Using a scythe to cut your lawn, not a lawn-mower: Part 3 – technique
Part 1 was about your lawn; Part 2 about your scythe and blade. Part 3 is about scything techniques for short grass. With a bit of practice, you don’t really need the plastic, resource use, electricity and noise involved with lawn-mowers.
We’re often asked if it is possible to mow a lawn with a scythe. The answer is yes and there are many people in the UK doing just that! Lawn mowing can be a test of a scythers skill, it takes some thought and practice to do well. Here is a summary of the factors you need to consider if you are thinking of scything a lawn.
Specific scything techniques for short grass
Mowing short grass is an excellent way to improve your general scything technique. You can see what the blade is doing clearly and if your blade comes off the ground it will miss the grass!
Slicing not chopping
Short grass needs to be cut with a slicing action rather than a chopping one. Aim to keep the blade moving in a smooth arc. If you are using short strokes on a narrow path or a tight corner ensure the strokes are still following a section of the arc. This video shows Phil mowing a neat arc.
Keep it Down
It is important that the blade stays on the ground for the whole of the cutting stroke. It won’t be cutting anything when it’s is off the ground!
Keep the blade firmly on the ground, aiming to keep the pressure on a point about a third back from the tip of the blade.
If the pressure is further back, the tip will rise up, the blade will not mow so close and you are more likely to get a visible mowing stripes on your lawn. Too close to the tip and the tip will have a tendency to dig in.
We tend to use more downward pressure on the blade when cutting short grass. This keeps it cutting low and helps it “ride” the contours of the ground. Some of our lawns and paths are not very flat!
Push down with the right hand on the lower grip. Use the left hand on the upper grip to support the snath and keep it your usual mowing position. If you push down with both hands, the top of the snath will drop and affect the lay of the blade.
Follow the grass
Remember to follow the way the grass is laying as you mow. Because lawns tend to have grass lying in multiple directions it can be hard to pick a mowing line that will get everything in one cut.
This can leave occasional bits that have been squashed by the scythe but are uncut. These bits have an annoying habit of popping up the next day to say hello. To get a really neat finish you can go back over these bits in a second direction, either right away or when the culprits have popped their heads back up!
On narrow paths it is often easier to mow down one side, dropping a windrow at the edge, then turn round and mow back up the other. Often the grass is shorter in the middle where there is more foot traffic.
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