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Hida Tool’s Seikouba Sickle Medium Blade

If you want to harvest grains, cut tall grasses or cover crops by hand, a sickle, the most ancient of harvesting tools, is the tool you would use.

NOTE: June 11,2024 – I corrected a spelling error and the system changed the date of the post. The post was written on June 11, 2014!

The Proper Tool Makes the Job Easier

Several years ago I started growing winter rye, a cover crop. I plant in the fall and in the spring growth really takes off and reaches 5 to 6 feet before the rye sets seed. When pollen is hanging on the rye in late spring (usually the first part of May here in Virginia) I cut the biomass of the rye and place it back on the bed as mulch. (Warm weather seedlings like tomatoes, cucumbers, or squash can be planted right into the stubble of the rye.)

When I first used this strategy, I tried cutting the rye with hedge clippers. What a surprise that it wasn’t an easy job! It didn’t take much research to find the proper tool for cutting grasses or grains by hand is a sickle, and it has been for thousands of years.

Matching the Sickle to the Job

Since there’s a great deal of variety in sickles, I called Hida Tool before I ordered the Seikouba Sickle. This particular sickle comes in 3 blade sizes: thin, medium and thick. The folks there were helpful in guiding me to the sickle I needed, which turned out to be the one with the medium blade (Item N-2112) for $36.90 (plus shipping).

Hida sickles are handmade in Japan

The handles are made of Japanese white oak. They’re extremely light weight for easy handling. They’re about 15.5 inches long.

The blade is 7 inches and made of high carbon steel laminated to soft steel. It is firmly riveted to the handle in slotted area designed for it.

Sharp Minimizes Effort but Requires More Caution

The blades of a sickle are (and should be kept) extremely sharp. This is what minimizes the effort required to cut. I’ve had mine two years, and it has not needed to be sharpened. But the more use you have for it, the more often it’ll need sharpening.

To keep your sickle in the best condition, clean it with a cloth or paper towel after every use and apply a drop of oil to both sides.  Hida Tool recommends Camellia Oil, which is used to preserve and protect the blades from rusting.  The wooden handles are also preserved by rubbing with the Camellia Oil. (I have not used oil on my handle for the two years I’ve had it and it still looks almost new.)

When your tool finally needs sharpening you’ll need some one with a bit of expertise to sharpen it for you.  Another option is to call Hida Tool and get their recommendation on how to sharpen it and what wetstone to use.

Using a Sickle

Not having any hands-on experience with a sickle and seeing how sharp it was, I was very cautious.  I wanted to make sure I cut the rye, not me. Fortunately, I had been told how to use it and it wasn’t hard at all.

When I’m using a sickle, my full attention is on what I’m doing.  And when I finish, I wipe the blade clean with a cloth. It immediately goes back into sheath it came in and back to the garage to its assigned place.  Only then do I continue with the rest of the job.

For safety’s sake, never lay the sickle down randomly.

How  to Use a Sickle to Cut Grasses and Grains

With one hand, grasp the rye (or grasses or other cover crop).  Pull it taut.  Holding the sickle in the other hand, place the blade at the base of the grass. Pull and the sickle will severe the grass at the base.

(Since you will be pulling the sickle blade towards you, take your time in getting use to the how little or how much force is needed. It only took me two cuts to known what I needed to know. Being slow and thoughtful will help avoid accidents.)

Use it Only as Intended

Now that I’ve used this tool, I see many other uses in my borders and garden for a sickle.  However, the blade on my sickle is thin (3/32 of an inch) and is made only for cutting fine grasses and grain crops. To try to cut woody stems with a thing blade could damage the blade and ruin the sickle.  You need a thicker blade for a heavier job.

If you can’t determine what blade you need, call  Hida Tool and ask for their recommendation.

I’m thinking of ordering Hida’s  Kusakichi Noborigama (Branch Trimming Sickle) that is made for cutting heavier woody stemmed plants. Not only is the blade shaped a bit differently, but it’s a quarter inch thick for handling woody stems and the handle is heavier.

Recommendation and Where to Buy

I give the Seikouba Sickle a 5 rating.  It’s a quality, well-balanced, handmade tool that does the job it’s made to do.

It can be purchased at hidatool.com. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to cut and manage cover crops and grasses by hand.

2 Comments

  • I bought one of these sickles for cutting my cover crops when Theresa mentioned it in an email. It is really impressive. I plan to use it to cut my pea plants at the base to leave the roots in the ground. Thanks Theresa for the great advice. I had bought one from Lowe’s and it broke at the joint between blade and handle within three uses.

  • Mary, I’m so glad you’re enjoying yours.
    Hida makes a quality tool which makes it worth paying a bit more.
    I’ve had mine since 2014 or before.
    Thanks so much for letting other readers know how much you like yours!
    Theresa

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