I had a great weekend at Kyneton, mainly due the company of friends. I finally got to meet Mr. Jeff Keys, a.k.a. Man With Scythe, with whom I’ve been corresponding for a couple of years, and we both enjoyed the warm hospitality of another friend who has been good enough to indulge my scythe habit for all three Lost Trades Fairs to date.
While there was some confusion about just what we were and weren’t supposed to be mowing at the racecourse, we mowed enough to make an impression – people were drawn from all over as soon as we started a mowing session. The grass was actually surprisingly challenging – despite being a lush green and a good 6-8 inches or more long, it was extremely dense and presumably a hard-wearing species had been selected. I have never experienced the edge dull as quickly as I did there, and Jeff (who has had a far more varied mowing experience than I have) also noted how quickly the edge was losing its keenness.
The combination of the two of us made for interesting discussions; as I told the crowd at one point, as a contract mower it was in Jeff’s interests to convince them of how hard he was working, while as a retailer it was in my interests to convince them of how easy mowing with a scythe is. Hopefully people went away with a sense of the truth being a mingling of both of our views. There were certainly a few converts and, as always, people stunned by how light a rig is, and how sharp the blades are.
Murphy’s Law kicked in on occasion and I found myself mowing with a Swiss snath because on the second day a grub screw on the ring on my Canadian wouldn’t tighten (I’ve yet to confirm whether there’s crud in the thread or whether the thread is galled) and we couldn’t find the spare ring and the ‘Swiss’ ring wouldn’t fit over the Canadian. In a moment of frustration I let fly with some speed mowing on uneven ground outside the racecourse and finally managed to break a Falci blade – my favourite 65cm model 100 – as the point dug in and my ridiculous momentum carried through. Early on the first day as I was working through a progression of honing grits, my Bregenzer stone broke for the third time (I’ve glued it) and a punter snorted in disgust and walked off. I fought the urge to call out, “hey, that’s not one I made!”
I was surprised to find that around a third of the Tassie Tiger whetstones I sold went to knife makers or knife buffs – I was approached by several wanting to buy them and I pointed out that they’re designed to sharpen on the round side, not the flat, and that I wouldn’t claim that the flat is actually flat. One knife maker pulled out his pocket knife then and there, gave it a rub with the stone and said, “yep, that works fine”.
Once again there were a few people who’d had experience forging who seemed keen to take up the challenge of making a blade. One gent even thought he might be able to do it on a production basis. I assured him that if he can successfully make a scythe blade, we’d be able to sell it. And same again with the snaths.
The usual heckling was part of the scenery, and I drew the line at “that’s a lot of hard work”. Jeff commented that anything worth doing is hard work, while I kept my thoughts to myself – it seems to me that if someone recognises the ease of mechanisation but hasn’t joined the dots with regard to what the payoff is, it’s not much use me trying to enlighten them. “Yep, it’s harder work, because it’s me doing the work, not the compressed bodies of dinosaurs that we’re burning and releasing into the atmosphere at breakneck speed.” It just wouldn’t get through, would it?
Here’s a little bit of video captured on the second day.