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scythe vs. string trimmer  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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In the latest issue of "living woods" it sounds like there was an event where a field was broken up into 5 meter by 5 meter patches.  And then folks with scythes were timed to see how quickly they could clear that patch. 

57 people entered. 

Scythes win!

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Plus, it's tough to cut 3/4" saplings with a string trimmer.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I use a scythe quite a bit, and it is at least as fast as a string trimmer, a LOT quieter, uses a LOT less gas, LOL!  Really the only down side to the scythe is that you have to stop every few minutes to run the stone over the blade, but it only takes a few seconds, and you need a break, anyway.

Kathleen
 
Leah Sattler
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I have never actually used a scythe. I can see why it would be alot easier to clear a patch of land with one. when i try to use the gas weed wacker I feel like I am holding a helicopter on a leash! I don't really see the use in trying to to clear land with one though.....I weed wacker here is only used to get really close and trim next to things, like alongside a brick edge or around a post......a 15 meter patch of overgrowth would get the brush hog... a mower...... or a goat..... not a string trimmer.
 
Brenda Groth
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my husband has a collection of antique scythes which he uses with quite a bit of precision and skill..me..i'm no good at swinging anything..so i sitck with the DR Trimmer (which can cut through even larger saplings as it has a blade you can put on it)..however, I'm with the idea of hubby doing it all by hand..!!
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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It's surprisingly easy to get precise with a sharp scythe, as you don't need a big swing to cut with a blade that's razor-sharp, LOL!

Kathleen
 
Brenda Groth
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reason i can't use one is physical disabilities..not the lack of wanting or sharpness..
 
jeremiah bailey
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I beg to differ with polyparadigm on cutting 3/4" saplings with a string trimmer. With your average run of the mill, everyday joe variety, you can barely trim grass with one, much less a sapling.  I used to have one with a 31cc engine, 18" swath, and .105" line dia. It considered a 3/4" sapling to be equivalent to a big blade of grass. It'd maul down 1"-1 1/4" down with a few passes.

However, the scythe gets my vote. Much less messy, no gas/oil, no flinging debris everywhere. I plan on buying one this upcoming season.
 
Leah Sattler
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I think my favorite part would be the quiet part. I despise intrusive noise. I think it was in one of tolstoys books where there were one or several bits about the quiet meditative work of mowing with a scythe. its seems it could be a peaceful repetitive, satisfying and healing sort of work. maybe I am just being a bit dramatic/romantic though
 
jeremiah bailey
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Leah, right now I'm in the middle of digging post holes for a fence, nearly 40 of them. I planned on renting a power auger, but I decided against it, mainly for the noise. I must say that digging them with a post hole shovel and digging bar is very meditative, almost relaxing. Try that with a power tool.

Since I have a small plot, I may start with a sickle instead. A good scythe costs nearly as much as a good string trimmer, esp. once you factor in all the req'd accessories. I don't know of any local scythe outlets, so I'm limited to online, mailorder.
 
paul wheaton
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I wish I could remember who said this:  "machines help you to do more, but experience less"
 
Leah Sattler
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paul wheaton wrote:
"machines help you to do more, but experience less"


so true. modern equipment can be very much appreciated in some instances but sometimes its nice to step back and accept the natural steps and slowness of simply doing something by hand. there is a certain satisfaction in just getting something done but I think we sometimes miss out on the pleasure of the doing and the "living in the here and now".
 
Gwen Lynn
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Leah Sattler wrote:
I think my favorite part would be the quiet part. I despise intrusive noise.


Yeah, gas string trimmers & leaf blowers are unreal with the noise. (So are gunshots, for me. I can't handle the sound of gunfire on a TV show. Makes me jump out of my skin. I try not to watch TV or movies with gunfire in them.)

We have a small yard, so our electric string trimmer is quieter, light weight & easy to handle. We don't use it very much. Been in this house 18 years & have only had 2 string trimmers. The 1st one was used, a hand me down from a friend. Obviously we don't use them often.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Jeremiah Bailey, a sickle will kill your back.  If you get a scythe the right size for you it shouldn't bother your back at all (although I get muscle cramps in my arm after a while if I haven't been using the scythe for a while). 

A scythe may cost about the same as a cheap string trimmer, but it will last your lifetime and still serve your grandchildren well with care and maybe a new blade once in a great while.  I can't say the same about string trimmers.  We've had two in the last five years and neither one worked for more than a few days before it needed constant tinkering or just plain wasn't worth a darn.  On the other hand, I have -- and could still use -- my great-grandfather's scythe.  It's too long for me -- he was over six feet tall, and I'm only 5'3".  But it's still useable. 

