The term is also applied colloquially, but inaccurately, to the garden fork. While similar in appearance, the garden fork is shorter and stockier than the pitchfork, with three or four thicker tines intended for turning or loosening the soil of gardens.
The typical pitchfork consists of a wooden shaft bearing two to five slightly curved metal tines fixed to one end of a handle. These are typically made of steel, wrought iron, or some other alloy, though historically wood or bamboo were used. Unlike a garden fork, a pitchfork lacks a grab at the end of its handle.
Pitchforks with few tines set far apart are typically used for bulky material such as hay or straw; those with more and more closely spaced are used for looser materials such as silage, manure, leaves, or compost.
In popular culture
Because of its association with peasantry and farming, the pitchfork has been used as a populist symbol and appended as a nickname for certain leading populist figures, such as "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman and "Pitchfork" Pat Buchanan.
The pitchfork is often used in lieu of the visually similar weapon, the trident, in popular portrayals and satire of Christian demonology. Many humorous cartoons, both animated and otherwise, feature a caricature of a demon ostensibly wielding a "pitchfork" (often actually a trident) sitting on one shoulder of a protagonist, opposite an angel on the other.
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