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What's your favorite "chop and drop" tool?

 
Posts: 6
Location: Severn, MD Zone 7b
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Hi all! What are your favorite tools to small-scale chop-and-drop with? Not looking for a full-scale scythe, just an isolated comfrey plant or two.

Suggestions as to brand, where to buy, etc? Over the years, which of your tools do you find yourself reaching for each time you have a small chop and drop job?

Thanks guys!
Diana
 
pollinator
Posts: 11799
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I use loppers and clippers, I don't know what brand. But I use both of these daily.

I'm thinking of getting a "rice knife" as these seem to be popular with some permaculturists.

 
Posts: 72
Location: Coastal Southern California
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I got a rice knife (also called Japanese sickle, grass sickle, etc) on amazon 3 months ago. I really like it. It cuts through herbaceous plants very fast and once you get the hang of using it, You can go quite quickly. I got one with an orange plastic handle so it's easier to find if I put it down. I was surprised to see it had doubled in price to over $16 since I got mine. Not sure I would have paid that much for something I'd never tried before.

I think I'll always have one of those now. In some circumstances such as grasses, they work better than anything else manual I've tried. It's also great for patches of cover crops for chop and drop and leaving the roots in the soil.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I have lots of tools for this kind of thing, some pretty expensive. Over and over I find myself going back to my $12 corn knife from Tractor Supply. Very sharp, easy to use, and perfect for most things I need it for. I easily use it more than all my other cutting tools combined.

Corn Knife
 
pollinator
Posts: 459
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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I like to use a machete. It has so many uses and can take so much abuse, it's amazing. I chop all sorts of stuff without having to worry about damaging it by hitting rocks or whatever, as filing can fix it. This is the machete I have: machete. It's been very satisfactory, but it's gotten much more expensive than it was (I paid less than $20). When I need to replace it, I'll probably get a Tramontina -- they cost around $20 and they get great reviews.
 
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Most of my chop and drop with with hand pruners. When I would gather grass for our rabbit I would take the fish filleting knife from out kitchen.

As I'm gonna be running a couple of errands today, I think I'll stop at my local tractor supply to see if they have that corn knife. There are other areas where I could see that being very useful.
 
Posts: 493
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I tend to cut giant ragweed and goldenrod alot
The tool I really like is a six inch slightly curved blade on a two foot handle.
I like it better than the corn knife because I grab with the left hand and cut with the right.
The short cutting blade is safer for me than the corn knife but also allows hacking on a really big stalk.
I lay the tarp down and bend the stuff I am cutting over the tarp and chop and drop onto the tarp.
When I have a full load I drag the tarp to either the chickens or to a area I just mowed so I can put a heavy layer of much and kill all the weed growing on it.
After a winter the stalks tend to break down easily and can be worked into soil or just ignored.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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alex Keenan wrote:I tend to cut giant ragweed and goldenrod alot



I use giant ragweed a lot myself. It gets huge in no time so it makes lots of mulch with no work on my part. The secret to cutting giant ragweed and other tough stalked plants like it with the corn knife is to strike the stalk downward at a 45 degree angle. If you hit straight from the side, whether with the corn knife or a machete or whatever, it will sometimes cut part way thru and then tip over, pinching the knife and making the whole thing turn into a struggle. If you hit the stalk downward at 45 degrees, the whole plant will fall straight down to the ground and you can use your off-hand, or the knife and tip it the way you want it to fall. Its works great and is very easy to get the hang of. The stalks are strong so when you hit at that angle, they cut easily because they are braced against the ground and can't move, rather than moving to the side when you hit them straight on. To cut straight across, you need a very fast swing speed and it gets tiring. When you do it at the downward angle, they cut much easier, cut all the way thru, and you don't have to swing hard at all. It took me about half a day to discover that method Now I can cut thru a whole grove of ragweed in minutes with no real effort.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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For small stuff, one or two here and there, I love a kama. Especially good for working near plants you don't want to cut.
http://smile.amazon.com/Japanese-Steel-Sickle-Wooden-Handle/dp/B00XYP7EHA/ref=pd_sim_236_4?ie=UTF8&dpID=21BW%2BseECCL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR134%2C160_&refRID=1E99W7AA9V0J06HT4J0C

 
Posts: 9002
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I like these Fiskars loppers. They are about a foot long. The built-in gear makes it easy to cut fairly thick stuff.

I use a Fiskars stik for high stuff and for anything that is in a prickly location where I don't want to reach my arms.

My smallest cordless electric hedge cutter is used when a lot of smaller material needs to be dropped. It works on both woody material and grass.

I seldom use one handed snips. Too slow and hard on the wrist.
k2-_af7f47ef-b33f-4ee2-9ee2-c09213938779.v1.jpg
[Thumbnail for k2-_af7f47ef-b33f-4ee2-9ee2-c09213938779.v1.jpg]
 
Posts: 947
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Speaking of Fiskars, I get I a lot of mileage out of their brush axe. It's got just about the right length- in conjunction with a handy concave hook at the end of the blade- for casual one-handed use without stooping.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I like these Fiskars loppers. They are about a foot long. The built-in gear makes it easy to cut fairly thick stuff.

