Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Fiskars Garden Tools: Product Review

Autumn's a busy time in the garden, so I have a selection of garden tools permanently trugged up and ready to go for easy carriage to wherever I need them. Most of the contents are the tools Fiskars gave me to test earlier in the year. Having given them a pretty tough time over the past few months, it's time I brought you the results.

Secateurs and loppers

I'm really impressed with the secateurs. These are the bypass type and have a rotating handle and comfortable grip. I found the handle's rotation a bit strange at first, but once I'd got used to it, I found it much easier on my hand and elbow, particularly when cutting thicker (up to 20cm) branches. The secateurs are geared too, hence their ability to cut thicker wood than usual.

I've had Fiskars secateurs before, but their lack of replacement parts previously meant I was very pleased to win some Felcos a couple of years back. I see the blade can be replaced now, which is a step in the right direction. Do I prefer them to the Felcos? Well, for me it's a dead heat so I keep the Felcos for use at home and the Fiskars are always in the boot of my car, ready for any jobs up at the allotment :)

I already have a pair of the loppers (in their previous Wilkinson Sword guise), so I'm a convert already. These are quite a bit longer than my other pair, so I've been able to get to some of the places behind our back garden fence to deal much more thoroughly with the elder tree which invades VP Gardens from time to time. I do like elder, but this particular one grows over one of our apple trees given half a chance.

The loppers have done a perfect job and they've also been a stalwart up at the allotment this year, where I've had to cut all my fruit trees back to 2 metres.

QuikFitTM Tools

I was given a selection to try. The idea is to have one handle onto which various tools can be attached for whatever job needs doing. Thus the storage space needed for garden tools is reduced, plus less materials are used in their manufacture as one handle fits all. So far, so good.

I received the 84cm long terracotta handle (can't find it online, so perhaps it's no longer available), plus the 3-function hoe and universal rake. As I already have a couple of items from Wolf-Garten's equivalent range (lawn aerator and patio weeding knife), I was also sent a universal adaptor so I could try these out too.

The adaptor works OK, which means in theory I can use my Wolf-Garten* tools alongside the Fiskars ones. However, I found the attachment system wasn't robust enough for life up at the allotment or for a rough gardening job such as lawn aeration. It's a simple slot in and click system which is meant to quickly lock the tools in place or to easily take them apart. It's very easy to do that, but I found after a few pulls and pushes on the rake or hoe, the head detached itself from the handle and I had to traipse all over my plot to retrieve it. The same thing happened when I did some lawn aerating. Most irritating - grrr :(

The locking mechanism could be improved by including a twist action to hold the handle and head in place more securely. Even better is the one I saw on Threadspider's Gardena system (which she's had for quite a while and we looked at over the summer): hers has a screw mechanism and whilst it might take a bit longer to attach or detach tools, it's much more secure than either Fiskars or Wolf-Garten.

Whilst the handle had a comfortable grip, I found it isn't quite long enough for jobs such as raking or hoeing. My allotment is divided into 10x4 ft sub-plots and I couldn't rake or hoe the whole width of a sub-plot from one spot like I can with my usual one. I see there are some longer handles in the range, so this is one drawback which can be resolved easily.

A far greater problem was the rake head. It's plastic and described as a universal rake, so it can be used for jobs on either grass or soil. It was totally useless on the clay soil of my allotment as I couldn't break down any of the large lumps into a fine tilth like I can with my trusty metal one. The teeth are quite widely set apart compared to my other rake and lumps of soil often got trapped in them. A case of jack of all trades, but master of none perhaps?

To summarise...

It's a big thumbs up for the secateurs and loppers, but the part of the QuikFitTM range I tested needs to be improved substantially before it's a viable option for a clay soil allotment.

PS As Fiskars sell their tools in many countries, they use pictograms rather than words on their packaging to tell you more about the particular tool you're looking at. If like me, you often find these hard to understand, they have a handy guide with accompanying descriptions on their website.

* = I've stopped using my Wolf-Garten tools because I found it really hard to change the tool heads over as the locking mechanism is so stiff. I was hoping the universal adaptor for the Fiskars system meant I could use these tools again, but sadly the results reported above mean I can't unless the problem with their locking mechanism is resolved.

Update: As with all of my reviews, I sent Fiskars the link to this one. They've requested I send back the QuikFitTM tools, so their R&D department can have a look at them. They didn't come across my problem when they did their product testing, so would like to see why there was one with mine. I'm very happy to do so and for me this is one of the strengths of companies letting real people review their products. I look forward to hearing how things turn out.

5 comments:

  1. my main problem with buying garden tools is that, since i have long arms, the handles are never comfortably long enough! as rough as i am on rakes, i have yet to see a plastic that can take the beating i mete out.

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  2. Thanks VP, that is a really useful review. I wondered about how robust the "just swap the tool heads" systems were, and you have confirmed what I had thought, although screw action (!) sounds like a good compromise. Impressive that you thought Fiskers secateurs the equal of the fabled Felco.

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  3. I have the Gardena system, and I think I bought it in 1987. It was so long ago, I can't be certain! It's brilliant, and I still use it all the time. However, I have just bought a plastic lawn rake for autumn leaves - I find it's better for raking leaves off gravel.
    I have the opposite problem from Petoskystone - I have short arms. And I don't like tools that are too heavy because that makes my short little arms ache! In my very limited experience, the "swap" systems tools tend to be lighter, because the shaft is not solid wood.

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  4. what a useful read about the tools you have reviewed VP as i do not have any of those makes but been thinking of buying some really useful indeed
    happy gardening from Linda

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  5. Petoskystone - I forgot to mention the plastic also bent whilst I was using it.

    Janet - they're a good idea, but it's just a matter of finding the right system

    Victoria - Thredspider's version is pretty ancient too and has stood the test of time. I see it's changed quite a bit judging by their website, but it looks like the screw mechanism is still in place

    BTW there's quite a few different lengths of handle to choose from - I just happened to be given the shortest one.

    Linda - I often feel when I'm reviewing that it's all very well, but I'm not able to compare it with other options on the market. It's been great to have the experience of other tools available this time round :)

    BTW if you're reading this via: portal.kantarmedia.de/index/index/folder_id/1027186 - welcome! NB I've sent a copy of this review to my Fiskars contact in the UK who arranged for the tools to be sent to me earlier this year. Any comment from Fiskars is welcome, particularly on the suggestion for improvement for the QuikFit tools.

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