I used to have a hard time using the scythe for any length of time. These videos made it look so easy, so I did a bit of research, and tested my theories this weekend. Here is what I learned:
Allow the back of the blade to drag on the ground. All this time I’ve tried to hold to keep the blade from hitting the ground. With the blade in the air, If you hit a large clump of grass, the handle pulls against your hand and you have to fight to keep it up. If you allow the blade to brush the ground, when you hit a clump of grass, the blade pushes against the ground, so you don’t have to fight it, just keep pulling.
Use your legs to turn your body, pulling the scythe with your left hand, guiding it with your right. Being right handed, I want to do the opposite, pull with the right, but that is much harder. If you use your legs to turn and pull with the left hand you will be surprised how much more you cut.
Keep the tip of the blade down. As you turn, the tip of the blade wants to tip up. Keep it down, close to the ground. According to this page on www.scytheconnection.com, the snath (handle) can be adjusted so that the blade rests in the proper position.
Working first thing in the morning, while there is still dew on the grass is much easier. I found a few patches in the shade, that still had dew and compared it to dry grass in full sun, only a few feet away, and the difference was quite noticeable.
Proper sharpening makes a huge difference. I’ve always sharpened the blade perpendicular to the cutting edge. Once I started running the stone parallel to the cutting edge, it stayed sharper and cut longer. The odd thing is that when I first started sharpening this way, the blade got duller, then it began to get sharp again. Maybe, sharpening perpendicular gives the blade an rough edge like a serrated knife, good cutting some things, but not good at staying sharp.
The snath (handle) should match the user. See this page on how I changed my handle to suite me better.
I purchase a scythe from Lehman’s and found it a bit awkward. I ordinarily don’t have problems with tools from Lehman’s so I thought I just needed to learn to use the tool. After reading this page on snath making at scytheconnection.com I realized that it was the tool that needed to change, not me.
The snath is the wooden handle of the scythe. Being made of wood, it should be very easy to change or duplicate.
According to scytheconnection.com, the grip where you put your hand should be about 2 inches above where you hips bend. The grip on the Lehman’s snath was much higher than this and angled away from the blade. I took the snath apart and made a new piece to connect the grip to the snath. In the photo on the right, the piece on the left is the original. The one in the middle is my first prototype, made from plywood and the last was made from oak. Click on the image for a better view. You can’t see it in the picture, but the tenon on Lehman’s piece was only cut on one side. The new one I cut from Oak was cut on both. This should make it sturdier, and help it last longer.
Because of the curve, the grip was now placed forward by about 4 inches. This made all the difference. The scythe was easier to balance and it was easier to keep the blade parallel to the ground. If you click the image below, you can see how everything goes together.
I love wooden tools because they are so easy to change and improve.
I have used a scythe for a while now and thought I had learned all I needed to know. After looking at Scytheconnection.com, I can tell I have a lot to learn.
There is a buyers guide that is quite through, with information on where you can buy a blade and snath (handle). A good page on selecting the right blades is here. They recommend two blades, a longer blade for open fields and a shorter one for trimming work.
The blade and snath I ordered from Lehmans (brush blade / standard American handle) has always always felt a little out of balance and I thought it just took getting used to. It may be that it just isn’t quite right.
There is even a section on making your own snath (handle). I may give it a try, just to see the difference.
Here is an earlier post of mine on mowing with a scythe…
We don’t like to mow. Especially with gas. Why burn fuel just to cut down the weeds. Well, if you don’t cut them down, they will get a little out of hand. There is a 100 foot section in the front that faces the road that grown all kinds of weeds. Weeds I’ve never seen before.
I took the weeds down with the scythe and raked them into piles. It took two nights to get the job done. It’s hard to believe, but it took two hours to chop down 100 feet of weeds. Raking took another two hours. The weeds were wet and heavy. I sweated and my arms ached.
I couldn’t just leave the weeds in the front, but I didn’t think I had it in me to load them into the wheel barrow and take them to the back of the property.
It was a week before I was ready to move the weeds. It turns out that I procrastinate just long enough. The weeds dried over the course of the week and were very light and easy to move.
Now that I think about it, when people harvested grain with a scythe, they would cut crop down and bundle it up in the field, let it dry and collect it later.
I really feel like I get in touch with an earlier time when I use tools from the past.
A computer geek with a taste for sustainable living, organic food, green products, buying local, woodworking, bicycling, running, yoga, recycling and doing-it-yourself.