Vintage Butchering Tools

Dateline: 28 August 2015

click picture to see enlarged view

I've been butchering this year's crop of meat birds over the last three days. My New Outdoor Sink has been an incredibly useful tool. I don't know why I didn't make one years ago. And the Whizbang Toe-Tapper faucet switch worked perfectly. I couldn't be more pleased.

I used a few new-old butchering tools this year. Two of them are pictured above. I bought the butcher's steel for less than $20 at an antique shop. It's a beauty. The steel is 14" long. Walnut handle with swivel hanging loop.

I almost didn't buy the steel because it had a light patina of rust on it. But on close inspection I concluded that I could remove the rust. I used a fine brass wire wheel in my bench grinder to clean up the steel. Half an hour of work and it was like a new tool. 

The cleaver is a Foster Brothers 1190. I looked at a lot of antique cleavers over the years and none really appealed to me. But when I saw the Foster Brothers 1190, I knew that was my cleaver. $25. 

I used the cleaver to separate chicken backs from breasts where the two parts connect at the neck. A couple of carefully-placed whacks and the parts were cleanly separated. It's a whole lot easier than using a knife, which is the tool I've used for many years at this stage of parting a chicken.

And we typically remove wing tips before freezing. Cleaver-cutting wing tips was downright fun. 

It turns out that the Foster Brothers company was a Central NY business, located not far from where I live. If you're interested, you can learn more about the company At This Link. Here's a picture of a Foster Brother's employee, back in the day, grinding the edge on some meat cleavers...

Sharpening cleaver blades at the Foster Brother's Company

The other vintage butchering tool I used this year for the first time is a French poultry killing knife that was made by the G.P. Pulling Company...

Vintage French poultry killing knife

I learned about the knife from the book, Caponizing, by George P. Pilling (click link to purchase an inexpensive copy). 

The idea of a French poultry killing knife is that, instead of cutting a chicken's neck to bleed it, you skillfully sever an artery in the back of the bird's mouth. 

That old knife is a very rare item. I bought it on Ebay for $30. I waited a long time for one to come up for sale.

In a future blog post (when I have more time to write) I will further discuss the French poultry killing knife and my experience with slicing the artery at the back of the throat.

Nicely sharpened French poultry killing knife.


Sherry said...

Great finds for sure..I remember my grandma having a knife like that, not sure what happened to it but if I knew I was going to raise chicks when I grew up I would of snatched it.

RonC said...

I use this for cutting apart the chickens:

Been using it for about three seasons now and it still cuts like the day I got it. Very well built. I only use it for butchering chickens and store it in a cooler during the off season. I am interested in hearing how the poultry killing knife works.

I did try caponizing some roosters this Spring with the Nasco caponizing set. I didn't have good luck with it. I will be searching for something better this Winter. It was a bit more difficult than it looked, but I will try again next year.

My 48 broilers are resting in the freezer. I have about 17 old Buff Orpington hens to process and then about 28 young Buff Orpingtons to do and the chicken project will be in the rear view mirror for the year.

I have to thank you again for publishing the Plucker and Scalder plans. They sure are handy tools.


Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Yes, indeed, Herrick, I want to hear your review of the use of your killing knife. I hope you're including this, among many other new ideas of yours, in your next book, that we all badly need! We'll need your tried and true ways during the difficult times coming; and Mr. Littlefield's, too, and your and his wonderful humor!!