Turkish Knife and Saw Handles







This is a small serrated folding knife. I wasn’t able to figure out what it was used for–the serrations are very fine. As you can see in the photo, the sides are ground slightly and taper towards the cutting edge. The back of the blade is about .020″, and it tapers towards the cutting edge which is a very thin .010-.007″. The shape is similar to a modern pruning saw which also has a pistol type handle. It was made in Bursa, Turkey, which is the center for metal working– like Sheffield in England, or Solingen in Germany.











I find the handle the most interesting feature since it fits comfortably into the heel of the hand. It cuts, Eastern style saw, on the pull stroke. It cost $4.00 and was quickly made- note the crude ferrule and pivot pin, however the complex curves on the handle must have taken some time. But it feels surprisingly solid.







This illustration is from a Ward and Payne Ltd., Sheffield catalog, circa 1910’s. This is called a Turkish Saw (aka. Monkey saw) According to Salaman’s Dictionary of woodworking tools, they are common in Greece, Crete and Turkey and are used as a dovetail or small tenon saw. Again, it cuts eastern style on the pull stroke, so the blade can be made thinner. And like the knife above, the handle looks very comfortable, since it extends near to the wrist at the very end.

19 Replies to “Turkish Knife and Saw Handles”

  1. Yup – The Hippe-knife is used by winegrowers for cutting shoots (in frosty times) and grapes (in autum). Calling a girl ‚Hippe’ means ‚stupid cow’ or so ;-o

  2. Interesting, because I bought this knife in a wine producing area of Turkey. Given the very fine serration’s on the knife, it makes sense the shoots must be somewhat frozen. Danke schon.

  3. Hi from Turkey,

    This folder is called “zivana” here. Some also call it “bicki” or “testere”(saw). I am unable to write the pronunciations; sorry for that. It is used for pruning. It is -obviously- somewhere between a saw and a knife. It is serrated because it performs better than using a plain edge blade when pruning.

    This is not a for-winter tool by the way. It is/was also used to harvest sunflower, corn, etc.

    This photo is from a manufacturer’s web page: http://erkulbicak.com/galeri/5.jpg
    This manufacturer’s products page is: http://erkulbicak.com/urunler.asp

    By the way… Yes, the traditional Turkish saws are pull saws.

  4. Hi
    I do not know much about turkish pruning knives, but I can confirm this style is (or was) common thoughout the Ottoman empire – it survives in the identical shape of both handle and blade with a serrated edge in Bulgaria. Currently en example for sale on eBay.fr (search for serpe, serpette or couteau vigneron.
    Vine pruning takes place in March, but the pruning knife has been replaced by the secateur. The knife probably survives as a gardener’s pruning knife, but may still be used at harvest time to cut the grapes from the vine.
    Serrated blades are often found on sickles used for harvesting wheat and rice in many Meditteranean countries.
    My own primary area of interest is in the larger fixed blade pruning hooks or billhooks.
    For more info on the (german) hippe or haumesser, see:
    Regards from the UK

  5. Hi again
    Ref my last (spelling errors and all) – up a few posts there is use of the word ‘hippe’, and alternative meanings…. Throw away the dictionary, as for technical terms like pruning knives and billhooks they are usually useless… ‘hippe’ may have alternative meanings such as ‘goat’ or ‘silly moo’, but this is as relevent as saying ‘saw’ means ‘having seen something in the past’…
    Billhook (also bill hook and bill-hook) also has other meanings – as a spike to put old bills (invoices and receipts) on, or as part of the knot tying mecahanism on a reaper/binder or baler (receipt is also the old word for recipe, and this knot is tied in a piece of string, not found in a piece of wood) – most words have many meanings.
    The link above takes you to a website where a ‘hippe’ is more commonly called a ‘haumesser’, to which I have added further links to others sites where other names and spellings are used.
    What I have found is that there are dozens of regional and dialect names for the same tool, and an almost infinite variety of blade shapes and uses… To make matters worse, the use of a word has often been corrupted.. In spanish the word for a billhook is ‘podon’ or ‘podadora’ (from podar – to prune). If you do a search for podadora you will find secateurs, chain saws, brush cutters etc – but rarely a billhook or pruning hook. The use has been corrupted…
    If anyone can help with my list of words for this tool, in any languaqge or dialect, please post it..
    My latest is the word ‘gau’ (nasal and pronounced ‘gaun’) apparently only used in the Austrian valley of Zillertal in the Tyrol – thanks to John Bacher of the local hardware shop http://www.eisenbacher.com/eb/index.html
    Hopefully I will get my ebsite back on line (A Load of Old Billhooks) at http://www.billhooks.co.uk – it was deleted by Orange as hosted on a old dial up Freeserve account

  6. This saw is made in our company. Brand name is Ahmet Basaran which is one of our trademark. Totally hand made, even shape of handle. Steel is carbon steel and produced like as forged knives. Each serrated edges are manufactured one by one. 72 steps are followed to finish it.

    If you plan to visit Turkey- Bursa, you can find different models in this address.
    Yesilyayla Bıçak – Tahil caddesi No:21 Osmangazi / Bursa

  7. Hi Omer

    Is there a web site for the company?? The one shown above: http://erkulbicak.com/urunler.asp appears to have expired…

    Also images of other tools made by the company, or of the manufacturing processes, would be very useful….

    I would also be interested in any images of fixed blade pruning knives, of the english billhook type…

  8. Many thanks for the post ref erkulbicak.net – they appear to make all types of tool except the fixed blade pruning hook (billhook)…..

    Thanks for the other link as well – it appears they are still made and used elsewhere in Turkey…..

    Now for another request – do you know of any links on the history of this tool, examples of early billhooks etc….. Were double edged tools (i.e. with a back blade) used for pruning, as used elsewhere in the Mediterranean region (from Greece to Portugal in the north, and Malta to Morocco in the south????

  9. Any billhook variant I have seen in Turkey is single edged but I personally have no data about the history of this tool. Probably the back edge is not needed or found to be dangerous or risky. In Turkey double edged axe is also not used. I only know some historical military axes to be double edged.

    Common use of this tool through the Mediterranean region may be explained with the common presence of shrubs. This explains the demand for the tools.

    Maybe Scythians introduced this tool. IMHO, this also explains why this tools is known in a wide area.

  10. This looks almost exactly like the Banana knife we used in Israel. Everyone called them Turkish knives, so I guess that’s it. They were used to cut the stalks and trim leaves in the fields. Serrated worked much better than the smooth blade.

  11. Serrated sickles were made in most European countries to harvest wheat by hand, especially in small fields – although made redundant by the larger scythe and later mechanical reapers and combine harvesters, they were still being made well into the 20th century ( I guess mainly for export). In Morocco small serrated sickles are still made and used, but the edge is not sharpened – not sure what they are used for. The Turkish knives would appear to be an Eastern Mediterranean/Balkan version of this type of blade.

  12. This is used in Egypt as a banana knife by greengrocers. In Egypt it is called a “sharshara” or “serration”

  13. this knife can be bought at Great Dixter House and Gardens in Northiam East Sussex UK. It is a very handy tool for cutting down perennials and harvesting vegetables. the gardeners at Great Dixter have been using it for years to work the borders.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: