Spade versus the Fork…

When out Metal Detecting what do you use to dig a hole; well that’s pretty obvious, but is it ? with such a great variety out there, it is like every thing in life it is a minefield to get it right first time….

I believe if chosen right, the Metal Detecting spade can be used in a multitude of places where any form of digging is involved, which is quite a lot within the Treasure Hunting hobby…

But; The Fork does have its place out there, when the ground is so hard & it jars every bone in your body, the fork makes it easier, i am not saying it will do it easy, but what I am saying is, easier is better than not making any headway, the fork has many applications, as does the spade in Treasure Hunting…

Illustrated below is some pointers;  with my opinion only; on what is best, but please remember “best” works for me, think ! “is it suitable for you ?


Shown below is a personalised blue, stainless steel spade, I had this made to my specifications, and my daughter Nicola purchased for me, as a Christmas gift, wow I was so lucky & it has worked so well, so well in fact I went on to have another two customs made, although I did not like one of them, so that was sold on, shown below in blue is the first custom i had built, 900cm long, with a huge “D Ring” handle, big enough to hold comfortably when wearing gloves, note the position of the two carabiners, one is placed under the “D Ring” handle whilst the second is on the blade, these two important factors were incorporated on all three customs, the carabiners being placed in these positions do not interfere with your hands when digging, like the other standards might do, this one was powder coated in blue, I wanted red, but hey-ho, also note that the top of the digging blade has been rolled over to create a base for your foot to apply pressure comfortably, some of the other spades on the market miss out on this, and it soon becomes blatantly obvious when out in the field  digging for a few hours, and your feet starts to ache…

This custom as with the other two has a huge “D Ring” handle, it is big enough to hold comfortably whether you’re wearing gloves or not, and makes for a comfortable grip when you’re dragging your spade around a field, as for gloves, this is an important factor not only in cold or inclement weather, but gloves should be worn at all times during a dig [more on that later]


As shown below; the second custom was built to the above spec without the powder coating and kept in a shiny Stainless Steel,  with a wider foot-plate which was higher up the handle and reinforced, but as soon as I saw it I knew I hated it, I still do not know why, it was not what I wanted, but-never the mind, some one liked it, as I sold it on with no problems, then my brain started on a new drawing which was submitted for the third one…

from left to right, shown below… you can see clearly the large foot-plate just above the top of the blade, with the same configuration of having the clip wielded to the blade… 


Number 3 is shown below, & this third spade is perfect, just what I wanted…

I wanted the same as the first custom spade, but I also decided on having it uncoloured, as I was impatient for it to arrive, so it arrived in bright stainless steel, and built almost identical as the blue spade apart from the colour, and with one other main difference, as I had the top of the blade altered, this had a wider platform on the rolled top lip of the blade, this was achieved by seamlessly wielding a “reinforced” secondary plate to the opposite side of the rolled lip, then adding rivets to create an uneven surface, which works great when wearing boots, with no slipping at all, this wider tread allows for more pressure to be applied comfortably & worked straight out of the tin, so this third stainless steel custom was right first time, just what I wanted, and has now been added to the digging equipment…Also for good measure all of the wielding is seamless, providing a good strong wield… also before the shaft of the handle is welded in place, there is a separate inner piece of stainless steel tubing welded onto the top of the blade, this is where the blade meets the [shaft] handle and is slightly smaller in diameter than the outer shaft, this is done for “inner” strength lower down where over 60% of any pressure is concentrated on when removing a clod of soil, after which the outer part of the handle is tapped over & welded into place, next the larger “D” shaped yoke of the handle & the “tubular” grip part of the handle is wielded together before finely being fitted onto the shaft & wielded into place… I consider weight is a major, and important factor along with strength to make a strong spade; so number one is that the blade will not bend or break when in use, & two the spade itself will not bend or break, without compromising the weight, as the last thing you want to do is drag a cumbersome piece of metal around all day, whilst out Metal Detecting or dump digging, but with these spades weighing just slightly more than a bag of sugar, it has been achieved exceptionally well, and with good strong wielding and “inner strengthening” being took care off, the last thing you need is a weak blade, this appears to have been taken care off, as both front and back of the blade have a fold creating a huge V, when Jeff explained to me the logic behind this design I was sold, if you note the huge V in the blade, that V is the core strength of the blade, used wisely and not to prise rocks from the side of mountains this is going to go on and on… The other thing I decided on was to go for the serrated blade, as the main purpose of this spade is to be used on pastures and where root systems are prevalent, thus given me a head start with a sharp cutting edge…


