Animal Crossing: New Horizons — How many times can you use each tool?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Shovel
Animal Crossing New Horizons Shovel (Image credit: iMore)

Remember when you first started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons when it first launched, back before it became one of the most beloved games on the Switch? Do you recall casting a line into the sea, catching a big fish, only for your trusty Fishing Rod to break in your hands? Are you anxious about reliving that feeling of emptiness, loss, and slight annoyance that you now had to build a new fishing rod just to keep angling? Well now that the game's 2.0 patch is out, we don't want you to fear history repeating itself after you sail to a deserted island with Kapp'n or just before enjoying some coffee at The Roost.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons's 2.0 patch brings many new features to the franchise, but alongside a certain surly sea captain's return and the ability to finally drink coffee comes a reunion with one of the game's more frustrating aspects: tool durability. However, one way to avoid being left empty-handed while in need is to be aware of how many times you can use a tool before it breaks, and more importantly, how many more uses your tool has before it shatters into nothing.

Here's a quick guide to tool durability in Animal Crossing: New Horizons:

How many times can you use a tool before it breaks?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Cj Fish

Animal Crossing New Horizons Cj Fish (Image credit: iMore)

Fishing Rod

Fishing rods will lose durability with every successful catch, whether it's a small fish, giant shark, or piece of trash. Casting a rod without actually catching anything does not count toward the number of uses before a break, so don't feel bad if you cast too far away from the fishy shadow and have to throw it out there again.

  • Flimsy Fishing Rod: 10 catches
  • Fishing Rod: 30 catches (also includes the Colorful, Fish, and Outdoorsy Fishing Rods available in Nook's Cranny)
  • Golden Fishing Rod: 90 casts


Like the Fishing Rod, only successful bug catches will go against the Net's use count. Any time you swing your net that doesn't end with a catch is fair game...and that includes the occasional bonk on the head of a fellow villager. We don't encourage weaponizing your net, we're just saying the game won't penalize you for an accidental thwack.

  • Flimsy Net: 10 catches
  • Net: 30 catches (also includes the Colorful, Star, and Outdoorsy Nets in Nook's Cranny)
  • Golden Net: 90 catches


You'll get more uses from a Shovel than you will a Net or Fishing Rod, but that's because there are more ways to break a shovel. Hitting a rock with a shovel for ore or other materials counts as one use, as does digging up a tree, flowers, or item buried in the ground. Digging a hole in the ground or filling an empty hole, however, do not go against the durability count.

  • Flimsy Shovel: 40 uses
  • Shovel: 100 uses (also includes the Colorful, Outdoorsy, and Printed-Design Shovels in Nook's Cranny)
  • Golden Shovel: 200 uses


We knew you'd axe about this one--sorry, couldn't resist, but the Axe's durability is similar to the way Shovels work. Every swing of an Axe that hits a tree or rock counts as a use, even if what you're hitting doesn't give you anything in return. One quick note: only the Axe and Golden Axe are able to chop down trees, so make sure you have the right one when you go all Paul Bunyan on your island's flora.

  • Flimsy Axe: 40 hits
  • Stone Axe and Axe: 100 hits
  • Golden Axe: 200 hits


The Slingshot is great in that there's no Flimsy version, the regular Slingshot is the baseline item. However, this also means that the baseline item breaks much faster than other tools, so don't expect to be popping balloons to your heart's content. Also, should you accidentally fire a shot into the air and it doesn't hit anything, that won't count against your durability.

  • Slingshot: 20 shots (also includes Colorful and Outdoorsy Slingshots in Nook's Cranny)
  • Golden Slingshot: 60 shots

Watering Can

The Watering Can can be a bit difficult to pinpoint, given that it seems to lose durability from watering nothing -- but not as quickly as it does from watering flowers. However, it's worth noting that watering multiple flowers at once still only counts as one use, so positioning when tending to your garden is key especially with the Golden Watering Can you earn from earning a 5-star ranking.

