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Those damn Agapanthus and repairing a buckled spade


03 January 2009 - Copyright www.testntools.co.nz


My driveway is a mess because the Agapanthus have become overgrown. As you can see in the photo the roots have become quite large. They keep multiplying and before long you have a big root mass that's hard to get rid of. I did a lot of research to find out what sprays would kill them but  the most common answer was to dig them out. So I tried that with the spade and it actually cuts through them pretty well so long as you keep the blade nice and sharp. The best way to do that is with the angle gringer and sanding wheel attachement. Use 80 grit sandaper disc and the sparks will fly and you'll have a sharp edge in no time.

You can cut them into blocks or slices, it just takes a bit of sweat and patience. The roots don't actually go very deep into the soil, they tend to sit on the surface and the plant keeps growing on top of itself.

Agapanthus root mass

Waitakere City Council have declared Agapanthus a pest because they spread easily and smother other plants. If you ask them nicely they will even help you get rid of them by supplying a 9m3 bin for free!


After a few days of making good progress I buckled the spade. Ahh maaaaan!! All the strength of a spade is in the curve of the blade so once it's buckled it's buggered. I tried to keep using it but it was a waste of time, it only kept bending more. I was going careful not to ruin it so was probably more annoyed at myself that I had levered it too much when I knew better.

Buckled spade

Grrr!! The strength of a spade is all in the curve of the blade so once it's  buckled like this it's pretty much useless.

 The backside of the buckled spade

The backside. I tried to keep using it but it was bending back and forth a lot and so the paint starting coming away as you can see.


In these days of sustainability and recycling I thought I'd try and fix it instead of throwing it away. A short length of angle iron welded to the back might do the trick so I decided to give that a go. First I had to straighten it out in the bench vice. I wasn't too fussy about it, just took out the major bend to get it roughly back in shape.

 Straightening the bucked spade in the vise
Getting the blade of the spade a bit straighter before welding the angle iron on the back.

The idea was pretty simple, just weld some angle iron on the back, that should give it plenty of strength. I cleaned up the back of if with the angle grinder and sanding disc (a course 80 grit) so it was nice and bright steel that the arc welding rod would more easily stick to.

Buckled spade prepped for welding.jpg
The angle iron and the back of the spade has been cleaned up with the sanding disc on the angle grinder so the steel is nice and bright ready for arc welding.


To weld the angle iron I used a 160 amp arc welder. It's just one of those small Chinese types but it worked really well. Following good welding practice I tacked each end to make sure I had it all in the right position before doing the full seam welds. No idea what amperage I used, but I think the rods were 3.2mm. Can't be too fussy with what you get when borrowing from a mate!

 Buckled spade after tack welding the ends of the angle iron.
A fine bit of tack welding. It's nice and straight ready for the main welds.
Welding the rest of the angle iron to the back of the spade.
The rest of the weld is done, down both sides of the angle iron. You can see the earth clamp on the spade.
A close view of the super fine example of professional arc welding.
Damn that's some good welding! The small burn through hole was done on purpose, it will help the spade break suction when digging mud.
The welding after cleanup with the angle grinder.
Everything looks a bit better after a date with the angle grinder.

Yeah I know the welding job was a bit rudimentary but hey it's a spade! So how did it work after the repairs? Really good! I went and tested it on the Agapanthus and there's no way the blade would buckle again, it's just too strong with the bracing. The handle will give way first. It's made of plastc (or maybe fibreglass). If it gives way I'm sure I could fix that too with some pipe and more attenion with the welder but it'd be getting to be quite a heavy spade!

Two months later and after a lot of use it's still a great spade. There's no way the blade is going to buckle. If I bought a new spade I'd consider strengthening it straight away to make it as strong as this one.

And so what of the Agapanthus? I managed to dig out a few metres but at 1 metre per hour on a 50 metre driveway.. The digger came and sorted out the rest of them.








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