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scythes, weed whackers etc


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  • scythes, weed whackers etc

    I am finding that bending down to use my sickle (aka grass hook) to cut down grass, brambles, dock etc is making my lower back hurt after a while, so I am thinking of investing in something that would allow me to do these jobs while standing more upright. I'm wondering what people's experience/advice might be about scythes, weed whackers etc.

    The ground that I am chopping the vegetation on is about 15 rods of allotment plots, communal orchard and long grass on what passes occasionally for a lawn.

    I've read a lot on the various traditional scythe websites, and (of course!) they tell me that they're the best thing since sliced bread (actually , the best thing before sliced bread since scythes have been around a lot longer than Mother's Pride [other sliced loaves are available ]), but I'm really after less partial testimony.

    I really, really, really don't like strimmers and brush cutters.


  • #2
    I bought a traditional Austrian scythe (wooden snath, not aluminium). Keeping the blade sharp is essential but it works a treat on green stuff. Mr Snoop and I did a field of thistles a couple of years back, him with a strimmer, me with the scythe. I made better progress than he did. Much quicker and cut much shorter. I think the shortness is because it's so much lighter than a strimmer. Being lighter than a strimmer also makes it a lot less tiring.

    The strimmer is a battery powered Stihl. So not a bad brand. What they don't tell you about strimmers, but is pretty obvious when you think about it, is that if you use the plastic twine rather than a blade, you end up with bits of plastic all around your plot.

    And one other huge advantage of a scythe is it's quiet.

    A friend of mine has a scythe with an aluminium snath. He much preferred the wooden one when he gave mine a go.

    Scythes aren't cheap, but you'll never have to replace the battery or worry about the motor.

    Where a strimmer wins over the scythe is if the stuff you're cutting is very mixed in hardness, say grass mixed with thick dock. It's rather a jolt if you're blithely swinging away to suddenly hit the hard stuff. A strimmer just keeps going and eventually gets through it. Also, the idea that you're going to get a beautiful, level surface is a bit optimistic with a scythe unless the stuff you're cutting is all the same stuff and you've practised for donkey's years. It doesn't matter to me that the result looks raggedy, but just to let you know. If you want the lawn area to look like a lawn, you're unlikely to get the result you're looking for with a scythe.

    I bought mine from Simon Fairlie at the Scythe Shop (online). There are lots of other places online and possibly cheaper. But he was convenient for me as he sells lots of related bits and pieces and I wanted a one-shop stop for delivery to friends who were bringing it over for me to Spain. I'd have taken a course with him if I could have, despite the somewhat evangelistic tone of his website!

    This page might be useful. I bought a 55 cm ditch blade and 40 cm bush blade, which is the one I use most. I opted for these due to the nature of the weeds I'm dealing with, and I bought short-length blades as I too am very short, plus a bit of a coward when it comes to sharp things in general!
    Last edited by Snoop Puss; 15-04-2024, 05:37 AM. Reason: Hadn't copied the link properly.


    • #3
      Wow…that’s a really interesting read Snoop!
      "Nicos, Queen of Gooooogle" and... GYO's own Miss Marple

      Location....Normandy France


      • #4
        Hi Snoop

        Many thanks for this - I'd noticed that you have suggested scythes once or twice, and was hoping I could tempt you into a more comprehensive report!


        • #5
          Any other questions you have that I haven't answered, ChingfordHarry?

          I forgot to say that a forest ranger friend came and helped me set it up as he uses a scythe a lot in his work. He loved the wooden snath and especially the grip. Much better than the one he was supplied with by his workplace, he said.


          • #6
            Is there a special way to stand whilst scything Snoop -?
            Is it mostly arm, waist - or a combination of both creating the sweep of the cut?

            "Nicos, Queen of Gooooogle" and... GYO's own Miss Marple

            Location....Normandy France


            • #7
              ^I'm no expert by any means.

