The Japanese Hori Hori digging tool is known by some as the ‘ultimate gardening tool’.
WHILE ORIGINALLY DESIGNED to help collect bonsai trees from the mountainsides of Japan, you can use it for everything from digging up weeds in your garden to planting flowers and bulbs. The sharp edge will even cut open bags of fertilizer or lengths of string.
You can cut through small roots or branches, and free plants from pots with ease. With his versatility, the Japanese digging knife can be used to replace a host of standard garden tools, including pruners, trowels, weed extractors, and small saws.
With so many different versions of the Hori Hori on the market, finding the right one can be challenging. Here we take a look at what makes the best Hori Hori knife available.
Whether you have owned a Hori Hori knife before or this is your first time buying one, there are certain things you should know and what you should be looking for.
Like most things the more you know, the less likely you are to end up wasting your money on a tool that is not going to get the job done.
Image: Secret Garden
The size of the Hori Hori ranges from approximately 11 to 15 inches including the handle. While the actual size of the blade may vary to a certain degree, the average is around just under 7 inches long by 2 inches wide.
You may need to try several different styles and brands to find one that fits your hand comfortably and that is the perfect size to handle the work you have in mind.
Image: Secret Garden
The quality of the steel used to craft the blade is the difference between good and not so good Hori Hori knives. The best blades are made from high-quality stainless steel that won't rust over the course of time. Sadly, many of the cheaper models use inferior quality steel that soon rusts and loses its edge.
The blade should have two different edges. On one side should be a smooth razor sharp knife edge. On the other, there should be a razor-sharp serrated edge that looks a little like a saw blade.
Both sides of the blade should be marked with lines that indicate inches and centimeters. These markings are used to help you gauge depth to help you when you are planting.
The blade should also be concave in shape to make digging, planting, and prying much easier. Because of the super-sharp edge, you can also use the Japanese digging tool for a small hand ax. However, you should always be aware that the edge is extremely sharp and when handled carelessly can cause serious injury.
Finally, the blade should end in a sharp point. This sharp point will make it much easier for you to pierce through hard soil or sod. The serrated edge can be used to cut through small roots, and concave shape makes it easy for you to dig out weeds with a flick of your wrist.
A top-quality Hori Hori knife should come with a wooden handle that is riveted to the haft of the knife. A good hardwood or bamboo handle will not only provide you with a non-slip grip but will last practically forever.
You may also find a number of quality knives that feature a resin handle that may or may not be riveted in place. However, many the cheaper models come with plastic handles that will soon crack, break, or fall apart with steady use.
Like any good knife, any Japanese digging tool you buy should come with a sturdy sheath. The idea behind this is not only to provide you with a place to store your knife but also to protect you and others from the sharp edges.
The best sheaths are made from thick natural leather and come with slots that can be used to secure the sheath to your tool belt. Beware of cheap “pleather” or plastic sheaths as they will not last or protect your knife.
I can't stress how important it is for you to become familiar with your Japanese digging knife, given the fact it has to very sharp edges. One thing many people worry about with this type of knife is the fact that they don't have a bolster (finger guard).
This is where buying a knife with a good quality wood handle comes in as wood doesn't tend to become as slippery when wet as resin or plastic handles do. However, if you are not comfortable with using a sharp knife without a bolster, you may want to consider investing in a top-quality pair of leather gardening gloves.
Image: Secret Garden
There is no set answer to this question as it all depends on the quality of the materials used in its construction. You can expect the best Hori Hori knife to last for at least 10 years or more.
Care is another important factor in how long you can expect your knife to last. Even the best will succumb to mother nature if you leave them out in the rain or don't take good care of them.
You should wash your knife off after each time you use it and allow it to dry. If you bought a knife with a natural hardwood handle, you can extend the life of the handle by occasionally rubbing it down with a small amount of linseed oil and wiping it off with a rag.
You should also sharpen the blades at the beginning of each spring/summer. Not only does a sharp edge ensure the Hori Hori will cut through sod and dirt more easily, but at the same time, it will help reduce your risk of getting hurt while using it.
Like any other product, this question if very much open to debate. However, since the Hori Hori is originally from Japan, most people still believe the best models are made in Japan.
The finest quality knives are made with high-grade Japanese stainless steel to ensure they will provide you with many years or faithful service.
Most buyers will tell you to avoid those that are made in China as they tend to use inferior low-grade stainless steel or more commonly, carbon steel that will quickly lose its edge and rust.
Again, no matter where your digging tool comes from, you are going to get what you pay for as the more you pay the better the quality of the materials used in its manufacture are likely to be.
A good video at the different uses of a Hori Hori knife, and some of the other tools it can replace:
Now that you know more about the Japanese Hori Hori knife, including what to look for and how to use it, let's take a quick look at 5 of the top rated Hori Hori knives currently on the market.
