Anyone who’s followed this blog for any length of time knows my propensity to growl, gripe, grump and grouse. That’s why I turned the verb “grouse” into a noun for the name of my blog. I believe in exhaustively complete labeling by all companies and truth in advertising for EVERYBODY. So, today, I’m once again going to give you what my blog name promises.
This afternoon, the missus wanted to go over on the wrong side of the river that flows through our town and visit their Chinamart. There’s a Lowe’s next door, so that was fine with me. I used to only go into Lowe’s when I had a project in mind and money in my pocket. However, since they now have handicapped carts, I sometimes just go in to scout for things I’ll need for future projects. Today, it was to find the cost of putting a post out along the road in front of our home with our house number on each side. Hopefully, that will keep UPS and FedEx from leaving me packages for the house across the road. I found the post, but not the numbers, and there wasn’t anyone to ask, SO, I went over to where a couple of my fellow bloggers told me the outdoor tools would be.
A little background here—I spent a large part of my life using tools like shovels, rakes, axes, sledge hammers, picks, mattocks, splitting mauls and so on. Then, I worked for O. Ames Company for nearly 12 years MAKING shovels and rakes. Believe me, I KNOW what a quality tool looks like. Eventually, Ames, who was making money hand over fist, bought out True-Temper, which was going down the tubes. Interestingly enough, the powers that WERE in the company let all the Ames management go and KEPT the losers from True-Temper. THEN, they brought in a CEO, named John Stoner, that had run every company that he’d ever headed into bankruptcy. Soon, all the most profitable items had been stolen from us and sent to the previously struggling True-Temper plants. Once he was able to make our plants look unprofitable, he closed our plants down, and sent to China any work that the old True-Temper plants couldn’t handle. This was done in part to spite our union, even though our cost per unit was well below what the non-union True-Temper plants produced. Needless to say, a certain very warm place will freeze over before I ever spend one red cent on a NEW Ames or True-Temper product.
Back to today—I’m actually in the market for a good hay fork (as opposed to a pitchfork for manure), a bucksaw and a grass hook (think sickle with a 3’ handle (but NOT a scythe)). I’ll probably have to either get a used hay fork up in Amish country, or make one from wood, like the old-timers did. I can order a grass hook from the Ace Hardware store in my area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be made overseas. Once again, I might find a used one in Amish country or else make one from an old sickle in the basement (probably my best option). The bucksaw can only be had from two sources that I’ve found online, one being Lehman Hardware up in Amish country, OR I can buy one from an antique shop, OR make my own frame and buy only the blade. I prefer the latter two options. Bucksaws can be resharpened, unlike the blades that now come in bow saws.
Fiskars has the only bow saw I know that has a decent blade and Lowe’s sells them. They also claim to stock replacement blades for them. Alas, when I looked at the replacement blades, they were made in Thailand and were NOT Fiskars brand, plus the grinding on the teeth looked atrocious. I can order new blades direct from Fiskars, so I’ll do that when I can and have some extras. Even though they have “hardened” teeth, I suspect that they can be sharpened, though I may have to use diamond files. I have my doubts, though, whether they can be set.
While there, I looked at their shovels, axes, splitting mauls and so on. The shovels all had the name brand EMBOSSED INTO THE BLADE!” Only a moron would deliberately make it more difficult for the shovel to clean itself. You can be sure some idiot in marketing came up with the idea. Some of the shovels were made in Mexico, and showed it by their weird shape. Others were “assembled in America of foreign and domestic parts.” All were pieces of crap, despite their prices. The axes and striking tools were all at the $25-$30 level and had mostly fiber handles (eventually good for splinters even worse than wooden ones) and were either foreign made or were the bastardized hybrids that I already mentioned. I wasn’t impressed. There were a couple tools with wood handles, but they were obviously made from boards with no consideration as to grain.
Before leaving, I checked out some 6’ stakes literally made from wood so ROTTEN that I could actually see the rot from 20’ away (of course I have the trained eye of a 30-year sawmill man). The one that I picked up broke with only about five pounds of pressure. They were asking $3 each for them.
I finally made it over to Chinamart to hook up with the missus and checked out THEIR tools. There were very few, but they actually had a better shovel than Lowe’s, and for only $6, if you don’t mind a pine handle with the grain turned any old way.
Incidentally, if anyone cares, it appears that “Ames” now sells tools under their own name, True-Temper, Truper and Kobalt. They also make most of the shovels for places that sell them under their own store brand. It’s kind of depressing if you appreciate good tools. © 2016