A Bush Scythe in Your Woodlot?

In this day of motorized, mechanized, mal-odorous, noisy tools the scythe may seem a bit out of place. But like any good tool the bush scythe has a place among your other hardworking tools for woodlot management.

The European style scythe fitted with a bush blade is a light weight and powerful tool for cutting brush, thinning suckers and small diameter saplings (up to 3/4 inch) in the woods, along roads, field edges, around boulders, steep hillsides, and areas not easily or safely reached with power equipment. Scything is done from a standing position. There is no need to stoop to do the cutting as you would when using an axe, hatchet or loppers.

Picture of a scythe This is not your grandfather’s scythe. The European style scythe is made up of a long, straight handle (snath) of white ash with two rock maple grips.  A strong, short blade attaches to one end of the snath.  The scythe weighs about 6 lbs making it comfortable to carry in one hand and easy to use. The scythe is grasped by its two handles then swung in an arc, close and parallel to the ground, cutting the plants.  It does not hang from your neck or shoulders like many engine driven cutters.  The scythe is quiet and effective, quickly removing brush and saplings without the high pitched engine noise that requires earplugs.

It does not leave your body exhausted, or quivering from engine vibration. There are no engine exhaust fumes. The scythe starts quickly when ever you’re ready and stops when you do. There is little risk to user of being cut by the blade while mowing.

Bush blades made of medium carbon steel are strongly built to handle the stress of cutting woody plants.  Blades are available in 14”, 16” and 20” lengths weighing 25 to 30 ounces.

The scythe is easy to maintain. Sharpen the blade by peening with a hammer then honing the edge with a whetstone. Hammering the blade edge thins the metal so it sharpens easily with a stone. Peening work hardens the steel so the sharpness lasts longer. After peening, a quick honing with a whetstone puts the final edge on the blade. A manufactured steel peening jig makes hammer sharpening simple and accurate. Peening may take as little as 5 minutes and usually no more than 10 minutes. Do not use a grindstone, either hand driven or motorized, as this overheats the steel, destroying the temper.

Peening may be required once or twice each day depending on how hard the scythe is used. Between peenings the blade edge is maintained by honing with a stone as needed. The whetstone is kept handy in a water filled holder attached to the mower's belt. When the honing no longer maintains the edge well then it is time to peen.

The scythe along with all the necessary items to maintain the blade can be purchased as a package. Bush scythes, as well as grass scythes, are available from Scythe Supply at 496 Shore Rd. Perry, Maine. More details are available on our website at scythesupply.com or phone at 207-853-4750.

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