Last summer it was pointed out that the front of our house had become rather overgrown with blackberries and other vegetation. Here in the Pacific Northwet we have Himalaya Blackberries that some thoughtful person imported because they were hardy and productive. Of course they immediately escaped captivity and went on a rampage. They are kudzu with fruit, or perhaps bamboo with thorns. Unlike our well-manered native blackberries that have the decency to stay low-growing, attractive and well-contained these monstrosities will eat your yard if you turn your back for five minutes. They grow up to fifteen feet tall and will swallow whole trees.
Anyway, having overrun our back yard the blackberry canes had divided their forces in an effort to eat the house too. I addition to being an unattractive addition to our home decor they were blocking emergency egress from our guess bedroom and ‘providing a haven for rodents and other vermin,’ as the County pointed out. In fact they also pointed out that they would fine us if the offending vegetation wasn’t removed. Rather than establishing the dangerous precedent of giving money to the county (Because God knows what mischief they’ll get up to if they have it) I set about to remove the evil vegetation.
The blackberries had in fact grown right up to the roofline and beyond, and buried in their midst was a clump of some sort of tree-like bush we’d never bothered to identify. I stood in front of my house contemplating how to go about removing the pestiferous plants and it occurred to me ‘There’s a tool for this job…’
I went right into the shop and fired up the forge and made a medieval bill-hook. This somewhat resembles a brush-axe in that is has a section of straight blade with a hook on the end that is sharpened on the inside of the curve. In the Middle Ages they were used for lopping tree-branches by reaching up and cutting them with the hook.
I cut out a nice piece of 1/4 inch spring steel, forged a curve into the end to form the hook, ground it to into a proper blade. Medieval examples often have a socket to attach them to a pole, but that was a lot of bother so I just put a stout 8 inch tang on it and bored it through for two rivets.
Then I cut down an eight foot long fir 2×2 and shaped it into a haft. I cut a slot in the end, drilled rivet-holes and riveted the head in place with 3/16 inch mild steel rod. I wrapped it tightly in #7 Linen cord and threw a coat of stain on the haft. Here’s the result:
The blade tapers from the spine to the edge in a near-flat convex arc and it is properly sharp. It’s about seven feet long overall. I took it out and tried it on the blackberry canes and the unidentified bush. As it turns out those medieval dudes knew what they were doing. It worked a treat, and not just on the inch-thick blackberry but on the trunks of the shrub, which are very woody and up to 2 inches thick. It sheared them cleanly, hooked down the cut-off bits and in no time the front of the house was cleared. It was cool.
Since then it has trimmed branches on our Douglas Fir trees and other trees in the yard, been to Viking demos and cut assorted other vegetation. I’ve had to remount it once, but for the amount of work it’s done I don’t begrudge it that.
Now it’s midwinter, and the Devil’s vine is dormant (rubs hands in evil glee.) As it happens I am in need of exercise and the bill-hook beckons… In two days I have cleared enough that I have actually found our apple trees. So, I get revenge on the verminous vegetation, get the exercise that I need and the bill-hook gets a good workout.
I love it when a plan comes together…