In the bushcraft world, a billhook is a well known survival tool. However, it is relatively unknown amongst hikers and people who venture out into the wild.
This bit of survival equipment will do a variety of survival tasks and is quite often the referred to as the “Large Knife” as it is more than capable of doing the heavy duty survival tasks that are often needed.
The history behind this “large knife” goes way back to when it was traditionally used as a basic cutting tool. Used mainly on the old farms and homesteads to trim bushes and hedges before the introduction of the powered tools.
But the billhook has many uses as a survival tool and is well worth considering as survival equipment.
The design of this old farm tool dates back many centuries, but the overall shape of the blade and handle have remained the same over the years.
This Gerber Billhook shown here, is the latest in modern design and materials, using a high carbon steel blade with non slip ‘gator rubber’ handle. But essentially still the same old billhook from years ago.
This is a powerful tool to can be used for many tasks out in the wild, from cutting a path through the undergrowth and chopping larger branches to battoning firewood. It is designed to be tough and withstand hard work.
Most blades are made using a high carbon steel of different weights and different lengths, the average blade length for most billhooks are 200 to 300mm in length. [ 8″-16″ ]. With the handle length being between 120 -160mm long [ 5″-7″ ]
The name comes from the distinctive shape of the blade itself – with the curved end resembling a bird bill and hook which is sharp right up to the end or ‘nose’ of the curve.
You will also find the nose is often thickened, which tend to move the sweet spot further along the blade. The blade itself is normally sharpened on one edge only, although you can get a double edged billhook but these are a lot less useful in a survival situation.
This, very traditional Wooden Handled Billhook has a nice flat back which makes it ideal for hammering and will also take any amount of abuse when battoning.
Having the hook shape at the end of the blade make it the ideal tool to trim smaller branches, and stripping them off a larger branch. The rounded end makes chopping timber much easier and is very effective when a chopping rounded object like a tree trunk.
It is possible to perform smaller, more intricate tasks with a Billhook – in fact you can use it very much like a standard survival knife, and do the smaller and finer detailed woodwork tasks.
Of course there are a few survival tasks that really do not work that well. The most obvious is splitting wood, due to having no wedge shape as such, like you would have on an axe.
The Billhook is one of those survival tools that you will never know until you try one – then, when you do, you’ll wonder how you ever got on before you had it..!