What if you could go to a blacksmith and forge garden tools by hand? Specifically order up a tool designed to your specifications, and then help make it yourself? Guess what? I DID THAT! ::jumping up and down with excitement::
The Blacksmithing Adventure
I traveled to the Netherlands to visit the Floriade and lecture. Sietse DeWit, CEO from Dewit Tools, invited me to his blacksmithing factory in Kornhorn, Netherlands. While there experienced what it would be like to forge my a garden tool for my own garden.
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. I wanted it to have 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.
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How to Forge a Garden Trowel
I was surprised that each step in the forging process involved such attention to detail. 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. This post shares my experience of the process for making this special tool. Watch the video to see what it was like to be there.
How to Build a Prototype Garden Trowel at the Blacksmith Factory
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).
Designing the tool starts at the computer. A machine cuts the design from heavy metal into the scoop trowel shapes (below). The trowel is flat at this stage.
Welding the Handles On a Garden Trowel
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. 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.
Forging a Seam on a Heated Metal Piece
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.
After reinforcing, we take the metal and forge it into a curve shape. The blade is red-hot from the fire, so we place it in a special mold. Once in a mold, we squish it into shape, remove, then cool in water. Below you see me removing the tool and cooling it in the water.
Forge Garden Tools by Hand Back and Forth as a Process
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. He shapes the handle (see above photos). The tool has to be heated again. Then the tool is put to a delicate hammer. It is gently moved into shape. After more shaping, the blacksmith sharpens the end of the tool (below). Finally, the wooden portion of the handle is positioned. Afterwards it is 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 how to forge garden tools by hand. 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!