On a recent Saturday afternoon I was involved in a typical weekend routine: roaming the corridors of a local home supply store, ogling over the selection of chipper/shredders and garden backhoes (a definite sign of aging). Another male shopper broke into my power tool reverie and asked if I knew anything about a nearby display of shovels.
Just because I wear overalls while shopping, people think I must be another candidate for a show on the DIY Network. The truth be told, I can't hammer a nail straight into wood or saw a piece of plywood without drifting off the line. But shovels? Hey, now you're in my aisle.
"What are you going to use the shovel for?", I asked. "To dig a hole", came the polite but perplexed reply.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. "What sort of hole?", I asked. "One in the ground," he answered, rolling his eyes. "For a sprinkler pipe." Bingo. "Then what you want is a trenching tool," I said.
"Thanks, Einstein," came his retort as he left in a hurry, probably in search of the store manager.
That's the price I pay for knowing too much about the right shovel for the right job. If he had stuck around, I would've gone into my fifteen minute monologue about shovels:
Use a round nose shovel for digging.
A flat nose shovel with rolled shoulders is for moving, loading or unloading.
Use a garden spade with a flat, sharp edge for cutting out sod, breaking apart crowded rootstocks such as agapanthus or canna lilies, or smoothing off the sides of a trench.
But to bury an irrigation line, you'd want the narrow trenching shovel, which, with its rolled shoulders, is also handy for removing soil from the bottom of a trench.
Be willing to pay more for reinforced handles; that helps insure a longer shovel life.
Other shovel tips that guy missed: Store them in a dry location. Apply linseed oil with a rag twice a year on the wood handles. Clean the metal surfaces after every use with a wire brush, coarse steel wool or an oily rag. And keep the cutting surfaces sharp with a file.
But considering the scowls I see from store personnel who witness these encounters, the next time someone asks me about shovels while shopping, I think I'll say, "No, I'm from the paint department. I'm just filling in here during lunch hour."