When people think of brush axes or billhooks in the modern day, they probably envision wild adventures that involve cutting through thick vines on their way to uncover hidden treasures in the Mayan ruins. Billhooks, like machetes, are of man’s oldest tools as they were used in medieval times.
These tools are now designed for all kinds of cutting, and are the perfect addition to a survivalist’s kit. There are different kinds of billhooks ranging from the double edge to the Yorkshire type. You can use these brush axes in agriculture to cut small woody material like branches and shrubs. If you want a model that can perform a variety of tasks, you’ll probably want at least one of these 7 best brush axe billhooks.
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The Best Brush Axe
What’s the Best Brush Axe?
A top-tier brush axe has several features that set it apart. For one, this tool has a firm, and sturdy handle. The handle of most billhook machetes is made from a quality type of wood for durability. The handle is also of great length. A billhook long handle is suitable for taller users. Two, such a medieval weapon is fitted with a large enough and sharp cutting edge.
Shop for the best Brush Axe on the market today:
1. Billhook Unique with Long Wood Handle
If you’re looking for a billhook with an exceptionally long handle, this model by Forgecraft USA is a great choice. It’s constructed using Bomb Shell steel, a type of steel that’s known for its razor-sharpness.
This makes the tool perfect for cutting thicker timber and woody. Or, you could use it to cut through thorny thickets so as to clear a pathway.
The blade is 11-inches long and the handle 42-inches long, for a total length of 53”. The width of the blade is 2-3/4”, giving you a large-enough cutting surface area to work with.
2. Professional Billhook Machete
Hedge tools are not only used in gardening but also in outdoor excursions. If you’re planning a camping trip, you’ll need this Professional Billhook for survival. With this piece of equipment, you’ll be able to clear trails with great ease.
The machete has a well-balanced handle that extends to 8.5cm. The blade is fabricated from high-carbon steel, which is resistant to cracking and chipping. There’s also an incredibly sharp sickle hook, designed to cut up to 3 inches in diameter.
3. Bill Hook-Machete
Like our top pick, the Hook-Machete is also made by Forgetcraft USA. Therefore, it has fairly similar features such as Bomb Shell steel used in its construction.
However, this hedge tool differs in length. Although the blade has the same length of 11” and width of 2-3/4”, the overall length of the machete is just 22”. This makes it easier to handle, especially when using it as a pruning hook.
4. Knights of Armur Sickle Machete Knife
Looking for a hedge bill that has an extra-long blade? Look no further than the Knights of Armur Machete Knife that comes fitted with a 12-inch heavy gauge blade. In addition to its length, this blade is made of high tensile manganese carbon steel- a premium material.
Boasting a total length of 20 inches, the machete knife can be used for clearing bushes, felling small trees and stripping logs.
5. Opinel N°10 Billhook Folding Knife
If you’re looking for a brush axe to add to your collection of farm tools, the Opinel Folding Knife is the perfect addition. There are several features that make this tool stand out.
For one, the blade is made using Sandvik stainless steel. This is a special type of steel material that’s resistant to corrosion. Thanks to the incorporation of chrome, the blade won’t need any additional maintenance.
Furthermore, the blade is 10 cm long and is beveled on both sides. The Opinel bush hook is also equipped with a safety ring. The Virobloc ring is added to lock the blade open, hence providing safety during use; and to lock the blade closed so as to provide safety during transport or storage.
6. Mean Green Zombie Killer Apocalypse Bill Hook
Even on a shoestring budget, you can get a polished brush axe like Mean Green Rugged Machete Knife. As with most blades, this one’s also made of stainless steel.
However, there’s one more aspect that Armory Replicas has incorporated into its design, and that is an anodize finish. This coating prevents the machete from corrosion.
Another perk of this tool is that its handle is rubberized to provide a firm grip. The overall length of the machete is 16.5 inches with a blade length of 10.5”.
Plus, the manufacturer has provided a free snap nylon case and a belt loop for easy storage and transportation.
7. Fiskars Billhook Saw
If you’ve been searching for a multifunctional brush axe, the Fiskars Billhook Saw will meet your needs perfectly. Not only does it come with a blade for trimming shoots and stems but also a coarse saw edge. The saw provides precisions when you’re cutting woody branches or fibrous plants.
