• Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More) 1
  • Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More) 2
  • Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More) 3
  • Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More) 4
  • Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More) 5

Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens in 2021 - Tried and True! (Pentel, Pilot, and More)

Calligraphy (or brush) pens thickening at the slightest application of pressure, but are also able to come to a fine point. They can also shift easily from dark to light and back again. But overall, they're invaluable tools not just for calligraphy or the writing of Chinese characters or illustrating wall scrolls, but also for a wide variety of Western and fusion art as well. And quality matters.

Japan is known for calligraphy, for ink art, and for stationery, so wouldn’t it make sense that some of the best calligraphy pens come from this island country? In order to introduce you to a few, we ordered the 15 most popular brush pens from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and kakaku.com) and tested for the following:

  1. How Well It Writes
  2. How the Ink Transfers and Its Depth of Color
  3. How Thick It is

This is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese calligraphy and brush pens.

Experts featured in this article

Joe
  • Last updated: 06-07-2021
  • 5,805 views
Table of Contents

Top 15 Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens

Now to introduce the 15 best Japanese calligraphy and brush pens available online. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from 1.0 to 5.0.

1
Japaneseぺんてる ぺんてる筆 ~中字~
Writing5.0 (Bristles)
Ink quality5.0 (Water-Based Dye)
ThicknessMedium
Overall score5.0
2
Kuretake Bimoji Cambio 1

KuretakeBimoji Cambio

$7.84

Japanese呉竹 美文字 完美王
Writing4.0 (Bristle)
Ink quality5.0 (Water-Based Pigment)
ThicknessMedium
Overall score5.0
3
Japaneseぺんてる きらり
Writing4.0 (Bristle)
Ink Quality4.0
Thickness
Overall Score4.0
4
Japaneseパイロット 新毛筆 中字
Writing4.0 (Bristles)
Ink quality4.0 (Water-Based Dye)
ThicknessMedium
Overall score4.0
5
Mitsubishi Pencil New Brush Pen 1

Mitsubishi PencilNew Brush Pen

$5.59

Japanese三菱鉛筆 新毛筆
Writing3.0 (Bristles)
Ink Quality5.0 (Water-Based Pigment)
ThicknessThin – Bold
Overall score4.0
6
Pilot Colored Calligraphy Pen Fude Makase 1

PilotColored Calligraphy Pen Fude Makase

$3.30

Japaneseパイロット カラー筆ペン 筆まかせ
Writing4.0 (Stiff)
Ink quality3.0 (Water-Based Dye)
ThicknessSuperfine
Overall score3.0
7
Pentel FudeMoji Autograph Pen 1

PentelFudeMoji Autograph Pen

$4.56

Japaneseぺんてる 筆文字サインペン
Writing3.0 (Stiff)
Ink quality3.0
ThicknessMedium
Overall score3.0
8
Japanese呉竹 万年毛筆
Writing4.0 (Bristle)
Ink quality3.0 (Water-Based Dye)
ThicknessFine
Overall score3.0
9
Japaneseあかしや 新毛筆
Writing4.0 (Bristle)
Ink quality2.0 (Water-based Dye)
ThicknessSmall Brush
Overall score3.0
10
Platinum Pen Co. Souhitsu Hanekofude 1

Platinum Pen Co.Souhitsu Hanekofude

$6.09

Japaneseプラチナ万年筆 双筆 跳ね小筆
Writing2.0 (Stiff)
Ink Qquality3.0 (Water-Based Pigment)
ThicknessSmall brush
Overall score2.0

Compare the Best Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens

Image
1
Pentel PentelFude ~Medium~ 1

Pentel

2
Kuretake Bimoji Cambio 1

Kuretake

3
Pentel Kirari 1

Pentel

4
Pilot New Brush Pen Medium 1

Pilot

5
Mitsubishi Pencil New Brush Pen 1

Mitsubishi Pencil

6
Pilot Colored Calligraphy Pen Fude Makase 1

Pilot

7
Pentel FudeMoji Autograph Pen 1

Pentel

8
Kuretake Fountain Brush Pen 1

Kuretake

9
Akashiya New Brush Pen 1

Akashiya

10
Platinum Pen Co. Souhitsu Hanekofude 1

Platinum Pen Co.

