A man cuts grass with a scythe
(Image credit: Nariman Safarov)

Sometimes the old ways are best. Scythe lawn mowing was once a very common way to manage high grasses. In many countries it is still the preferred tool since a scythe is portable and easy to manage. Mowing a lawn with a scythe isn't something you see every day in modernized regions, but the tool is adaptable, easy to keep sharp, and a lightweight piece of land management. It is also eco-friendly and adds no noise pollution because it is human, rather than gas powered.

A scythe is a curved, sharp blade at the end of a long pole. It is used to trim grass and light brush. During use, the operator is standing and making controlled sweeps to cut plant material. The benefit of a grass cutting scythe is in the management it gives on high grasses without using fossil fuels. Scythes are also relatively inexpensive and readily available.

Tips on Using a Scythe

A scythe was used widely in Europe and North America up until the early 20th century. After that, mechanization methods took over. But the scythe is still used in many regions. The versatile scythe requires frequent peening and stoning. Peening is the process of cold hammering the blade to restore it. Today this is quickly done using a jig. The process takes about 10 minutes and is crucial to keeping the blade in the proper form.

During use with a scythe, it is necessary to use a stone to hone the blade. Keeping the tool sharp will make using a scythe to cut grass much easier and efficient. It takes some practice to learn the correct angles to use on a whetstone, but over time the process is as quick as a few strokes.

How to Cut Grass with a Scythe

Just like sharpening a scythe, it takes some practice to develop the correct body movements for use of the tool. It is important to protect the back, so developing an easy sweeping style can minimize pain and discomfort.

Avoid mowing when the grass is wet, which can make scything more difficult. Using a scythe to mow low grass is difficult. It is better to let the grass grow to a height where the blade can capture it easily. Letting grass grow also allows flowering plants to form which attract pollinating insects.

A scythe can cut a swath of grass 6 feet (1.8 m.) long, which makes it an attractive option against tools such as machetes which only cut 20 inches (50 cm.). The resulting cut grass makes excellent hay for fodder.

Types of Scythe

There are 2 main types of scythe. The American scythe has a thick, narrow, steel blade with a curved handle, commonly found in farm supply stores. A European scythe has a straight handle and a thin, curved blade. It is also much lighter than the American version. The European version is made of alloyed steel that is easier to peen than the American tool. It is sharpened with a whetstone, while American scythes require grinding. The European blade's curve allows it to closely follow the ground. The grips on an American blade are adjustable, whereas European scythes are not adjustable on the top grip. Each has its benefits and selection may depend upon availability.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.