One Good Tool Deserves Another
Wisconsin inventor of the CobraHead Weeder keeps the garden tools coming
Noel Valdes never intended to become an inventor and a business entrepreneur. Two decades ago, he was working as a salesman and manufacturer’s representative in the architectural glass industry. When he wasn’t out selling glass, chances were you could find him working in his Wisconsin garden.
“I was working with the old cultivator hoe when a tine loosened and fell off,” said Valdes. “So I started digging in the dirt with the single tine, and I realized it might make a handy weeder. I found another old cultivator and used a blade from that tool which I bent to a better angle for use on a short-handle tool. I mounted the blade into a wooden hammer handle and used it for the rest of the gardening season. It quickly became my favorite hand tool.”
To compare his new hand weeder against the other garden tools on the market, Valdes bought every available weeder and tested them side by side. “I was convinced that the antique blade design of my new tool was better and more efficient than any of the newer tools,” said Valdes.
It turned out that Valdes’ homemade tool really did outperform the other weeders and digging tools available.
Inventor becomes entrepreneur
That’s when Valdes the inventor became Valdes the entrepreneur. He started a company to manufacture and sell his new tool. He envisioned a made-in-America tool that could be produced in his home state of Wisconsin. Valdes called his tool the CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator, in honor of the shape of the single digging tine. (It really did resemble the shape of a cobra’s head.) Production was sourced to local Wisconsin manufacturers, and the first run of the new CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator in 2002 started the company on its way.
Today, the original CobraHead Weeder is still proudly made in America. The wooden handle of the prototype has been upgraded to an environmentally friendly 100% post-industrial recycled polypropylene handle that is strengthened with organic fiber. The ergonomically comfortable handle is molded around the blade to ensure it can never, ever work loose. But the working end of the tool—the steel forged CobraHead® blade—hasn’t changed.
The strong, sharp, tempered blade cuts through and breaks up all soils, even the toughest clay, and it makes short work of cleaning weed-choked gardens.
“We call the CobraHead® ‘the best tool in earth®’, and we really believe it,” said Valdes. “We have testimonials and rave reviews from gardeners and garden writers throughout the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. There’s a real satisfaction in creating a tool that so many gardeners love to use.”
After the success of the original CobraHead® Weeder, older gardeners started requesting a long-handled version of the tool that would enable them to weed and cultivate their gardens while standing up. Today, the CobraHead® Long Handle, which features a tough wooden handle made of Carolina Ash, is also a best seller. Older gardeners and those with difficulty kneeling find it a particularly enabling garden tool.
The CobraHead “mini” is born
But gardeners kept pestering Valdes to make another new tool. They wanted a smaller version of the original CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator. “Often women would say they wanted a smaller handle. They also wanted a smaller tool that would fit into a pocket or a carrying belt.”
After years of similar requests, Valdes began working on the CobraHead® “mini” Weeder. He designed a smaller blade, and created a prototype with a wooden file handle that he bought at a hardware store. He loved the new, smaller tool—and so did everyone else who got their hands on it. So Valdes fine-tuned the design for the narrower steel blade, and created an easy-to-hold handle made of the same blend of recycled polypropylene and wood fiber as the best-selling CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator.
The CobraHead® “mini” Weeder was introduced in 2017, and it became an instant hit. Gardeners loved the smaller size, and they bought the new tool even though they already owned an Original CobraHead® Weeder.
“Just about everybody who tries it likes the new smaller CobraHead a lot, and it is now my preferred weeding tool,” admits Valdes. “I still need the Original CobraHead® for planting and when I have to move soil, but the “mini” is now my day-in, day-out weeder. I guess all of my customers were right.”
The new CobraHead® “mini” Weeder sells for $21.95. The Original CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator hand tool sells for $24.95, and the CobraHead® Long Handle is $59.95. Or choose a package deal for two or three different CobraHead tools at www.cobrahead.com. CobraHead tools can also be found in fine garden catalogs and garden centers.