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Mine Exploration Forum

Author Development of spades - a question
Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 21/02/2020 21:57:49
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I have a question for anybody familiar with the development of iron tools in general. Medieval spades on the whole, seem to have been wooden, with a spade iron fitted to the bottom of the blade to provide a resilient cutting edge. At what point did the blade of a spade become entirely made of iron/steel?

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rikj

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 21/02/2020 22:24:16
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A reference here that it was before 1704:

https://thegardenstrust.blog/2014/10/04/the-humble-spade/

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Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 21/02/2020 22:41:01
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The issue I have is that a spade iron from the end of a wooden spade was found many years ago underground. If I can be confident about the most recent date it could originate from, this might be a VERY useful bit of dating evidence. IP: 91.125.156.137
Digit

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 21/02/2020 23:56:45
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Peter Burgess wrote:

The issue I have is that a spade iron from the end of a wooden spade was found many years ago underground. If I can be confident about the most recent date it could originate from, this might be a VERY useful bit of dating evidence.


I would have thought that dating based on when a tool MIGHT have gone out of use is very dubious. I have and still use some tools of my great grandfather (1835-1913) and he might well have inherited them from his father who he followed into the family business.

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Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 00:00:55
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I knew it might be a mistake to explain why I am curious. Take it from me, if there is a cut off date after which it would be highly unlikely for such a tool to be used it would be quite revealing. IP: 91.125.156.137
caver1

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 10:35:39
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Anecdotally, as I cant back it up with a reference, I believe from Anglo-Saxon times all such tools were known as shovels. Only once potatoes became a main staple and a more specialist digging tool of a certain width and angle was required to lift then was the "Spud" or spade developed in Ireland. The name quickly spread and differentiated such a tool type from shovels.
I heard of this via the telly, I think it was Alan Titchmarsh doing a bit on Coast about coastal potato fields on Irelands West coast. This would imply a post Walter Raleigh age for the name. I suspect the fully iron tool only became popular once the industrial revolution kicked in?
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50shadesofgreen

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 11:43:58
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"Spade" may come from Saxon or Latin etymology.....https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spade IP: 82.132.237.21
50shadesofgreen

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 11:52:15
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....just found some full metal Roman spades on Google search. Seems full metal blades were much less common than cheaper wood blades, but they both existed for several thousand years. IP: 82.132.237.21
Morlock

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 12:01:28
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Bronze Age presumably? IP: 86.139.220.115
gNick

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 12:10:18
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Doing a quick bit of surfing, it seems that the opposite is true, with Wikipedia giving :
"English spade is from Old English spadu, sp├Ždu (f.) or spada (m.). The same word is found in Old Frisian spade and Old Saxon spado. High German spaten only appears in Early Modern German, probably loaned from Low German. In the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway the word is spade as well. "

I would reckon that the shovel, as a tool for moving loose materials as opposed to the more digging focus of the spade, is likely to have arrived in a large scale when iron was being manufactured in large quantities. Early 18th century?


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Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 18:06:03
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caver1 wrote:

I heard of this via the telly, I think it was Alan Titchmarsh doing a bit on Coast about coastal potato fields on Irelands West coast. This would imply a post Walter Raleigh age for the name. I suspect the fully iron tool only became popular once the industrial revolution kicked in?
I would hazard a guess that the logic is reversed? The term "spud" may come from the tool used to dig them up/in. Anyway, my dad always used a fork to do this! Alan Titchmarsh - well know popular historian Laugh
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Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 18:11:08
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I'll pose the query another way:

On Friday I saw this item in the Museum of London, labelled as being found in a medieval context.

https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/36167.html

What I would dearly love to know is whether such items are likely to be found in post-medieval contexts, especially in the extractive industries.

Next step is to ask the Museum of London, I suppose!

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AR

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 22/02/2020 20:37:39
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There's one of probable 17th century date was found in a lead mine near Great Hucklow in the 19th century IIRC, and I've a feeling it ended up in Sheffield City Museum.

My best guess is that wooden spades started to fall out of use in the latter half of the 17th century as iron production increased and hence the cost of making spades with wholly metal blades fell.

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D.Send

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 23/02/2020 08:19:28
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Hi,
Gill & Company, Plymouth was bought by the Tavistock Iron Works, then by Finch Foundry, in Devon, who all made mining implements.
These were 'sandwiches' of mild steel welded onto a core of hard steel to maintain the cutting edge. Finch Foundry is now a National Trust site, and offers catalogues of the vast range of agricultural and mining tools made.....

Prehistoric men dug flints with antlers...The Pyramids were built with stone tools, (later copper). Roman Ploughs were wooden, with iron tips. Iron tools were already well developed at the beginning of the Iron Age, and changed little until the industrial revolution arrived.

Excavating hard rock demanded great skill and dexterity before explosives arrived. And tooling was all-important...

D.Send.
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legendrider

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 23/02/2020 08:48:07
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It may also be that the mine was worked by small cash-hungry artisan partnerships, or by a company whose policy was for the miners to provide their own tools, candles, PPE etc.

A miner who was practical and frugal in nature (how many are not?) might fashion his own tools where possible, going to the trouble of fettling a hand-made wooden spade or shovel, even though a metal version had been freely available (at a cost) for several decades.

MARK




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50shadesofgreen

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 23/02/2020 13:32:44
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I'm guessing a lot would depend on the weight of the whole iron blade? For digging around rocks the wooden blade would seem likely to have a short life. A light wooden blade may be an advantage to someone more on the move. What about asking mining museums rather than Museum of London? IP: 82.132.242.125
D.Send

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 23/02/2020 14:32:09
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Hi,

The Finch Foundry 'catalogues' are probably one of the best sources of examples of mining tools.

www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/place/finch-foundry
gives some photos of surviving implements, including shovels and chisels.

Finch, although a small family forge, sold tools over great distances, but especially during the Devon and Cornwall mining booms, which were largely dependent on them !

Finch also supplied wooden handles etc...
D.Send.

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AR

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 27/02/2020 08:57:05
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The mining tools in Sheffield Museum came from Odin Mine (saw the curator at a meeting last night and asked about them) so like the Hucklow example of a wooden shovel, they're probably of 17th century origin. However, given the known history of Odin does push back into the medieval era, an earlier date can't be ruled out.

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Peter Burgess

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Development of spades - a question
Posted: 28/02/2020 16:20:48
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Thanks for this AR - every little helps as they say. I haven't followed anything up at this end yet! IP: 91.125.14.182
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