Permaculture Tools workshop at Zaytuna Farm with Danial Lawton (27-29 May, 2013)

by William Hill

Permaculture Tools owner, Danial Lawton

Permaculture tool expert and business owner Danial Lawton conducted a hand tool workshop at the Permaculture Research Institute Zaytuna Farm at the end of May. Presenting to students of the internship program, he shared his extensive knowledge of his unique hand tools, demonstrating their correct usage in the field.

Danial prepares to demonstrate correct usage of
his permaculture tools at Zaytuna Farm

Danial’s first exposure to the ‘old-style’ hand tools was at the PRI many years ago with implements such as the sickle, scythe, and machete. The efficiency, ease of use and practicality of these tools inspired him to learn more about them. Recognising their value in permaculture applications, he was inspired to source and supply the tools to the market and promote their correct usage which he does through his company Permaculture Tools, on-line at:

"The very first permaculture hand tool to own is the rice knife," says Danial. A hand-held sickle, the rice knife has a 6” serrated stainless steel blade that is a versatile and easy to use tool. He explains that the correct way to use the rice knife is to clutch the grass in one hand and pull the blade, twisting it as you pull. This effective method ensures the users’ wrist and hand are not strained and the grass is cut with minimal effort.

Danial demonstrates correct rice knife technique

Students at Zaytuna Farm learn how to use a rice knife
with the correct ‘pull and twist’ technique

Danial shows a student how to use a straight blade sickle to cut grass

After the rice knife, the next tool to own is a machete. These come in various lengths, but whatever their size, they are an effective and easy to use blade for numerous uses.

Danial demonstrates his machete grass cutting technique

The machete and sickle combination enables the cutting of long grass in an efficient and effective manner. Danial explains that the sickle is used to ‘hook’ the grass to be cut before a stroke of the arm with the machete carries out the act. “You swing it as you would a golf club, with follow through,” explains Danial. The sickle also acts as a ‘protector’ bar, preventing the blade from coming in contact with the user. The machete is swung parallel to the ground and the follow through kicks the cut grass away from the user. These tools used together are an efficient way to cut grass and in comparison with conventional mechanised equipment and their associated costs, provide an extremely economical alternative.

Danial in action: employing the machete and long handled sickle to ‘hook’
the grass to be cut. The sickle also acts as a protector bar.

Demonstrating maintenance of bananas, Danial shows students some nifty moves
with his machete reducing an unproductive banana to mulch

Here Danial uses a sickle to neatly remove spent banana fronds.
These clean cuts will heal and prevent disease entering the plant.

Tool maintenance & care

"Regular sharpening of your blades keep them in good condition and give you excellent performance," says Danial. He showed students how to sharpen the machete blade on the stone grinder before fine sharpening it using a wet sharpening stone to remove the rough finish the grinder leaves to obtain a razor sharp edge.

Danial shows students how to repair a rice knife

Sharpening the machete on a stone grinder

Here a wet sharpening stone fine is employed to fine sharpen the blade.
Danial explains that he fine sharpens his blades after each
hour of use to restore its razor edge.

Danial highlights three essentials when it comes to blade use:

  1. Keep your tools sharpened: this will maximise your tools’ efficacy and extend their lifespan.
  2. When working with hand tools: ensure you always work in the same direction for the safety of yourself and others.
  3. Always clean and put your tools away after use: cleaning tools is just as important as sharpening them and putting them back in the same place so they are on hand and ready for use every time.

To learn more from Danial about his unique hand tools, visit and his YouTube channel.

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