Hand crafted farm, forestry, and garden tools
Cart 0

Shelby Howland, Founder of Howland Tools

Over eight years ago, Shelby Howland quite his job in computer programming / maintenance, sold his motorcycle and bought two pigs. With the goals of living in a sustainable, self sufficient manner, he and a friend moved to Plainfield MA, where they set to work clearing land for planting and pastures. Given the rocky terrain hand tools were required, a necessity which suited Shelby’s nature just fine. He appreciated the quiet one finds in working with these tools, as well as the independence from the need for fuel. What he did not enjoy about them was the cheap quality of hand tools that he was finding at chain stores, tools which were poorly designed and easily broken.Shelby figured there must be other options out there. Hopefully it was still possible to find craftsmen made. quality hand tools. His research led him to such tools made in Europe, where the use of these implements has continued to be the most viable option for multiple generations of farmers; but these were not easy to find in the states. He joked with his father, Steven Howland, about starting an online store to make these tools easily accessible to people in the states. Steve liked the idea. He offered Shelby a deal - if Shelby did the research, set up accounts with the companies and came up with a marketing strategy, Steven would build the website. Both of them fulfilled their part of the deal and Howland Tools was forged!

Four years later and Shelby - who would much rather be out in the fields using a hoe, rather than selling one - will be the first to say he is surprised by the success they have had to date. Shelby makes no secret that he would love to teach customers - whenever possible - how to fix tools they already own, and how to maintain the edges on your scythe, hoes, shovels, etc. This aligns with his belief in sustainable, self sufficient living. However, when you find you do need a new spade, you plan to start a small market garden and could use the versatility offered by a wheel hoe, or perhaps you have developed a desire to replace your noisy weed wacker with the quiet and graceful swing of a scythe, then Shelby will encourage you to invest in a tool that will not only last you for years to come (even a lifetime, or over many generations), but one that is designed for you to accomplish your work with ease, comfort, efficiency as well as, of course, effectively. “If a tool does its job properly you'll enjoy doing your job.” Says Shelby from experience. 

Shelby made contact with many different craftsman produced tool companies from Europe and America: Falci hand tools from Italy, German made SHW GmbH line, Ashfield Tools from Ashfield MA; these are just a few of the premium quality farm and garden tool producers that Shelby chose to feature in the Howland Tools store. When asked about differences in quality he carries, he says that basically there are the A lines and then the A+ lines; the differences between them tending to be mostly cosmetic with some functional; Oiled versus non-oiled handles, strap sockets instead of simple sockets. Of course the different companies do vary in features such as handle design and thickness, blade designs, tempered or non-tempered steel etc. Shelby can go into great detail about these variances, (he’s developed quite a knowledge of metallurgy through his studies in blacksmithing) yet in terms of performance and durability, he has prioritized carrying companies whose products combine both. He keeps his eyes open for other high quality tool producers, adding new tools or product lines when possible. 

The need to clear brush for pasture on the land in Plainfield is what led he and his friend to purchase various scythe blades. Although he will humbly say he is no expert, as he talks it is easy to recognize he has a lot of knowledge and know how to share on the subject. Desiring to create his own snaths (the handle of a scythe), he experimented, and through trial and error learned a lot about customizing them to fit both oneself and the different blades used for different types of terrain. Of his initial scything experience Shelby recalls “we were bad at it, and we still could accomplish what we needed.” Since then he has continued to use and learn more about scythes and scything. He can speak of their versatility from first hand experience, describing how he was able to clear shrubby growth on a slope with such a steep pitch that he often found himself holding on to the ground with one hand to keep from sliding down. It’s hard to imagine using a weed wacker effectively with one hand, but the scythe did the job. The homeowner also expressed her appreciation that the job was accomplished quietly. 

Shelby has been teaching scything workshops to people at the NOFA conference, intentional communities, farms and to individuals. He likes to stress that while knowing how to use a scythe properly is important, so is maintaining the blade. His workshops emphasize both, and leave people with a good starting point to enter the community of scythers. 

Currently, Shelby works for a family owned tree service company out of Northampton, MA. In the future he would like to teach more workshops about proper tool use and maintenance, something Shelby enjoys, and an aspect of Howland Tools he’d like to expand. He’d also like to one day have his own shop and create his own custom made farm and garden tools. 

The rare hours of a week in which he is not working on trees or working his own or his families land, he can be found playing fiddle (an instrument his father introduced to him), with a Morris dance troupe.