Fiskars 18-inch billhook gives you an easy way of taming the fast-growing vegetation in your farms. And the best part is, operating it only requires you to use one hand. This means that you can hold it with one hand and use your other hand to collect the pile cuttings.
Brush Axe Buying Guide
Definition of a Billhook
A brush axe is a traditional piece of equipment that is used to trim bushes and hedges. The main applications of this tool are in gardening and forestry, where it’s also used to cut bushes, shrubbery and tiny branches.
Typically, this billhook consists of a curved blade attached to a handle. On one edge of the blade, there’s a beveled cutting surface, which is what people use for chopping. Most of the handles are made of wood, and range in length from 7” to 12”. Thus, any brush axe that is between 8” and 10” is the standard size.
A billhook goes by many names such as a bill, hand bill, hedging bill, hook bill and hedge tool. This tool has been used for several centuries now, and can be traced back to Roman times. Throughout history, its design has evolved significantly.
The greatest transformation of the hedging bill has happened in the UK, which is why almost every region has a distinct pattern for it. We’ll delve into the different designs of this apparatus in a bit, but first, let’s look at its uses.
Applications of Billhooks in Modern Times
Currently, brush axes are used for:
- Chopping wood
- Curving wood
- Making tools
- Serving as a meat cleaver
- Chopping animal bones
- To harvest corn
- In carpentry work
What does a Billhook Look Like?
As mentioned earlier, the hedging bill dates back a couple of centuries. However, its design hasn’t changed much throughout the years as is the material used in making its handle and blade.
Often, the blade will be constructed from medium-grade carbon steel of differing weights and lengths. But on average, the length of most blades ranges from 200 to 300 mm. The handle is usually between 120 and 160 mm long. This translates to a total length of about 460 mm.
During its construction, only the interior part of the curved blade is kept sharp.
Given that brush axes are used for heavy-duty tasks, it is no wonder that the blade is thicker than the one used in other cutting tools.
The design of the blade creates a hook-like pattern at the front end. The concept behind this hook design is to make the tool more efficient at trimming small branches from larger branches. It also makes it easier to chop around a tree trunk.
This is not to mean that brush axe billhooks can be used for all sorts of functions. For some tasks like splitting wood, you’d need other tools such as an axe. If you tried using the hedging tool, you’d end up damaging the blade.
Main Parts of a Billhook
- Cutting edge- this is simply the edge of the blade.
- Blade- this is wide and flat section that’s used for cutting.
- Handle- it’s the part of the hedging bill that you hold when using.
- Hook – the part of the blade that forms a hook at the end.
- Ferrule- a ring-like component that serves as the joint between the handle and blade
Variations of Billhooks
The Devon Pattern
This tool is characterized by a beveled edge on one side of the blade, with a blunt tip on the hook. While these aspects can help you identify a Devon billhook, the key distinguishing feature is the incision at the blade’s base.
There are two schools of thought that explain the purpose of this notch. One is that it helped users tie a strap so they could mount the brush axe from their wrist. The second is that the notch was honed; hence used to strip material such as bark, and willow.
This billhook is exactly as the name suggests, that is, it has a beveled edge on either side of the blade. One beveled side has a hook pattern at the tip while the other has a shorter length extending from the main structure.
Contrary to other billhooks, this one doesn’t have a hook at the end. This is a basic cutting tool consisting of a beveled cutting edge on one side, which is straight throughout.
This is a small-sized version of the conventional brush axe billhook. Their blades are only about 5 to 6 inches long and have beveled edge on just one side.
The key highlight of this hedge tool is the pronounced tip at the end of the blade. This tip is usually finished to a specific point.
Like the double-edge model, this one also has beveled edges on both sides. The main difference between the two is that the Yorkshire has a longer handle, allowing users to cut through larger stems. It’s also usable single-handed, and is the most recommended for hedge laying.
How to Choose a Brush Axe Billhook
Proper tuning – Most brush axes have this rugged, crude design. As a result, very few people pay attention to how it’s made. However, if you want your billhook to work flawlessly, there are a couple of things you should consider. For instance, if the edge is overly flat or the bevel angle too low, this can make it seem like it’s too sharp.
