I've been following this conversation and just wanted to comment. I first learned how to \"seng\" 6 yrs ago with a flathead screwdriver. Then last year when I was at my dealers selling some root. As always I was picking his brain for any kind of tips, tricks, or insight. I commented to him that I felt I wasnt digging enough root for the time I was spending in the woods. He asked me \"what do you use to dig with?\" I told him my trusty old flathead was the only thing I'd ever used. \"thats your problem\" he said. He then led me over to the corner of his shop and picked up his \"seng shovel\" it was a steel bar with part of a leaf spring welded to the end and then sharpened. I studied it over and asked a few questions and then he picked a similar one up with part of a mower blade instead of a spring. \"Here\" he said free of charge try it out and if you don't like it just bring it on back. The next time I went out I took it. It worked great and was alot quicker there was just one downside to it. Somtimes there were certain digging situations that presented themselves that made me wish I'd brought my trusty old flathead. After that first time with the seng shovel and no flathead I havnt gone into the woods again without my flathead. Sorry for the whole story and all but I guess what I'm getting at is don't any of you fellow diggers out there ever encounter this? Personally in my opinion a flathead screwdiver is hands down the perfect ginseng diggin tool. Yeah on rare occasion I accidentally poke a root but I've sliced more with the shovel. But the shovel does make good time so I use them both now every time I go diggin. I've also tried a variety of other diggers although not one like the ones described on here. Kinda makes me curious and I'm gonna keep my eyes open for one. But really does anyone else know what I mean???
I can see where a screwdriver would be helpful diggin when I get to a point where I need to poke with something I just look around for a stout twig and break it where it fractures leaving an edge or point and use that to poke with. But hey you dig what you are comfortable with and as for a screwdiver slowing a person down...i guess it would depend on how determined one is. BTW I have used a screwdriver to dig with. Actually I need to start keeping one in my pack. But the masons hammer hands down best tool for sengin. It also allows you to slow down and poke and scrape as to not cut into the roots the cutting edge is about a inch or so wide , not as wide as say the mower blades or picks ive seen but always gets the job done. Rule of thumb ... pull away leaves, dig around stem in a circle about 4-5 inches away from stem, putting the stem on an island so to speak then crumble the island with hands gently around and pull away dirt from stem and look for the neck try to determine the way the root is lying underneith and use digger a couple times accordingly to how you have determined it is laying there and you should have by then worked it up enough to work it on out with your hands or figure if you have to dig anymore to pull it out.
It is a very rare occasion when I find a seng plant that I cannot dig with my long handle hoe type tool.
It did happen once last year - a maple tree had a root that ran out a bit and then flattened out and right in the middle there was a hole about 1/2 inch in diameter that went all the way down to the earth and YEP growing right out of that hole was a nice 3 pronger.
I cut a hickory limb right quick and sharpened the end somewhat like a flat head screwdriver but then just as I started to try and poke that thing out I realized if I did get it out would probably mangle the root something awful.
I decided to just leave it be.
Gotta leave a few for seed !
On other occasions where I found one growing in a really tight spot that my hoe head type tool could not easily get to I just cut a hickory or oak twig and sharpen it up and use that to dig the root out.
If one wanted to - could always pack a flat head along for such occasions - but they are few and far between.
The one I had was the same head as that but had a wooden handle (older model I guess).
The mason hammer and that tool will give you similar results - both work fine as far as short handle tools go but you still got to bend over most of the time or get on your knees to dig and you don't have a lot of leverage with the short handle tools.
Often when I do find a stalk of ginseng growing between two roots, if they are not too big and stout I can either chop them in two or break them with my long handle hoe tool by inserting the blade between the two and prying up with that long handle.
Some of you looking for something more than a flat head screwdriver but not wanting to spend a lot of $$$ might want to try out a tool like that one at home depo. It is fairly cheap at 14.97 and does work well enough. Note - the handle on that tool is 16\" long.
Yes I agree. The times that I have had LOTS! of
trouble diggin out a root either because of other roots or rocks I usually decide that mother nature just doesnt want me to have that root so I leave it for her.
As for the \"island\" you speak of I know what you mean and always do the same. But we all know that seng typically does funny things that are always unpredictable and sometimes the root goes off in directions that are different than what you wouldve guessed. Also the depth of the top of the rizome varies at times and a flathead (in my opinion) is excellent to gently expose the top. For those reasons I always like to carry my flathead and as for how quick I can be with one, Well not to sound conceeded but I've had lot of practice and I can be damn quick. But Im always concerned with getting the whole root entact and to do that sometimes I don't wanna put the pedal to the metal so to speak. It actually sounds like I use the screwdriver for the same reasons you use your masons hammer. It allows me to take my time and so I can follow all the little root strands to the end. I guess in the end the tool an individual chooses and uses is like you said whatever they are most comfortable with and also like the plant itself all aspects of \"sengin\" can very widley from plant to plant and from person to person.
Thanks for all the thoughts andstorys about your favorite diggers I have enjoyed following this post.The screwdriver is a very good digger a old friend of mine made me a heavy duty one with a handle attached to it and it works very well,but I still love the digger i posted in this thread better than any thing that I have ever dug with,and it is very light,yet strong.