Need some convincing about why scythes are a worthwhile investment?

FAQ

We’ve split up the frequently asked questions between scythe questions and questions about our business.

Scythes

What do I need to buy to get started?

We consider the absolute bare minimum to be a snath (but you may like to try making one), a blade, an attachment ring, and a whetstone. You’ll also need a whetstone holder, but you can easily knock something up out of a (clean) shampoo bottle or similar.

The “Learn to Scythe” book will also be useful for beginners (or for someone wanting to know what’s involved in using a scythe, without buying a scythe).

If you’re mowing grass (as opposed to just trimming weeds) you will need to peen the blade at some point, so you’ll either need to find yourself a nice curve of hardened steel for an anvil (Tony used a piece of railway iron for years), or fork out for a jig or an anvil. If you’re only trimming weeds, you can use a file to take any shoulder off the blade (i.e. physically remove the shoulder, rather than flattening it out as with peening). You’d be taking off more metal faster than you need to, but it’d save you a buck in the short term.

Which blade is right for me?

Yeah, that’s right… which?

There is no way we can tell you, accurately, which blade will work best for you, because everyone has their own slightly different approach to mowing. But we can give you some basic principles to consider to help you choose:

Long vs. short

  • Short blades are more forgiving in regard to poor setup, and poor technique
  • Short blades are typically more robust
  • Short blades are usually used for woodier stems (bracken, thistles) or tighter spaces
  • Longer blades have a deeper bite so you mow more with each stroke (in the forward direction, rather than width as you might expect)
  • Longer blades will ‘let you know’ when something isn’t right – setup, technique. This may be frustrating for beginners. We recommend beginners get used to a longer blade on lawn first.

Blade model (‘pattern’)

You’ll notice our blades have model numbers. This is the manufacturer’s identification for a blade ‘pattern’ (shape). It’s just a number, so don’t try to interpret it. We mention some key points of distinction for the different patterns on the individual blade descriptions. There’s another FAQ below about the different models: “How do blade shapes differ?”

Brand – Falci or Günaş?

Günaş are heavier and more robust. In rough mowing conditions this can give you more momentum, less ‘chatter’ (vibration in the blade), and more confidence that you’re not going to do a scary bit of damage to your blade. They also peen really, really nicely (“almost like butter” was one description), and yet hold their edge very well. Günaş won’t burn as big a hole in your pocket if you’re happy to peen it yourself, but we do charge a fee if you want us to peen it, because it’s quite a bit of work. We recommend the Tassie Tiger whetstone for these blades.

Falci are lighter and arguably represent the pinnacle of production output from today’s market – the edges come to us very well prepared (they pass the thumbnail test) the tangs are beautifully uniform and tapered nicely. We do a one-line peen on all Falci blades we sell (unless you ask us not to), included in the cost, so they genuinely are ready to mow when they reach you. Being so thin they’re very easy to get very sharp. Because the edges are very fine, they are more susceptible to damage. That said, we have a customer mowing Gamba grass with a custom-prepared (thicker) edge, which we’re always happy to do as well. We recommend the Tasmanian ceramic whetstone for these blades when they’re freshly peened. If you’re doing hours of mowing and don’t want to stop to peen, changing to the Tassie Tiger whetstone will remove more steel to help keep the more rounded edge sharp.

At this point in our mowing adventures, we’d probably recommend a long Falci for lawns, and a Günaş for field mowing. But that’s not a hard-and-fast recommendation by any means.

What do the tang customisation options mean?

If you’re not an experienced mower who knows exactly what you want with how the tang is set, just choose “as it comes” – in this case we’ll make sure the tang is set to a ‘neutral’ position. Customised tangs are to meet specific needs.

Which whetstone is right for me?

