Why Skilled Stoneworkers Prefer Handmade Masonry Tools for Splitting, Shaping and Trimming Granite

Every successful home project by Swenson Granite Works is a true testament to the power of teamwork. From the contractors to the skilled stonemasons to the homeowners themselves, no one part of the process is less important than the other. To create these masterful home designs, we are proud to work with professionals who create high-quality products and demonstrate the kind of expertise that is only developed through years of hands-on experience in the industry.

Meet Trow and Holden: A team of Vermont-based craftspeople who have been handcrafting superior tools for stonemasons for over one hundred years. One of our most valued partners and a mainstay in the home and design industry, Trow and Holden have worked alongside our team at Swenson Granite Works for over 100 years as we create home projects that are beautiful today — and forever. Their team of dedicated artisans are committed to constantly honing their skills and improving their craft. At every Swenson Granite Works location you can find a curated selection of Trow and Holden stonemasonry tools that are always handmade in the USA.

A Trow and Holden lettering chisel is used to prepare a 9/11 Memorial in Beverly, Massachusetts for the bronze inlay.

Whether it’s their tools or their people, Trow and Holden is known for being one of the best in the trade. “We’re in the same place we’ve been forever – a 28,000 square-foot factory with 16 people. We’re pretty hands on. Everything is crafted by hand from steel that we buy and source domestically,” Norm Akley, President of Trow and Holden, said. “We make a considerable investment in training our employees and have a low turnover. They are a highly skilled labor base who are directly involved and hands on with just about everything we manufacture.”

Making an investment in the long-term isn’t something new to Trow and Holden. In fact, they are a brand that is intentional about creating a legacy and heritage that will last for the next hundred years, “We serial number all tools individually so we can track tools back forever, both in terms of what went in to make them, who made them, who bought them.” Akley said. “That’s very distinctive, we don’t know anyone else who does that. We’ve always considered that an obligation to customer service that we’ve pursued.”

Akley is proud of Trow and Holden’s dedication to providing excellent customer service. “The nice thing about having a 128-year-old company is that you have a really mature product line and it’s nice and predictable. The hard thing about it is coming up with new products,” Akley said. “But we do, and we’re constantly listening to our customers. That’s how we get most of our ideas. Customers will come to us saying they need tools to do something specific and that’s how we come up with our new tools. We get this information from shows we attend, and we also get people coming to us with ideas. Often it’s a lot of custom work. Many times when we create custom tools we’ll put a few on the shelf and see what happens.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge or to even let the inevitable progression of modern design and stonework scare them off from staying current, Akley is confident in Trow and Holden’s ability to not simply ‘keep up’, but to set trends in their industry. “The biggest trend in the last few years, which has been a major change, is the rise of natural thin veneer stone products and projects that use them. It has definitely changed our customer base quite a bit and our customers’ expectations for what they might need for products,” Akley said. “We’ve responded with some new products. We have a thin stone veneer set of professional tools that is specifically used to work with the veneer products and we’ve spent a lot of time educating people on what they can expect and not expect with this material.”

And as for the names of these forward-thinking stone cutting tools of the future,“We have a new item called a Bull Point, which is kind of arcane, but it’s a way to take off high spots and knots on stone,” Akley said. Trow and Holden’s Bull Point is their thoughtful and innovative solution to modern problems, “We came up with a simple tool that is effective with trimming stone and gives a lot more control over the thin stone splitting,” Akley said.

The Bull Point

The company’s president even gives a nod to Swenson Granite Works for helping them stay relevant and connected to their buyers. “We’ve worked with Swenson for a hundred years. I think Swenson is incredibly visionary in terms of the change in their product over the years,” Akley said. “We look at Swenson as our direct link with the customer. They are a distributor – we sell to them and they sell to the customer.”

As they continue to look ahead, Akley is thinking big for Trow and Holden, “We see a lot more resources for people to get into stonemasonry,” Akley said. “In the past, when people had a skill or an idea or specialty they would hide it from everyone else, but that’s not the case anymore.” He credits this rise in popularity to maintaining the artisan tradition. “Craftsmanship drives consumer demand for that product.” We couldn’t agree more.

Visit the Swenson Granite Works YouTube page to get a behind-the-scenes look at skilled stone artisans working at the manufacturing facility in Barre, Vermont.