We have been made aware that some of the video links on this page aren’t working for some browsers. Thanks to the folks who have taken the time to let us know and offered some great advice! We will be following up on it shortly, but in the meantime, please take a look at our YouTube channel where we’ve posted several of the videos from this page, plus a couple of new ones.
Note: The videos ‘The End of Cheap Oil and the Rise of the Scythe’ have been removed from YouTube, but are available for viewing here.
For some great videos on the harvesting of grain in Nepal using sickles and grain cradles, check out Alexander Vido of ScytheWorks’ youtube channel, and for more info and photos, please take a look at the Scythe Project In Nepal page.
The Hay Pusher
Perhaps a less explanatory title…
This video shows a few short secens of gathering rows of loose hay into piles using an uncommon “pushing” technique, then a couple secens of loading that hay onto a pickup truck.
Watch the video here
There is a diversity of cutting techniques demonstrated here, but rather than instructional per se, this few short clip is meant as a satire challenging the “brush blade mentality”. We purposefully used the lightest (in relation to length) blade from those listed in our catalogue (370 gm., 65cm.) and a homemade willow (Salix alba) snath weighing 1 1/2 lbs.
Watch the video here
We made these short clips for the benefit of a popular writer who claimed great fondness for the scythe, yet still believed that it was a tool for the cutting of tall grass only – and consequently recommended that people wishing to ready themselves for the transition into post-carbon reality (or let’s just say “sustainable living arrangements”) and if they wish to keep their classical lawn, obtain a reel mower.
We, of course, disagree…
(Note: Admittedly, there is some justification for the (erroneous) notion that to maintain a short lawn a mowing machine or at least a reel mower is necessary; especially so if it’s a lawn which is walked on a lot, because even during their short life the grass stems will have been pushed over in all directions, thereby making scything more difficult. Besides, a stand of grass cut or grazed frequently is usually quite dense, which adds to the challenge. Attempting to do the job with less than a very sharp scythe blade, you might as well try to whistle the grass away… But this is precisely the case with many novices — they use a blade sharp enough for tall grass or “weeds” perhaps, yet inadequate for a lawn. Secondly, they often mow during what seasoned scythe users in all agrarian cultures considered the “toilsome” hours, in the mid-afternoon. Thirdly, they haven’t learned how to “hug the ground” with the blade. Given the lack of success, they conclude that the scythe in general is poorly suited to lawn cutting.
Well, these short amateur videos are meant to demonstrate that a scythe can be a fine option for at least the ecologically-minded lawn owners of today — provided they are willing to learn how to use a hand tool well enough. Here are some hints:
The first prerequisite is an adequately sharp edge. (Many pages of explanations/instructions are available on this website — and we dare to say that more comprehensive written material on this topic does not exists anywhere else, certainly not in the three languages we can readily understand and do research in. If any of you think otherwise — for instance know of a more detailed text in Italian, Greek etc. — please let us know)
Then, it would help to start earlier. The best time to cut a lawn is early in the morning (before sun-up!) after the stems had a chance to stand up a little overnight and also because in the cool part of the day they are more easily severed. Yes, with a well-peened scythe it can be done at high noon if need be. Novices, however, are thereby asking for more of an unnecessary challenge.
The next ingredient to success is good technique. Specifically with regard to lawn- cutting, additional downward pressure should be applied as the blade is slicing. This does not mean the pressing of the edge towards the ground any more than usual; rather, it is the blade’s “belly” (the centre of the blade’s body) that should press against the ground. End of note.)
What Ashley is cutting here are various areas of our homestead’s yard, all of which are trimmed several times during the season when still relatively short — and always to ground level. (see photos below)
Clip #1 shows the mowing of the “traffic zone” — which is trampled nearly on a daily basis by people, animals and vehicles. It is therefore cut most frequently, whenever it reaches 8 to 10 cm of growth, down to nearly nothing. Notice that Ashley is leaning forward somewhat more so than otherwise. The reason? As explained in the above note this very short and trampled grass requires the application of extra downwards pressure.
The 3 clips in Series 1 show the mowing of an area which we try to avoid trampling much, and usually cut at about 30cm of height.
The downwards pressure is still applied but less so than in clip #1. Ashley is leaning over less, in part also because she is using the one-grip style snath – which in itself encourages a more upright posture.
In all these scenes an 85cm blade was used. The swath width is approximately 270-280cm and forward advance at a stroke 20-25cm.
This is one of the scythes used in the videos above, and the kitten investigating considered it the “cat’s meow”. Don’t scoff at his opinion; for he has shown uncommon interest in everything scythe-related, and likely understands more about this tool than do many modern people. As you can see in these peening videos, he was very serious about watching every detail.
Note: This video, plus it’s updated version posted the same year, was previously on YouTube, but they’ve had a rough life there… First of all, the entire videos’ audio was removed a couple of years after they were posted (2008), solely because we had used a few lines from Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” without asking permission (plus the YouTube cops blocked our computer’s access to YouTube). About a year and a half passed with the videos being muted, but still viewable, until one day the “audio block” was removed. Ah ha, we thought, they’ve come to their senses and decided that using a short piece of Bob Dylan’s music in a home-produced, not-for-profit video was not such a great crime after all! Several months later, the videos in their entirety were removed from YouTube…
However, you may watch it here: http://scytheworks.ca/riseofthescythe.html
Synopsis: A 14-year-old girl with a scythe, cutting circles around a tractor equipped with a mowing machine! Far-fetched? Today – perhaps. Tomorrow – the use of simple hand tools will make increasing sense in direct proportion to the rising costs, economic and otherwise, of operating oil-dependent machinery. Long live the power of human bodies!
Thanks to Alexander Vido (camera) Greg Hemmings and Jesse Cottingham (editing).
“Blowin’ in the Wind” © Bob Dylan.
A Good Scythe at Work: Click here to watch on YouTube.
You will likely need version 6 or later of Quicktime Player to view this video.
Download the most recent version (free).
The abbreviated description:
Short scenes demonstrating the versatility of a good scythe in diverse conditions–from “lawn” and field cutting to an “obstacle course” requiring precision mowing techniques. No audio–it got lost in the editing process. Some of the mowing is done by Ashley and Fairlight Vido. When this video was shot in 2003, they were 10 and 13 years old and already good mowers. They are not expending a lot of energy, because they have good tools and have learned the skill.
Video credits: Fairlight Vido, Greg Hemmings, Todd Snyder and David Patriquin.
This short film is a temporary substitute for a good, full-length instructional video on hand mowing. We were advised that for a video to be easily played/downloaded, and also to accommodate modern attention spans, the length should not exceed five minutes. Attempting at the same time to present a variety of possible applications, most scenes are shorter than the ideal. However, it serves as an introduction for those who: a) have never seen the scythe being used at all, and b) have always thought that this is a “man’s tool” and cannot imagine how it can be wielded by a 10- to 13-year-old. As well, it will demonstrate that a scythe can be used to cut very close to obstacles and reach places where a sicklebar, a rotary mower, or a string trimmer cannot–regardless of the height of the grass.
23 Jan. 2004
Modified 10 Sept. 2013