Saturday, 5 March 2011

Using a scythe

If you are wondering about using a scythe to clear bramble patches, I’d like to give you my experience. We bought a wildflower meadow a few years back. Because it had certain wild orchids that were quite rare, rather than use a strimmer we decided to clear the bramble the old fashioned way. With an Austrian brush cutting scythe.

It is hard work, but not as hard as you think. Scythes are designed to be used at the right angle to the ground. It takes quite a lot of experience to make sure the blade is in the right position. Once you get there, and the blade is sharp, it will cut a wide path through most reasonably sized weeks. I would say, up to 2 inch wide saplings are no trouble.

You need to cut in the right direction, walking up hill, and working from left to right (if you are right handed).
One of the things that really matters when you are using a scythe is the adjustments you make to it. Of course, these are described in detail in the scythe book, but you need the angle of the blade to be right, the handle length to be the right size for you, and the blade to be as sharp as humanly possible. Peening the blade correctly is vital, if you can do it, although as long as the blade is kept very sharp using a Japanese water sharpening stone this will still help a lot.

Why would you use a scythe? Well, I actually found that in many ways it is more pleasant than a strimmer. You don’t have the unpleasant smell, and you are working really quietly which means you can often hear birds singing. The scythe is actually very light too. I find a strimmer can be very heavy to carry. 

Scythes are of course more nature friendly, because once made they do not make any emissions, and they last an awful long time.

On the other hand there is no doubt that you can do more work with a strimmer than a scythe and for a contractor the strimmer is more practical. You can walk down the street without anyone thinking you are a character from the horror movies. 

Anyway, although it did take a long time, the field is now almost clear of bramble, and scything is a rare and unusual event. The field now contains Hebridean sheep that keep all the weeds down, and we take them out when the wild orchids are getting ready to flower. So, now that the hard work has been done it feels like all the scything was worthwhile.

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