This Hori Hori knife comes straight from Japan and is the perfect gardening, metal detecting, fishing, and hunting tool. It comes with a black vinyl sheath complete with belt loop. I can hear you saying ‘vinyl wont last'. But over at goodoak.com they say that
“if (the NISAKU knife is) stored with the curved side of the blade in, they’ve lasted us for years. Its typically the belt loop snap that rusts off before anything else.”
The blade is made from high quality Japanese stainless steel and measures 6 1/2-inches long. The entire length, including handle, is 11 3/4-inches. This lightweight tool (5.6 ounces) is ideal for digging weeds or planting bulbs, flower, shrubs. It features a razor-sharp knife edge on both sides of the blade, one side being serrated.
|High-quality stainless steel blade||No crossguard to protect your hand|
|Thick blade does not bend when digging||Sheath is vinyl instead of leather|
This Hori Hori knife is literally the virtual “Swiss Army” knife of the gardening world. You will find it has thousands of uses all around your house and garden.
It can handle everything from weeding and digging to sawing, cutting, and chopping. You can use it to plan bulbs, sculpt bonsai trees, cut small branches and roots, and many other tasks.
It features a wood handle and heavy-duty steel blade that is concave in shape. The blade has a convenient ruler etched into it that will help ensure you are planting at the right depths.
|Thick strong blade won't bend or break||Carbon steel may rust over time|
|Concave shape makes digging easy||Blade is not super sharp|
|Durable solid wood handle||Sheath is poor quality|
If you are looking for the ultimate all-in-one gardening tool, this great knife from Truly Garden may be just what you are looking for. It features a 7-inch blade manufactured from 420 stainless steel that ensures it will never rust.
The blade itself is extremely sharp and comes with both standard and metric markings. The wood handle is strongly secured in place with three rivets and covers a full-length tang for extra strength.
Unlike many others in this price range, this knife comes with a heavy-duty leather sheath that will protect it for many years to come. You can use the included diamond rod to keep the blade sharp and make using it even easier.
|Top quality 420 stainless steel blade||Metal tang protrudes from handle|
|Heavy-duty leather sheath||Rivets not set flush in handle|
|Extremely sharp blade||Sharp edges of tang can cut handle|
One of the most endearing parts of this Hori Hori knife is that it features a crossguard that will keep your hand from slipping down onto the blade and cutting yourself. The 7-inch blade features a full tang and is made from top-quality highly polished 420 stainless steel.
It features one very sharp cutting edge and one serrated edge for cutting small branches and roots. It comes with a leather sheath that can be hung from your belts.
The whole set comes in a convenient gift box so you can keep one for yourself and give one to your gardening friend.
|420 polished stainless steel won't rust||Does not come with a sharpening stone|
|Holds its edge well||Handle is smaller than tang on some models|
|Full blade tang helps give the knife good balance||Strap for attaching to belt is thin|
Fiskars has a very good reputation for making knives, scissors, and garden knives. This is their version of the Hori Hori and may be one of the better ones on the market.
It is perfect for a wide range of gardening tasks and comes with an oversized padded handle that provides you with a comfortable non-slip grip.
Having one sharp knife edge and one serrated edge makes digging into the ground easily and the twin points at the tip make transplanting a breeze. The handle has a built-in hanging hole for easy storage.
|Oversized handle for extra grip and comfort||Blade is only coated and may rust|
|Notched tip helps remove weeds more easily||Blade is thin and tends to break|
|Hang hole for easy storage||Blade is welded to the handle and breaks off|
In truth, there really isn't any other tool on the market that can come close to the Japanese Hori Hori. But there are of course other types of garden knives that might fit your needs if you don't need a heavy-duty digging knife. Here is one that I found you might be interested in:
If all you need is something to help you keep the weeds cut down, this simple tool might just be what you are looking for. It features an oversized Softgrip® handle that helps to improve control and reduce wrist and hand fatigue.
The curved head features forked tines that make removing weeds a cinch. The cast aluminum head will not rust or corrode. It is perfect for removing weeds, thistles, dandelions, and many other intrusive plants.
|Oversized comfortable grip||Does not have a sharp knife edge|
|Aluminum head won't rust||Does not have a serrated edge|
|Curved head makes removing weeds easy||Aluminum head not as strong as steel|
So now we have looked at what the Japanese Hori Hori garden knife is all about, what it is used for, and how it is used. We have also looked at five of the toughest models on the market.
For myself, I have the Nisaku version as I really like the Japanese steel. Although it does not have a crossguard, I have never found this to be a problem.
This is one tool you will simply fall in love with and never want to part with, so be sure you buy the best quality one you can find.
If you have enjoyed reading about the different Japanese Hori Hori knives, please let me know.
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