Awesomifying a Folding Shovel

in nature •  last year

I bought this folding shovel from my local MilSurp store and decided to prepare it for the upcoming summer. Out comes the sharpening stone. There's a bonus beauty tip at the end too.

Folding Shovel

This shovel has a 10cm (4 inches) wide blade, a reverse pick, and weighs in at 530g (1 lb 3 ounces) in its pouch. Fully extended the whole unit is 40cm (16 inches).

The pouch is made from a cheap synthetic material with some coating on the inside. I've had bad luck with other products with this interior coating because it soon perishes into dust. If that happens, I'll fix it or change the pouch. The belt loop is cheap webbing that is sewn on about an inch too low so the shovel flaps around annoyingly on my belt. I could add a couple of MOLLE compatible straps to improve the carry options. The zipper is cheap yet adequate. There is a webbing loop on the left that is great to grab while operating the zip. I might replace the zipper pull with a tactically silenced option. Yeah okay, we just replace the jangly metal tab with 550 or 275 Paracord. The whole shovel pouch fits easily into a British Army MOLLE Utility pouch and has room to spare. The shovel pouch will keep dirt off my other gear and stop the shovel cutting into anything. Adequate would be a good single word review of the shovel pouch.

Three Folding Shovels in Packed configuration

I own three folding shovels. From left to right is a shovel from the Austrian Army, my new folder, and a cat-hole trowel. The Austrian Army shovel is in a brass, canvas, and leather carrier which has an attachment for an ALICE belt. It would flap about quite a bit, so I can imagine soldiers had some other way to secure it.

Three Folding Shovels ready for work

Here are the three shovels folded out and ready for work. The Army shovel is the largest, but these are designed for soldiers to dig scrapes and foxholes, and as a melee weapon. I am only clearing a campsite and digging a fire pit, so there's no need to carry a bulldozer.

Two folding shovels in Pick mode

These two shovels have a pick setting for loosening soil. My new shovel has a small pick on the reverse too.

Austrian Army Folding Shovel's third position

The Austrian Army folding shovel has an extra trick: setting the blade at about 135 degrees to the handle means the shovel requires less operator bending and might save a knuckle or two from scraping. It will not do to have soldiers dragging their knuckles along the ground.

Sharpening!

Here's the shovel after I took to it with a sharpening stone. The blade is sharpened on the front, sides and along the scalloping. I also sharpened the end of the pick. The shovel has a thick powder coat over its steel. The problem with powder coating is that it can thicken and burr at the edges and this is not so good for a shovel that needs to bite.

The pick and front edges of the shovel had the powder coat burr removed and were sharpened only a little. This leaves the edge sharp enough, but still quite strong and chip resistant. These two edges will be rammed repeatedly into the earth so a razor sharp edge would get blunt quickly anyway.

The straight side of the blade I sharpened a little more aggressively. I used the edge to split 5cm (2 inch) wood into pencil-thick kindling. For sure a hatchet is better, but the shovel did the job well enough. This sharp edge is mainly intended to clear undergrowth. You're going to hike with tools that can do multiple tasks even though you don't have exactly the best tool for each task.

I removed the powder coating from the scallops on the left side of the blade. At first, I thought the scalloping was intended to be a saw, but I couldn't get it to saw through anything. I thought I'd need to purchase a saw-file and pay more attention to grinding the teeth just right. I was mistaken though. When I was hacking at weeds, the scalloping was extremely good at getting through the very fibrous weeds. I guess that on a shovel these scallops are meant for removing roots. Impressions can be wrong so dirt-time matters.

A weed garden

Here's one of my neglected raised beds. The tallest weeds we call Puha (poo-ha) which is a type of edible thistle. We like the leaves and stems boiled with potatoes and pork bones with some salt. Puha grows wild here. The Puha plants in this photo are too old to have much on them. The younger plants have many more tender leaves.

Felled weeds

And here is the same garden bed after two minutes hacking away with the shovel: total destruction.

And just how did the shovel do? Only one tiny chip where I accidentally hit some concrete. Otherwise, the sharpened edge and scalloping were only slightly blunted from hole digging, weed clearing, and wood splitting. The screw lock holding the blade in position would come loose after a five or six good swings at some wood. I might place a spring washer there to fix that issue. The handle grips were okay too - much better than gripping the metal. Unfortunately, the rain came bucketing down before I could get good photos of the digging and wood splitting.

Bonus beauty tip

My sharpening stone is a piece of cheap dollar store junk. It was dropping caustic dust as I sharpened. About half-an-hour after finishing, I noticed that the skin on my hands was wrinkled and a bit painful. My go-to moisturiser are the Vitamin E diet capsules we have in the back of the cupboard. Bite open the top of the capsule and smear the oil all over the hands. Vitamin E oil is more cost-effective than some name brand thing from a cosmetics counter.

Bonus bonus beauty tip

Do not hit yourself with the shovel: it can cause blue, purple and red discolouration of the skin.