Similarly, if the bevels are too short, this will result in the hedging tool reflecting off the timber. The right thing to do is to lengthen the bevels. You can achieve this by pulling the shoulders back and rounding them.
So before rushing to purchase one of these cutting apparatus, check whether it’s tuned properly.
Combo-grind – There are situations that call for a double-edged billhook and others that require the single-edged model. Well, what if there was a way to combine both features into one? In other words, you can maintain the typical double-sided grind for the better part of the edge. But when you inch closer to the ferrule, you grind the edge like a side axe. This way, you’ll only need to carry one tool that can serve multiple functions.
Sharpening – One of the most renowned brands for billhooks is the Morris line of billhooks. However, their brush axes usually have flats or rough edges that need to be sharpened or filed down. But once you’ve done this, you only need to hone them once in a while to keep them sharp.
The easiest technique to keep your hedging tools looking their best is to hone them with canoe stones, preferably, two of them. One can have coarse grit to shave off the metal and the other should be less abrasive to get rid of the roughness.
If you’re sharpening your brush axes outdoors, remember to take a sealable water container with you for soaking the sharpening stone before use. This step is important as it ensures that there aren’t any chippings of metal on the stone. If you choose to use canoe stones when they’re dry, chances are that they’ll become less abrasive with time.
Handles – Most of the handles incorporated in hedging bills are caulked or sealed in place. Such handles will have a slightly oval pattern in the cross section, but never one that is completely circular. The reason for this is that using a brush axe with a round handle- which is likely to rotate in your hands- poses a great risk. The only type that can have a round handle is the double-edged billhook as it works for either edges.
Apart from the shape, you also need to account for the handle’s thickness. This factor is a matter of personal preference. Essentially, it all depends with how comfortable the handle feels in your hands. If it’s not snug enough, you’re likely to get fatigued when using your billhook.
Varnished vs. Unvarnished – Varnished means that the hedge bill is coated with a high-quality varnish. The purpose of this is to protect the tool from premature rotting, which is beneficial. However, some users complain that varnished models are more likely to slip from your hands when they’re being used in wet conditions. You can prevent this by investing in gloves.
Alternatively, you can ask the manufacturer to custom design one that is not varnished. Or, you could simply buy a varnished one and sand the varnish off.
Tapered Steel vs. Brass Ferrules – Choosing between ferrules made of tapered steel and brass depends on two things: price and user-friendliness. If you’re looking for a cheap option, the brass ferrules are the best. However, you will have to compromise on usage as they are not as hand-friendly as the tapered steel models.
Bill vs. Hook – This factor only relates to the naming and not the structure of the hedging tool. Bill Hogarth, a renowned Cumbrian Coppice Merchant often referred to them as hooks; hence, the name ultimately stuck.
What is the Best Billhook Design for Coppicing? – If you’re a fan of the Morris range of billhooks, then you probably know that there are three main options to pick from: the Newton, Devon and Tenterden. The truth is, all three models have similar weight and performance. Thus, it all boils down to an individual’s personal preference.
Additional Factors to Consider when Getting a Secondhand Brush Axe Billhook
- Since you’re purchasing a handed-down tool, it’s important that you examine the handle’s construction. In particular, check whether there are any worm holes, which signal the infestation of woodworms. A handle with a ton of worm holes is likely to lose its strength, which in turn, compromises its function.
- Does the blade fit snugly to the handle? If it does, then the billhook is a good option. But if it’s wobbling, you should steer clear of that tool. If there’s movement at the joint, the blade might end up separating from the handle, and this can be very risky.
- Similarly, there ought not to be any big splits on the handle. If there are, then there’s a high chance that the blade will start wobbling. There’s also the risk of the handle’s breakage during use.
- The last thing you need to check is the cutting surface. It shouldn’t have any holes or divots as this can make the sharpening process challenging. And if you can’t sharpen the cutting surface area then the hedge bill won’t be of much use.
If you want to keep your yard from becoming a leafy mess, you should consider investing in quality bush-clearing equipment like billhooks. With these tools, not only will you be able to clear unwanted herbs but also chop wood and use them for carpentry work.