Name

PentelFude ~Medium~

Bimoji Cambio

Kirari

New Brush Pen Medium

New Brush Pen

Colored Calligraphy Pen Fude Makase

FudeMoji Autograph Pen

Fountain Brush Pen

New Brush Pen

Souhitsu Hanekofude

Features

Writes in a Way Both Pros and Beginners Will Appreciate

Keeps Your Ink at a Consistent Intensity No Matter How Long You Write

Classical Calligraphy Pen that Makes Beautiful Lettering a Reality

Reliaable Ink and Bristles With Some Resilience

Easily Vary the Strength and Intensity of Strokes

Varies the Width of Your Strokes, No Matter How Short They Are

Feels like a Fine-Tipped Permanent Marker and is Suitable for Both Art and Lettering

Ink Refills and Replaceable Head Means This Pen Lasts Forever

Feels Just Like a Traditional Brush

A Beginner-Friendly, Thick Sharpie-Type Pen Suitable for Everyday Use

Price$6.29$7.84$7.76$5.19$5.59$3.30$4.56$7.00$5.00$6.09
Japaneseぺんてる ぺんてる筆 ~中字~呉竹 美文字 完美王ぺんてる きらりパイロット 新毛筆 中字三菱鉛筆 新毛筆パイロット カラー筆ペン 筆まかせぺんてる 筆文字サインペン呉竹 万年毛筆あかしや 新毛筆プラチナ万年筆 双筆 跳ね小筆
Writing5.0 (Bristles)4.0 (Bristle)4.0 (Bristle)4.0 (Bristles)3.0 (Bristles)4.0 (Stiff)3.0 (Stiff)4.0 (Bristle)4.0 (Bristle)2.0 (Stiff)
Ink quality5.0 (Water-Based Dye)5.0 (Water-Based Pigment)4.04.0 (Water-Based Dye)5.0 (Water-Based Pigment)3.0 (Water-Based Dye)3.03.0 (Water-Based Dye)2.0 (Water-based Dye)3.0 (Water-Based Pigment)
ThicknessMediumMediumMediumThin – BoldSuperfineMediumFineSmall BrushSmall brush
Overall score5.05.04.04.04.03.03.03.03.02.0
Link

Products That Didn't Make The Cut

And why they didn't quite make it.

Issues With the Strokes and Ink

Issues With the Strokes and Ink

More than a calligraphy pen, the Tombow Pencil Co. Fudenosuke Keichou Twin S was more like a fine-tipped permanent marker. Don’t go in expecting to control the width of your strokes like you would with a calligraphy pen. 


The Zebra FudeSign Medium had brush-like about it at all. The tip was just a bit softer than that of a permanent marker, which wasn’t enough to allow us to vary the width of our strokes. We also didn’t like that the ink thinned out when we wrote quickly.


The long and thin tip of the Akashiya Sai would be perfect for ink wash and watercolor paintings, but the barrel was also narrow, which made the pen hard to control. The ink was also really thin; even if you were to purchase the Sai purely for writing in fine print, we still don’t think you’d be pleased.

Extremely Noisy When Writing

Extremely Noisy When Writing

Every time we moved the Zebra Calligraphy Pen Thick and Fine ~Dual Sided~ FD-501, it squeaked infuriatingly in a way that reminded us of creaking Styrofoam. It was dual-tipped and quite firm, so it was easy for beginners to use; however, we disliked writing with it so it ended with a 1.0.


The Zebra Soft-Tipped Calligraphy Pen ~Fine~ FD-302 was like an evolved felt tip pen. It was easy to switch between fine and bold strokes, even for beginners. However, like its cousin, it squeaked as it wrote.

How We Tested the Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pens

We gathered 15 most popular Japanese calligraphy and brush pens from Amazon, Rakuten, and kakaku.com and tested them for how well each wrote, how the ink transferred and its depth of color, and how thick the strokes were.


