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recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

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recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby smojo » Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:34 pm

I have a very large vintage Yorkshire billhook (blades both sides and long handle) I acquired but it's too big and heavy and probably meant more for hedge laying. I'm about to start coppicing my hazel. Probably do most of the cutting with a bow saw but I want a smaller, lighter, single edged billhook for dressing the rods once cut. I notice there are 2 or 3 popular shapes. Some have a more or less straight edge which then curves sharply at the end. Some have an edge that curves all the way along. I am wondering which type is preferred for my purpose. Are there advantages for one type over another? There are quite a few nice vintage ones listed on Evilbay but I want to get one that does the job well.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby Wendelspanswick » Sun Dec 21, 2014 4:35 pm

I was taught that a bill hook with a shape curve on it was for cutting upwards with a pulling motion, used when hedge laying as the partial upward cut dosen't collect water as a partial downward cut would do.
I pick mine up from car boots for less than £1 a time, various patterns and always need regrinding and then sharpening.
Elwell's are a good name to look for.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby greyman » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:21 am

Smojo
I've never got on with a billhook to cut the coppice and find bowsaws really struggle on complicated stools so we use Silky saws. Brilliant once you get used to using a pull saw. Mind you they are lethal if you don't wear a glove on the noncutting hand! We use 300/330mm Gomtaros. I can't rave about them enough.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby calvertwood » Mon Dec 22, 2014 7:55 am

My bill hook's gathering dust in my bag, and I also can't get on with it for cutting. For dressing, it's fine. I slide the straight edge along the stem, and it's the curve which finishes the job, though perhaps that's not the usual technique.

Back to cutting. In my mixed coppice I do a first go-round with geared loppers, for anything 2 inches or thinner, then do a second circuit, with a saw, for anything thicker. Like Greyman I'm a big fan of Silky, and use a 330 Zubat. Unlike a bill hook that it'll take down over-stood stems up to about 10 inches diameter with no problem. Worth every penny, and the occasional scar...

Sorry, that doesn't really help with the bill hook debate.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby smojo » Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:41 am

Like Greyman I'm a big fan of Silky, and use a 330 Zubat


We use 300/330mm Gomtaros


Thanks for that. I do have a cheap folding saw Bahco I think, that works quite well for small stuff but the Silky's do look "the dog's". Might have to put one of those on my list too.

I see that the Zubat is curved and the Gomtaro is straight. Are there any advantages to one over the other?

The billhook would be used just for dressing rods not cutting. When dressing them, is it best to cut the small side branches upwards or downwards. I'm thinking downwards will cut into them easier as you are cutting into an acute angle but might tend to rip down the rod whereas upwards won't rip but the billhook might tend to slide over.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby greyman » Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:57 am

Smojo
I've got both the Zubat and Gomtaro the Zubat is curved as you say and is quite useful getting into the stool. The other thing I like about them is you can just replace the blade when you need to. Of course they aren't cheap to buy but I wouldn't be with out ours.

As for which way to use the blade of the billhook I was taught to run along the length from the thickest end and stand with the blade on the furthest side of what you're cutting which allows a cut parallel with the swing of your arm. If you go the other way,as you say, it tends to rip into the grain and peel off the wood on the other side of the branch. Mind you there's always an exception to the rule!
I've got billhooks as well and have a long handled Sthil version. I have no idea what steel it is made of but it is very thin and as a general cutting tool I carry it everywhere in the wood. I can even use it for splitting logs.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby Andy M » Mon Dec 22, 2014 12:39 pm

There are a lot of billhooks to chose from....http://www.billhooks.co.uk/
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby calvertwood » Mon Dec 22, 2014 7:27 pm

I see that the Zubat is curved and the Gomtaro is straight. Are there any advantages to one over the other?


Since Silkys cut on the pull, a light pressure at the start of your stroke will be increased by the curve at the end of the stroke when the blade is at top speed. Result: a deeper cut. Actually, that's just a guess.

I also used to use a Bahco, which was a nice tool, but I got too many kinks when the blade got pinched on the push stroke. My own fault...
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby Campievanner » Mon Dec 22, 2014 7:41 pm

We have bought a Silky saw Smojo So if you have time to wait you can have a try with it and see how you get on.

Quite funny I ordered it and it came from Japan delivered to work ( gardening tools so no problem there doesn't look odd) but I had to re-wrap it in order to bring it home on the bus. The instructions are totally in Japanese a friend translated it for us and we pretty much guessed what it said.
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Re: recommend a billhook for dressing coppiced hazel

Postby smojo » Tue Dec 23, 2014 8:22 am

We have bought a Silky saw Smojo So if you have time to wait you can have a try with it and see how you get on.


Thanks but I'm sure I will probably get one before then. They seem like the ideal tool for getting into the hazel stools. I think my bowsaw will be too bulky so it seems like a good tool to have.
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