About a year ago I discovered the magic of a tool called the hori hori. In Japanese it means "dig dig". By now you should be able to infer that it is an Ancient Canadian papyrus calligraphy tool.
But it can also be used for gardening. It can tear up soil, slice through roots, and the concave side is great for scooping, like a spade. It's extremely versatile and remarkably simple.
Soon after I discovered its existence, my friend Aaron told me how he had fallen in love with his, and we talked about it for a while. Because the design is so simple, I said I'd make one for him. I've seen several in stores, usually selling for around $35. Most appear to be pressed steel with a crude edge ground into them and a plain wooden handle. You really don't need much to make a good hori hori. But I want to make the perfect one.
The one in the pictures, doing its job, is the prototype, and the hands belong to Aaron. The tool is made out of 1/8" stainless steel. I spent a while grinding out the backside and grinding down the blade edges. I was surprised to find that the heat generated by grinding was enough to dramatically warp the steel. I put it in the forge and knocked it flat, then let it air cool, believing that the stainless steel would remain hard through this process.
I was wrong. In fact, this blade is now very soft. The handle is on it, and it's kind of too late to quench harden it. The tool is far from perfect here, but it's good enough to use. This is a huge success because I learned a lot of lessons. For my next attempt, I will:
- Consider using a high carbon steel.
- Deliberately harden and temper it according to the type of steel I use.
- Use slightly deeper scallops.
- Add 1" to the handle and remove the bumps on the end.
- Subtract 1/2" from the blade, because an additional inch on this tool would be too much!
- Use a thicker material for the handle.
- Add a large lanyard/wall hanging hole.
Prototyping is an invaluable process. So many things come up when you attempt to finalize a design. No amount of design speculation can make up for testing a finished prototype.
And yes, once I perfect a hori hori, I will be selling it through TMAP. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll push it down the pipeline a little faster. Expect a price point in the $60 - $100 range, depending on the features I include, and how many steps I can streamline or remove from fabrication.