              It's important to say I'm right-handed. My stance is feet apart, about the width of my shoulders, left foot just inches ahead of the other. A lot of the movement is at the waist, as well as the shoulders. I swing from right to left. How far you go to the right and the left depends on your comfort and the blade length. The blade just skims the ground. Because the snath and blade are really quite light, it's surprisingly effortless and quite meditative.

              Snaths for left-handers are available.

              Loads of videos online. There's an expert woman online who does it bare foot. I wouldn't do that, but I'm scything thistles and the like. She makes it look effortless, but she's scything grass and grass only. Plus, she's very tall (long arms) and uses a long blade, so her sweep from one side to another looks huge. So if you come across her, don't feel inadequate! I just what's within comfortable reach and can keep going for longer that way.


              • #8
                No more questions at the moment, though I could well have more later. I'll buy the scything book and have a read. Very useful website that indicates that he's more interested in selling the right kit rather than just making a sale.


                • #9
                  ^Yes, it was partly why I felt confident about buying from him, especially as I wouldn't see it all till it arrived in Spain, at which point no chance returning it!


                  • #10
                    One question that come to mind. What do you do about sharpening? Do you just use stones, or do you peen? If so, with a jig or with an anvil? How often? (Okay, that's more than one question...)


                    • #11
                      I got the basic beginner's kit with the round peening jig he shows on his site, but so far I've never needed to use it. Remember I'm only scything a small plot. If I had to do a huge area for haymaking, say, I'd probably need to peen. You might need one as you're scything a large area. But you might not need it in your first year.

                      With the kit, I got two whetstones. Probably the same ones as he still sells with the kit. The one I use pretty well all the time is the Saurat sharpening stone (natural, medium fine). It leaves a lovely edge. I've never timed myself as to how often I sharpen. After you've got a bit of experience, it becomes obvious when it's needed. At a guess, I'd say I sharpen every five to eight minutes or so. It's very quick to do, a minute or less if you're doing it regularly. And it really is worth doing frequently. Makes a huge difference to the scythe's effectiveness and reduces effort.

                      The other item that came was a galvanised sheath. Supposedly this is used for holding water to keep the whetstone wet. But I don't use it. I have barrels of water about my plot and just dip the whetstone in those if I think it necessary. I don't find the sheath that comfortable when scything and so I just keep the whetstone in a deep pocket it can't easily fall out of or by a barrel.

                      If I lived in the UK, so delivery was easy or I could buy accessories from elsewhere, I probably wouldn't buy one of his full kits. The snath, a couple of blades, perhaps even just one depending on what I was cutting, and the medium-fine whetstone. You might be able to put together a suitable set of equipment for yourself that might work out cheaper than buying a kit. And then add to that later on if it seemed necessary.


                      • #12
                        Fascinating reading Snoop!

                        We occasionally see at vide greniers antique cow horns with metal belt clips for storing whet stones for use whilst scything .
                        It hadn’t dawned on me that , of course, the horns would contain water!.
                        "Nicos, Queen of Gooooogle" and... GYO's own Miss Marple

                        Location....Normandy France


                        • #13
                          I must get it out next week. Now's a good time for weeds, when they're green and firm (not too floppy, so plants don't bend when the blade catches them) and seed heads can be lopped off readily before it's too late...

                          Oh, that reminds me, I'm not sure if this is standard practice, but if I haven't timed the scything well (left it too late or late in the afternoon) and plants have bent over rather than been cut, I try and lift them back upright with the back of the blade on the reverse sweep to give them another go.
                          Last edited by Snoop Puss; 16-04-2024, 08:32 AM.


                          • #14
                            A thought occurred to me last night - do you use anything like linseed or tung oil on the snath to help keep it in good condition?


                            • #15
                              ^That's an interesting question. I do have both linseed and tung oil but have never used them, or indeed anything else, on the snath. I notice Simon Fairlie says they should be treated from time to time with raw linseed oil, so perhaps I should. When not in use, mine lives in what we like to call our garage (no doors back or front). I've had it a few years now and it still looks and feels in good nick. Maybe I'll do it at the end of the season this year.


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