※Note that the words hane, tome, and harai, which we'll be referencing a lot in the following text. These are all aspects of calligraphy writing, with hane being the little flick up at the end of certain strokes, tome being the thickening at the end of certain strokes, and harai being the thinning out at the end of certain strokes.

Test ① How Well It Writes

Test ① How Well It Writes
First, we tested how well each calligraphy pen wrote.

We tested for flexibility, whether our strokes had a clean finish, and whether each pen was more suited for beginners or advanced users. We then graded the pens on a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0.

Even Beginners Could Master Bristle-Tipped Calligraphy Pens As Long as the Tip Had Some Firmness to It

Even Beginners Could Master Bristle-Tipped Calligraphy Pens As Long as the Tip Had Some Firmness to It
Only one calligraphy pen earned a 5.0 on this test: Pentel’s PentelFude. Even though it was a bristle-tipped pen, which usually takes skill to use, there was a good firmness to the tip that made the pen easy to control for beginners

Pens with softer bristles allowed for smooth, flowing strokes, but were difficult to control for those not already used to drawing with brushes.

As for stiff- and soft-tipped pens, there were products that squeaked when we wrote and nibs that had no give to them, which made it hard to execute hane, tome, and harai. They were pretty much markers posing as calligraphy pens and were rated quite harshly. 

Test ② How the Ink Transfers and Its Depth of Color

Test ② How the Ink Transfers and Its Depth of Color
Next, we looked at how the ink transferred onto paper and how rich its color was.

We wanted to see whether the ink would get scratchy, or if we could accurately control the strength of color by how we held the brush. We then rated each product on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0.

Big-Name Brands Are Consistent With Their Ink

Big-Name Brands Are Consistent With Their Ink
Products from Mitsubishi, Pilot, Kuretake, and Pentel all did well on this test. After all, big-name brands are usually pretty good about quality control, and a consistent amount of ink comes out of their pens. There’s no odd scratching or fading of color and you can get your strokes to come out to just the intensity you want.

In particular, old favorites like Mitsubishi Pencils’ New Brush Pen, Kuretake’s Bimoji Cambio, and Pentel’s PentelFude positively shined; all three earned a 5.0 for their ink.

Mitsubishi Pencil’s New Brush Pen, by the way, comes out to a jet black. However, you can vary the shading depending on how you draw with it, which makes it suitable for almost anything, from addresses on envelopes to ink wash paintings.

Test ③ How Thick It is

Test ③ How Thick It is
Finally, we looked at stroke thickness.
We paid attention to whether or not we could vary the width of a stroke and whether a pen lived up to its claims (that is, whether it was really thick, thin, or in between). We then determined what kind of work each pen was best suited for.

You Need to Be Careful With Stiff and Soft-Tipped Calligraphy Pens

You Need to Be Careful With Stiff and Soft-Tipped Calligraphy Pens
Out of all the calligraphy pens that claimed to be suited for medium print, Kuretake’s Bimoji Cambio lived up most to its promises. Kuretake’s Fountain Brush Pen, which was labeled as fine, also lived up to expectations, utilizing a tip so thin that we could write letters with it.
With brush pens, as long as we could control the pressure of our strokes, it was easy to adjust for thickness. And the width of a single stroke was pretty much always what it said on the box.
However, stiff- and soft-tipped pens could differ greatly from product to product. In particular, while soft-tipped pens, such as Zebra’s Soft-Tipped Calligraphy Pen ~Fine~, allowed us some control over the width of our strokes, many of them could get quite thick, leaving us with a very broad line.

How to Choose a Japanese Calligraphy and Brush Pen – Buying Guide

Here, we want to introduce three things you should look out for when picking out a calligraphy pen.

Find a Calligraphy Pen That’s Easy for You to Write With

Roughly speaking, there are three types of tips on calligraphy pens: stiff, soft, and straight-up bristles. However, even if they are of the same type, all calligraphy pens differ greatly in how they perform, depending on the brand.
Basically, with tips, you want to make sure it fits your level and purpose. You need to make sure that the character and firmness of the tip is suited to you and the piece you’re planning.