A good kit would include a coarse, medium (Tassie Tiger) and fine stone (ceramic) – all canoe shaped. While some outlets claim that you can get a razor sharp edge on a scythe using just one whetstone, the reality is that while you can always get by with just one, you won’t achieve the same edge (and certainly not in the same time) as you do with different grades (just as, incidentally, you can’t even get a “razor sharp edge” on a razor without different grades of abrasive). Does that mean you have to buy all three? No, but you’ll find you spend less time honing and peening if you do.

Removing the minimum amount of steel is the ideal – this lengthens the life of your blade and the regularity of peening required. So if you’ve got a very fine edge like a Falci, a ceramic will bring the edge back to sharp while removing the minimum. However, once you’ve honed the blade over time, the edge becomes slightly rounded, and a very fine stone becomes less effective – at which point you can either peen your blade or move to a more coarse stone (peening is the ideal in terms of performance and saving your steel, but you may only have half an hour of mowing to finish…)

But if you’re keen to get just one whetstone, consider these points:

  • The (very fine) ceramic whetstone is great on well-peened edges like the Falci. You can use the ceramic on the Günaş if you order it peened, but even if you do order it peened, it won’t come with as fine an edge as the Falci, so you’ll find you need to hone more heavily with the ceramic, and/or peen more frequently. We wouldn’t recommend a ceramic as your only stone unless you’re going to religiously keep your edges very fine with peening.
  • The Tassie Tiger sandstone (medium-fine) whetstone is what we recommend as the best choice for the Günaş. If you’re doing serious mowing – several hours haying, for example – with a Falci, you’d appreciate the sandstone whetstone as well, as it has more bite to keep a keen edge even when the edge has started to round off after several hours of use and honing. As a medium-ish stone it will be more versatile overall. If you’re going to get just one stone, we’d recommend this one.
  • The coarse canoe synthetic whetstone is best used – lightly – immediately after peening freehand, or with more pressure after jig peening. We recommend using a progression of coarse-to-fine whetstones immediately after peening as setting the bevel is the foundation for a good edge profile. You can do it with a finer stone but it’ll take a lot longer – many repetitions – to achieve what you’d do with a few passes of the coarse stone.
  • The oval ‘stick’ type stone is very aggressive and doesn’t set a hollow bevel because of its shape. You’ll be chewing off a lot of steel with this stone. It arguably shouldn’t need to be in your arsenal at all – you’re much better off learning to peen properly and honing with something less coarse, but if you’re someone who doesn’t want to spend time peening and honing, these will rip an edge back into cutting order in quick time – but the edge won’t be anywhere near as sharp as it could be. These stones are also good for other edged tools such as billhooks.

Do you make the scythes yourself?

We are having some of the stuff locally made in the Huon Valley – so far, ceramic whetstones, attachment rings, and sandstone whetstones (made entirely by us) – and we’re working on snaths. There’s a three year apprenticeship involved in acquiring the skills to make the blades. We’d like to think we’ll have a go one day, but the likelihood of that happening is probably on equal footing with our upcoming Pulitzer Prize novel.

Making the snaths is much more likely and it’s something we’re starting to dabble in.

How do blade shapes differ?

Quite markedly, although not so much amongst the range we stock. Differences include:

  1. the amount and shape of the curvature that occurs along the edge of the blade
  2. the amount and shape of the curvature that occurs along the rib of the blade
  3. the combination of the above two factors, which affects the width of the beard of the blade
  4. the ‘flatness’ of the blade, which occurs in two axes: along the length of the blade (which affects whether the beard and point are raised off the ground, balancing more on the lower point of the middle of the blade) and from the rib to the edge, which affects the angle of the cutting edge as it approaches the target
  5. the set of the tang – in all three axes: the elevation of the tang, the twist of the tang, and the hafting angle afforded by the tang. These all affect how the blade is presented to the ‘target’ when fitted to your snath.

The first three do have an effect on how well the blade will work for you. Different parts of the edge get more of the cutting work in different sections of the swathe you cut (you might pick this up in the slow motion “snath cam” video we did here). So a deeper beard might give you a bit more cutting power toward the end of your stroke – but how much depends on your style and the setup of the rig). So 1-3 are probably best discovered for yourself.

