Japanese Sickle Review
Why consider this little-known tool.
I’ve been a tool geek ever since I moved onto 5 acres of beaten-down horse pasture and overgrown woods. (It’s not quite so beaten-down or overgrown, anymore).
One of the first things we did was plant fruit trees followed by comfrey to protect the soil, compete with grasses, and add much-needed organic matter.
Comfrey can get pretty tall depending on conditions, and in my experience can be cut back two or three times per season. I’ve learned that a scythe is the fastest way to cut comfrey; but a sickle works well, too. And it’s a much less expensive tool with a shorter learning curve.
In addition to cutting comfrey, I find the sickle useful for chopping down small amounts of cover crop (again, a scythe is faster) and for harvesting herbs like nettle, mint and lemon balm. For plants like lemon balm and mint, you can grab a handful with your non-dominate hand, then use the sickle to slice it off. It’s much easier to harvest this way than with hand pruners.
The final way I use a sickle is for cutting grass and weeds in tight areas where a weed whacker or scythe are impractical. This is usually around the beds in our greenhouse.
When The Tool Merchants sold tools, this was our single best selling tool, and it received many positive reviews from our customers. You can read them below.
Weights and Variations
You’ll likely come across three weights and a serrated option. Here are my thoughts on each:
This version is incredibly light! If you have hand, wrist or elbow difficulties then this is a good choice. It’s best for immature (green) grasses and weeds.
This is the a good all-around choice and my personal “go-to.” It’s not heavy, but it’s thick enough to handle dry stems and more mature plants.
This version seems an oddity to me. It’s very stout and too heavy for extended use. It might make a replacement for a machete, but I find a machete more useful.
You can’t slice with a serrated sickle as you would with a smooth sickle because one hand has to hold onto whatever you’re cutting. This is useful when cutting bundles of plants like mint or lemon balm, but that can be done with a smooth sickle, so why bother with a serrated sickle? Serrated sickles are smaller and more pack-able, so I would only suggest one for wild-crafting or camping.
Where to Buy | What to Look For
Hida Tool and Hardware in Berkeley, CA is the best source for Japanese sickles on the market.
What makes their sickles different is the steel quality and excellent overall balance.
Both Seikouba and Kusakichi (their two manufacturers) use laminated steel. This means that a super-hard steel is sandwiched between to softer layers of steel. The benefit to you is that the hard carbon steel stays sharp longer, while the softer outer layer makes sharpening easier and protects the hard, brittle, inner layer from chipping.
NOTE: Go with the Seikouba brand if it’s in stock. It has better balance than the Kusakichi.
Just be sure to wipe your blade dry after use and oil it periodically. Carbon steel tools tend to pick up rust easily.
Amazon also has a selection of sickles; and while they are less expensive, their steel quality and overall balance is worse than the sickles from Hida Tool.
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