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April 30, 2004 8:30 AM CDT

No Stranger to Stone


Trow and Holden Co.'s manufacturing plant lies on the banks of Barre, Vermont's Winooski River, which once powered the machinery in the century-old brick building. Founded in 1861 as the Stafford and Holden Fork Works, the company initially manufactured agricultural implements, such as hay rakes, shovels and pitch forks. As the Barre granite industry grew famous and prospered in the late 1800s, William Holden, eldest son of founder Clark Holden, invented and patented the original handheld pneumatic carving tool, used throughout the world for carving the finest monumental, sculptural and architectural stone work.

Renamed to Trow and Holden Co. in 1890, the company has continued to work side-by-side with the highly skilled persons who use these tools, refining their design, improving materials and processes, and exploring new applications. From forging and forming, to heat treat and finish grinding, all products are made in Trow and Holden's factory.

"We are proud that all of our tools are made on the same site in Barre, Vt., where they have been manufactured for 115 years," says Norm Akley, President and fifth-generation Owner of Trow and Holden Co. "Our employees all complete a four-year apprenticeship in tool making ? we like to say that our tools are made by artisans for artisans."

Besides pneumatic tools and chisels for stonecarving, Trow and Holden also manufactures a wide variety of carbide-tipped hand tools and hammers used by stonemasons throughout the world. The company was among the very first to successfully use tungsten carbide tips on hand tool and hammer blades. Tungsten carbide is a man-made material comprised of various metal powders, which are formed-to-shape under great pressure then heat-treated.

"Some of the original impact-grades of carbide were developed to our specifications back in the 1940s," says Akley. "Our customers were working in Barre Grey Granite, some of the hardest stone in the world, and they needed the reliability and cost-effective performance that only the best carbide grades can offer." Since then, Trow and Holden Co. has continued to be at the forefront in carbide material development and uses only virgin powder, U.S. manufactured carbide in all of their products.

Trow and Holden Co. is proud to offer the highest quality and widest variety of stonecutting tools available anywhere. "Our long tradition of working closely with our customers is instrumental in keeping us innovative. The best designs come from the users of our tools," says Akley. "Because we make everything right here, we can respond quickly to a customer's particular need. It's not unusual for a tool we custom-fabricated to end up in our next catalog."

Whether it's stone-cutting hammers, carbide hand chisels or precision pneumatic carving tools, Trow and Holden Co. will strive to continue to lead the industry in design and materials innovation.

"Our roots are in granite country," says Akley. "Believe me, we know hard stone."

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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