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Post by Dandelion on 2nd January 2016, 12:39 pm

As January seems to be the month when we are supposed to clean , sharpen and possibly replace our garden tools, I thought I'd ask a tool-related question. Has anyone tried using copper tools? They are supposed (I think ) to have benefits in repelling slugs.

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Post by Ploshkin on 2nd January 2016, 2:34 pm

You've made me feel guilty now. I never clean my tools and rarely sharpen anything. January is useful for finding where I abandoned them as the foliage has died back. I've never seen or heard of copper ones. Is the thinking that they leave traces of copper in the soil? If I had any they'd probably get pinched by passing scrap collectors.
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Post by freebird on 3rd January 2016, 9:53 am

Interesting theory, Dandelion, but copper is a soft metal. Can't see how it could be used for tools. I always understood that it was actual contact with copper that repelled slugs and snails - hence the copper tape you can wrap around pots.

Maybe you are just meant to bash them with your copper tool!
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Post by Dandelion on 3rd January 2016, 12:31 pm

Ploshkin wrote:You've made me feel guilty now.  I never clean my tools and rarely sharpen anything.  January is useful for finding where I abandoned them as the foliage has died back.  I've never seen or heard of copper ones.  Is the thinking that they leave traces of copper in the soil?  If I had any they'd probably get pinched by passing scrap collectors.

I didn't say that I actually cleaned my tools!! I think it's on the 'Things to do this month' page in gardening magazines in January usually, when they're short of things to suggest!!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by FloBear on 3rd January 2016, 2:02 pm

That made me laugh, Dandelion  Laughing  As did freebird's suggestion with the copper tools.
I don't clean my tools apart from scraping soil off. I used to teach the children in my gardening club to do this too. "Use small tools to clean big tools first, then use them to clean each other". Shears and secateurs get sharpened when the sharpening man calls.
I have done Ploshkin's thing of rediscovering after leaf-fall tools left abandoned and once I found a pair of sunglasses I'd mislaid!
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Post by Chilli-head on 3rd January 2016, 5:50 pm

freebird wrote:Interesting theory, Dandelion, but copper is a soft metal. Can't see how it could be used for tools. I always understood that it was actual contact with copper that repelled slugs and snails - hence the copper tape you can wrap around pots.

Yes, I had seen copper tools but assumed it was largely a marketing trick. I thought the copper tapes etc were supposed to work by contact - some sort of electrochemical effect Question

Copper does work harden quite a bit. I did a little bit of copper beating back at school, and planishing it did make it much harder. I think the ancient Egyptians used copper tools sharpened by peining (hammering to draw out an edge, as you would a scythe), even for cutting stone.
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Post by Dandelion on 3rd January 2016, 8:03 pm

I've lifted the following from a permaculture site:

Why does it work? The theory is that steel tools contain iron which when used in the soil creates its own magnetic field. The slugs and snails are attracted to this field and enter it to investigate. Copper is highly conductive but has no magnetic field. When you disturb the ground with a copper tool you do not leave a magnetic signature and therefore slugs and snails are not attracted to the area you have cultivated.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Dandelion on 3rd January 2016, 8:06 pm

I suppose the only way is to buy a copper trowel, and use it on one raised bed but use my stainless steel trowel on another bed, then compare. Presumably plastic would also leave no magnetic trace in the soil (if this theory is correct) but the permaculture website didn't recommend plastic trowels!!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Post by Chilli-head on 3rd January 2016, 8:51 pm

That explanation sounds highly implausible to me. Presumably if it were correct, cast aluminium and non-magnetic grades of stainless steel would behave the same way ?
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