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What is a ballast fork?

Shop for Garden Forks

Its uses

A ballast fork is used for moving and loading coarse stone such as gravel, ballast and tarmac Similar in design to the nine prong compost fork but more suited to heavy-duty work, the ballast fork is ideal for:

  • Moving and loading stone, ballast and tarmac.
  • Use by railway workers to transfer roadbed ballast.
Wonkee Donkee says 'Ballast is a mix of coarse stone such as gravel,  which is used to form the bed of a rail track or  underneath the surface of a road.'

The tines

The tines have been shaped into points for easy penetrating There are usually between 8 and 10 solid tines, closely spaced and sturdy, which is ideal for picking up ballast and other heavy stones.

Look for pointed or chiselled tines at the cutting edge for effortless piercing through coarse stone. In addition, a dished head will form a ‘basket’ shape to cup and contain material as it is transported around.

Solid socket means that the blade and tines are forged from one piece of steel and the shaft is held in place with rivets. The most robust tines are forged from one piece of steel. That is, either a solid socket connection…
Two steel straps are riveted to the wooden shaft ..or a strapped socket connection.

For more information on socket connections, please see our section: How are the tines attached to the shaft?

The shaft

Make sure that the joins on a steel fork are of a high quality A steel fork should have high quality welds (metal joins) that have no open points to allow water to enter.  This will reduce the risk of internal rust and damage.

There should not be any fractured seams: welds must look immaculate and as smooth as possible.

Handle fitted with a soft grip and wide angle for cushioned support Look for a comfortable handle grip.  This is usually D- or T-shaped. For those with particularly large or small hands, which don’t fit easily around a D- grip, choose the T- grip. Alternatively, look for a cushioned grip to protect your hands.
The typical lengths of shaft available Always make sure you choose the right length of shaft for your height. The length of the shaft usually measures at:

  • A standard length of 700mm (28 inches)
  • A long length of 800mm (32 inches) plus.
  • Or extra-long at 1.2m (48 inches) plus.
For more information on choosing a shaft, please refer to our page: Is the length of the shaft important?
Use an insulated shaft when digging around live cables For working around live cables or power lines, use an insulated shaft.

Please see our section: What are insulated forks? for further information.