Kathleen
 
jacque greenleaf
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So okay...what *do* you look for when buying a scythe, especially if you're short and not too muscular?
 
Gwen Lynn
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Because I've never used one, I'm having a hard time understand how using a scythe is "easy" when you are trimming the edges of a lawn, say, along a driveway or curb. It seems you'd have to crouch down, kneel or whatever. We have extended our patio using flat rocks & the grass grows up between the rocks. Trimming that with a scythe seems laborious, to say the least. Perhaps some other tool works better (sheep shears?) in this application?
 
Jeremy Bunag
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I've been using my "shears on a pole" thing that I originally saw Fiskars making.  I found a knockoff somewhere (Fiskars' model what nowhere to be found), and have been using it to cut the grass around the boarders of my planting beds.  It has twist adjustments to make it easy to cut from any angle, even turning the head so it cuts up and down (good for trimming back some of the fingers of the junipers that are sticking out too far for my taste).

Yup, takes longer.  Yup, I actually have to do something physical (and love doing it).  Yup, it doesn't hurl what I cut, and what I accidentally cut, into the beds.  Yup, I can be as precise as I want to.  And nope, it doesn't go everywhere I used to use a string trimmer.  I still need to groom the area around the culvert with a string trimmer (too much there, and my arms are already tired from shearing everything else!)

After a couple of years using it, I like it.  I wonder if this will sharpen well...
 
Gwen Lynn
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Shears on a pole! I'd like to see a picture of that, or perhaps a link to it on the web? Sounds like a must-have for me!
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Gwen, I don't know if a scythe would work for what you are talking about.  When I said you could get precise with a scythe, I meant like next to a fence or around trees, that kind of thing. 

When I bought my scythe, from Scythe Supply (on-line, and I do recommend them!), they asked for certain measurements so they could custom-build the scythe to fit me.  They did a great job;  it works great for me.  If you are cutting anything other than grass, or expect to be hitting a lot of rocks, you might want to get a brush blade, as the grass blade cutting edge is razor thin and will ding pretty easily (get the peening jig and peen the dings out).

Kathleen
 
Gwen Lynn
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Thanks, Kathleen! I wasn't thinking it would work in those areas, but the gadget Jeremy is talking about sounds like it would. I think it might be fun to use a scythe under the right circumstances...especially where chiggers don't exist! We visited a friend recently & DH walked with him to see the view from the hill. Very grassy & wild. I opted not to go along, was only wearing sandals. Wouldn't you know it, dh was breaking out in chigger bites the next day! 
 
Jeremy Bunag
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Gwen Lynn wrote:
Shears on a pole! I'd like to see a picture of that, or perhaps a link to it on the web? Sounds like a must-have for me!


Here is the stupidly long url to view Fiskars' version:
http://www.fiskars.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10001&langId=-1&catalogId=10101&categoryId=10268&productId=10503&page=products

<picture removed>

On the site you can see how happy it make a nice lady using it (look upper right for more images).  I had some trouble hotlinking it here...

My knockoff version also has a button you can push where the pole and the shears meet to adjust the angle of the shears to the pole.  I recently made it straight out to trim some of the dead stalks on my hostas, reaching the back of the planter easily (yay!  I'm not trampling the mulch!)

-Jeremy

(the site went down as I was working on hotlinking some pictures into here.  So I took the pics out, in case it was me...  oops!)
 
Jeremy Bunag
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Here are links that still work (while fiskars is down):

I have this one:
http://www.improvementscatalog.com/home/improvements/792923312-long-handle-grass-shears.html

I used to want this one, but now it looks like overkill (still cool though):
http://www.improvementscatalog.com/home/improvements/792926303-cordless-grass-shears.html
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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jeremiah bailey wrote:
I beg to differ with polyparadigm on cutting 3/4" saplings with a string trimmer. With your average run of the mill, everyday joe variety, you can barely trim grass with one, much less a sapling. 


I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn't sound like we differ at all on this point.

A "brush" blade on a scythe will take a sapling in stride.  A string trimmer might ring bark it, if you're lucky.  I was adding to the "cuts grass faster" comment with an "also cuts thicker stuff".

