Tool Box: For digging without masochism

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I WILL applaud the first manufacturer honest enough to name a spade after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Digging is a masochistic activity, and not being one to enjoy pain and suffering I admit that getting a mechanical tiller to do a job gives me far more satisfaction than toiling.

Honda's F210 tiller was delivered by Brian Wynn, a commendably helpful man who runs Mowers & Machinery in Nantwich, Cheshire.

It is light and compact, easy to operate, and powered by a quiet, 2.4-horsepower petrol engine; and it matched or exceeded expectations under just about every heading.

The first impression was of trying to follow a high-spirited pony, because the little F210 is such a willing worker. A task that would have taken me all morning was completed, far more efficiently, in about 45 minutes.

Two pairs of rotating steel tines transformed our vegetable garden - caked and crusted by winter rain and frost - into fine soil ideal for planting. I would have preferred handles that swivel sideways, to keep my feet out of the tilled earth. They are fitted to the bigger Hondas.

The F210 is listed at pounds 468.83. Stuart Gilham, the professional gardener who supplements our efforts, was sufficiently impressed to buy one for himself.

Honda UK Ltd., Power Road, London W4 5YT (081-747 1400).