Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Scything: Part II. How-to

These are the basics of how to wield the scythe in the field. If you get to the stage of buying your own equipment, the conscientious retailer (such as Simon Fairlie) should help you along with set-up and fitting the tool to your height and general dimensions. Simon's site has an incredible wealth of information ranging all the way around the topic.

The main things to remember, once you've got the scythe set up ready and you're standing in front of lawn, meadow or field are:
  • Keep the blade resting on the ground all the way through the arc of swing and return.
  • Your swing should be comfortable from a fairly upright position, not stretching forward or leaning back.
  • Don't take too much with each stroke. You should be stepping forward only an inch or two each time and taking the same amount forward with your swinging arc.
  • Don't hack at it! This is a refined and elegant tool. The grass shouldn't even realise it's been cut until it falls over.

Particularly if you're using an Austrian scythe blade, which is lighter and finer than its traditional UK or US counterparts, frequent honing in the field is absolutely essential to keep the sort edge on the blade needed for optimal performance. You'll soon notice when it loses its keenest edge: the effort required for each stroke increases and the quality of the cut decreases.

You should acquire a set of three whetstones.
  • Coarse: Relatively seldom used, for when you have a nasty ding from hitting a stone, bit of fence wire, whatever.
  • Medium fine: Most used, primary edge honer when in the field.
  • Fine: For putting the premium shiny razor edge on.

In the third part of this scything series, I'll get into a bit of advanced maintenance, namely: peening.


  1. Replies
    1. You should. Seriously. You'll enjoy mowing your lawn as never before. It'll go nicely with your Prius as well.

  2. The most tempting feature is the preference for wet grass. I hate waiting for the sun to burn away the dew before I can drag an electric cord across the yard.

    1. That is a great boon. Heck of a lot easier to clean up than the mower as well, regardless of how wet/dry the grass is.


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