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Forestry Hand Tools ~ by Angus

Forestry Hand Tools

Over the years, our experience working in woodlands round the UK has given us a great deal of practical expertise when it comes to undertaking simple forestry tasks. Here are some tips and ideas on how to make the best use of hand tools to make many forestry tasks in your woodland easier and more satisfying.

1. Always make sure the blades are sharp. You can sharpen them with a small disk on an electric drill or with a sharpening stone.

2. Paint all the handles a bright colour - orange works well. Good tools cost good money and a bright colour makes them easier to find – especially as woodland jobs often seem to end as the light is fading! You will want to paint the “handles” but not the bit you actually hold as this can make forestry tools slippery when wet.

3. Try to use the right tool for the job! It is amazing how specialised some tools can be and how much time the right tool can save. To take one example for digging holes a long handled spade (rabbiting spade) and a pair of double spades (shuv-holer) for gate posts etc – the right tools here are very important as gate posts need to be in deep.


4. Make sure you always have your bill hook or a long-handled chopper with you. These are sharp blades on wooden handles (you can see good illustrations if you type bill hook into google images). It is amazing how effective these tools can be in clearing just a few branches from a path or track. It is tempting with the longer handled ones to get a metal handle as the handles do break sometimes, but you should resist this temptation – these are too heavy and too cold to be ideal.

5. Get the best long handled saw that you can afford. We use the “silky fox” brand of long handled saw which cost about £150 each but they are well worth it. These long handled saws have extending handles, are very light and have razor sharp teeth.

6. Don’t bang in posts with a sledge hammer – use a specialised post thumper, called a “driveall”. These are heavy tubes with the top welded on and handles on each side. The post thumpers are safer than sledge hammers and they direct your energy more efficiently into getting posts or gateposts into the ground. Also sledge hammers tend to split posts.

7 Always have a battery operated electric drill with you. These can be useful for drilling, screwing screws or for sharpening blades. You will need to remember the spare battery and charge up the batteries before you leave home.

8. Take a good bow saw and a spare blade for it. The blades are cheap and easy to fit. Bow saws can be quite as effective as chain saws for short jobs and without the need for so much safety equipment: the job can often be done more quickly using a bow saw. If there are several of you it is better to have at least two bow saws: they are easy to use and compared to most forestry tools they are fairly safe.

9. Include in your forestry tool kit some good marking equipment. This can include tape to tie around branches to mark a line for a track and forestry spray paint for marking trees to be thinned. Masonry paint can also be useful for marking tracks.

10. Before you leave home check your list of forestry tools, which you are taking. It may well look like this:

– bill hook, spade, bow saw, long handled spade, slasher, post banger, electric drill and spare batteries, hammer and nails, Stanley knife, supply of screws, gloves, safety helmet, tape for marking paths, first aid kit, matches and paper for fires, an axe.

Apart from buying online from forestry tool suppliers and from traditional hardware suppliers you can also get good second hand forestry tools at woodfairs and forestry events. Possible online tool suppliers include: www.toolshop.co.uk, chainsaw.co.uk and billhook.co.uk, though our favourite is:


Posted in: Practical Guides ~ On: 19 September, 2006

19 comments so far

14 January, 2016

I was disappointed to see that your handbooks section,

here >>> http://handbooks.btcv.org.uk/handbooks/index

specifically with reference to specialist tools in no longer maintained.
Is there any way to access such documents?

Weather effects and woodlands | Woodlands.co.uk
15 October, 2013

[…] in the wet are multiplied many times. This is particularly so for the small owner relying on hand tools or motor manual operations such as chainsaws, clearing saws and hedge trimmers. The risk of […]

toolbox supplies
18 May, 2011

Toolboxsupplies offers excellent toolbox products supply service such as hand tools, power tools, power tool accessories, drill bits & holesaws and lots more.