Overall, I'm quite pleased with the folding shovel. I can see it coming on many adventures with me. Like many things bought at a store, they need just a bit of work to make them awesome.

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haha. I think I have this same shovel...I might need to fancify it now...

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It makes the shovel much better! Good for clearing vegetation from a site as well as digging and getting through roots.

I'd make a leather case for that thing. But I'm compulsize that way. The one you mentioned was floppy that has leather case... does it hang low enough to add a string like on a holster to minimize the flopping?

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The photos that I see of soldiers wearing similar shovel (it's basically an Austrian variant of the M43) don't seem to holster the handle. The flopping mustn't have been all that bad.

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It may be that with other stuff on it stabilizes enough. I wasn't thinking of putting a string on the handle so much as the lower point of the case. But it also may need to be movable to keep it out of the way when changing positions all the time.

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I think you're right. If the spade is worn on a pack then there was normally a special pocket that held the whole head onto the pack. The photos I saw from WWII of the Austrian's showed the shovel worn on the left side of a belt. In that position you might want a single attachment point for mobility as you describe.
Interestingly, the new NATO folding shovels are tri-folders and collapse into a package no larger than the shovel's head. I have a spade carrier from a British PLCE webbing set and my local army contacts confirm they carry something similar on their webbing. I think that tri-fold design eliminates any swinging or leg entanglement hazard from the handle.

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Ours, if we ever need it, will probably go on a saddle pack or strap on otherwise that way. We don't do much long trips on foot.

Hey you made your post! Looks like a pretty useful little tool, do you think it could serve as a weapon if needed?

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This particular shovel is probably not my first choice of weapon. It's a bit too handle heavy and short so not a good club. It'd take some training to reliably strike with the blade with good edge alignment. It handles like a short baton or short pipe with an annoying blade on the end. The length is also not short enough to be manoeuvrable but not long enough to give much reach. It'd be much better than nothing but I just didn't feel right when I tried it as a weapon. It does look mean though.
I can wield this one-handed, and it feels okay to use this in my off hand with a knife in my dominant hand. In that mode, this spade is more for stand-off, defense and distraction while the knife does any dark deeds. That's fair because if I have the spade I'd probably also have a knife.
If I was cracking zombie skulls then I'd probably go with the spade in the dominant hand. The spade's lightness upfront means I'd want maximum power and dexterity to get that coconut cracking edge alignment. Probably a 6/10 in the weapon stakes just because it feels weird.

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Excellent review :D The pick part looks like it could do in a pinch but I agree a much longer weapon is preferable against the zombies, lol.

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I tried again. In "pick mode" it handles more like a hatchet, but more hook potential. So probably best at creating an opening for the knife. Still weird, but a little less so.

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In my opinion, it would make a pretty good weapon if necessary. Trench shovels were used as weapons quite often for hand to hand fighting in WW1.

Thanks for supporting @steemit-turkey. 201711080

Nice looks very useful - might have to get one myself :)

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Be careful with that MilSurp website and avoid their retail stores. Unquenchable gear addiction may result.

Another part of your survival kit. Thanks for the beauty tip!

All of my milsurp stuff is 'antique,' and usually is an actual weapon. I really need a folding shovel and have been putting it off because costs at sporting goods places are prohibitive. I didn't even think to go the army route...mostly because I end up spending any money I would have potentially saved and then some. They're like candy stores for me, so I do my best to go infrequently :|

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I stay away from the MilSurp store for the same reason! When I use an old poker trick; left-pocket-right-pocket. That is, I separate out my budgeted spend and I'm only allowed to spend that.
Weapons are cool but not all that practical. I just don't see many situations where I'm going to need an armoury. But then my society has proven to pull together in a crisis. I do have my eye out for a machette though.
The current model NATO tri-folding shovel is only 630grams. It's a bit bulky though. I could lighten my black shovel by leaving the handle extension behind - there's so much weight in the handle. It'd be a bit less convenient for digging, but lighter so trade offs trade offs.
I'm trying to avoid going there to the store again or I'll come away with a Finnish Mess kit, another Hungarian Mess kit (my 5th) and the rest of my budget in MREs - which I'll eat up eating as an expensive lunch at work or something.

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It's less building up an arsenal for me, but I enjoy the historical aspect of a lot of long guns. Milsurp is cheap gun food for expensive holes on paper. I don't really believe in much else other than target shooting, personally, but should I ever need to hunt/defend myself in the end times, I suppose I'm covered.

I often watch MRESteve (Steve1989MREInfo) — I think we may have talked about this.. have you ever seen his videos?

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I love that history too. I'd quite happily run a museum. Maybe if I become a billionaire I'll start one.
You have mentioned MRSteve once before, but that was the extent of the chat back then. I watch an MRE video from time to time. There are a few reviers out there and steve is a good one. I like how the MRE represents the best of morale, food fashion, industry, logistics and nutritional thinking at the time. Wars are won on logistics.
Now I feel like having an MRE for lunch. Damnit one's not supposed to like MREs.

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Well This is really interesting and rare picture.Well

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