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Grass hook or maybe a hand scythe -- how is it used?  RSS feed

 
gardener
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I have a corn knife bought at Tractor Supply that's a sort of small sickle -- a curved blade and a short handle, great for grasping bunches of vegetation and cutting them off. But today at a garage sale I bought something that looks like a miniature scythe -- a straighter blade bolted not quite at right angles to a metal shaft with a wooden handle. It only cost two dollars so I had to grab it, but it's unclear to me what it's called or how it's used. Does one sweep it against unrestrained grass and grain? Or does one somehow use it like a sickle?

A YouTube video would be awesome, but I don't have the keywords I need to find one. Thanks for any insight you may have!

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master steward
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I use one of these quite a lot. My great grandfather called it a hand scythe. I'm not certain what the modern word for it is - most of the tools he used now have new words.

I sharpen it like a scythe, maybe even a touch sharper. My handle is bent a bit different, but the motion is like a scythe.

Get the clump of tall grass, hold the blade parallel to the ground, swing the hand scythe back and to the right, take a gentle swipe at the tall grass, about an inch or two above the ground. If the 'bite' of grass is about the width of the blade, then it give just the right amount of resistance. Too little grass and it swings too freely, too much, and it puts strain on the wrist. Swing fast, but controlled (it's really sharp) and sharpen every time it starts to put effort on the wrist.

Unlike a sickle or most other hand tools for cutting straw, you don't grab hold of the grass/straw when you swing the hand scythe. Righthand goes back, lefthand only goes in if it needs to help the grass fall, otherwise, it stays out of the way and it out of there long before right hand brings sharp thing back towards the grass.

This is my favourite tool for steep slopes that are difficult with a scythe or whipersnipper. Hint, work the way up hill. I'll use this for five to 10 min a day to gather fodder for the livestock, but I am considering trying it for harvesting grain this year.

That was how I was taught to use it. There might be other ways from different parts of the world.

Sorry, stuck in bed sick today, so no video, but here's a (really bad) drawing.

Edit to add: google gave me this link when I searched 'sickle scythe'.
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Dan Boone
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Thank you! That thread you linked is where I got the "grass hook" name, and I was thinking "hand scythe" but Google Images quickly taught me that lots of folks call curved sickles by that name so I wasn't sure if it also applied to this tool.

Very much appreciate the detailed description of usage. I may or may not be able to figure out the knack without somebody showing me, but at least now I have some notion of how it should go. I'll need to do a fair bit of clean-and-sharpen before this thing is sharp enough to try it out, though!
 
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I use a hand scythe or sickle (I've got 2 of them, one more curved than the other) often for harvesting and clearing tall weeds in close quarters where there's not room for a regular scythe. I've always held the tool in my right hand and held the material to be cut in my left. I don't swing the tool but do a quick "slice" towards me. The tool needs to be kept sharp to work well. Holding the material being cut lets you put it in a bucket or place it down for mulch. Swinging the tool without holding the stems only works well if you're cutting near the ground and don't care where stuff falls.
 
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Larisa Walk wrote:I use a hand scythe or sickle (I've got 2 of them, one more curved than the other) often for harvesting and clearing tall weeds in close quarters where there's not room for a regular scythe. I've always held the tool in my right hand and held the material to be cut in my left. I don't swing the tool but do a quick "slice" towards me. The tool needs to be kept sharp to work well. Holding the material being cut lets you put it in a bucket or place it down for mulch. Swinging the tool without holding the stems only works well if you're cutting near the ground and don't care where stuff falls.


This is the same way that I use one....we call it a sickle. It and an 'old hickory' butcher knife are my chop and drop mulching tools.
I add a good leather glove to the hand holding the vegetation though when using either tool and have the scars to explain the reason for that
 
Dan Boone
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Yes, I've already gotten one good cut from the corn knife when it slipped on tough stems and decided my unprotected left hand was an easier meal. Not too serious, but enough to remind me to stop being stupid.
 
r ranson
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Sad to hear you got cut Dan.

Larisa Walk wrote:I use a hand scythe or sickle (I've got 2 of them, one more curved than the other) often for harvesting and clearing tall weeds in close quarters where there's not room for a regular scythe. I've always held the tool in my right hand and held the material to be cut in my left. I don't swing the tool but do a quick "slice" towards me. The tool needs to be kept sharp to work well. Holding the material being cut lets you put it in a bucket or place it down for mulch. Swinging the tool without holding the stems only works well if you're cutting near the ground and don't care where stuff falls.


With a sickle, I definitely have to use my other hand to hold the grass/straw.

With this tool, it's like a scythe in that the shape of the blade (it goes up at the back, this is a bit like how the mortise board on a plough pushes the soil over, the back of the blade pushes the grass in one direction) and the speed of the movement cause the grass to fall all in one direction.

That's what I like about this tool, it requires less help - or none when you get use to it - from the other hand, which makes it less likely to get cut and makes it so I can use this tool longer without tiring than I can with the sickle.

Like most old tools, there are probably lots of 'right' ways to use it.
 
Judith Browning
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Morning brain fog....I see the difference in the blade now. What I have is a sickle...longer thinner blade that has a large curve, not what is pictured in Dan's post
 
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