Monday, 13 June 2016

Scything: Part I. Introduction

The Austrian scythe
An important part of the RGL philosophy is using the simplest tool practical for any given job. I've always had an interest in traditional tools and methods as well as a strong suspicion that a fair few of their fancier modern equivalents are more about making money for their manufacturer than improving the process or outcome of the work.

The scale of the job is, of course, a key factor in determining whether a traditional hand tool or modern power tool is going to be the best way to go. I'm no Luddite, but I do believe that in general simpler is better, the easiest way isn't necessarily the best and that developing and using the skills required to use the traditional tools lead to an unparalleled satisfaction in the work.

The scythe is a prime example. Dustbin of history, right? Not quite.
Unless you have acres and acres of smooth uninterrupted lawn to keep trim, the scythe holds a number of advantages over powered alternatives.

The advantages as I see them are:

Re-skilling an otherwise dull job
  1. Cost. A good mower, push or ride-on, is expensive to buy. Also, you'll likely need a strimmer and possibly a brush cutter as well. The scythe does it all.
  2. Simplicity of maintenance. You've got one blade to keep sharp. No engine to maintain, no fuel or other consumables to buy.
  3. Enjoyability of use. Mowers, strimmers, whatever - they make a hideous din. With the scythe, all you get is the gentle swishing sound of the blade gliding through the grass. Listen to the birdsong instead. The satisfaction of learning the skill and doing it well is immense.
  4. Safety for wildlife. We have a lot of amphibians in our garden. The carnage attendant on ploughing through them with a power mower would be unspeakable. They have a lot more time to get out of the way and you have a much better chance of spotting them in time as you approach with the scythe.
  5. Versatility. Terrain, obstacles, moisture levels (scything is actually best with wet grass), vegetation type, vegetation height - you can deal with it all using this one elegant tool.
Disadvantages? The ones people usually expect don't necessarily stand up to scrutiny.
  1. Speed. "Doesn't it take forever?" Not really. Especially not when you include setup and maintenance time in the total. Scale counts here and if you have much more than an acre to mow regularly, you might want some power assistance.
  2. Safety. "I'd probably lose a foot." You'd have to do some pretty bizarre acrobatic maneuvers to bring the blade into contact with any part of your anatomy while mowing. Particular care, however, is required when sharpening the blade.

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