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The Best Hori Hori Garden Knives

Oct 24, 2023Oct 24, 2023

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From sowing seeds to pulling weeds these Hori Hori knives will cover your garden needs.

While you may already know the Japanese word hori hori means dig dig– an onomatopoeia that expresses the sound of digging, these garden knives were first used by the Matagi to harvest hearty spring mountain vegetables known as Sensai. The convex blade was crafted for the tasks of digging up spring shoots and tubers, and the serrated edge easily cuts through stalks and stems. Worn at the hip, the hori hori is built for foraging.

While In our testing we preferred some features above others, truly the differences were minimal and all the hori hori knives below will perform the tasks at hand. Much like with pocket knives, the ultimate gardening knife is just the one that you think looks the coolest. That said, here's the nitty gritty on what to look for in a good garden knife.

Blade steel: Traditionally hori hori knives are made of high carbon steel that retains a strong edge, has a high bending strength, is easy to sharpen, and unfortunately easy to rust– without proper care that is. More modern blades are forged with stainless steel that is rust-resistant but will have a lower bending strength.

Handle: From plastic to a wide selection of hardwoods, all the handles on this list are going to provide good grip. What you should consider before buying is what materials will still look good after years of wear from dirt and grime and what the tang of the blade is. The tang or how the blade attaches to the handle will also play into how much prying strength you can apply.

Blade sheath: Since most hori hori knives will be sharp enough out of the box to roughly cut cardboard, to prevent injury all of the options below come with a sheath. Not all of these sheaths will be good. Plastic sheaths feel stiff on the hip, leather sheaths trapped in dirt, and sheaths that attach to your hip via a clip were vastly superior to the standard belt loop.

Convex sides: To assist in the task of digging and scoping soil, the hori hori knife will have convex curved sides akin to a trowel. In our testing, hori hori knives with more pronounced curved sides performed better at cutting in circles around roots and scooping out soil from the ground than knives that had a less pronounced curve.

Serration: To cut through roots, brush, and branches the back spine of most hori hori knives will have serrations. Serrations are measured in the depth and width of the gullies and the pointiness of the tips — ultimately knives with deeper gullies and pointed tips provided a sharper bite to make quick work of cutting.

Soil depth ruler: Although you will sacrifice some style, blades with a ruler were incredibly helpful in determining the soil depth required for planting bulbs and sewing seeds. Our favorite options kept the ruler to a minimum of one side and had unlabeled demarcation every inch (or 25mm) — we found these looked cleaner and were just as helpful despite the loss of centimeter accuracy.

Hand forged by master craftsmen in Niigata prefecture Japan, Nisaku is well known for its high-quality garden tools made from authentic Tomita stainless steel. The original Namibagta (also known as the NJP650) is Nisaku's most popular selling hori hori and it's clear to see why with its overall solid construction at a reasonable price. The traditionally shaped blade is polished to a mirror finish and only the back convex side has soil depth markings in both inches and millimeters. If you are dealing with harder soil, Nisaku also manufactures a nearly identical model out of a higher quality 440c stainless steel that should hold up to more abuse.

While I have a lot of good things to say from my time gardening with the Barebones Living hori hori ultimate, the best part of this knife is actually the sheath. Just being able to clip the sheath onto whatever pants I’m wearing was vastly superior to fumbling with any of the belt loops that are common on other hori hori sheaths. The barebones sheath also smartly incorporates a wide hole in the bottom that prevents any dirt and debris from building up inside — which was another common error we saw among other brands.

The 4CR13 blade on the hori hori ultimate has an attractive stonewash finish that wears scratches and dirt quite well. While in use, it makes quick cuts through soil with a sharp straight edge and the deep gullies and pointed tips of the serrated blade perform excellent sawing through all manner of branches, brush and roots. Now it may be a little overkill for digging around in the garden, but it's the best option if you're looking for a knife with some heft.

Expert gardener and author of The Gardens of Eden Abbye Churchill recommends the traditionally crafted high-carbon steel hori hori from Hida Tools. The serrated side of the blade is quite unique as it starts with a spear point tip that's great for piercing the soil and then works into are also two levels of serrations. The serration section of the blade starts with shallow-depth gullies that are easy to get a cut started with and the upper part of the blade moves to deeper-depth gullies that will provide more bite to make quick work through roots. While you will need to take better care of the carbon steel blade to prevent rust, with a higher tensile strength than stainless this is going to be a great option for hard soil.

If you're using your hori hori routinely, the blade will dull rather quickly from the harsh environment of rock and grit-filled dirt. While you may already have a pocket knife sharpener, the hori hori from Truly Garden comes with a diamond sharpening rod to keep both the straight and serrated edge sharp. Following along with the brand's tool care instructions, keeping your hori hori in top condition won't take longer than a few minutes.

Nisaku's broadsword specialty (also known as the NJP830) is not only cool looking but quite functional too. Although many of the other picks on this list are better at planting bulbs, digging up garlic or cutting roots, the uniquely sharp reverse tanto tip on the broadsword specialty is especially awesome at removing weeds. Partially thanks to the extreme angle of the convex sides (that is off centered by design) and only having a small section of serrations towards the top of the blade, this knife pierces through the soil and cuts in a circle with incredible speed.

While the plastic sheath is of fine quality and even includes a hole in the bottom to drain any moisture and debris, the plastic handle on the broadsword specialty leaves a little to be desired. The handle is comfortable and the hatching provides for good grip, but it doesn't wear with dirt so well.

As good as the Barebone Living hori hori ultimate is at piercing through soil, the classic may be the better tool for separating bulbs without damaging them. With a rounded tip and a wide blade, the classic is excellent at scooping soil. Supported by a full tang walnut handle this is also a solid option if you are looking for a blade that can hold up to strong prying force.

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