Stiff Tips Are the Kindest to Beginners

Stiff Tips Are the Kindest to Beginners
Writing with a stiff-tipped calligraphy pen kind of feels like using a permanent marker. It’s perfect for beginners who only get to use a calligraphy pen once a year or so. Not only do your lines come out consistent, but the flicks and tips at the ends of characters are also comparatively easier to achieve.
Stiff tips are good for addressing postcards and envelopes for festive occasions. Since it’s easy to work your way down to a very fine line, stiff-tipped calligraphy pens are also often used for backgrounds and depictions of movement and sound effects in manga.

Softer Tips Make It Easier to Achieve Thick Lines

Softer Tips Make It Easier to Achieve Thick Lines
This feels more like a brush than a stiff tip. Soft-tipped calligraphy pens utilize what can be described as a soft sponge as their nib

Like their stiff-tipped counterparts, soft-tipped calligraphy pens do feel a bit like a permanent marker, but you need a bit of practice before you can achieve those nice hane and harai.

However, it’s easier to draw thick lines with a soft tip, rather than a stiff tip–so it’s better for large work, such as addressing letter-sized envelopes. It’s also invaluable as an art tool, as many use it when they need to cover large areas in solid black.

Bristle Tips Give You the Same Look and Feel as a Traditional Brush

Bristle Tips Give You the Same Look and Feel as a Traditional Brush
If you already have experience with Japanese calligraphy, then try a bristle-tipped calligraphy pen. It’s the most similar to an actual brush. It allows for the most nuanced strokes, the dramatic thickening and thinning of lines, as well as hane and harai

However, it feels different from your run-of-the-mill marker or pen and takes quite a bit of practice to master.

But you can use it to craft a widely varying, very natural and almost crude look. Bristle-tipped calligraphy pens are also available in colors other than black, making them suitable art tools.

Check if the Calligraphy Pen Has Serviceable Ink

It’s important to check both the kind of ink the calligraphy pen utilizes, as well as how the ink transfers onto paper and how deep its color is.

Dye-Based Ink Spreads Well and is Vibrant in Color

Dye-Based Ink Spreads Well and is Vibrant in Color
Most inks used in calligraphy pens are either dye- or pigment-based. Dye-based ink is similar in color and consistency to India ink, which is often used in artist pens and for inking and outlining comics. 

However, it fades and blurs quite easily. You shouldn’t have a problem, though, if you’re just addressing a postcard or writing on an envelope.

Dye-Based Ink Spreads Well and is Vibrant in Color
But if you are planning to use the calligraphy pen for art, try pigment-based ink. Because pigment-based ink dries quickly, it doesn’t smear or blur, even with the use of solvents

Unfortunately, there aren't as many calligraphy pens that utilize pigment-based ink around and so not as much choice. Figure out your priorities before settling on a type of ink.

Pay Attention to How the Ink Transfers Onto Paper and How Deep Its Color Is

Pay Attention to How the Ink Transfers Onto Paper and How Deep Its Color Is
The best calligraphy pens–the ones that are easiest to use–are the ones where the ink transfers onto paper with little fuss and the color is just as intense as you want it. However, there’s no way you can really check the ink short of trying it out. 

If you do end up going to a stationery store, try writing common things, like your name and numbers in both script and cursive.

There are also calligraphy pens with paler ink, which is used in Japan for sad occasions, such as funerals and wakes. There are lighter calligraphy pens designed solely for funerals, but it’s more practical to get dual-tipped pens that can write in both grey and black.

Find a Calligraphy Pen That’s Suitably Thick

Find a Calligraphy Pen That’s Suitably Thick
Calligraphy pens are categorized by whether they’re suited for bold, medium, or fine print. Certain thicknesses are better for certain situations. 

Thin pens, for example, are good for fine work, such as art, addressing postcards, or copying sutras; medium pens are good for everyday calligraphy; thick pens are good for poster work and big, dynamic lettering.

However, take any labeling with a grain of salt. Thickness is greatly swayed by the length and firmness of the pen tip, as well as the skill and habits of the calligrapher. The same pen can perform differently in different hands, so if possible, test out calligraphy pens before purchase.

