Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: A hole lot of fun

By Justin Newcombe

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Rather than throw out old tools, why not give them a makeover? Justin Newcombe gets his trusty spade ready for some serious digging.

Justin Newcombe with his man-sized spade. Photo / Dean Purcell
Justin Newcombe with his man-sized spade. Photo / Dean Purcell

If there's one thing I'm more than qualified to write about, it's digging holes. I've spent much of the last 20 years digging them. Deep, skinny holes; shallow, wide holes; holes for building; holes for burying; holes in holes; and holes for poles; holes in a straight line; holes in a bend; holes that please; and holes that offend. Holes in Newmarket, holes in Nepal, holes in concrete, holes in clay, holes in February, holes in May. Holes creating so much spoil you don't know where to chuck it; holes that are so wet you have to dig them with a bucket. Holes in sand, holes with my hand, I've dug them with a spoon and I've dug them with a can. However, if you ask me, the best hole I ever dug was one for a tree.

Yes, a good hole is poetry in motion but having dud tools can make for a pretty grumpy poet. I've got a lot of digging to do this year and I don't want to end up hating every minute of it. For some reason, it's the first day or two that I loathe the most, after that it's usually sweet. I've found a heavy shovel with a long handle is a massive advantage, especially for post holes so I'm going to attach a section of steel tube to an old shovel head and give it a sharpen and general spruce up.

I'm also keen to get into a bit of welding and a spade refit seems like a good opportunity to get the ball rolling. Fixing up tools is definitely more rewarding than discarding them. Bunnings do have wooden spade and shovel handles but, more enticingly, they also have welding gear. And nothing makes you feel like Alex off Flash Dance more than a bit of welding. Right guys? ... Guys?

Step 1

Clean up the rust and old concrete off the shovel head. Make sure any remnants of the old handle have been cleaned out of the stem. I used a wire brush on the end of my drill and a small grinder for this.

Step 2

Welding is dangerous so safety first. Read all of the safety information that comes with your welder. These will include using long welding gloves, full-length overalls and appropriate footwear, as well as a mask to protect your face and eyes. If possible, weld in a screened-off area with good air flow.

Step 3

Cut the handle to the correct length. I used some left over galvanised pipe and a tape measure to measure against myself.

Step 4

Insert the handle into the shovel and clamp firmly.

Step 5

Follow the instructions with your welder. I've used an arc welder for this project but if you're unsure, talk to the guys at Bunnings. Carefully weld the handle to the spade head. Make sure the welding is as closed-up as possible. Chip off any slag with a pointed hammer. Keep rotating and re-clamping the handle until the weld is complete.

Step 6

Tidy up the join with a grinder or brush. I went a bit overboard with my grinder and ground back the whole handle, which looks great, however, it means it's not galvanised anymore. To finish, if you want you can use an etch primer to protect the weld from rust.

- NZ Herald

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