Regarding point 4, a flat blade is good for lawn mowing as it gives a more even stubble. A blade which curves across the belly is likely to be easier to manage in rougher mowing conditions as the point will be less inclined to dig in, and the cutting edge is kept away from low-lying obstacles.

As for point 5, the tang set, we try to get all of these set up pretty well for each blade we sell, but we will customise this to your specifications if requested.

Why would I buy a scythe?

This seems to be the most often asked question. When we’ve done demonstrations or set up a stall at a market, people tend to think we’re there for the novelty factor. It’s beyond us how they’d come to that conclusion.

When people realise that we’re seriously promoting the tool in preference to something like a brush cutter, it causes some surprise.

 

My father used one of those, but then tractors came along.

 

My grandfather used one of those. But if he was alive today, he’d own a brush cutter – he was progressive.

 

All we’re saying is that technology and mechanisation can be fantastic, but it’s also brought about some negatives, one of which is the paradigm shift whereby a tool is typically discounted as inefficient, hard work unless it has a motor or a silicon chip.

Tony’s on a 25 acre farm and Marshall’s on a 440 acre farm; it’s not like we have never used machinery. But there are many jobs where the ingrained reflex action is to pick up a brushcutter, when a scythe is actually the better option. You can trim under electric fence lines with a scythe (and the timber handle doesn’t conduct!), you can cut back bracken with a scythe, you can carry a scythe over rough terrain with far less effort. You can mow your lawn with a scythe and enjoy the atmosphere and, if you live in the suburbs, without detracting from your neighbours’ atmosphere. In some cases the conventional machinery may be faster, in some cases the scythe is faster and a much, much easier overall experience.

People are typically amazed at how light a complete scythe is, especially compared to the brushcutter and associated paraphernalia and safety gear.

In addition, the scythe burns your stored energy rather than energy from fossil fuels, and mowing can provide good (and relaxing) aerobic exercise.

If you still need some convincing, check out the videos on this page.

 

Could I use a scythe to.....

  • Mow blackberries or lantana?  Yes, you could, but we don’t recommend tackling an otherwise impenetrable clump with a scythe.  A scythe prepared to a sturdy but sharp edge will cut through green stems with no problem – and if they’re just at the point of a few stems, go for it. But for a clump, something like a bill hook or a fern hook would be more approrpiate. The perpendicular setup of a scythe, and the intentional design whereby the mown material gathers toward the snath-end of the blade, means that you’ll probably spend as much time disentangling your tool as mowing with it.
  • Mow Gamba grass?  Yes indeed. One of our customers in Darwin reports “The scythe has exceeded all expectations!  Over the next week will send you some footage of the Gamba just falling over.  The scythe is so incredibly light, so easy to use.”  This was in respect to a blade we prepared for this very purpose, in Gamba grass that hadn’t yet browned-off.
  • Mow Kikuyu grass?  Yes indeed. One of our customers in New South Wales reports “The scythe arrived safely last Friday.  Damn it is sharp!  I had a quick try and it works excellently on the long [kikuyu] grass”.
  • Cut ferns or thistles?  Yes, but if you’re using a Falci you’ll need to be careful. Dead or woody stems will pose a risk to their very fine edges, but green stems can be tackled (carefully) with no problem. We’d recommend a Günaş or a shorter Falci blade, and if you’re planning to use it for such a purpose, let us know so we can prepare a more robust (i.e. less fine) edge. You can see one of our 35cm Falci blades in action on Scotch thistles here.
  • Mow a lawn?  Oooooh yeah. Our Falci blades excel in this circumstance. Check out our lawn mowing video. Because the very edge is prepared fine at the factory, they can be sharpened to a very sharp edge. Let us know if you’re planning to mow lawn, and we’ll prepare an edge that’s scarily sharp. With some care you can also get quite close to borders and edgings, and mow along recessed paths and street kerbs. A scythe will typically not give you perfectly manicured edges, but it can do a surprisingly good job of it nonetheless.

