The Flax Cutter and The Hops

The Flax Cutter and The Hops

Recently the team at Silky Store NZ visited Guy and Krista at Kentishman Hops in the Moutere Valley just outside of Nelson. They’ve owned the hop farm for just over 13 years and have about 25,000 plants that they carefully string, train, harvest and prune every season, to ensure they get the best production possible. And interestingly, they are also one of the few hop farms left in New Zealand that still hand cut their hops.

But what exactly are hops? Well, hops are essential to making beer. And we like beer. So we think hops are pretty important.

The plant part of the hop that is used to brew beer is the pale green cone looking thing, and those bits are full of what’s called perishable resins. Perishable resins are the stuff that gives beer bitterness when used early in the brewing process, and aroma when added at the end. But due to the moisture content in hops they need to be dried in a kiln as soon as possible after harvesting, and the majority of those dried ones then go through a pelleting process. However, for those wanting to brew with fresh hops straight off the vine, it’s best to get them to a brewery as quickly as possible and get them into the brew (ideally the same day).

Interesting fact: did you know that some brewers actually fly to the Nelson region during harvest time and then fly their hops back to their brewery to get them into the brew in the quickest possible time! Some local breweries are extremely fortunate however to only be 15mins drive away!

Another important but usually time-consuming part of the process of growing hops is the pruning. And that’s where we come into the story…

Guy and Krista employed a couple of (Argentinian???) backpackers 2 years ago to help with their pruning, and told them they’d be given some tools when they started. But the backpackers said they didn’t need anything because they had their own cutters. And those cutters happened to be small very sharp curved serrated tools that looked just like the flax cutters we have at Silky Store NZ. And when told how long they had to get the work done, the new staff said they’d be able to get through that in half the time.

Guy and Krista laughed. But with a little bit of curiosity they watched, and to their amazement… the work was indeed done in half the time it usually took them.

Well, we love helping people and solving challenges, so with a few samples and some trials Guy and Krista and their staff all use the flax cutters now.

These tools are a small hand sickle shaped cutter that have been used for thousands of years to harvest rice fields. But in more recent years they have also evolved into flax and fibrous plant cutters. They’re not saws and aren’t designed to cut wood, but by simply holding the plant material firmly and pulling the cutter towards you (one way), they are incredibly efficient.

And needless to say now, Guy and Krista are incredibly happy with the cost savings they’ve been able to achieve with these funny looking little tools that only cost $30 each.

At Silky Store NZ we have the Maruyoshi Flax Cutter, made in Japan. It’s made from high carbon steel and is tempered to give long lasting durability. It has a special back bar designed to add even more strength to the blade, and it only weighs about 100g so can be used for long periods of time without getting heavy.

To see Kentishman Hops in action – click here (

For more information on our flax cutters and all our tools, please visit our website or give us a call on 03 547 6874.