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Titanium Pottery Trowel for your SUL gear list
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Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Titanium Potty Trowel for your SUL gear list on 03/12/2006 16:25:29 MST Print View

Titanium Pottery Trowel for your SUL gear list. (This has been hidden in another thread since 07/30/2005.)

I was looking at the mont-bell web site and found what they call a "Handy Scoop" this trowel is SS, weighs 1.4oz and is 6.25" long.

How many SUL backpackers or even Light-backpackers really carry a trowel ??????

I am making a Titanium Trowel more or less the same shape and size as the mont-bell Handy Scoop.

I have the blank cut and ready to shape into a trowel. It will weigh 0.32oz. I should finish it this afternoon.

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I finished my SUL Ti Trowel. It is 0.32oz. I creased the handle and just a little of the spoon area. This makes the Titanium Trowel very ridged and should work well in all but the hardest soil.

The last picture shows what I did use for a trowel before I made the Ti Trowel. The tent stake weighed 1.15oz. Heavy next to the Ti Trowel.

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Jim Colten asks:
Q - 1) what gauge/thickness Ti stock did you use?

A - 1) I use 0.016inch - 6A14V -This is military grade titanium sheet and is extremely strong. It combines a high strength to weight ratio with corrosion and heat resistance. I buy it from The piece for the Ti Trowel is some scrape from my Ti External Pack Frame. Link

Q - 2) What did you use to cut and drill the Ti?

A - 2) I cut the Ti to shape with a pair of WISS Tin Snips. These work really well for Titanium. I Punch my holes with a "Hand Punch". This is also easier than drilling in Titanium. You can drill Ti but where the punch will work it is easier to use. The forming is done by what I call my primitive "'blacksmith" skills. Heat and pound. File and sand, a lot.

You can tell by the picture that it really takes a lot of very sophisticated tools and a large workshop (kitchen table) to to make some of your own gear. Image hosted by

Edited by bfornshell on 09/16/2006 10:32:32 MDT.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Trowel on 03/12/2006 17:37:55 MST Print View

Hey Bill-
That's a great design! We have the same Whitney knock-off punch. Does it punch through titanium easily? I've found that it's great for aluminum but with steel, it leaves a hole with a tag. I was just wondering if it does the same with titanium.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Titanium Pottery Trowel on 03/12/2006 18:37:54 MST Print View

Hi Jason,

I just copied the Montbell trowel. I called them one night to buy one and they were out of stock. I looked in my Ti scrape box and found the piece in the picture. Just made one like MontBells. Mine is a lot lighter.

The Punch works great on my Titanium but remember it is only .016" thick. I use the punch all the time with aluminum and the Ti. Never tried it with steel. Titanium is hard to drill so I use the punch to make bigger holes by punching lots of smaller holes. Then I file out what ever is left over. I file and sand the Titanium items a lot to get rid of the sharpe edges.

Edited by bfornshell on 01/08/2007 04:52:48 MST.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Re: Titanium Pottery Trowel on 03/12/2006 19:06:37 MST Print View

Bill, would your trowel double as a stake?

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: Titanium Pottery Trowel on 03/12/2006 19:42:52 MST Print View

I've never worked with titanium. I'm looking for a source now. I think the only reason my punch left burrs in the steel is because it's an el cheapo and not as well machined as the realy Whitney punch. I've noticed it's already loosend up since I bought it.

P.S. Have you ever tried to make stakes out of that titanium?

Edited by jasonklass on 03/12/2006 19:43:52 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Ti Pottery Trowel/Tent-Tarp Stake-Yes on 03/12/2006 20:48:49 MST Print View

Hi Tim-Jason, I just pounded my Ti Trowel 4" into my very dry South Texas backyard. Yes, the trowel could be used as a tarp/tent stake.

Jay Ham
(jham) - F - M

Locale: Southwest
titanium stakes on 03/13/2006 05:37:16 MST Print View

I've made these; just your every day skewer stakes out of titanium rod. Not a hard project, but takes lots-o-muscle to get the bends right. I cut mine witth a dremel and cut off wheel. Made the points with a dremel sanding wheel. And I made the bends using a couple of box wrenches, channel locks, and a vise.


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Titanium stakes on 03/13/2006 08:00:32 MST Print View

If you can find titanium rod in a useful thickness, titanium stakes are an easy project. As Jay Hamm says, 'all you need is a dremmel tool and muscle.'

