Designing and Blacksmithing a Garden Tool at DeWit Tools in the Netherlands

Garden — By on November 16, 2012 3:02 am

Shawna forging the DeWit Tool potting soil trowel.What if you could go to a blacksmith, order up the perfect forged garden tool designed to your specifications, and then help make it yourself?

Guess what? I DID THAT! ::jumping up and down with excitement::

This summer I traveled to the Netherlands to visit the Floriade and lecture. While I was there Sietse DeWit, CEO from Dewit Tools, invited me to his blacksmithing factory in Kornhorn, Netherlands so I could experience what it would be like to forge my own garden tool.

One of my complaints about garden trowels is that the soil spills out of the trowel whenever I’m planting my containers. My idea for a new trowel design was to build a rounded trowel – almost a scoop – with a sharp side for cutting the plastic bags of potting soil open, and a sharpened bottom edge to cut old soil out of containers (see photo below). The DeWit’s loved the idea and I was able to work in the factory with the team to develop the prototype tool.

What took me by surprise was that each step in the process involved such attention to detail and such care. It took us four hours to build the prototype from beginning to end. To the DeWit’s, these tools are MORE than tools; they are an investment in the DeWit family. Read below to learn of the entire process for making this special tool and watch the video to see what it sounded like to be there (if you can’t see the video because this is an email, simply click through to the link and come live to my website so you can watch it).

If you would like to order the “Shawna Trowel” – a.k.a. the Potting Scoop Trowel, follow the links below -

In the U.S. – Garden Tool Company – STORE LINK
In Europe – Eetbare Wand – STORE LINK

Dewit Shawna Trowel garden potting soil tool with cutting edge



Dewit Computer Design

Building a prototype trowel starts with designing the tool on the computer. Above you see Derk Klaus Dewit designing with me and his uncle, Derk Dewit, supervising (yes, there are two Derk’s).

Once the design is entered into the computer, a machine cuts the heavy metal into the scoop trowel shapes (below). They are flat at this stage and will need to be forged and worked more to be shaped in a curve.

Cutting the metal for the DeWit Tool.

Pushing the button for the machine to turn on at DeWit tools.

Above I am pushing a button for a giant welding machine to weld the flat metal trowel pieces to the metal handle. Yes. I am happy. This is fun!!

Next, the trowels have to go into a super hot blacksmithing forge. This forge is extremely hot. Even if you stand within three feet of the forge it feels like all the power of the sun is directed at your face. I swear my eyebrows were singed off! I have immense respect for the workers who have to stand at the forge all day long. It saps your strength and would be a difficult job.

Dewit Forge

Hammering the seam at DeWit Tools.

Dewit Stamping seamYou see a series of two photos above which show me taking the heated flat trowel piece, placing it in a giant smashing machine (that’s a technical term) and smashing the seam together in a reinforcement process.

Once that process is done it must be shaped into a curve shape. The tool is heated and while the blade is red-hot it is then placed in a special mold, squished into shape, removed and cooled in water. Below you see me removing the tool and cooling it in the water.

Shawna cooling the forged curved tool.

Dewit Tools Forge

Dewit anvil work at the forge

Back and forth the trowel goes from the hot forge to blacksmith to anvil for the many steps it takes to forge a garden tool. After the seam is reinforced, it goes to a blacksmith so he can shape the handle (see above photos). Once again, the tool has to be heated, then the handle hammered into shape with a delicate touch this time. After even more shaping, the blacksmith sharpens the end of the tool (below). Finally, the wooden portion of the handle is installed and custom laser labeled (see bottom).

That’s the end of an absolutely wonderful tool building adventure. Making your own tool from scratch is amazing fun and learning how much care and love goes into every tool at the DeWit factory makes me appreciate using them and taking care of them all the more. I cannot wait to get out to the garden!

Garden tool being sharpened in the DeWit Tool factory.

Dewit tool being laser labeled.

Dewit Handle

Special Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am letting you know that the factory tour in the Netherlands and the tool building experience were sponsored by DeWit Tools. I have used their products because I WOULD even if they had not given the products to me because I like them and trust them. All opinions are my own!

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  1. EetbareWand says:

    Hi Shawna,
    Great to see your enthusiasm and passion into the profession of blacksmith. We can see you fully enjoyed your few hours at the productionsite of DeWit Garden Tools.
    In Europe your Garden trowel is very popular and we are proud to have it in our webshop.
    Especially for Christmas and the end of year gifts, it is a great gift to receive and to give away.
    Thanks for your cooperation, to be followed…

    • Shawna says:

      Blacksmithing is FUN! I SO enjoyed having this adventure and can’t wait to see what happens next.

      Plus the tool is cool – it functions very well as a potting soil bag cutter – love it!


  2. Shawna, that is The. Coolest. Thing. Ever. I almost cried when I saw that last photo with “Shawna’s Trowel” lasered onto it. The design of the tool is great. I’ve got one DeWit tool and I love it. I call it my “forky thing,” and I use it for a couple of different tasks. Cultivating the soil, for sure, but also to dig onions out when their roots want to hang on!

  3. I love this…perfect scoop to keep dirt in the scoop and that little cutter…perfection. Very cool Shawna!!

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