Tips and Tricks on How to Hold and Write With a Calligraphy Pen

So, you’ve learned how to buy a calligraphy pen. Now, it’s time to learn how to write with one. Here’s a quick primer on ways to both hold and write with a calligraphy pen.

Hold the Pen With the End Facing up, as You Would With a Brush

Hold the Pen With the End Facing up, as You Would With a Brush
Lightly grasp the calligraphy pen with your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers. It’s pretty much the same as how you would hold a pen, but it’s important that you hold it with the end facing up. That way, it’s easier to control the thickness of your strokes and to achieve tome, hane, and harai.
People who aren’t used to using calligraphy pens usually end up using too much force, so remember to hold the pen gently. Furthermore, straightening out your posture will help keep your hand and arm from getting tired.

Thickness is Controlled by Adjusting Brush Contact With the Page

Thickness is Controlled by Adjusting Brush Contact With the Page

Learning how to flow smoothly between thick and thin strokes is key to making your work look more like it was drawn by a brush and your words more like traditional calligraphy.

For thin lines, draw with just the very point of the tip. If you can’t get your strokes to come out fine, it either means that you’re writing at an angle or with too much force, driving the tip of the pen into the paper. Focus on relaxing your hand and softly and lightly touching the page with just the very tip.
On the other hand, for thick lines, make sure you’re pushing not just the point, but the entire length of the tip against the page. This increases the area at which the brush touches the page, naturally resulting in a thicker line.

Continuously Practice With the Help of Samples and Examples

Continuously Practice With the Help of Samples and Examples
If you feel like you just can’t get the hang of calligraphy pens, slow down. Don’t expect to turn out a perfect calligraphy piece from the very beginning. Take time to practice. There are tons of practice books for calligraphy and brush pens, and if you don't want to pay, then there are also free samples and guides online.
Honestly, you probably weren’t even that amazing with a ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil when you first started out. As long as you keep at it and don’t give up, you will see results.

More Reliable, Tried and True Pens

More Reliable, Tried and True Pens

Other than calligraphy pens, there are plenty of other options for writing utensils out there that are reliable and work better for different situations. If you're looking for more pens that have been proven great through testing, then take a look at the articles below!

Summary

We rounded up experts and members of our editing department, purchased the 15 most popular Japanese calligraphy and brush pens, and tested them all.
The PentelFude was crowned first and it is an amazing pen, but the lower-ranking products might be easier to use in specific situations. Be sure to keep the information we shared today in the back of your mind and use it to find the best calligraphy pen just for you.

Author: Nao Kondo/Translation: Jasmine Li


A Fountain Pen for Traditional Calligraphy Recommended by an Expert

If you're thinking of writing a beautifully penned letter in cursive, then you might be thinking about purchasing a fountain pen rather than a calligraphy pen. If you're looking for a great option, then check out this one recommended by Joe, the Gentlemen Stationer.

