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Anyone have experience using a scythe?  RSS feed

 
Josiah Miller
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Location: Willamette Valley-Marion County
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Hello all,

I'm experimenting with a small plot of Barley this spring. I plan on harvesting with an ancient scythe (after considerable work to get it sharp), but have never used one. I've watched alot of youtube videos about them but I know you can't learn everything from a video.

my questions:

--anyone with experience using a scythe, do you have any helpful information or suggestions

--I live near Salem, but if anyone in western OR would be willing to show me in person that would be awesome. (maybe I should mention that the Barley shall hopefully end up in some homebrew, some of which would find it's way back to you ) . I can travel to you to learn.
 
Zach Muller
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One thing about using a scythe for me was the time it took to get the form really good. First few times I used it, i had terrible form and was very inefficient. it took a while to get the feel for it. Harvesting something that is pretty tall should be a breeze for a beginning user though.

I had no one to demonstrate when I first got mine and just used youtube to check out various peoples form and technique, hopefully you can find someone nearby to give you a little hands on instruction.

Good luck.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Oh Zach, you are in for a treat. There are expert scythe users in this group and I have read almost all postings here on use of that amazing tool. You will hear people from different schools of thought and some will teach that the uses for European scythe is different for an American style scythe -- the choice is based on your needs and conditions.

Here are a few videos for your enjoyment:




Here are a few threads about scythes here in these forums. Enjoy!!!

Here's one thread: http://www.permies.com/t/27867/gear/American-Stye-Scythe

Here's another thread: http://www.permies.com/t/25717/gear/scythe-arrived

Here's another thread: http://www.permies.com/t/16031/gear/scythe

And another: http://www.permies.com/t/13021/gear/buy-scythe

Another good thread: http://www.permies.com/t/16949/gear/sharp-scythe

 
Josiah Miller
Posts: 14
Location: Willamette Valley-Marion County
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Thank you both.

good information in those threads (any idea why they don't show up when I search "scythe"?).
Other than a few YouTube videos I've had trouble finding info about grain harvesting as apposed to grass and brush mowing (most of what I see are, I believe, European style scythes. I think mine is American).

After reading those threads I'm especially glad I didn't try to peen the blade. wouldn't want to crack the whole thing.
 
Paul Cereghino
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I mainly mow for mulch and hay. A diagram in "The Scythe Book" shows a cradle for grain harvest... I have never used an American style scythe. You might benefit from clarifying your rig.
 
David Livingston
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Havé just ordered m'y néw scythe And it aboule arrive Any day am very excited

David
 
Rod Endacott
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Hi Josiah, I was taught how to use a scythe by an elder who knew how. His only words of advise, routinely shouted as I struggled, "Keep the heel down!"
It took a few months but it finally sunk in through my thick skull; keep the heel of the scythe down and you are forced to work from your hips not your arms/shoulders. Doing it right, and safe like this, you can scythe all day. No sweat.

Rod Endacott


Josiah Miller wrote:Hello all,

I'm experimenting with a small plot of Barley this spring. I plan on harvesting with an ancient scythe (after considerable work to get it sharp), but have never used one. I've watched alot of youtube videos about them but I know you can't learn everything from a video.

my questions:

--anyone with experience using a scythe, do you have any helpful information or suggestions

--I live near Salem, but if anyone in western OR would be willing to show me in person that would be awesome. (maybe I should mention that the Barley shall hopefully end up in some homebrew, some of which would find it's way back to you ) . I can travel to you to learn.
 
Peter Ellis
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Thoughts from a novice scythe user. I got mine last year and have used it to cut about an acre of lawn and some random tall grasses (harvested some of the electric company's right of way for mulch).

It's a rotation, not a swing. Your hands should stay pretty much in one position relative to your body, while you rotate through the hips and trunk.

That "keep the heel down" advice definitely seems sound. I think doing that helps keep the right angle of attack on the blade through its motion, and helps you keep your arms in the right place.

The arms are not working much, if at all. The work is done with legs and abdominals.

Keep the scythe sharp!

