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How are the tines attached to the shaft?

Shop for Garden Forks

The socket is where the shaft will be inserted One way to judge the quality of a fork is to look at how the tines are connected to the shaft.

The tines meet the shaft through a tube of metal called a socket.

There are three types of socket connections:

1. An open socket

2. A solid socket

3. A solid strapped socket

1. Open socket

These forks are at the lower end of the quality range An open socket is the cheapest tines-to-shaft connection and has not been designed for heavy duty use such as digging in tough ground.

The tines are stamped out of a pre-cut sheet of metal and the back of the socket is left open to be welded around the shaft.

The shaft (normally wooden) is usually secured in the socket with one or two rivets.

Unlike a fork, an open socket shovel can be identified by a folded tab at the back of the blade or, sometimes, by a visible part of the shaft protruding through the bottom of the socket.

How to identify an open socket fork

Unlike a shovel, it is more difficult to identify an open socket connection in a fork.

For example, an open socket shovel can be identified by a folded tab at the back of the blade or sometimes, by a visible part of the shaft protruding through the bottom of the socket.

An open socket fork can be identified by a seam or a join where the socket meets the tines An open socket fork doesn’t have this feature although you may notice a weld or join in the socket.

If you are unsure, check with the manufacturer.

This will give additional strength at weakest point An open socket fork is used for general purpose light work such as loosening, lifting and turning over sandy, loamy or any light soils.

It will not hold up long under a lot of pressure and is the cheapest of all three connections.

If you do opt for an open socket fork, choose an extra long socket.  The extra length will help to prevent the shaft snapping at the socket, which is typical of the shorter, open socket forks.

2. Solid socket (or solid forged socket)

This will form a solid socket In a solid socket, both the tines and socket are formed or ‘forged’ from one piece of steel by being heated in a furnace then shaped by a machine press.

The shaft is then inserted into a ‘hidden’ socket free from any welds.

In a nutshell, the tines and socket are considered as one continuous piece of steel.

The tines and socket are formed from one piece of steel The solid socket is much more durable than an open socket.

This sturdy connection boosts the load-bearing capacity of the fork and is less likely to break where the shaft meets the tines.

The shaft can be made from wood, fibreglass or steel.

Wonkee Donkee says 'Unlike a solid socket connection, an open socket is stamped out of a thin sheet of metal, which creates a weak point at the neck.'
A solid socket connection is more likely withstand much use A solid socket fork has been designed for heavy digging and long-term use and is usually more expensive than an open socket fork.

3. Strapped socket (or solid forged strapped socket)

Two steel straps secured to a wooden shaft with rivets The third kind, a strapped socket, has two steel straps, which extend from the socket along the shaft and are riveted in place.

This way, any load-bearing stress is applied across both straps rather than creating a singular weak point where the tines meet the shaft.

This will form a solid socket Like the solid socket, the tines, socket and strap are all forged from one piece of steel. Generally, only wooden shafts can be fitted to strapped tools.

Solid straps are the sturdiest of all wooden shaft-to-tines connections and are usually the most expensive.