12 March, 2010

For “Jazz” –

I know it was two years since you posted your desire find a crosscut/bucking saw and where. I’ve found several on eBay – though the ones I’ve found are in the USA. Getting one would just require you work with the seller to ship to the UK. What you’d save on the tool you’d spend on shipping, but it may end up to be a bargain in the end.

2 March, 2010


A bit late but maybe still useful for readers. You can get a feather file for silky saws from the uk dealer: http://www.silkyfox.co.uk/
They don’t advertise on the website but i know someone who bought one a while back.

15 December, 2008

i’m trying to find a suitable sharpener for Silky saws. I have two of the big toothed variety and they’re great but they’re getting blunter owing to heavy use

any ideas?

many thanks


29 November, 2008

Why ask all these questions and then use chainsaws to do the work anyway. All just for show!

jazz matharu
5 June, 2008

Hi iam trying to get hold of a two handeled cross cut/bucking saw in. I have tryed nearly all of the sites on the internet with no luck,even an old one that might need sharpening will not be ignored.i live in the heathrow/sunbury cross area of middlesex. thank you.

22 May, 2008

Hi there,
if you are searching for more and cheap hand tools, just take a look at the onlineshop of Westfalia.


28 January, 2008

HI Angus thanks for such a nice safety articles

Tracy Pepler
3 December, 2007

BTCV also do a day course on working with small tools – and safety. I plan to attend this course next year, as I think it will be very helpful!

And Angus – you forgot to mention a first aid kit and a whistle! A very important part of a tools kit! ;-)
We have put one together, cost about £25, and will last for years.

We also have a tool belt each which holds billhooks and lifting tongs – very useful as it reduces the time spend bending to pick up tools and searching for them!

Dave Budd
22 October, 2007

Just stumbled across my name there. Thanks! :)

This has been the first year of my courses and until recently I was renting the woods that i use, so i couldn’t do very much in there for fear the owner would object. Now I own the woods I can start doing a few more things :D

Next year the courses are going to be a mixture of Experimental Archaeology (my background), woodland management and ‘bushcrafty’ things. I don’t advertise it as bushcraft becuase I try to only teach things that are based i British archaeology. So the woodland things will be more ancient skills including hedgelaying, greenwood work, coppicing, wattle and daub, cob building, etc. If people ask me for somethig then I can always try and organise it ;)


Weather effects and woodlands | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
29 August, 2007

[…] in the wet are multiplied many times. This is particularly so for the small owner relying on hand tools or motor manual operations such as chainsaws, clearing saws and hedge trimmers. The risk of […]

Tracy Pepler
19 April, 2007

Why do I KNOW that my husband, Mike is going to suddenly want a bow and arrow!!


Angus Hanton
17 April, 2007

I came across a really interesting set of courses that a guy called Dave Budd runs at:
He seems to do tool making, tool sharpening and tool maintenance courses and even has a “feast weekend”. His prices sound reasonable though some of the courses are definitely more bush-craft related than woodland management related such as the spear-making course.

Tracy Pepler
14 April, 2007

Thank you!
we are looking for old tools, and Freecycle is doing well for us on that count!


8 April, 2007

Dear Tracey,
If they are old tools then so much the better, the steel will be thinner and easier to sharpen. Use a cigar shaped sharpening stone, made from carborundum and quite rough, about £10. You can get them with a handle. Most hardware shops have them. To see what they are like go to http://shop.btcv.org.uk/shop/level3/17/level
For loppers etc use a finer stone.
If buying new tools then they need to be ground down and the cutting area of the blade made thinner. They can then be sharpened with a stone. Stones break easily when dropped!
The sharper the implement the less effort is needed in use!

Tracy Pepler
6 April, 2007

HI Angus

What can you recommed as an all round good sharpener? We have been collecting old tools from where ever we can and they all need sharpening and rust cleaned off….. (method?)
Axes, loppers, cutters, sythe (!!) etc.
we also have some small tools for green wood work and need to know how to sharpen them…


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