For grain harvesting, it seems very likely you will want to put a cradle on the scythe. Some of them look to be very, very simple, but all appear to help keep the grain aligned, making for easier processing after cutting.

Follow the recommendations to cut early in the morning, before the dew rises. The scythe works better on the moist (soft) grass, in my experience.

Taller stuff, that offers more resistance and won't just bend away quite so easily is easier to cut than short stuff that will try to duck out of the way. I use mine to mow my lawn. It's a challenge, some times

 
Matt Stern
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Location: Williams, OR
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Hi Josiah,

I second all of the above. The scythe has definitely been a challenge for me but definitely worth it. I recently took a workshop with Alex Vido which was very helpful. If you're in the market for a European style outfit, he has them at www.scytheworks.ca

I haven't checked out the links mentioned, so these may be redundant: www.scytheconnection.com has extensive written info about scything (with European set-up). I like the videos at www.onescytherevolution.com.

I live in southern oregon not terribly far from you, just today a few of us got together for a mowing party, and I was talking with one fellow about getting together in the near future for more practice. If you'd like, I'll let you know when we're planning and perhaps you could join us?



 
Zach Muller
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Dan g. Thank you for collecting those links, very helpful indeed! Happy scything everyone.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Some recent clips I took using my American pattern scythes for lawn work. Not how gentle a motion is used.

A vintage Seymour No.8 aluminum snath and modified 48" Beardsley Scythe Co. grain cradle blade, tuned together for lawn work:


A heavy TrueTemper Kelly Works weed blade and wooden Sta-Tite "Success" snath, tuned for general purpose mowing, but here used on lawn surfaces:

 
Charles Tarnard
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:Some recent clips I took using my American pattern scythes for lawn work. Not how gentle a motion is used.



Tthis video makes a strong case that my scythe is nowhere near sharp enough (as I have suspected). Being able to cut with that light of a motion should allow me to get into some very tight places with my scythe. Thanks for that.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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My pleasure. Properly honed, the blade should be so keen as to be able to cut 4" grass on a stroke made while only holding each nib gently by the forefinger and thumb. An easy and cheap fine hone is a wooden "whipping stick." Take a long 1/2" x 2" piece of softwood and carve or sand it so it has a grip at one end and a roughly oval cross section, then rub the length on both sides with either black (coarse) or green (fine) polishing compound. The long rapid strokes it produces helps realign a slightly rolled edge and finely polishes it.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Also make sure your edge angle is nice and low. Mine are no more than 9° per side. For reference, the typical straight razor has an edge angle of about 7° per side.
 
Josiah Miller
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Location: Willamette Valley-Marion County
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Sorry about the Long Hiatus between posts.

Thanks everyone for your advice, Barley is coming along nicely and I'll post some pics soon.

Matt, If you or anyone you know if is getting together for mowing (or really anything permaculture related) I'd love to join if I'm not working that day. You could msg me here or email JosiahKalia@gmail.com.

Thanks!
 
Brian Kerkvliet
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Location: Bellingham
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Here is a recent video that Peak Moment TV put together on my scything and other tools we use to get things done here at Inspiration Farm.
 
Brian Kerkvliet
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Also here is the video that Paul did of me a few years ago. It gives you the basic information on peening scythe blades. One of the most important aspects of sharpening a blade, the most often overlooked and misunderstood.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Brian--I'm going to have to respectfully, but firmly, disagree with your assertion in the first video that the American pattern blade cannot be made as sharp as the continental European pattern. If anything the harder steel of the American pattern is able to support a finer edge. I will certainly say that scythe users across the board do not keep their scythes as well beveled and honed as they should, but I have never in my life heard of a "blunt sharp edge".

As a friendly challenge, are you able to get your blades this sharp? The blade being used here is 30" long from heel to toe (omitting the tang) and at points in this clip it's taking a swath more than 20" deep. The blade has been properly beveled on a low-speed water cooled grindstone and the edge honed with a 340 grit synthetic stone, which would be considered fairly coarse for a European blade.



