faq - help - videos
how to mow or reap with a scythe - bushwack - trim with a sickle
(be sure to include your measurements when you order your scythe, and make sure your blade sharp!)
all of the products mentioned on this page are available on our order form.
general knowledge about scythes their useage
the scythe book by david tresemer, is a wonderful source of information about all things that have to do with reaping, fitting the snath and the blade, and maintenance of the blade. it is beautifully illustrated with line drawings, and discusses not only the user's effect on the scythe, but the scythe's effect on the user, and the community. the best way to learn, is to work with a competent mower. for those who must learn on their own, there is no better resource.
the second edition is co-authored by peter vido, who has added a practical addendum of more than 50 pages on the use, care, and fitting of the scythe.
"scything is simple; it is relaxing too. it is no wonder the people of yesteryear had very little problem with stress. the quiet rhythm melts away tension; swish, cut, swish, cut, swish... if i close my eyes it is easy to imagine myself back in time -- a bird singing to the sky, the wind whispering to the trees, the splash of a horse pawing the water, the lowing of a cow calling her calf. would you like to time travel? i'll teach you how." - hannah sawyer, kingfield maine
mowing or reaping in pastures and grain fields
stand upright and relaxed in order to mow efficiently. your right arm's job is to keep the tip of the scythe level and just barely off the ground. the back stroke is accomplished by twisting to the torso to the right (just moving the blade back - not cutting), and the forward stroke is accomplished by twisting the torso back to the left. the scythe will naturally move in an arc. at the beginning of the cutting stroke, the left arm is already laying across the body, pulled there by the small momentum of the back stroke; the right arm is behind the body. as you begin to twist your torso back to the left, release your breath, take a very small step left, and let the scythe bite into 2-4" inches of the last arc that was cut. the arms remain quiet - as the stroke is started by the twisting of the torso, the left shoulder begins to pull the left arm. it is not necessary to muscle or hack at the stroke. even a youth is strong enough to mow a 5-6' arc, so let the scythe do the work. as the forward cutting stroke ends, and the back stroke begins, take a couple little shuffling steps to move yourself forward a few inches and to rebalance your torso. the design of the blade naturally catches the grass and piles it into a windrow on left at the end of the forward stroke.
here is video of mowing grass under an electric fence. if you are new to mowing, it is best to start in tender growth at least 10" tall. choose a cool morning in an empty field while there is still a heavy dew on the grass. make certain no bystander or animal is within 20 feet of you. (no, you won't hit them, but knowing someone is nearby will crowd your stroke and make you tense).
start with a small easy torso twist - resulting in an arc that is just 2-3' wide. concentrate on keeping the scythe blade low and level, and reduce your bite to just an inch or so. imagine you are making a 1/2 speed video - a sharp blade cuts just as well at a slower speed and is easier to control. avoid chopping, flailing, and lunging. gradually increase the width of your arc - by twisting your torso a little more. do not worry about increasing the speed of your stroke, that will come naturally as you feel your are gaining control of the blade position throughout the stroke. do not attempt to mow near any desireable plant or object until you have several hours of mowing experience. the tip of a grass scythe will poke a hole in anything that is not made of masonry or steel. the european style mowing or reaping stroke will easily slice through young weeds as thick as your thumb.
trimming with a sickle
if you have ever trimmed a flowerbed with a weedeater, only to see your flowers damaged by the shrapnel it produces, you are in for a pleasant surprise. the back of our austrian style sickle gently pushes the good plants out of the way, and clears the trimmed grass and weeds into a windrow you can then use for mulching along the edge of the bed. the same technique is used for clearing around nursery stock and in the garden rows.
in this sickle video, the reaper is in a crouching position, with the left hand occasionally touching the ground for balance. the left hand must be kept well out of the path of the sickle. some prefer to simply bend at the waistline, while using the left hand to gather taller grasses and grains near their tips. get the sickle razor sharp, cut just a few inches into the arc, and let the blade do the work.
bushwacking and clearing out fencerows.
first, take a walk through the area and confirm that there are no fence posts, large stumps, or other objects that will suddenly arrest the swing of the scythe. the scythe can be repaired, but there is no reason to jerk your muscles and joints this way! a brush blade or our post horn is capable of going through 2 year old sapling trees, and other woody type weeds. shorten your stroke and use a little more of a chopping motion, like a 1/4 golf swing. twist your torso less than when grass mowing. stop occasionally to shake off any vines or branches that accumulate near the heel of the scythe.
here's a video showing the basic technique. other than the sound of the blade, there is very little noise (you can hear the tree frogs chorusing after a recent rain). the bushwacker stops to consider mowing through some staghorn sumac, trims around a fence post and accomplishes the job in less time than it would take to go through this area with a string trimmer or saw blade trimmer.
and that time is spent in pleasant enjoyment of the natural sounds of the earth.
how to hammer out dulled blade
after many hours of mowing grass, you will notice that the stone no longer puts a razor edge on the scythe. it is because the fine hammered edge has been worn away and the edge of the blade is too thick to sharpen easily. if you are a blacksmith or a carpenter, you can use our peening hammer and anvil set to manually draw the edge back out to the proper thickness. the rest of us are better off using the sharpening apparatus. remove the blade from the snath, and set the jig into a stump with a couple of solid hammer blows. (always put a sharpening cap on the jig - do not hammer directly on the base of the jig).
this scythe peening video shows how easy it is to rework a dull blade.
set the gray sharpening cap on the guide pin and place the blade against the guide pin. hit the sharpening cap with about 2 lbs. of pressure, then draw the blade along its length, hitting the cap about every quarter inch of blade movement. use your fingers to see if the blade feels pretty much the same all along it's length.
if not, give a few extra blows to any thicker areas. then repeat the process with the green cap in place. no special skill is needed.
honing the edge with a stone
the bulk of the sharpening is done on the top side of the blade. start with a wet, medium grit stone (like our man made stone from fux), and lay it on the left part of the blade near the beard (heel) of the scythe. the concave side of the blade is near you, the back of the blade is away from you. the stone touches the newly hammered edge, and also rests along the heavy spine at the back of the blade. pull the stone down and towards the tip, dip it in the water holder and repeat this stroke several times, movng out to the tip of the blade. the downward part of the movement is important to avoid accidently slicing a finger.
you will see a shiny edge appear, and feel a little burr develop on the back side of the blade if you touch it there. a few strokes of very slight pressure, nearly flat on the back of the blade will remove the burr. repeat the stoning process with high density natural stone. here is a video of using the high density stone in the field to restore a razor edge after 10-15 minutes of mowing grass.