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Scythe abuse – a letter on scythe breakage

Letter to Simon Fairlie

Note: We wrote this letter to Simon Fairlie of The Scythe Shop– and the articles on scythe abuse — late in 2006, but then “lost” them among an array of other unfinished writing projects. With grass-cutting — and scythe-breaking — season beginning, we are going through the stack to quickly finish at least some of the most pertinent topics.

The letter below should be read as a follow-up to Simon’s technical leaflet #4


Simon!

The collective consciousness is at work; we have (without prior agreement) both written pieces on the same topic at just about the same time.

Frankly, I do not know how we can most effectively deal with this challenge on paper. During live workshops it is rather straightforward; one is physically within even fifty yards of what you refer to as an “enraged golfer” they can be quickly identified and reminded — “Hey, mate, take it easy; this is not a war zone.” (Though, by the way, in Canada we don’t stick them in bunkers. Our government’s policy is to deposit them on ice floes until they cool off sufficiently…)

My overall take on your advice is that it underemphasizes the application of “proper force”. Whether the blade is too dull for the job (very often the case) or not in the ideal hafting adjustment (also frequent) is only a secondary consideration here. A sensible mower, as you know, can get some work done even with an under-sharpened and mal-adjusted blade without breaking anything. What sets the sensible mowers apart from those who are prone to break scythes is that the former group has what I would refer to as “tool-use sense”, whereas the latter are in the dark on this. The developments of the last 50 years have forged many individuals belonging to the latter group. (Perhaps we can consider it a fortunate thing that the relatively soft upbringing has not made more of them physically stronger than they already seem to be.)

Although it was a good idea to write that piece on their behalf, your kind advice on the “prevention techniques” provides hardly enough jolt to the awakening of this specialized kind of “common sense”. I hope I’m wrong on this and the folks will not only appreciate your kindness but also act on the advice.

Comparing our respective admonishments, one can readily see how you are such a nice fellow (and a diplomat when it comes to your scythe customers) while I have less patience and sympathy with the “reckless”… and as you know I don’t mind playing the devil’s advocate from time to time…

So rather than repeating specific technical “how-to” (which we have already spent significant time writing about elsewhere), I wrote that scythe-abuse article with a different slant precisely to jolt and remind folks to be sensible – i.e. use less force. How many will, even then, grasp that scythe breakage is the user’s responsibility in the majority of cases, I do not know.

Admittedly, in practice, the sensible force limits are difficult, if not impossible, to define. Even if we came up with some specific figures regarding how much force each respective snath and blade can withstand, it would be mere theory; most people don’t even know how much to tighten the “grub nuts” of the attachment ring.

–Peter Vido

P.S. for readers:
Can anyone out there suggest a good analogy, commonly understood? How, for heaven’s sake, can we prevent more scythes from being broken? Let us know.


June 2007