I use a Fiskars stik for high stuff and for anything that is in a prickly location where I don't want to reach my arms.

My smallest cordless electric hedge cutter is used when a lot of smaller material needs to be dropped. It works on both woody material and grass.

I seldom use one handed snips. Too slow and hard on the wrist.



I have one also that I use for pruning my trees. I like it.
 
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Believe it or not, it is a 7-inchish kitchen knife with full tang attached
to a broom handle. I use it to whack thin branches{sometimes a
single blow is enough, sometimes}. On my knees, I swing it left and
right and it decapitates weeds and bush much like a scythe but less
cumbersome provided you are fine with kneelwork. I am Catholic.
Edit: It is a Hail Mary tool because sometimes the blade flies off.
Edit2: adding photo

5488_992_HaiL_Mary_chop_and_drop_tooL.jpg
Use like a Japanese Katana for loping off small branches and single-handed for scything.
Use like a Japanese Katana for loping off small branches and single-handed for scything.
 
Posts: 139
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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I just got to the point of chop and drop last year. I have a Sickle that I am finding really nice to use.
 
Jotham Bessey
Posts: 139
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Speaking of Fiskars, I get I a lot of mileage out of their brush axe. It's got just about the right length- in conjunction with a handy concave hook at the end of the blade- for casual one-handed use without stooping.


I've been eyeing those brush axes. Someday I will buy one.
 
pollinator
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Yay for bringing this thread back to life! Attached is a pic of all our rusty (gasp!), dusty (but sharpened!) chop-and-drop tools.

We often use a rice knife for chop-and-drop as well as for harvesting whole plants like tepary beans that we will later thresh and winnow and then return all the inedible material back to the gardens as mulch. We had no idea that it was a rice knife, though! It's just been a mystery serrated sickle from our "resource pile" (obscured by the clipper sheath in the pic, sorry about that). Great to learn its identity.

We'll occasionally use this odd, long thin kitchen knife we have that has some serration and a hole in it (third from the right in the pic). Anyone know what that could be?

Sometimes we use a machete, but far less often. I like to use my hori-hori knife when I'm working solo, but not when the two of us are working in anything like near proximity, as it's so sharp that it risks cutting the other person on a frequent basis. (I'm thinking primarily of when we team up to harvest the tepary beans, one of us cutting and the other bundling up armloads and carting them away to the tarps where we continue to dry them down before beginning to thresh and winnow.)

For particularly large-scale tasks, we also use a tool that seems similar to a Fokin hoe only with large serration-like cuts, something that my mate fashioned specifically for chopping and dropping plants like tansy mustard and pigweed that can get a pretty thick stalk and grow in real abundance so that we can knock out a lot of them more easily (at the back of the pic, nesting with the scuffle hoe). He says he'll make us a non-serrated one, too, which I'm very excited about.

For similarly scaled tasks when we don't care so much if the roots stay in the ground -- clearing the yard around the house of any leafy green so that Mojave rattlesnakes can't hide, for example, as with the exception of some cactus beds this is walking and working space, not growing space -- I use a scuffle hoe from Johnny's quite heavily. I still consider this chop-and-drop of a kind, since no matter its origin or chopping method, all this plant material (minus seeds, unless we want something like London rocket to grow in a particular place) gets used as mulch.

For individual plants and small branches on a limited scale, I've long used a decent pair of garden clippers/pruning shears, but mine broke! So I need to order a pair of Fiskars, which have been on my when-I-need-a-replacement list basically since I bought my old pair (different brand, can't remember which and it's not written on them -- sheath is Felco's, but I think that's due to an accidental swap with a coworker many years ago) 10 years or so ago. Is there a particular model that folks most recommend (say, the bypass pruner)? Or do some prefer Felco's or something else?

I like the looks of that Japanese-style steel grass sickle and the corn knife, too -- both seem like slightly larger rice knifes without serration, from pics anyway. Is that right? Have folks used both or all of these and have a preference?

ETA: What's the difference between a corn knife (or, for that matter, a Japanese grass sickle) and a brush axe?
IMG_1038.jpg
chop-and-drop tools arrayed on a rain barrel
chop-and-drop tools arrayed on a rain barrel
 
