Select Small-Sized, Easy-to-Handle Tools

By James Dulley

May 16, 2019 4 min read

Dear James: I want to do some outdoor projects, such as adding a deck, a trellis, etc. Being petite, many tools are difficult to work with. Can I get smaller-size tools, and do you have any tips? — Beth L.

Dear Beth: You should be able to do most of the outdoor projects that a larger person can do, but it may take you longer. That unattractive extra weight around a male contractor's stomach certainly does come in handy when trying to push a shovel into dense clay soil.

Smaller and lighter tools will be much easier for you to work with. For example, a large shovel is not only heavier and awkward for you to handle, but it also takes more force to use. When you attempt to push a shovel into the ground, the amount of force required is a function of how much soil you are moving.

A common flat-blade shovel can have a surface area as large as 80 square inches. Instead of trying to use one of these in hard soil, use a smaller one, such as a border spade. A typical border spade is only 50 square inches and can weigh as much as 20% lighter. It will take many more scoops to dig the same size hole, but it will be possible even for a petite woman.

You can check the weight of various tools when you are visiting your home center or hardware store. You will likely find tools with fiberglass handles are lighter weight than ones with solid wood handles. Fiberglass handles are also much stronger than wood, and they are not harmed by moisture.

To make the projects as simple as possible, always select the proper tools for the specific job. Whenever you start digging a hole or trench in the ground, use a round-point shovel and use it to get to the depth you desire. A flat spade requires much more effort to dig the hole. If you are having trouble controlling a shovel with a long straight handle, use a one with a shorter D handle.

Once the hole is dug to the desired depth, switch to the flat spade to enlarge and shape it. Use it in a peeling motion and remove only thin slices. If you have trouble, sharpen its edge with a fine file. Flare out the hole at the bottom so concrete poured around a post is locked in place.

When digging very small holes, or larger ones in hard soil, use a trenching or duckbill shovel. Gardeners often use these when planting bulbs. The head of the shovel is only about 5 inches wide, so you should be able to push it through almost any type of soil.

Stainless steel tools, because of their strength, are often made of lighter-gauge metal than plain steel ones, so they are lighter. Stainless steek also will not rust, so the tool surface stays cleaner. For example, the weight of a shovel can be 50% higher just from the damp dirt that sticks to it.

A drill is an indispensable tool. Cordless tools are generally heavier than corded ones, but they are more convenient to use. Higher-voltage ones have more power, but theIR battery pack is also heavier. Compare various drills and choose one with a lithium ion battery

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: walkersalmanac at Pixabay

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