SUCH joy the sounds of summer bring. The strident, strangulated squeal of the strimmer; a guttural grumble from the sit-on mower; the gentle swish of the scythe.
All right, so you don't hear much scythe work going on these days but after spending a couple of hours chomping through the grass it is something that I'd like to learn more about.
It started when I spotted a red handled scythe hanging up in the back of the barn, and after quickly realising it was blunt, I spent five minutes or so sharpening the blade.
Scythe skills to learn
But I quickly learnt that it is not just a simple task of swinging the scythe from side-to-side, and so it was on to the web to find out more.
I quickly stumbled upon The Scythe Shop website, based in the UK, who not only supply various bits of kit, but also offer an online resource I quickly devoured.
For starters I was trying to scythe the grass around the house at the wrong time of day, it has to be early morning, and I also realised that the blade I had was for slicing through weeds, brambles and nettles.
If I really wanted to gain control over the grass then I had to master the Austrian scythe and its delicate make up.
Austrian scythes feature thinner, sharper blades that are extremely effective on grasses and meadows, but they quickly blunt against stones and woody branches so you have to be careful about the route you take.
Peening and honing
Then there is the craft of peening, which involves the tapping out of the blade after repeated sharpening, because as you sharpen you get closer to the thicker part of the blade and so you eventually end up with a rounded, bull-nosed edge.
Peening is followed by honing, which involves boat-shaped stones of various grades that allow you to sharpen your blade either in the workshop, or when out in the field.
So there is much to learn, but when I think about the grumbling neighbour with his head under the bonnet of his mower trying to work out why it's not working, I think I'd rather master the scythe over the carburettor.
And it will be pretty hard to beat the feeling of watching a deer slowly cross a nearby field as you brush the wet grass off your scythe in time for the day to start.
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There's a lot of it about. I scythed for the first time this week and think it will make my strimmer redundant. (Off to see which blade I have now...)
Posted by: Alex | 02 June 2012 at 08:37
I once witnessed a man (to the north of here) scything his lawn. He did just as good a job as a mower, although I suspect it might have taken him a bit longer. A remarkable sight.
Posted by: J Roger Clifford-Banks | 03 June 2012 at 06:49
I know I'm going to investigate further, and hope I can get to a level where I can mow the grass with the scythe alone.
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 03 June 2012 at 13:43
I have scythed longer grass for the past five years. It's relaxing,a brilliant finish and quiet. It's a form of meditation (but not too deep, you'll amputate your foot if you're an amateur!) You need to dampen the sharpening stone to ensure a really good edge.
A local farmer, admiring my work asked if I was 'origine paysanne). I said no, born and bred in London, only able to identify sparrows and pigeons. However, having done some family research, half my family to the end of C19 were agricultural labourers in Sussex, so I can now say proudly 'C'est mon héritage!' Vive la faux.
Posted by: GinaJ | 08 June 2012 at 08:21
More on scything! I have spent the time since I last posted on the Scythe Shop website. Oh! Wonderful! Thank you.
Posted by: GinaJ | 08 June 2012 at 09:36
Hi Gina, must admit there is a certain contemplative air about it and sorry if you got lost in the Scythe Shop ;)
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 09 June 2012 at 14:16
Wish I could say the scything is bordering on an obsession. Not so. It's a full obsession. Now sadly I can recommend Youtube's scything videos. My favourites are:
and especially: How to hone a scythe blade
(Hesitant delivery, but great info and view it in full screen to get the angles of the whetstone [See what I mean about obsession?]).
Found another old scythe in the barn, needs re-angling and honing, but what else is retirement for? Peening jig purchase comes next.
Posted by: Gina | 27 June 2012 at 08:42