Eight years ago, Shelby Howland quite his job in computer programming / maintenance, sold his motorcycle and bought two pigs. With the goals of living in a sustainable, self sufficient manner, he and a friend moved to Plainfield MA, where they set to work clearing land for planting and pastures. Given the rocky terrain hand tools were required, a necessity which suited Shelby’s nature just fine. He appreciated the quiet one finds in working with these tools, as well as the independence from the need for fuel. What he did not enjoy about them was the cheap quality of hand tools that he was finding at chain stores, tools which were poorly designed and easily broken.Shelby figured there must be other options out there. Hopefully it was still possible to find craftsmen made. quality hand tools. His research led him to such tools made in Europe, where the use of these implements has continued to be the most viable option for multiple generations of farmers; but these were not easy to find in the states. He joked with his father, Steven Howland, about starting an online store to make these tools easily accessible to people in the states. Steve liked the idea. He offered Shelby a deal - if Shelby did the research, set up accounts with the companies and came up with a marketing strategy, Steven would build the website. Both of them fulfilled their part of the deal and Howland Tools was forged!

Four years later and Shelby - who would much rather be out in the fields using a hoe, rather than selling one - will be the first to say he is surprised by the success they have had to date. Shelby makes no secret that he would love to teach customers - whenever possible - how to fix tools they already own, and how to maintain the edges on your scythe, hoes, shovels, etc. This aligns with his belief in sustainable, self sufficient living. However, when you find you do need a new spade, you plan to start a small market garden and could use the versatility offered by a wheel hoe, or perhaps you have developed a desire to replace your noisy weed wacker with the quiet and graceful swing of a scythe, then Shelby will encourage you to invest in a tool that will not only last you for years to come (even a lifetime, or over many generations), but one that is designed for you to accomplish your work with ease, comfort, efficiency as well as, of course, effectively. “If a tool does its job properly you'll enjoy doing your job.” Says Shelby from experience. 

Shelby made contact with many different craftsman produced tool companies from Europe and America: Falci hand tools from Italy, German made SHW GmbH line, Ashfield Tools from Ashfield MA; these are just a few of the premium quality farm and garden tool producers that Shelby chose to feature in the Howland Tools store. When asked about differences in quality he carries, he says that basically there are the A lines and then the A+ lines; the differences between them tending to be mostly cosmetic with some functional; Oiled versus non-oiled handles, strap sockets instead of simple sockets. Of course the different companies do vary in features such as handle design and thickness, blade designs, tempered or non-tempered steel etc. Shelby can go into great detail about these variances, (he’s developed quite a knowledge of metallurgy through his studies in blacksmithing) yet in terms of performance and durability, he has prioritized carrying companies whose products combine both. He keeps his eyes open for other high quality tool producers, adding new tools or product lines when possible. 

The need to clear brush for pasture on the land in Plainfield is what led he and his friend to purchase various scythe blades. Although he will humbly say he is no expert, as he talks it is easy to recognize he has a lot of knowledge and know how to share on the subject. Desiring to create his own snaths (the handle of a scythe), he experimented, and through trial and error learned a lot about customizing them to fit both oneself and the different blades used for different types of terrain. Of his initial scything experience Shelby recalls “we were bad at it, and we still could accomplish what we needed.” Since then he has continued to use and learn more about scythes and scything. He can speak of their versatility from first hand experience, describing how he was able to clear shrubby growth on a slope with such a steep pitch that he often found himself holding on to the ground with one hand to keep from sliding down. It’s hard to imagine using a weed wacker effectively with one hand, but the scythe did the job. The homeowner also expressed her appreciation that the job was accomplished quietly. 

Shelby has been teaching scything workshops to people at the NOFA conference, intentional communities, farms and to individuals. He likes to stress that while knowing how to use a scythe properly is important, so is maintaining the blade. His workshops emphasize both, and leave people with a good starting point to enter the community of scythers. 

Currently, Shelby works for a family owned tree service company out of Northampton, MA. In the future he would like to teach more workshops about proper tool use and maintenance, something Shelby enjoys, and an aspect of Howland Tools he’d like to expand. He’d also like to one day have his own shop and create his own custom made farm and garden tools. 

The rare hours of a week in which he is not working on trees or working his own or his families land, he can be found playing fiddle (an instrument his father introduced to him), with a Morris dance troupe.



Newer Post