Expert's
pick

Lamy2000 Fountain Pen

$152.74

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    In today's busy world, it can be easy to overlook self-reflection and self-care. Taking time to contemplate our thoughts, feelings, and experiences can help us see patterns, understand deeper meanings, and connect to our intuition.  An oracle deck may be just the thing you need to help refocus your energy and get a fresh perspective! And they come in so many styles that you're bound to find one you like.We searched high and low to find the best oracle decks to add to your self-care or spiritual practice. Our favorite is The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck by New York Times bestselling artist Kim Krans. Whether used as daily inspiration or for a more in-depth reading, the archetypes depicted in these cards can help you gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. Keep reading for the rest of our top 10 decks and a useful buying guide!
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  • Top 10 Best Desktop Zen Gardens in 2021 (Toysmith, ICNBUYS, and More)
    Top 10 Best Desktop Zen Gardens in 2021 (Toysmith, ICNBUYS, and More)
    Sometimes, life feels like a game of whack-a-mole. You finish one thing, and something else pops up. You finish that thing, and then something else pops up. It’s a frustrating, dizzying, tear-inducing game, and you need to stop. Relax! Gaze upon a mini Zen garden.There’s something about ripples–maybe the way they seem to just flow on forever, freely–that’s supremely calming. This, all Zen gardens have in common. But–and here, we return to the practical side of things–every kit has its own features: from the kind of sand and rocks used to what little statues are included. Only once you know what’s out there (and know yourself) can you find the garden that speaks most directly to you, as the Toysmith Deluxe Zen Garden did for us.
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    18,354 views
  • Top 10 Best Dollhouses for Adults in 2021
    Top 10 Best Dollhouses for Adults in 2021
    Dollhouses aren't just for kids. There are dollhouses for adults, with a twist: you build and decorate the miniature yourself.  A DIY dollhouse kit makes for a great activity if you're looking for a solo crafting project. Putting together all the tiny details can be immensely satisfying as well as stress-relieving. Or you could work on a dollhouse with family or friends and a completed miniature would also make for a nice decorative piece or a thoughtful gift.  We picked our top 10 favorite dollhouses we recommend. The winner was Robotime's DIY Miniature Library called Sam's Study because of its challenging but satisfying high level of detail and the comprehensive kit. We also made a buying guide to help you find your dream dollhouse.
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    6,897 views
  • Top 10 Best Trading Card Sleeves in 2021 (Ultra Pro, Ryker, and More)
    Top 10 Best Trading Card Sleeves in 2021 (Ultra Pro, Ryker, and More)
    Trading cards are popular with a wide range of ages and have been for many years. They can be used to play fantasy games, be traded between friends, or collected as beloved memorabilia. Whatever your purpose for collecting trading cards is, you'll need to buy some protective sleeves if you want to keep them in mint condition.We've looked at the best trading card sleeves available and chose the Diamond Shield cards in matte silver by Arcane Tinman as our favorites. They will protect your cards and are perfect for use in games with friends or even in tournaments. We've also put together a top 10 list for you to consider and created a handy buying guide to help you make your choice!
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    4,941 views
  • Top 10 Best Tarot Card Decks in 2021 (Matt Hughes, Kim Krans, and More)
    Top 10 Best Tarot Card Decks in 2021 (Matt Hughes, Kim Krans, and More)
    Are you looking for a little guidance? Tarot card decks are a unique way to find insight about life’s ups and downs. This historic hobby is still popular centuries later as many people find meaning and enjoyment in interpreting tarot cards. Tarot cards are highly symbolic, so choosing the right deck for you takes a little extra thought.No matter whether you’re looking for a modern deck with an esoteric tone or a playful deck with an approachable style, we’ve got you covered! We personally loved the timeless style of Da Bridgh's Original Tarot Cards Deck, but we'll let you be the judge. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro looking to add to your collection, we’ve selected the best decks that come highly rated by the tarot community.
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    8,511 views
  • Top 10 Best Vampire Fangs in 2021 (Scarecrow and More)
    Top 10 Best Vampire Fangs in 2021 (Scarecrow and More)
    Do you want to take your Halloween costume or cosplay to the next level but aren't sure how? A set of vampire fangs can add an air of realism or terror to any costume! Whether you're hoping to mystify or horrify, there is a set of fangs out there that's right for you. Plus, they come in various convenient options, with ones that are retractable, some that are customizable, and even ones that look like grillz.We've put together a list of the top 10 best vampire fangs for all of you creatures of the night. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available. At the top of our list is Scarecrow's Small Deluxe Custom Fangs because they are realistic, subtle, and reusable. Check out the rest of the top 10 list for more of our favorites, and take a look at our buying guide for some fangtastic shopping tips!
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    179 views
  • Top 10 Best Garden Tool Sets in 2021
    Top 10 Best Garden Tool Sets in 2021
    If you’re just getting into gardening, you’ll probably need to pick up a few different tools, and the easiest way to do so is by finding a garden tool set. That’s why we searched the internet and pored over reviews to figure out what makes a great set.We found that the best sets include every piece you need, are built for comfort and longevity, and come with a case for storing or carrying. Most sets include shovels, rakes, and shears, and many have several other useful tools as well. Keeping these things in mind, we’ve picked out some of our favorite garden tool sets available online.
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    2,106 views
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