Need some convincing about why scythes are a worthwhile investment?

A scythe as clippers

I’ve been through our raspberry patch and plaited the stronger canes together for this year’s harvest. I’ve dug out and sold hundreds of the excess canes that were impinging on the land outside the row, where they would just have been mowed off anyway. Now to trim off all the remaining excess, while leaving the plaited canes behind.

In the past I’d have done this with pneumatic clippers – the same ones we used to use to prune the blackcurrants for months at a time in the winter. They’re a quick, fairly effortless tool in use – you squeeze a trigger and the bypass blade does its thing, powered by an air-filled piston, on wood thicker than a thumb. But I figured I’d give the scythe a try and see how it went. I was expecting it would be awesome for the canes on the edges of the rows – faster than the clippers, since you can do one sweep and cut multiple canes – but expected it to be nigh on impossible to work between the clumps of plaited canes. But I thought I’d better at least try it, since I sell the tools…

I was surprised by how well it worked. It took me 44 minutes to go up one side and down the other, of a row of raspberries around 90 metres long, and I wasn’t racing. It also had what I like to call a “low startup overhead”; if I’d have gone for the pneumatic clippers, I would have had to:

  1. Find the clippers (haven’t used them for years)
  2. Check that the oil reservoir was full
  3. Check that they were sharp
  4. Find the long air hose reel and mount it to a bin
  5. Fill the air compressor with petrol
  6. I’d probably have given the compressor an oil change too, since it hasn’t been used for any length of time for a while
  7. Sort out a harness to fasten the air hose to my waist so I wasn’t dragging 90m of hose by the clippers
  8. Grab goggles and gloves
  9. Put the bin with air compressor and hose reel in it onto a tractor and drive it over to the raspberries. Depending on what other implement was on the tractor at the time, I may have needed to unmount that as well.

So, basically, I had a row done with the scythe before I would’ve got out of the shed with the clippers. By the time all 6 rows are done, the rabbit (clippers) may have caught up with the turtle (scythe). But there are other advantages too: with the scythe I’m standing upright and moving around, while with clippers I’d have been bending over and eventually ended up on hands and knees; with the scythe there’s no petrol cost (for the compressor) or diesel cost (for the tractor); no goggles needed with the scythe; no oil spurting out the piston’s exhaust onto your hands/gloves/soil as with the clippers; no gunshot clacking sound as with the clippers; thoroughly reduced risk of injury with a scythe (while no-one on our farm has ever lost a finger to the pneumatic clippers, there have been several near-misses with air hoses being cut in half); I could also make quick work of grasses impinging on the raspberry row, with the scythe.

All in all, for this scale of work, the scythe is brilliant. This is a 35cm Falci blade mounted on a Canadian white ash snath.