Top 5 Bladed Tools for the Homestead

Top 5 Bladed Tools for the Homestead

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By Dana Benner  There is no shortage of tools needed to keep the homestead up and running. Recently, someone asked me what I thought were the top tools to have, the ones that I could not do without. I sat down and made a list, which was a long one. At the top of the list were bladed tools and that list is the basis of this article. Remember that this list is just my opinion, and your opinion may be different, which is fine. Also, this article is written with the idea that your homestead has an established dwelling and all other needs are taken care of. Land clearing and establishing a homestead from the ground up is an entirely different ballgame.  

The List:  

#1 Knives

Number one on my list is a good knife (or two). No self-respecting landowner should be without one. Pocket or folding knives are the best choices for use around the homestead. While there is nothing wrong with fixed blade knives, when working around the property I have found that a knife on my belt gets in the way. I like pocket and clip knives, and I usually carry both. Pocket knives fold up neatly and fit right into your pocket. Clip knives have a clip that holds it on the edge of your pocket for easy access. My pocket knife is a good old Swiss army knife, of which there are wide varieties. My clip knife is the Gerber Sharkbelly.  

More important than the brand name, the knife you choose has to hold up and take and retain a good edge. I count on my knives to cut bailing twine, cut a plastic bottle to make a funnel (I’ve done that more than once), cut through a pair of jeans so I could treat a wound (I’ve done that a few times as well) or open a rogue bottle of beer. Both of these knives fit the bill.  

Gerber Sharkbelly is the clip knife I always carry. American-made and keeps an edge. 

#2 Bow saws

Saws are like hammers; there is one for every job. By far, the most important saw on the Benner homestead is the bow saw. While the bow saw is not the saw I would use for finish work, it is the one I choose for just about everything else. Whether for cutting logs for fence posts, firewood, or rough-cutting lumber when building a shed, the bow saw is my go-to tool.  

Bow saws come in various sizes ranging from large to compact pack saws. The larger saws are perfect for cutting logs to size for firewood, while the saws that I consider medium-sized are perfect for limbing trees and processing smaller logs. They are also great at cutting building lumber to size.  

Bow saws are my go-to saws around the homestead.  

#3 Axes and Hatchets

Though I put axes and hatchets at number 3, I grab one of these tools almost as much as I grab my knives. Axes and hatchets have multiple uses, with the obvious being to cut down trees, but a good sharp axe can also be used to split wood. Hatchets are great tools for shaping wood and making pegs, shingles, and many other things. Axes are good for breaking up winter ice in water troughs for your cattle, and more than once, I have used the flat side of an axe to drive stakes in my garden. My axes get the most use when I am clearing stumps from the property. Sometimes an axe is the only tool that will get at those really deep roots.  

Hatchets have plenty of uses around the homestead.  

#4 Machete

Brush and vines are always creeping in and the machete is the perfect tool for trying to keep them at bay. Saplings too small for axes are no match for a sharp machete. While there are numerous types of machetes, the two I use the most are my kukri and a simple straight blade. No matter what style of machete you use, it must be able to take and keep a sharp edge.  

Kukris come in all sizes, with some made as fighting blades, but mine, which Gerber makes, is more in line with the traditional tools used initially in the area around India and Nepal where they were used for clearing fields of brush. Kukris have a weight forward blade and are curved, making them perfect for clearing saplings and cane.  

My straight-blade machete is an Overland machete made by LT Wright Knives. This is a heavy, thick-bladed machete made for tackling tough jobs. Despite its weight, the Overland is well-balanced, making it easy to wield all day. This is very important as you don’t want to fight your tool more than you are fighting the brush.  

Kukris are handy to have. They can do things when axes are just too much.  

#5 Long-Handled Spade

Just think about all of the things you do with a shovel. Like everything else, there is a shovel for every job, but no shovel gets used and abused more than the long-handled spade. For that reason, I have two of them in my shed. Whether digging out a stump or turning your garden, you will need this tool.  

There have been times when I didn’t have a posthole digger, so I used a long-handled spade. Before I had a tiller, I prepared my garden with this shovel, and I’ve used it to pry out large rocks (and have broken more than one handle doing it).  

Sharpening shovel blade.  

The key to this shovel is the same as any bladed tool: keep the blade sharp. A sharp blade makes cutting through sod so much easier. Remember that soil dulls an edge very quickly, so you must sharpen it fairly often. The good thing is that sharpening a shovel blade is less precise than sharpening a knife or an axe. You want to put and keep an edge on it. I usually sharpen my spades about three times a year.  


Are these five tools all that you will need? Not by a long shot. This list is just a start. You can do a great deal with just these tools, but there are specialty tools out there that will make your job easier. You can pick those up as the job requires and money allows you to.  

Originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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