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