BLAST FROM THE PAST POST — This post was created 6 years ago when I went to visit the Netherlands and met up with a wonderful team of blacksmiths at the Dewit Tool factory. I wanted to share it again with you because blacksmithing is an important part of gardening we rarely hear about, yet is essential to our gardens. Love the adventure too – I plan to have more. Happy day my friends!
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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).
~~~ HOW TO FORGE A DEWIT ‘SHAWNA TROWEL’ ~~~
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.
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.
You 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.
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!
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!