Yesterday was so lovely, and today is so awful. It is no exaggeration when I tell you that it has rained, snowed and sleeted off and on the entire day up until now. There has been a quite strong northwestern wind roaring and whistling throughout, making this day one of the most unpleasant of the past month. It is a good time to do a bit of chatting on here. Yesterday the weather was sunny and cold...with my old friend, the northwestern wind, whipping the branches and grass continuously. It was sunny, and I wanted to get outside. There are a few things blooming here at the moment, and wonder above wonders-- there are bees on the wing. Here are some Galanthus nivalis with a bee on it. I could not capture it on film, but there were loads of bees all over the blooming flowers. This is great news. There are also some Eranthus hyemalis blooming and the honeybees have found them as well. ...Right then, so much for the chit-chat, now to get on with object of this posting: A trip to a hand-made toolmaker here. I recall mentioning that I wanted to go and visit a couple of years ago, but the appointments never made it through. Sometimes they were too busy, and sometimes I was. Now however, the family owned toolmaker has been in business for 100 years. It has gone from a small, locally owned business to a small, locally owned local business that exports internationally. This milestone having been reached, they applied for Royal recognition and the right to be called, " hofleverancier ", or purveyer to the Royal household. Accompanying this honour is the right to display the Royal coat of arms of our country. This is a great honour for the little company and we here in West-Friesland share a tiny bit of the pride along with the Sneeboer firm. Their "factory" is just up the road from us in the village of Bovenkarspel. If you want to see their website and look at the tools, visit this link: http://www.sneeboer.com/ In the upper left hand corner of the homepage you have the choice of "English" or "Netherlands" (Dutch). Anyway, these guys were having an open day for the general public, after a few days of other celebrations...so, I thought--this is my chance. We hopped in the auto and drove to Bovenkarspel, it took 18 minutes. It was cold and drizzling ice-rain and so we thought that there wouldn't be many visitors....WRONNNNG! Gad, there were so many folks that they had to take us through in small groups. The groups moved through continuously until 16.30, the closing time. It made it a little difficult to ask many questions and taking foto's was a challenge because one had his elbows and shoulders frequently jostled. Never mind--the tour begins. This wall displays all the dies of the various metal parts needed to assemble their tools. They told us that they have another set stored safely away, should something happen to these examples. There are more than 200 dies that they make here, they said The first demonstration that they had was where they cut the steel. This is now done with the use of a computer and a laser. The metal plate is placed under a very shallow layer of water to keep the heat down and the form is selected and the begin button pushed. The laser moves in the pre-designed pattern, cutting the forms that one wants. Next, the die is pounded out here, the old-fashioned way. Some tools, like spades for instance, have three parts-- the blade and the fitting. These two are welded together to form one piece that will be fitted with a handle. Here you see different die sorts that will become the fitting portion of the spade. They are hand-fitted into place. The forming head drops down... ....and presses the steel form into the desired shape. This is the old machine (made in the 1950's, I believe) ...and this is a stack of the shaped parts, the name already stamped in. Now we move over to the area where the three pieces (spade blade and fitting) are joined together. The parts are welded together either by the conventional method or with a laser. A laser weld looks pretty flash with its peacock hues; however, this has to be ground off, giving a nice, smooth finished appearance. The spade moves on to the area where the handle is pressed into the form. Here one can see the empty handles waiting to be joined. The handles looked interesting, stored tightly beside each other. The heads are stored near-by. The man showed us how he fits the handle into the neck of the metal tool head, using glue. In some tools, he also further secures it with a screw or rivet. He demonstrated on an edging tool and it looked as if he only fitted the wooden handle into the metal cuff and I did not understand that they used screws or the like for this. Orders are also filled in this area. Upstairs one could see the tools displayed on the wall. There is also a "Ladies Line" now for women gardeners. I wonder if this came into existence because of British requests. Well, it was such an interesting day. I quite enjoyed seeing how these mostly handmade tools were made and assembled for the market. Visitors could also have their names burnt into the handle with a laser that they used to burn their logos with. Of course, I had to do that as well. It didn't end there, I had my schoffel (push hoe) along to let then adjust the angle of the blade. They not only did that, but also sharpened the tool as well. I thanked the chap and he asked if I had other Sneeboer tools and I said, "a couple, but that they are way too expensive to get all my tools there". He said, "Expensive? It's not just a tool, y'know...it's an erfstuk (heirloom).