What's so special about your scythes?

Check out scything guru Peter Vido’s comparison of the Schröckenfux and the Falci blades.

At time of writing, only around 500 blades per year leave the factory as finely peened as our Falci blades.

We also sell white ash snaths, made by Canadian Mennonites. These are rated by Peter Vido as the most ergonomic snaths in ‘mass’ production today, and we’ve also found them to be better built than the Swiss snaths.

What do the blade lengths refer to?

The 65cm blade is a bit longer than 65cm overall, but the blade edge is about 60cm.

The 65cm blade is a bit longer than 65cm overall, but the blade edge is about 60cm.

The blade length is the total length of the blade (give or take a bit), not the cutting edge. So, for example, a 65cm blade is roughly 65cm from the point of the blade right back to the outside shoulder of the tang (if you have no idea what we’re talking about, check out our scythe lingo page). It’s actually closer to 66cm (but again this will vary between blades since they’re individually hand forged).

How often do they need to be sharpened?

Often. In Australian conditions you’ll likely notice the cutting ability of your edge declines within a few minutes; 15 seconds of honing at that point will restore the performance.

The frequency of peening will vary markedly depending on whether your blade is particularly fine or not, how long you’re willing to persevere with a rounded edge (e.g. by using a more aggressive whetstone), and how much steel you remove while honing. If you’re doing a day’s work of serious hay mowing it’d pay dividends to peen your blade at lunch time or even sooner, but if you’re just doing occasional mowing here and there, you may be happy peening every 8 or 16 hours’ use. Some people are happy not peening at all, and just use a coarse whetstone to keep a thicker edge sharp enough to be functional.

How long will a scythe last?

A blade should last you a lifetime and beyond, unless you do so much mowing that you literally wear it away – which is unlikely. It is of course possible to reduce this potential lifespan to roughly nil if the tool is used inappropriately or treated poorly.

The two of us have some 15 seasons of scythe use between us, and we’re yet to damage a tensioned blade beyond what can be addressed with a simple edge repair; on the other hand, we’ve also seen some stomach-churning damage inflicted upon blades by others.

Our snaths are made from white ash – used for applications such as baseball bats – so they will also give you good service.

The blades and snaths (especially the end) are both exposed to moisture, and this will take its toll if not addressed. Oiling both will repel moisture and extend their lifespans.

I'm a southpaw. Do I need a left-handed scythe?

Hard for us to say, because we’re not southpaws. One member of our social scything group is left-handed and he found that a left-handed scythe did make a world of difference to his mowing.

If you’re only using the scythe to trim weeds, rather than full-on grass mowing, it probably wouldn’t make too much difference. That is, if you’re planning to go “ping… ping… ping ping…” (one or two stems at a time) rather than “swish… swish… swish…” (a wide swathe through a good stand of grass), being left handed won’t hinder you too much. At least that’s our guess, as right-handers.

We don’t currently stock left-handed snaths. We have our first shipment of left-handed blades due in August 2014. If you’re keen to get a left-handed snath, your best option in Australia at present would be Hazelcombe Farm in Mudgee.

Our business

I'm not in Australia - can you sell me a scythe?

Well, we could, but chances are there’s a scythe retailer close by. Drop us a line and we’ll point you in the right direction.

What will shipping cost?

Shipping costs are displayed during the checkout process (you don’t have to complete a purchase to see the shipping cost). Once you’ve added the items you’re interested in to the cart, go to the checkout and enter your shipping address and you’ll see the shipping options available to you for shipping those items, and their corresponding prices.

What are your shipping options?

You can choose your preferred shipping method as part of the shopping cart process.

If you’re in the Huon or Hobart area, you can contact us to arrange a mutually convenient time and location for a pickup – specify 7000 as the delivery postcode to allow a local pickup option in the shopping cart.

We also offer delivery with tracking by Australia Post.