Gwen Lynn wrote:
I'm having a hard time understand how using a scythe is "easy"...It seems you'd have to crouch down, kneel or whatever.


It sounds like you're imagining a sickle, the sort of thing Communists put alongside a hammer in their emblem: one-handed blade sorta like a billhook.  We're talking about scythes, like the Grim Reaper carries:  long, two-handed things that reach down to the ground several feet away from where you're standing. 
 
Gwen Lynn
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Eureka! You're right! That's exactly what I was doing is confusing the two! I hadn't even thought of that until now. Double duh on me!
 
Alison Thomas
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I was on a quest to find out about scythes. I know they take quite a lot of practise to become proficient but the thought is that hopefully by the time we reach post-peak-oil we'll be skilled in the art. Maybe one day I'll be like this woman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugSO54WKm8I

(sorry - don't know how to do the code to make that an active link  ops

The bit I hate about strimmers (aside from those mentioned) are that they cut anything in their way into smithereens.  I had to stop strimming this time last year I remember as there were so many gorgeous big fluffy caterpillars in the grass and I inadvertantly chopped one up    I realise that this can happen with a scythe/reap hook but at least you're only making one cut across any one patch so creatures have a greater probability of escaping.
 
Jeremy Bunag
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Whenever I imagine scything I always think of Enigma's "Return to Innocence:"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk_sAHh9s08 (@ 2:19 and 3:36)

If I end up getting one, I'll prolly listen to the song as I scythe... 
 
Alison Thomas
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Do you know, Jeremy, watching that video made me cry!  What in God's name are we doing to ourselves in the quest for 'a more developed society' ??
 
Fred Morgan
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I use a scythe to cut nearly an acre of lawn. One really great thing that often isn't mentioned about a scythe is that if you do it right, it collects all that great grass in a row, easy for sweeping up and putting on the garden or compost pile (or feeding to the horse, etc.)

If you get a snath that is the right size for you and you learn to sharpen it correctly (peening when necessary), they really cut well. The key is learning to use the tool.

It is my opinion that the advantage (if you call it that) of a power tool like a string trimmer is that it takes no skill. A scythe requires skill to make it easy. You have to maintain it sharp and know how to swing it at the right level.

Much like using a hand plane requires more skill than just passing it through a planer.

And there is no doubt, I can cut faster with a scythe than with a string trimmer, and be much less tired at the end of the day.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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That's a good point about the scythe making its own windrow -- I used the grass I cut this summer to feed to my goats and rabbits.  It is a lot easier to pick up the long grass cut with a scythe, using a pitchfork, than to gather the chopped grass left by a string trimmer.

Kathleen
 
Fred Morgan
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Our organic gardener is thrilled with the scythe, he says that a scythe allows you to collect all the grass, whereas a weed whacker causes you to lose about half.

 
Brenda Groth
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check amish supply places for all hand tools
 
Fred Morgan
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By the way, I bought 13 scythes from the scythe connection. http://www.scytheconnection.com/ , everything arrived here in Costa Rica in very good condition.

 
jeremiah bailey
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polyparadigm: you cut my statement in half. I used to have a string trimmer that wouldn't blink while mauling down a 3/4" sapling. Yes it was a string trimmer and not a brush cutter. Yes it was noisy and messy. And yes I miss it.

My current string trimmer is electric and balks at thin, twig-like, seedling trees. Its great for trimming grass edges fast. I am working on laying out my landscape to be friendly to scythe work. I plan on shrub, flower and veggie beds around all trees, fences, buildings, etc. I hope to fit a scythe into the budget (time as well as money) soon, but its just not there yet. I have tools to do the job, so I'll live with those for now.

I watched the videos on Scythe Connection, and they seems so peaceful and relaxing.
 
Dave Miller
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My main complaint about string trimmers is when I feel something wet hit my face and then see half a slug on the ground.

My yard is not quite big enough to justify buying a scythe, but I have borrowed an old one.  It is big & heavy and took a while to master, but it works fine.  I like how it leaves a nice row of tall grass cuttings, very easy to pick up.  The string trimmer just throws everything everywhere and gets the tall grass wrapped around its head constantly.  The mower gets bogged down with the tall grass (even with the bag off), so I have to keep cleaning it out.  Also the mower hits me in the legs with sticks & rocks.  I cannot mow the tall grass with the bag on, as the bag fills in about 30 seconds.  If I put the chute cover on, the mower bogs down and stalls.

These are some of the main reasons we had a permaculture landscape design done.
 