The problem is finding the right gauge. BPL's tit rod (1/16") is too small and the 1/8" rod from from Online Metals is too thick. What you need is about 3/32" or about 0.0935 - which is about coat-hanger size. If you find any that size, let me know.

BTW, coathangers make superior tent stakes if bent into a 'U' with unequal legs. I make them with 7" and 5" legs and they weigh the same as my 9" titanium stakes. The 'U' stakes have more useful length than the usual titanium 'crooked-neck' design, and they have more holding power in questionable soil. They are still easy to insert by hand. Titanium is both stiffer and lighter than the cheap, low carbon steel of coat hangers, and would be ideal for 'U' stakes in the right gauge.

I have tried using BPL's 1/16" rod for 'U' stakes, and find it to be right at the ragged edge of practicality. Too thin. I have gone back to the coathanger stakes.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: Ti Pottery Trowel/Tent-Tarp Stake-Yes on 03/17/2006 18:47:04 MST Print View

Hi Bill-
Well, I cut out my blank from the titanium sheet for my trowel. A couple of questions-
1. I can't get my Whitney punch to go through the titanium. Man, that's tough stuff! You mentioned above that you punch a small hole and file it. Have you tried drilling it? I have a friend that has a drill press so I'm thinking that might be better than risking damaging my metal punch.

2. Is a blow torch necessary to bend the metal? I first tried to contour the sheet (before cutting the blank) but founf that titanium is a lot more springy than I thought. Is there any other "low tech" way to bend the metal to shape? Do you use anything to form the shape around?

Thanks for sharing such a great idea. I'm sure my trowel will come out looking like crap (which I suppose is appropriate!) but at least it will be lighter than my Mont Bell.

Edited by jasonklass on 03/17/2006 19:02:32 MST.

Performance of Trowel on 04/06/2006 20:18:05 MDT Print View

This is a good idea. How well does the Titanium trowel perform vs the ole orange conventional trowel? Can it get down 6"?

Just curious too about how well one of those blizzard stake perform.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Inspiration on 04/08/2006 18:48:18 MDT Print View

Bill, I want to thank you so much for posting this idea. It inspired me to make my own. Here are the results:

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Titanium Potty Trowel on 04/08/2006 20:36:40 MDT Print View

You did a real nice job on your trowel

The titanium does take a little time to finish up but I think the weight savings is worth it. We also are not really talking about that muct time.

I use the metal edge of an old band saw table to get a sharper angle on my Ti. I go for a 90 degree angle and clamp the flat sheet over the edge of the metal table top of the old band saw. I got the band saw free when the person who owned it burned up the motor. It was cheaper to buy a new band saw than to replace the motor.

My Harbor Freight punch works well punching holes in my Thru-Hiker Titanium. Drilling is not easy with the Titanium.

Cutting the Ti with the tin snips should get easier the more you do it. I can get real close to my line most of the time and that has reduced the time I spent filing. None of it is fast however.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Trowel on 04/08/2006 21:19:47 MDT Print View

Thanks again Bill. So you made more of a "V" shape in yours rather than a rounded shape? Do you think that increases the rigidity? I can torque mine if I wiggle it from side to side but I can't bend it against the curve (which is where most of the pressure would be applied anyway when digging). Can you torque yours at all?

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Titanium Potty Trowel on 04/08/2006 21:45:30 MDT Print View

Hi Jason,
Yes, I have a deeper "V" shape. This makes it more ridge and very strong. I can flex it a little. I could bend it at the "V" if I tried hard enough but in normal use I don't think so. If the ground was that hard I would have to find a softer spot.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: Titanium Potty Trowel on 04/08/2006 22:17:20 MDT Print View

Ahh, thanks for confirming that. I've gotten some comments from people that it wouldn't be able to cut through roots and that seemed a little contradictory to the whole LNT philosophy anyway. I think it will be fine for the type of ground I face here in most of Colorado. Again, thanks for your idea. While I'm not a big fan of working with titanium, I'm just curious; any new projects in the works? Spoon? Stakes? Etc.?

Edited by jasonklass on 04/08/2006 22:17:56 MDT.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Titanium Potty Trowel and stuff on 04/08/2006 23:22:50 MDT Print View

Hi Jason
Have you ever seen my long handle Ti Spoon?
Or my Ti / Carbon Fiber External Frame?