Australia Post has a limit of 105cm length on deliveries, so the handles we sell can’t be sent by post. For this reason we can only offer delivery by couriers for some items.

Australia Post shipping is calculated automatically by considering your items’ weights and dimensions, along with your postcode, against published delivery costs.

Because some of our products are oddly shaped, the estimates will not always be accurate. For example, if you ordered three scythe blades of different lengths, we could stack them on top of each other to save space, but the calculator can only guess at the machinations of our vastly superior intelligence, and will likely calculate postage on multiple packages. While we do reserve the right to charge a handling component, if we get an order like that where there’s been an obvious error, we’ll make a refund.

Courier rates are based on length of the snath purchased, and the destination postcode, assuming a ‘typical’ rig purchased. If entering your postcode doesn’t result in your being presented a courier rate, please contact us for a quote.

How long until delivery?

Well, that depends on a lot of things, including:

  • Whether you’ve backordered something (in which case we won’t ship until it’s all ready – so if you want stuff sooner, order it in different shipments.
  • Whether we need to peen the blade or customise the tang.
  • How much other stuff we have on (we both have day jobs and this is still a sideline for us).
  • Whether you’ve ordered something by courier and haven’t given a business address or an authority to leave it at your premises (in which case we’ll need to follow up with you to get that authority before sending).

But, all that said, as an example I took a call on a Friday asking if we could get a rig to someone interstate by the next week for a birthday present. We had it there by Tuesday, at no extra cost.

Our courier service is officially a three day service to capital cities, but it’s usually a one day service in such a case, and three days to more regional areas.

It’s a very unusual order that we haven’t shipped within a week of receiving the order (and we’ll keep you in the loop on when it’s shipped).

But the short story is that if you let us know you need it in a hurry, we’ll typically get it to you very promptly. We don’t guarantee any delivery times because the guaranteed services on freight of this size are prohibitively expensive.

Do I need a PayPal account to buy from you?

No. No. No.

We’ll take a direct deposit (details provided in the shopping cart process) or if you’re local, we’ll take cash if you want to come and get a rig fitted up for you.

As for buying from us with PayPal, no, you don’t need an account. PayPal is very good at making you think you do need an account, but you don’t. Just choose the ‘Pay with a credit or debit card’ option, and you’re away.

PayPal - you don't need an account!

We use PayPal for e-commerce because it’s the cheapest card processing option for us, which keeps our prices down. We do prefer a direct deposit into our account (because that costs us nothing at all) but if you want to buy with a credit/debit card, by all means please do use PayPal.

Why doesn't your site use an SSL certificate?

You may (or may not) have noticed that there’s no green bar or lock icon in your browser’s address bar while browsing our site. The presence of an SSL (Secure Socket Layers) certificate is what triggers that icon in your browser, because it indicates that traffic between your computer and our website is encrypted.

We’re not encrypting that traffic because we don’t process your credit card details. Paypal accepts the details of the products you wish to purchase, and only when you’re on their secure site do you enter credit card details. You’ll get the green lock when you’re directed over to Paypal to complete the transaction.

Our website developer (i.e. Marshall) reckons this is the simplest way to do it and also leaves the security implications of handling credit card details with the big players who are set up for expressly that purpose.

Why are you doing this?

Because we like scythes, and we’d like to make it easier and less expensive for other people to experience using a scythe.

As well as the emissions-free-use that a scythe provides, it also may not be too long before cutting grass with a brush cutter simply becomes cost-prohibitive… it was in 2008 that even General Motors’ Chief Executive declared oil supply had already peaked.

Why is your news feed displaying garbage?

Hey, go easy, it’s not garbage, it’s just raw code. If that’s what you’re seeing, it’s likely you’re trying to view it in a browser that doesn’t have a feed reader installed. Chrome is one such browser. You can still view our feeds with a  ‘feed reader’ such as feeddemon, or you may be able to find a feed reader plugin for Chrome by googling it. Or you could just follow us on Facebook.