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What is a Bill Hook?

By O. Parker
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bill hook is a tool commonly used in the garden. Originally, the bill hook was developed in ancient times as a tool used in agriculture. It later became a popular fighting knife and weapon. The bill hook is a steel blade knife with a hook at the end and looks a bit like a cross between an ax and a knife.

A bill hook is a single-bladed knife with a hooked end. The blade is commonly 8 to 10 inches (about 20 to 25 cm) long and made of steel for strength and durability. There are an array of manufacturers that make bill hooks. Traditionally, the knife has a curved, hooked blade but variations include an ax-like shape at the end and square-shaped hooks. The handles are commonly made of wood but plastic materials and metal are also found. Some designs have a handle and a blade that are similar in length while others have a handle that is a third or a quarter the length of the blade.

Other names for the bill hook include reaping hook, bagging hook, billhook, sheaf hook, coa, and trimming hook. Another variation on the single bladed bill hook is the double-bladed bill hook that is sharp on both sides. This common and versatile garden knife has many uses.

In the garden, it is useful for trimming and maintaining thickets, brambles and other dense and thorny areas. The hooked part of the blade can be used to grab branches and pull them out of the thicket without having to reach inside a thorny hedge. It is also used to grab a tangle of branches and sever them from the plant. Used like a machete, the bill hook can cut through dense thorny thickets to control the shape or clear a pathway.

The sharp, heavy blade of the bill hook is used to cut suckers away from the base of multi-stem shrubs and for cutting young, green wood from trees and bushes. It is commonly used in hedge care for a practice called hedge laying. Hedge laying is a practice wherein the upright stems of hedgerows are cut most of the way though but not severed from the plant. The branches are then laid down creating a thick barrier while the branches, still attached to the plant, do not die back.

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