  • Flimsy Watering Can: Approximately 20 successful waters, only waters one flower directly in front of the player
  • Watering Can: Approximately 60 uses, waters a 3x2 rectangle of flowers in front of the player (also includes the Colorful, Elephant, and Outdoorsy Watering Cans in Nook's Cranny)
  • Golden Watering Can: Approximately 180 successful waters, waters a 3x3 square of flowers in front of the player

Vaulting Pole and Ladder

Both the Vaulting Pole and Ladder have no alternate versions, but they also have infinite durability. You can also now build permanent ladders that will remain on a cliffside, but they cannot be moved or picked up once placed.

How do I get basic tools?

Acnh Fishing Outfits Sprinkle

Acnh Fishing Outfits Sprinkle (Image credit: iMore)

You'll first gain access to Flimsy Tools first by completing Tom Nook's "DIY Workshop" (aka tutorial). You unlock this extremely early on in the adventure--Nook will ask you to come to the tent to complete it on your first full day on the island. Once you speak to him and complete the tutorial you'll get recipes for the Flimsy Fishing Rod, Net, and Axe.

The Flimsy Watering Can recipe is also gifted by Tom Nook, but this time it comes after you've shown him at least four bugs or fish after completing the DIY Workshop. The Flimsy Shovel recipe will be a gift from Blathers, who arrives on your island after showing Tom Nook 15 bugs or fish. The Vaulting Pole recipe also comes from Blathers at this time.

To build stronger tools you'll need to purchase the "Everyday Tools A-Z" Recipe kit from the Nook Stop for 3,000 Nook Miles. The kit includes the Shovel, Fishing Rod, Watering Can, Stone Axe, and the regular Axe.

The only tools left are the Slingshot, the recipe for which you can buy from Timmy in Nook's Cranny for 300 Bells, and the Ladder, which is given to you by Tom Nook after building and furnishing your first three villagers' homes.

Special tools with unique designs, such as Colorful or Outdoorsy, don't do anything unique -- they're strictly for show. You can buy them from the upgraded version of Nook's Cranny, but there are no recipes to craft them at the moment.

How do I get the Golden Tools?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Perfect Town

Animal Crossing New Horizons Perfect Town (Image credit: iMore)

To unlock these long-lasting golden tools, you'll need to complete a prerequisite first. Once you have them, make sure you have some gold nuggets on you so you can craft them.

  • The Golden Fishing Rod is obtained once you catch one of every fish in the Critterpedia.
  • The Golden Net is obtained once you catch one of every bug in the Critterpedia.
  • You'll be sent a Golden Axe recipe in the mail once you break other axes 100 times.
  • The Golden Slingshot will be attached to a golden balloon that spawns after you pop 300 balloons.
  • Gulliver will mail you the Golden Shovel after you help him 30 times.
  • Isabelle gives you the Golden Watering Can recipe once you obtain a 5-star rank for your island.

Is there any way to stop tools from breaking?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Cj Fish

Animal Crossing New Horizons Cj Fish (Image credit: iMore/Casian Holly)

Unfortunately, there technically isn't a way to keep tools from breaking permanently, nor is there a way to "repair" tools that are close to breaking. This includes Golden tools, which will also eventually be rendered useless.

However, the new Customization Kits in New Horizons offers a nifty workaround: by customizing a tool, its durability is immediately reset. Therefore, if you know you're down to your final use of a Fishing Rod but you have a Customization kit, head to a Crafting Table and you can restore your Rod to its former glory.

This does not work with either Flimsy or Golden tools, however, as neither are customizable.

The tools for success

Now that you know when tools will break, you can have backups ready so you'll never be without a trusty tool again. Granted you might use up a few extra spaces of your inventory, but the stress of catching one more fish before losing the ability to fish is far worse, trust us.

Plus, you'll be able to procure so many fish, bugs, and materials that the feelings of success and the sounds of Bells in your pocket will make up for any inventory issues. Now, go out there and explore with your tools of the trade!

Jason Fanelli