in places. I wonder how long it will last.
Her handle is wide and and the tool feels balanced and maneuvers well. At 5 pounds this is their lighter spade and surprisingly it is a half pound lighter than the plastic handled spade it’s pictured with. Perhaps this is the main benefit of aircraft steel: it’s light weight. The tool is also heat treated for durability and strength.
The blade is 12″ long which is longer than most digging spades; and the blade is straight as opposed to the curved blades of other spades (Clarington Forge, Dewit, etc). It came reasonably sharp and I’ve yet to sharpen it. I wonder how aircraft steel takes an edge?
Footpads: A Key Feature
All AGT. Co. spades come with one footpad, and a second can be purchased for $7.50. That might seem like a bit much to pay, and it might be, but these pads are my favorite part of the shovel. For me, they make an otherwise good tool really stand out. These are solid chunks of rubber mounted on steel and fastened to the blade with two steel bolts, and I am pleasantly surprised at how solidly they connect to the blade. My previous spade with the plastic handle has no footpad at all, and I can tell you that these pads make a huge contribution to the power, ease and safety of this tool. I can comfortably dig barefoot with these pads!
So far I’ve dug and transplanted comfrey root, golden rod (which has very tough and thickly matted roots) and two plum trees (planted last year) that needed to be moved; and the spade has performed very well. I can’t imagine ever breaking this thing doing the work it is intended for, i.e. not prying boulders. Time will tell and I’ll keep you posted.
At $85 before shipping the Ultra Light is comparable to other higher-end digging spades such as ones from Clarington Forge. For comparisons sake, the Forged Spade pictured above sells for $35. To my surprise AGT. Co’s spade has no warranty, unlike Clarington’s lifetime guarantee, but the fact that it is American made may be a selling point for many.
Long Term Experience
Seven years later, I’ve probably planted over 50 trees with this spade. It’s a great tool, and I expect it will outlast me. Check it out here.