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: wanderer
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Taiga-style machete. Yes it's spendy, especially with shipping, but it is very well made. I have been using it often for chop & drop in [syntropic] agroforestry systems & general bushwacking. As it's full-tang construction (the blade's metal goes all the way through the handle to the butt), it's held up well for years & I even use the saw feature on the spine. After spending some time in rural Central America, I noticed that a machete was the go-to all-around tool for pretty much everything: gardening, farming, wildcrafting... even mowing the grass! After that, I was convinced that I must have a well-made machete that I could take care of & pass down to future generations. As it is one of my most expensive hand tools, I routinely clean it after every use & oil it before storing it. I really like that it has a wooden handle and leather sheath as I am trying to avoid plastics these days. In fact, it took me several months of online shopping to find a well-made machete with all these features:
The Survival and Hunting Machete - Authentic & Original here appears to be the latest version & it's sold by den750920 on ebay.
The ebay seller fastline2015 appears to have a larger, more diverse selection of taiga-style machetes - both carbon steel for easy sharpening & stainless steel for very humid environments - from the same manufacturer.
I don't read or speak the language, but I get the impression that this might be the official manufacturer & seller's page.
Russian_TAIGA_MACHETE_Knife_tool_wood_handle_with_leather_sheath_by_Semin-_nozhikov.ru.jpg
Russian Taiga Machete knife tool_wood handle with leather sheath by Semin, nozhikov.ru
Russian Taiga Machete knife tool wood handle with leather sheath by Semin, nozhikov.ru
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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I am a big fan of a kukri style machete.  I usually chop comfrey and I need a blade with some heft to its swing and a kukri is just right.

Eric
 
pollinator
Posts: 171
Location: Northwest Missouri
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I guess I'm lazy in that I avoid carrying a lot of different things out to the garden. My main garden tool is a cheap multi-tasker from Menards. The serrated edge chops through greenery I'm holding with my free hand with no trouble and in addition I can do a number of other tasks with it. Granted, I'm only chopping and dropping the weeds along my bed rows and use larger tools for larger spaces.
garden-knife.jpg
[Thumbnail for garden-knife.jpg]
 
Posts: 73
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Not very serious looking, but I do a lot of work with serrated steak knives. Harvesting, chopping small amounts of comfrey.

They can be sterilized in the dishwasher, there's always one nearby, and if I lose one, it's not a big deal (It's in my nature to misplace things. I need duplicates)
 
pollinator
Posts: 539
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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I keep coming back to an old unserrated kitchen knife from the thrift store. I just used it this weekend in lieu of a sickle to harvest my rye. I started out with the scythe, ditched that, and went and got my knife.

I like that it's small, light, sharp, and not too valuable to lose.
 
Posts: 4
Location: United States
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I would have to say my favorite is the "Korean hoe". Although looking at the sickle in the give away, I think it would be my new favorite. I have quite a few back issues and I believe this would make my "playing in the dirt" time even more enjoyable.
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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TP9MVQ2?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

This Japanese sickle gets a lot of use
as does my hori hori knife
 
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My three favorite, in order, are 1) European scythe, 2) European scythe, and 3) I can't remember but it rhymes with lithe.

I have a field of 400 baby stone pines.  I was mowing but the mower is loud, sucks gas, and moves way too fast.  I can't see individual plants as I whizzzzzzz by.  The scythe is quiet, and quite careful when used with full attention.  I consider scything a key Zen activity. It narrows my perspective and focus to the job at hand.  
 
Posts: 24
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I love a good, old fashioned machete or a small hand scythe. They're simple, multi-purpose and easy to use. I'm all about multi-use tools.
 
Posts: 6
Location: USA, WA, orchard country
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I use a billhook for harvesting comfrey; some of it is dropped in place and some out in the vegetable gardens. I also use it for trimming willow rods for garden stakes. You're supposed to be able to whack down 2-3" saplings, as with a hatchet but I don't have the technique yet.
 
pollinator
Posts: 399
Location: Victor, Montana; Zone 5b
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I love this little Nisaku blade. It is especially handy for cutting comfrey down or separating the roots. Also my go to for cutting strings on bales for making cob or mulching.

nisaku-garden-hand-tools-njp150-64_1000.jpg
[Thumbnail for nisaku-garden-hand-tools-njp150-64_1000.jpg]
 
Posts: 1
Location: Portland, United States
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A lightweight hand sickle by Kusakichi.  Order from HIDA tools in Berkeley, California.  About $37.  So sharp, so light!  Check them out!  
 
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My favorite 'chop and drop is an old 4 tooth concrete rake, perfect angle, slices like the serrated teeth of a Great White shark! Really gets under thick grass and tough weeds. The old high carbon tool steel teeth hold an edge like a metal lathe cutter...
 
Posts: 19
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On the advice of someone on one of these forums, I bought a "corn knife" from Tractor Supply.  It makes short work of chopping comfrey, and is reasonably priced.  Actually, very inexpensive, at less than $13.
We'll see how it holds up!
https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/groundwork-corn-knife
 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1957
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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For large plants I use hedge shears &/or a machete. A dutch hoe for smaller plants.
 
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My one is a 4 tooth concrete rake. It is comfortable to use.
 
Posts: 45
Location: western NY (Erie County), USA; zone 5b/6a. Can't tell where the boundary line is exactly.
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For chopping I love my mattock. I bought it nearly twenty years ago and it gets it use. It was moderately priced and I've long forgotten the brand name (if it was on it, it's worn off.) For dropping things, my machete!
 
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