Roncole e pennati a potatura italiano

Italian makers still offer a wide range of regional shapes. Angelo, Leonelli, Panzeri, Rinaldi and other makers show a wide range of blades in their catalogues. However one manufacturer may be sourcing his tools from Pakistan, as several years ago I came across a manufacturer there who was selling a wide range of leather handled italian blade profiles....


The single edged billhook is known as a roncola (plural roncole), double edged ones as pennato (plural pennati) and square bladed ones, which may also double as meat cleavers, as mannaia (although there are many other regional and dialect names).


Handles are often made of leather washers, but in some areas wooden handles are preferred, and these may be fitted to a tang, or more commonly as scales rivetted to the sides of an extension of the blade. A common feature on many Italian billhooks is an extension of the tang to form a hand guard, c.f. the caulked handle of an English billhook. This is not, as commonly thought in the UK, used to hang the billhook up - some regions have a hole at the end of the blade for hanging on a nail or peg for storage, and a belt hook (gancio) is common in most regions for hanging it from the user's belt.

Production in progress at the Panzeri edge tool works in Cisano Bergamasco, northern Italy

A horn handled 'roncola' from northern Italy, probably the Venice/Istria reggion on the Adriatic coast.

A square bladed 'mannaia' or 'manaresso' from Reggio Emilia (Emilia Romagna region) in Northern Italy

A 'maraccio roma' with a plastic handle by Rinaldi. This shape of roncola has been in continuous use in the Rome region since the Roman era - the handle shape, usually of wooden scales, is unique amonst Italian billhooks.

A 'roncola' from Casa Pasquale in the Calabria region of central southern Italy. The wooden handle of one piece is slotted centrally to fit over the tang. Note the curved hand guard extending from the tang

A double edged 'pennato' from Umbria in central Italy - very similar shapes are found in Terni, Teano, Ripi and Rieti (often differences are so subtle to be almost impossible to give a positive identification, especially after the blade has been sharpened a few times).

Two 'pennati' from central northern Italy, showing the ring at the end of the tang, bent sideways, so it allows the blade to be used either way

A 'gancio' or hook  for holding a roncola or pennato. The hook fits over the leather belt of the user, and the billhook hangs in the open ended slot. Similar hooks are also found in Spain.

To combat the scourge of the Fiskars  plastic handled brush hook (sold as Gerber in the USA or Wilkinson Sword in the UK), Angelo of Bergamasco have produced their own version, sold as a European pattern roncola (which sells for a lower price than the aformentioned Fiskars)