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About us

Simon Grant-Jones, Blacksmith and specialist toolmaker

Working from a small forge studio in the picturesque village of Sutton Poyntz, near to Weymouth, in Dorset, Simon Grant-Jones specialises in hand-crafted tools for specialist craftsmen and women. A time served Blacksmith, a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, twice reserve National Champion Blacksmith and National Champion Blacksmith for 2010 and 2012, he has found a niche market that is becoming increasingly popular as more demand is made on specialist trades for a quality product produced in the time honoured way. A quality product that says so much about the skill, expertise and devotion needed by conscientious Craftspeople whose work was once so important to the local and national economies. Sadly, the specialist tools needed by Thatchers, Wheelwrights, Coppice craftsmen, and many other trades, can no longer simply be bought from a supplier. They have to be commissioned from toolmakers like Simon.
The work that was once carried out on a small scale in the Village forge was swallowed up by large companies of edge tool makers operating from the Cities, employing hundreds of workers and virtually making the individual local toolmaker redundant. Blacksmiths had to diversify to maintain a living and this is where we see the birth of new industries such as motor mechanic, scrap metal dealer and agricultural engineer.
When the farming and mining industries became more heavily mechanised in the 1950's and 60's, the need for hand tools decreased putting many of the larger and well known toolmakers into receivership. Others like Spear and Jackson and Tyzack, still survive to this day, although the range of tooling produced is
smaller than in the boom times.

This has consequently meant a disaster for trades, such as the Thatching industry, that were reliant on the products that were conceived and developed in the Blacksmiths forge. This disaster has only recently been realised by the apparent lack of suitable replacement tools being available. Many thatchers are using edge tools such as shear hooks, sparhooks and eaves knives that were purveyed in the times when tools were hand made, and are now, after constant use, coming to the end of their working life.

The picture to the left shows a shearhook after many decades of use,
and a new hand-forged replacement

We are beginning to see knives made from old wood saws and petrol hedge cutters being used to trim ridges, and although these might do the job, we must ask ourselves, when does a traditional craft lose its image as one of great skill and training to one of rough workmanship and unskilled labour.

Being a minority group, traditional craftsmen have to work extremely hard to maintain the high standards that have come to be expected from a reputation built up, sometimes over centuries, by successive masters of their craft. And this means using the correct tools for the job.

"All of our thatching tools have been developed in consultation with local master thatchers and the designs are tried and tested over several years with many satisfied customers"

Typically of the traditional crafts that still survive in Dorset, there is Simon Grant-Jones a link to the past that is as genuine and true to history that modern times will allow. The commissions that Simon receives vary widely, with the bulk of his work being made up of the manufacture of special tools for traditional craftsmen and Women to enable them to maintain a traditional way of working. Everyone is now beginning to realise that modern is not necessarily better and Simon tries to work as closely as possible to the original methods to produce tooling that will last a lifetime and probably more
Thatching tools are a speciality and the shear hooks in particular were painstakingly researched and developed over a number of years in order to get the correct "set" on the blade to enable it to cut correctly and to be comfortable to work with. Blades are hand-forged from a medium carbon tool steel and hardened and tempered in the fire using traditional methods. All finished blades are given Simon's own personal stamp and fitted with either a proprietary standard handle, or a hand-made handle from a local native hardwood such as Ash or Oak. The only modern touch is to thread the end of the tang and secure the handle with a nut to allow it to be easily changed or repaired without having to re-forge the tang.
All blades start from a flat bar about 30mm wide by 5mm thick and are then forged out to the correct width and thickness for whatever type of blade that they will become. The tang is forged and the blade, in the case of shearhooks, bent to the correct shape and cutting angle. The blades are rough ground and then hardened and tempered to hold a cutting edge. The tang is then gently warmed to allow it to burn its way through a pre-drilled hole in the handle. This is particularly important for sparhooks to ensure that the handle does not twist when splitting the gads ( lengths of hazel that will be split to become spars). The blade is then finish ground and oiled. Tools are not mass produced or machine finished, but individually hand-wrought and finished at the forge. Due to the personal relationship that most craftsmen have with their tools, Simon will also copy existing tooling to get as close a copy as possible, although allowances must be made for the original sizes of blades before the years of sharpening had reduced them to their present size.
The photographs on the home page show a range of tools that can be supplied. Tools can be posted nationwide and due to the demand there is normally a wait of Three to six weeks until completion. To order, or for more details see the contact page

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