An Old Agrarian
Mystery Tool

Dateline: 26 September 2014

(click pictures to see larger views)

I bought the above tool at an antique shop earlier this year. It is in good shape and didn't cost much money. I had to have it. :-)

I know what the tool is called and what it was used for, so it's not a mystery to me. It is an agrarian tool, for sure. 

I'm thinking this may be a real mystery tool to a lot of people who read this blog. Then again, it might be that a lot of readers know exactly what it is.

The tool is 15" long. The blade is thin but rigid, and surprisingly sharp along the bottom. It is 2-1/4" wide at its widest point. The handle has a comfortable, ergonomic fit in my hand.

I'm not sure how old the tool would be. My guess is that it was used in the late 1800's into the early 1900's. There is no reason it couldn't be put to use these days, but few people would have need of it. 

Any guesses?


Frank and Fern said...

A hog scraper? That's not really agrarian unless you consider livestock as part of the mix.


Nick L. said...

Hi Herrick,

The first thing I thought of was that it is a harvesting knife for lettuce or cabbage. If that is not what it was designed for I bet it would work well at that.

Nick L

SharonR said...

I was thinking some sort of butchering tool, then I saw the first comment, "hog scraper". Since two of us think so, maybe that's what it is. ? At first, I thought a small brush cutter, but they have other tools for that and they are more of a concave curve, aren't they? Nice tool for whatever use you find, looks like.

Jonathan Sanders said...

I don't know what it is, but by the way it "hangs" out of your hand it would seem that it is well suited for long downward strokes...?

Herrick Kimball said...

Nick and Jonathan are on the right track.

It is not used to harvest, but to do something to a particular crop once it is harvested.

milton f said...

Hi Herrick,

First thing that came to mind was a tobacco processing tool.

Herrick Kimball said...

Nope. Not tobacco.

tech.samaritan said...

Beet knife? For chopping mangles for stock?

Lisa Scheidegger said...

Corn knife... to take the ears off the stalk?

Herrick Kimball said...


You got it!

It's a beet knife. My understanding is that it was used to cut the tops off of harvested mangle beets or sugar beets.

There is another style of beet knife that is still sold. it has a straight blade and a prong at the end of the blade for poking into a beet and lifting it up.

If anyone is interested, you can do a Google images search of "beet knife" and see some pictures.

Anonymous said...

Is it for chopping off turnip tops?

Gail said...

Wonderful history lesson. If I've seen a beet knife did not know what it's use was.

Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

Nice find. Looks like it wouldn't mangle the mangels.

Judah Chadwick said...

Interesting design. Hmm...maybe I could make a knife shaped like that.
I really enjoy these old tool posts. Keep it up!