                          
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years ago a company sold a head for a string trimmer which consisted of chain saw chain with out the cutters, and the back side of the chain did the cutting, (do not think there available any more), but they were one mean thing, it would clear grass three foot tall and small trees and any thing else that got in its way,  made the string look like a toy in comparison, 

If I was working in a close area, of plants and things I wanted to keep I would probably prefer a trimmer, over the scythe, but if out in the open and tall grass type the scythe would probably be the better choice,
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I just saw video of a string trimmer using half-inch wire rope, to be mounted on a tractor.


EDITED by staff to delete dead link {Polk}
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22493
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
                    
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I love that there was a contest proving they're faster!  My partner and I always thought they would be faster, especially for tall/thick grass/foliage, but try saying that to some random redneck and they WILL laugh in your face. 

Echoing what everyone else has already said, scythes are also quiet/not stinky, provide wonderful gentle exercise, use no energy other than your own calories (and probably not that many more than a wacker - those things are heavy!), neatly pile what you cut into rows, are precise around trees and other things you don't want to cut, and last practically forever if cared for properly.  And your hands aren't numb from vibration afterward.  (I openly despise string trimmers.....had to use one when I interned a few years ago and swore I'd never ever own one.....and I don't!)  You can scythe in your best "sunday" clothing because you pretty much can't cut yourself while you use it (transporting it to the cutting site is another story) and you don't get grass shards impaled into your lower half.  Picking shredded grass out of my shoes was probably my least favorite part of the string trimmer chore. 

I have often thought that the single cut thru the grass spares the lives of many small creatures living there.  A scythe also has this way of encouraging careful observation of the area you're cutting, and you can be very selective about what you harvest and what you leave standing. 

There is a portion of our field that is out of site and our cow won't go down there for any period of time.  But it was the only area we could irrigate last summer, so everyday I'd go scythe her some fresh grass and bring it to her.  I don't think you could harvest grass for a cow with any other tool, they like it to be pristine. 

My neighbor swears by his aluminum snath, says it's lighter and that's better, but....wood just feels nice, and i feel like aluminum would feel jangly and might even hurt your wrists if you hit a rock (we have lots of rocks to hit). 

You don't lift a scythe anyway, you use the momentum and power of the twist in your spine and leg ligaments to swing it around. 

They are easy to use even if you're not very strong - the sharpness of the blade and the momentum of a proper swing does the work.  By proper I mean that the blade is about two to four inches off the ground during the entire rotation.  "Scooping" motions, where the blade comes up off the ground on the backswing and dives down toward the ground as it comes around in front of you, are to be avoided.  If it's sized properly you should be able to have your legs apart and knees barely bent, your arms straight, and the blade just barely off the ground the entire time. 

I bought two snaths and some blades from Scythe Supply, and while they're beautiful and it's cool to have a custom sized tool, for interns and my tall partner we got an adjustable wooden snath from....a company whose name I can't recall and who I can't seem to find online right now.  Weird. 

Well anyway, the adjustable snaths are nice because you can size them to fit the intern of the month.  (Do not give an intern your nice blade.  Give them a sturdy already beat up "intern" blade.  And attempt to teach them how to peen the dings they make in it back out of it - they probably won't do a very good job but at least they will appreciate how much work it is to get a ding out of the blade and maybe try to keep it a leeeetttle higher off the ground the next time.)

I think the biggest effort of scything is actually peening.  Man, that little hammer makes my forearm hurt like nothing else does about halfway down the long grass blade.  Learning to swing the blade around may take a few days, but I feel like learning to get that blade seriously razor sharp could take a lifetime.  And, I wear ear protection while peening.  It's pretty loud. 

In my experience the little peening "jigs" they sell don't really work, especially if you're attempting to bang out a big rock ding.  I eventually bought the anvil and while it takes some time to get the hang of it, I have been far happier with blade sharpness ever since switching to the anvil.  If I haven't peened in awhile (like in spring) I usually start at the heel (near the snath) and work down towards the toe (the tip) of the blade, and then when I get to the end I go back to the heel again, cause I've gotten that much better at it while tapping down the blade. 

I made a darn purdy peening bench, outta cherry wood.  In that photo it wasn't quite finished.  Where you insert the anvil certainly doesn't have to be that fancy to work well, but I'm happy with it. 
 
                        
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So, I guess what we should take away from this thread is this simple fact:

Scythe matters.

 
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