 
Josiah Miller
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Location: Willamette Valley-Marion County
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Got it all reaped, used an antique, slightly bent, not nearly sharp enough (even after much tender loving care) American/English style scythe borrowed from a family member. I created a "bow" out of a piece of scotch broom to help the grain fall in the correct direction. I wasn't very good at it. I ended up having to pick up alot of the heads by hand because my scythe was not cutting well. But it wasn't too bad.

I put all the cut stalks on a tarp and brought to the garage, where I threshed with a flail (I tied a piece of 2X4 to an old post hole digger handle). Took a little time and I didn't know what I was doing but it wasn't that difficult. I learned that threshing larger piles is much more efficient that threshing smaller piles because you end up knocking off more heads of grain per stroke.

I haven't winnowed yet so I don't know my yield, but I'm pretty happy so far. I'll post a couple pictures of my scythe and the process here soon, and then I'll probably post more detail of the harvest in the Growies section, since this threads mostly about the tool.
 
Dan Grubbs
Posts: 542
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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I hope I've found a treasure.

My lovely wife and I were killing a bit of time in one of the suburbs in our area and we noticed this large antique shop in a strip mall and we decided to kill the hour there. I walked through and was amazed at the quality of stuff in the store ... not junk. Anyway, I'm always interested in old tools and was skimming through the store pretty quickly (a true combing of this store would have taken 4-5 hours). Well, I came across what I think is a European-design scythe and I'm hoping that the more expert eyes can tell me what I picked up. I've seen this kind of snath design on some scythe websites, so it looks familiar, but not 100% sure. It also has a short blade which I'm assuming is a weed/ditch blade. But, if you all can help me by looking at the attached photo, I'd appreciate it. I bought the snath with the blade for $20 (US) and figured even if it's a more modern version of a traditional design, it's loads lighter than my American scythe and I'd be interested in buying a grass blade for it. The lower handle has two wing nuts on bolts to make the adjustment to height of user. Well, what say you all?

photo.JPG
[Thumbnail for photo.JPG]
 
Peter Ellis
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Ben is your guy on this. Bet he will want a closer pick of the blade.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Ben or Brian -- either of you -- or anyone else, here is a series of photos of my recent purchase and I'd like to know more about it. I know photos aren't much to go on and the previous owner spray painted the balde and tang mounting area red so no markings are visible. Any insights would be much appreciated and a grass blade recommendation for this snath would be awesome.

Thanks,
Dan

Photos 1-3 of 5

scythe-1.JPG
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scythe-2.JPG
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scythe-3.JPG
[Thumbnail for scythe-3.JPG]
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Photos 4-5 of 5

scythe-4.JPG
[Thumbnail for scythe-4.JPG]
scythe-5.JPG
[Thumbnail for scythe-5.JPG]
 
Dan Grubbs
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Bump - and looking for Brian's thoughts!
 
Diogenese simpson
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all my father told me 50 years ago was "keep the heel down " , in his young days all they had was the sythe for hay and grain harvest ,
 
David Livingston
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Dan
Looks like a european blade made for orchard or allotment work . Why the red paint ? Scaping it off may reveal a makers mark or some numberS . If you take off the blade is there anything written on the tounge ?

David
 
Dan Grubbs
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David,
I bought it at an antiques store for $20 and it was already painted. Maybe a bit of paint thinner to remove it to see what may be underneath. What about the snath?

Dan
 
David Livingston
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I would have bought it like a shot too for that price .
The Snath looks like a standard one I cuold buy here in France . Looks well made and I notice reasonably ajustable with two bolts as opposed to the one on my snath . Is it the correct size for you ?

David
 
Dan Grubbs
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Hey David:

I laughed when you asked the question if it was the right size for me because I bought it so quickly and still haven't measured a single thing on it. I don't have an answer to your question, but I will be measuring tonight. At least I feel reasonably confident that I didn't buy something not worth the $20. I will pick up some boiled linseed oil and give the snath a good healthy drink.
 
David Livingston
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Also I would take it apart and look under the part where the blade joins the snath . Is there any plastic because you may find as opposed to being old it could be actually quite young .

David
 
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