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In popular fiction farmers will often grab pitchforks in an attempt to drive someone off. In my experience, while pitchforks are menacing, shovels are much more effective. In the instance of a mass of people needing to defend themselves with what they have at hand, what is the most effective hand tool/farming implement to use as a weapon? (Excluding actual pricey weapons of course)

Edit: apparently I was not clear enough on why the question related to worldbuilding. Hopefully now it's clearer that what people are likely to view as effective weapons are what get used and can widely affect possible outcomes of violent confrontations, and hence have a large impact on what details can be reflected in the fictional world. In addition, the availability of ideas in the answers below allows for a wider understanding to those not as familiar to said implements and the possibilities of improvised weapons. Also, folk heroes.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Although, there are several theories on the nunchucks origin, the popular belief is that they originated from Okinawa during the 17th century. They are believed to have started out as a flail to thresh rice and other grains." Does this count? $\endgroup$ – Mendeleev Jul 21 '17 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ A good farm truck with sharpened snow-plow can be a formidable weapon if driven offensively! Rats... you specified hand tool. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 21 '17 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to be about worlbuilding. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 21 '17 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor A harvester combine is quite menacing, if a tad slow. Mad Max: On The Farm. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Jul 21 '17 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ Many farm implements like bill hooks, sickles, staffs, mallets, axes and so on have been used by peasants at war $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jul 22 '17 at 1:58
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Pitchforks are actually decent as spears, but they can be blocked easier. In middle ages, people also used scythes. They also used sickles, and even put them on poles. More effective than shovels, I think you could use hoes. Clubs were also easy to make and were extensively used by peasants.

The weapon effectiveness depends a lot on the terrain and enemy. A pitchfork would work great against a knight, a scythe would seriously injure an unarmored foe. A pole ending with a sickle would be great to pull a knight off his horse.

I remember that in Eastern Europe peasants were sometimes drafted to the army, and used farm tools as weapons because that was all they had. They said they dug ditches and sprang to attack cavalry. Apparently they slashed the legs of horses with scythes. I have not found a link for this reference, but there is a question on SE dealing with use of scythes in battle here.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't a sickle on a pole literally a scythe? $\endgroup$ – Imperator Jul 22 '17 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Imperator: No. A scythe has the blade at (nearly) a right angle to the snathe (or handle) making it very awkward to use on anything much more than ankle high. Whereas if you just lengthen the handle of a sickle, you have a fairly useful polearm $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 23 '17 at 4:18
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The Billhook would be my nomination, a blade approximately 8-10 inches long used in farming and forestry for cutting brush and branches. It was common in medieval Europe and similar designs are found all over the world.

Attached to a longer handle it could be used as a weapon, and evolved in the weapon known as a Bill that was common on the battlefield at such times.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Attached to a longer handle it could be used as a weapon" - isn't it just a war scythe? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_scythe) $\endgroup$ – Mr Scapegrace Jul 24 '17 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr Scrapegrace the hook at the top of the Billhook, and its Military equivalent the Bill enabled a pulling, hooking on to enemy shields and armour joints that the scythe would not. The Bill as a weapon is more versatile than the war scythe, it has the hook, a cutting face for a hopping motion and the long spike to,use as a spear. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Jul 24 '17 at 12:33
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Other possibilities:

  1. Wooden maces with reinforcements of iron like the goedendag
  2. Flails were also tools converted for war

enter image description here

  1. The glaive is derived from an agricultural tool similar to a sickle on a stick, the billhook.

enter image description here

  1. Axes (for cutting wood)
  2. Short swords similar to falchion (medieval machetes)
  3. A wooden spear, with the point hardened in the fire can be crafted in a few minutes.

More or less, these were representend in the Peasant Wars

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Ad 3. Scythe mounted in a spear like way was quite popular and hellishly effective. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jul 23 '17 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the reach of a spear but a blade to cut and to stab. $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Jul 23 '17 at 12:41
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This may be on the obvious end, but axes and hammers have been used at great length and with reasonable success.

There's not a whole lot of difference between a war hammer and a sledgehammer. Heavy thing on a stick will break bones as easily as it breaks rocks.

Axes see a little more customization, but for the most part an axe is an axe. A sharp heavy thing on a stick is even better than a regular old heavy thing on a stick.

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The weapon of choice for a peasant would be a scythe, unless it is an emergence, in which case it will be what they are holding or have at arms distance at the moment. More likely again a scythe, or a sickle, axe, shovel, pitchfork, even a rake. Or, evidently, a knife, but this wouldn't be a good choice if the intention is to form a threatening mob.

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