These are hiding here somewhere. There is also a lot of other really good stuff from others hiding on past threads. All the questions being asked about beer can pots and lip gaurds have been answered before. That is the good news, the bad news is that unless you look at all or most of the old threads they are about impossible to find.

Then there is a lot of other good stuff that gets posted in the "off topic" sort of category. That is also really hard to find later as it is hard to remember what thread it was posted with.

I just got a new piece of Ti that is 14" by 22" and most of it might go into my new pack frame unless I decide to use sheet Carbon Fiber. The Carbon Fiber sheet is much lighter but it is a new material for me to work with.

Anyway new stuff out of Titanium:
-Snow anchors
-New Wood Stove
-Other stove parts
-Parts for my new pack

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Titanium stuff on 04/09/2006 00:23:05 MDT Print View

I think I've seen the pack frame and long-handled spoon but not the other stuff. Lemme see, lemme see! Do you see what you've reduced me to? Now I'm a titanium junkie all thanks to you. Anyway, I'd like to see pics of the other stuff; especially the snow stakes.

P.S. are you able to edit the title of your original thread from "pottery trowel" to "potty trowel"? That would make it easier for future generations to search.

Edited by jasonklass on 04/09/2006 00:27:04 MDT.

Curtis Ware
(ware_curtis) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Trowel Pattern on 10/11/2006 15:02:11 MDT Print View

Can you scan the trowel pattern and post it?

I have access to Titanium and would like to make one without having to buy a Montbell trowel first.


Can't wait to hear about your sub 2lb trip

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Titanium Trowel on 10/11/2006 15:42:24 MDT Print View

I bought a Montbell Handy Scoop a year or so ago and have been very happy with it. At 1.4 oz, it is the lightest and most durable commercial trowel I know of. I always wished they had made it out of titanium rather than stainless steel. I asked at the Montbell store in Boulder if they were aware of any plans to do just that, and they did not know of any. A little while later Bill started this thread. Thanks Bill, for the inspiration! Here is my attempt to do the same.

I ordered a 5.5" x 7.5" sheet of 0.016 inch 6Al4V titanium from Thru-Hiker. If you call Ayce he can provide just about any size you need as long as it's a multiple of the size shown on the website. Talking with Ayce was a pleasure and quite helpful.

I cut a piece of titanium 2" x 7.5" using tin snips. Both Bill and Ayce recommend this and it was surprisingly easy to do.

Bill talked about the difficulty of bending the titanium and having to use a torch and hammer. As a result, I used a different approach that I think worked very well. I used hose clamps to bend the titanium around a piece of pipe. The picture below shows my first attempt at this using a 1" piece of steel pipe and a torch. This worked fine but the torch did not heat the titanium evenly and left marks. On my final try I used a piece of half inch PVC pipe and no torch, and this worked great. The curve was the same as the curve in the Montbell trowel. This approach does have two drawbacks; the cost of the clamps and the edge of the titanium is left a little scalloped in the process.

Bending titanium around a pipe using hose clamps.

The next picture shows the trowel/snow stake that resulted after cutting the curved titanium with tin snips and working the edges with a file and some sand paper. The holes were easily drilled with a cobalt bit. You can see the scalloping of the edges in this picture.
Snow stake/trowel

The final picture shows four objects from left to right. A piece of sand paper glued to a piece of PVC that was helpful in finishing the curved edges of the trowel. The Montbell Handy Scoop. A piece of engineering paper that was used as a guide. The finished titanium trowel.

Trowels etc.

The snow stake/trowel weighs 20 grams (0.7 oz). The trowel weighs 10 grams (0.35 oz). I will probably carry the trowel because it weighs less and is still useful as a stake. The curved titanium is just strong enough for its purpose. I would not use weaker or thinner titanium or bend it less than I did. I also made the handle on my trowel wider than the handle on the Handy Scoop because it fits my hand well and is stronger. Thanks again to all the previous posters.

Edited by ericnoble on 10/11/2006 16:25:06 MDT.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: titanium trowel / shovel on 10/11/2006 18:09:58 MDT Print View

A Ti "large grain shovel, handle not included" is for sale for $39.95 at Does anyone know how to build, buy or steal a handle that would go with the blade?