 

a better photograph showing the actual angle of the blade… also note that on this digging equipment there is no serrated edges on the blade, this is the original “field spade” where it is unnecessary to have serrated blade, as most of the roots are sinews and are easily cut through, and also note the original position of the carabiner, almost in the middle of the shaft…

The spades feel as though they will tackle any task thrown at them, and shout quality, I am fortunate that I do not have to go looking for a metal detecting spade anymore, as I have been through the process, & I hope the pointers above will help you choose the right spade, as I envisage my choice will outlast me…

Shown below is the third custom spade with the wider thread plate…in the first shot the reinforcement’s can clearly be seen welded in place, note the carabiners tucked neatly out-of-the-way, yet very easy to access should I need them, and the two top studs, although look uncomfortable, I can assure you they are not, even with a lot of pressure they are unnoticeable…


Fork verses the Spade…

Or should we use a fork, I definitely think so, you don’t need a huge garden fork, but saying that I started out with an “Essex Stone Fork” now for those, not in the know, there were used to dig out stones from the unwieldy Essex clay, if you imagine an ordinary fork then imagine that stone fork was twice the size & weighing three times as much as a normal fork,  all that before I then discovered & got hold of a lady’s border fork, which changed my life, I had no need to drag a heavy digging tool, around numerous Essex fields, in the quest for Treasure, this fork was light weight, strong, and very versatile, & stayed with me for ten or more years,  until one sad day it had to be retired, and to be replaced with another…

But beware, if you buy a stainless fork, they might not be stainless steel, but a very poor Chinese import, even big brands sell them as such, no you don’t need to spend your money on big brands, a light weight lady’s border fork should set you back no more that twenty pounds, with most lightweight forks about fifteen pounds…

Like everything “try before you buy” feel the weight of many different brands, in as many different shops, you patience will pay off… 

Quoted from my blog.. – So when the ground is parched and baked rock solid, “lets face it” its no fun hurling your spade at the ground with only a little chip or a loose stone to flick off, i have the toughest spades ever made, but these are no match for these ground conditions, so what is the answer, my suggestion is to use a lady’s border fork, these are the smaller sisters to the bigger digging forks, it does not guarantee that your digging into hard ground will become a 100% easier, but it makes life a lot more tolerable out in the field, I have been using these little light weight border forks “forever” it seems…
I assume it works because there is only a small area to strike the hard compacted ground, as each of the tines work as an interdependent small “pick” pecking away at an area, but concentrated on the bigger area created by the other three tines… even by purchasing a top quality & purpose-built spade like this one from JR Stainless, does not guarantee results in a rock hard and unforgiving ground, if anything the end results are your wrists and elbows being jarred & your temper frayed on those long hot digs, by reverting to the lady’s border fork it makes a hard and arduous job just that bit more tolerable…
Once the hole is started then it becomes easier, to increase the size due to the underlying soil being a bit softer, some people cut the two outer tines off, i personally don’t agree that anything is made easier, if anything you’re reducing an area already small to something smaller, so maybe keep the fork as it is, just a thought… 

But when that ground is rock hard, & the spade bounces off the ground, & you reach for your fork, as this is where she comes into her own… but then, disaster strikes, like everything when the fork reaches a certain time in life, it breaks, & more than likely it will happen whilst out in the field… the moral of the story here “is” – always carry a back up;  Dave had only just got himself set up, and with the ground as hard as rock, the first signal resulted in a broken fork, good job Dave was sensible & carried a spare digging tool…