Better Safe Than Sorry


Scythes are like newborn babies, they come without instructions or warnings.

Perhaps I waited to long to dedicate a few lines and recommendations about safety while handling the blade. Safety is a concern when attaching the blade to the snath, mowing, sharpening, peening and even walking.

The name “blade” is already by itself kind of scary, the “scythe blade” even more (for its looks and for its most commonly known user, the Grim Reaper and his harvest of skulls).

IMGP2018However for those of us who look at it with different eyes and intentions, it shouldn’t be creepy. But at the same time, we should keep in mind a few do’s and don’ts while handling the tool.

Here are a few situations where our hands or our friends are at risk if we don’t pay close attention.

Attaching the Blade

scythe safety5.jpgAt this moment the top end of the snath should rest on the ground. Firmly grab the blade by the rib or spine with one hand. With the other, screw/unscrew from the back of the bevel as seen in the illustration.


20150725_100928Mowing does not normally represent danger to the mower since the blade is attached at the far end of the snath and the circulating motion does not allow it to come close. However, it can be very dangerous to others around us, other mowers, dogs or even over-friendly livestock such as lambs, goats, kittens, chickens. No one should be closer than 12 to 15 feet from the blade in motion.


 This is a dangerous moment since it requires our hand to be near the bevel and alternate fast movements at both sides of the blade.

When we are getting ready to sharpen the blade, the experienced scyther will brace the end of the snath almost vertically on the ground, bringing the blade to chest level, but away from the body. With a hand full of grass, we remove the grass and possibly dirt sticking to both sides of the blade from the back, near the tang, to the tip. This is not recommended to beginners, but is necessary. Otherwise the stone will ride on sticky grass at some sections and will not do its job, which is to thin and sharpen the bevel by removing material (metal) from both sides.

Once we have cleaned the blade with the grass, we pinch the bevel between the thumb and index finger then slightly and very carefully pass along the bevel to check the edge. This is very important as we can feel for imperfections in the blade—a dent, bend or crack—that needs immediate attention with the stone. Again, this is not recommended to beginners since is a dangerous move.

The most common mistake while sharpening or honing is trying to reduce the amount of strokes by prolonging or advancing too much. In other words, trying to sharpen the blade with very few strokes. By doing this, the hand goes forward a long section of the bevel, instead of in short, quick, downward strokes. A straight stroke on a crescent curve leaves the fingers vulnerable where hand and curve meet, and does not succeed in sharpening the blade.


 During peening we have to be careful not only with our hands but also with our legs since the blade rests on both sides of the anvil on both legs. Wearing shorts is not recommended during peening. If you must, throw a blanket or old jacket over the legs.

Peening is safest at the middle of the blade when it rests on three points:

peening safety.jpg two legs and one anvil. It is at the beginning and at the end of the peening when the risk is higher because the blade is entirely at one side of the anvil, resting only on one leg and it requires stronger grip.

peening safety2.jpg

peening safety3.jpgIt is also during peening when most accidents happen because we are concentrated on the spot we need to hit next with our hammer and we don’t see our surroundings.


Again children playing around us, puppies, and other animals coming to us at this moment are at big risk. (Photo with the white goat by Ashley Vido)


scythe safety6Personally I find it very safe to walk with the snath on top of my right shoulder either with the blade pointing to the sky (in a big open area) or pointing to the ground if it is a trail with low-hanging tree branches. People walking with you should be parallel to you. If the trail or road doesn’t allow for that, then they should go either ahead of you or at least 12 feet behind.

scythe safety7Ideally the blade should be covered by a sheath or wrapped in an old cloth.

When not in motion, the blade should be hanging from a tree up to the tang and well above the ground.

IMGP1911.JPGIf there are no trees or other structures (like a fence), the blade should be rested tilted against the wall, blade tip down and leaning at the tang. If we are in a flat field without trees or sheds, as a last option, we should put it on the ground with the cutting edge (bevel) facing the ground.

IMGP1910.JPGOne last recommendation, especially for beginners, is to wear a good, flexible (not bulky) pair of gloves.


Stay sharp my friends



The Gathering

IMG_0231 Well, finally after a few weeks of absence trying to catch up on accumulated tasks left behind due to my trip north to New Brunswick, Canada, where I spent a few intense days of what I like to call the North American Scythers Summit (NASS, not to be confused with the space agency), I would like to say, first, thanks to the Vido family for hosting graciously, openly and generously a group of scythe enthusiasts from around the world with different points of view, needs, and backgrounds. All, however, shared a common interest: promote and use the scythe in the 21st century. IMG_0192 I never saw before so many kinds of blades, from different makers, countries, styles to fit different needs of cutting etc… I never saw so many handle grips from natural twisted branches (or probably roots) and for sure, It is not easy to find some one (not only in the scythe world) with such a wide knowledge willing to share it with others. Peter does. IMG_0219 And we had a happy bonus: the friendliest baby goat to accompany all activities. IMG_0238IMG_0229IMG_0234 My long experience with the scythes was always based on work, except for the times that I participated in mowing competitions (that was even harder work). But this time, it was primarily ( but not limited to) about learning how to make snaths out of raw wood or branches of trees, regardless of variety. IMG_0220It was gratifying to see that all other participants were young people with the idea of promoting the use of the scythe in their future.

Previous photos were taken by Ashley Vido ( scythe and axe expert) and Jesse. Jesee is a young scythe enthusiast, promoter and as you can see a great photographer too.

Now slowly going back to reality, I leave you with the photo of this turtle that I took in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Park last weekend.IMG_20140727_131322 He or she was crossing the road and I moved him or her before his or her life was cut short. Please do the same…