What is a Mattock?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A mattock is an agricultural tool which bears similarities to the hoe and pickaxe. These tools have been in use in numerous human societies for hundreds of years. In addition to being useful in the garden, mattocks can also be employed in a wide variety of other tasks in which soil and rock need to be broken up, such as in construction. Many hardware and home supply stores stock these tools, and they can also be found at nurseries and garden suppliers.

A mattock can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.
A mattock can be used to work soil until it reaches the desired state.

The design of a mattock consists of a heavy metal head attached to a long pole. The head has a perpendicular wedge shape which is chisel-like in appearance. On the other end of the head, the mattock can be fitted with a pointed pick or another attachment, depending on the design. The weight and shape of the head are designed to allow people to break ground easily, and the tool is usually made from metal, which may be coated to help it resist corrosion.

Efficiency of a mattock depends, in part, on the length of the handle. While tools are often sold with standard handle lengths, it's actually very important to select a handle which is right for the height of the user. If the handle is too short, people will strain to use the tool effectively, and they can actually injure themselves in addition to working very inefficiently. The same holds true for a mattock with a handle which is too lengthy. When the handle is the right length, the tool does some of the work for the user, reducing the risk of injury and working more effectively. People who aren't sure about tool length can ask for advice from the staff at the store.

Some hardware stores sell heads and handles separately in addition to carrying whole tools. People can buy replacement handles as their handles wear out or are damaged, and vice versa with tool heads. Likewise, people can use separate heads and handles to assemble the perfect mattock, with a length which will be comfortable and easy in the hands and a head which meets their needs.

When purchasing a mattock, people should think about how the tool will be used, and consider the head options available. Something like a pick end might be useful if people are working with concrete or hard soils, for example, while a broader hoe head can be used with soil under active cultivation which just needs some encouragement. Mattocks can be used for tasks like weeding, breaking ground, cultivating soil in raised beds, and so forth.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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