Today’s TSP Amazon Item of the day is a tool called a “rice knife” also called a “serrated hand sickle”. This one is a bit different then what I typically post for an IOTD. I don’t have a brand to recommend here. The truth is none of these are super high quality. They are almost all made in China and Japan. The ones from Japan are honestly a little better made but none of them are robustly built as there is not reason to do so.
These tools are “light duty” they are for cutting soft stem plants. They are specifically designed to not be used to chop, hence no impact. It’s a product that centuries of use have taught us to not over build.
You can just search Amazon for rice knife and pick any you like but let me give you a few examples and my thoughts on each.
- JapanBargain – this is the cheapest deal you are gonna find at 10 bucks. At under 10 bucks it will just do what it is supposed to do and it won’t easily rust. Though let me tell you this is called Japan Bargin but best I can tell it is made in China.
- GrowTech KNK-HTS1200 Grass Sickle – This one is actually made in Japan. At 16 bucks it is at the “expensive” end of a product category that is simply not expensive. This one is the best one I have ever bought so far that is “traditionally made”. What I mean by that is one made a 100 years ago isn’t much different.
- KEYI Sawtooth Sickle – This one is kind of a sweet spot, better than the one by JapanBargin but not quite as good as the GrowTech.
If I needed one today based on what you an find on Amazon right now, I would buy the KEYI which is the one in the featured image. Thing is this is a weird category on Amazon. They come and go, what you can find today is gone tomorrow. Tons of companies make and market them. I am just trying to help you know what to look for in a good one here.
All of them are more than adequate, but you must understand how to use these tools and what they do well. This is one time to ignore all reviews, specifically the negative ones saying the tools are dull and you have to hold the top of the stalks and saw to even get them to cut. No shit? Well that is because it is exactly how they work.
These tools have been used for centuries in the east to harvest rice and other grain heads by hand. First farmers harvest the tops of the grains with a rice knife and then go back though with a scythe to harvest the longer straw. Why?
Because when you chop mature rice with a scythe you loose a lot of grain to the field. This tool came to be when an average peasant farmer had a big family and grew from 1/2 – 2 acres of rice a season. Getting as much as you could in yield was imperative and there was no labor shortage.
So what do I use them for? Trimming anything and everything in my gardens and water gardens except hard woody stems which they are not made for. Trimming tomato, taking the tops off basil before they go to seed and making them grow bushy along with trimming weeds flush to the ground for chop and drop just to name a few things.
Yes you must use a sawing motion, because it is a little saw. You wonder if people using this would try to chop a 2×4 with a cross cut saw, you know they just might. There are some real advantages here though. The first is you are a lot less likely to cut yourself then with a chopping sickle. You hold the material, lay your blade on it and saw though. I do hope if you feel it on your skin you won’t pull it across it. Also if you do get yourself as soon as you start moving it you should feel pain and unless you are a moron stop doing that. When you chop something you are holding and miss you either cut yourself or cut yourself bad, like say hitting a joint or a tendon and fucking your hand up for good.
This is great for precision like trimming grasses out from in between vegetables. A missed chop and there goes that eggplant or swiss chard when all you wanted was to get rid of some stubborn grass that can’t be pulled up because it will bring your veggies with it. Oh and it is the best tool for cutting comfrey you will ever and I mean ever find. Harvesting mint and other herbs in mass for drying, amazing for that too.
Next just like ancient rice farmers sometimes I harvest seed heads and don’t want to loose a ton of it. Just today I gathered a ton of celery seed this way. I have collected amaranth, lambs quarters, huauzontle and many other such plants by cutting the heads off and then simply banging them inside a large bucket or holding them just inside the bucket and runnign my hands across the heads.
They are also the best tool I have found for my water gardens. Specifically when it comes to trimming rushes and reeds like cat tails. They are cheap, last a long time, work great and if you loose one or break one you are out about 10 bucks so you don’t get upset like say when you lose a pair of 70 dollar pruners. Those have a place too but day to day a good cheap serrated sickle is one of the most used tools in my garden.
Tune in today and I will even give you some fun projects you can do with them to make them look cool and turn them into pretty cool gifts. I mean they won’t work any better but it is fun and cool is cool right? Just remember the key here is you want a serrated blade and you should use it like a steak knife, not like a machete.
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