Podão, foice e roçadeira

The billhook is still common in Portugal. As this country has a continuing rural tradition of small farms, a wide range of shapes are still being made. Those with a tang handle are generally known as podão, while the terms foice and roçadiera are used for tools fitted with a socketed handle.

This type of podão vinha is used for vine pruning - its is similar to the poudo of France and the podon of Spain. Unusual to British eyes, the form has been common in Mediterranean countries for over 2000 years.

This type, often called a foice, with its deeply curved blade is peculiar to Portugal and the adjacent part of north west of Spain. It can be used in the same way as the podão above, as an axe for cutting thick sections, and by being drawn towards the user for pruning thin shoots, as well as onto a block for splitting kindling wood (without the point digging into the block). These are from Braga in north west Portugal.

This pair of podão & foice are from Alcobaça in west central Portugal (near the coast) - note the similarity in blade shape between the socketed foice and the tanged podão. This type of foice is also common in Brazil, presumably introduced there by the Portuguese conquistadores in the 16th century.

This pair of podão are also from Braga (see above) showing how a small region can have a wide variation in blade shape.

Generally the roçadeira have more curved blade than the foice, often with a hook on the back for pushing branches in place. Similar back hooks are seen in the croissants of France, and in the UK in the brushing hooks of the Welsh borders, most commonly found in Herefordshire. 

This version, sold as a foice, has a squarer blade and a more ornate hook, that can also be used on the pull stroke... Unlike in the UK, most tools with a socketed handle are sold without a handle fitted.

Another version called a foice oliveria has two co-joined hooks, rather than one recurved one as above.. Oliveria refers to olive wood, so perhaps the tool is multi-function - used for trimming the branches of the olive tree and also for shaking the branches to harvest the olives.

When I was first looking at Portuguese tools, some years ago, I was told that a podão vinha that I bought was used for butchering pigs. It was obviously a vineyard tool, so I did not follow the thread. When preparing the PDF catalogue file (see below) there was one tool shown twice. Once as a small pruning hook (podão poda), but also as a knife for opening pigs (faca abrir porcos). It would appear my informant was correct, the billhooks of Portugal are multi-purpose, serving equally well as a butcher's tool as a vineyard pruning tool. This image is from the online catalogue of Cativegrama.

This one, also used for butchering pigs (faca de abrir porcos), is from the online catalogue of Vitorex.

A new PDF file for Cativegrama has been added to the Portugese catalogues, here:

(One of the problems with a largish web-site is that I forget what I have previously done, and start to duplicate sections - more images of Portuguese billhooks can be seen here:)