We know of several people who mow lawns with a
scythe. We do a bit of it with the grounds at Scythe Supply to demonstrate
that mowing a lawn with a scythe is doable. It is a good way to
learn the stroke and rhythm of using a scythe. It requires a very
sharp blade and you have to stone the blade often to keep a keen
edge. For best effect peen and hone the blade before mowing. Peening
takes about 10 minutes and the stoning break to refresh the edge
while mowing takes 10-15 seconds. Stone every couple of minutes
or so to keep the edge sharp. You may need to peen again after 2
or 3 hours of mowing.
Besides a sharp edge, mowing when the grass is wet (in the early
morning dew or after a light rain) helps a great deal. It is not
necessary for the grass to be wet but it does improve the cutting.
The moisture adds weight to the short grass helping it stand up
as the scythe slices through it. The moisture lubricates the blade
and softens the grass so it is easier to cut. No rain or dew? If
nature is being stingy run a water sprinkler for a short time then
Short grass can be difficult to mow. It hasn't the weight and inertia
of taller grass. Once the blade has hit it a couple of times the
grass seems to turn to rubber. It just bends over and springs back
up once the blade has passed. The forward end of the blade especially
has to be very sharp and kept that way to stand a good chance at
cutting short grass.
Over the longer term you will find that after several peenings
the blade will take and hold a stoned edge better than when the
blade is new. The peening instructions in the addendum of The
Scythe Book are very good. Short of having someone experienced
show you how to peen these instructions are the best we have seen.
Tips on mowing lawns with a scythe:
A long blade (over 26”) is not necessary. Short blades
work well and are easier to use. It takes longer to mow the lawn
but short blades don’t have the extra weight and resistance
of longer blades. Long blades are not as easy to finesse or control
as short blades. That means with a short blade you are less likely
to clip those pretty flowers when you meant to get only the weedy
The longer blade will mow more grass at each stroke than a shorter
Don’t expect the finished lawn to look as neat as if it were
done with a rotary mower, especially the first few go arounds. The
lawn will have its high spots, holidays and divots. Give yourself
time to develop the skill of close cropping a lawn.
Expect scything a lawn to take longer than with a power mower.
Your neighbors will appreciate your quiet, motorless mower. You
won’t be the annoying alarm clock jarring them out of bed
before breakfast. You can mow before dawn, after dark by moonlight,
anytime you like without the disturbing noise of an engine.
A scythe will mow wet and/or thick grass that would bog down and
stall a power rotary or hand reel mower. Use the scythe to clear
an overgrown lawn before using a power or hand reel mower.
A scythe will clip right up close to foundations, steps, fences,
stone walls, plantings, garden beds and many other obstructions
that a mechanical mower can’t get close to.
Keep the heel down and the toe up. Ride the belly of the blade
on the ground, keep the blade sharp, move it in an arc. Slice with
the blade, do not hack; you are not teeing off in a golf game.
Light, gentle strokes are most effective. Mowing is a shearing
action. It’s more like slicing a tomato than splitting wood.
With the belly of the blade on the ground the blade’s edge
should be off the ground about ¼ to ½ an inch. You
can adjust this height with a wedge placed between the tang and