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



Why the Scythe?

The scythe is more than an ancient hand tool. More than an iron blade. More than a curiosity or caricature. And its growing renaissance is long overdue.

The revival worldwide of the scythe is not an accident. It responds not to the demand of powerful landlords who harvest fields of hundreds or thousands of acres but to those who, with less land, want to do it right. The scythe cuts cleanly (no smoke comes out of it), quietly (no disturbing noise either) and efficiently (does its job). It adapts to basically all types of terrain and contributes greatly to your health since it is a great rhythmic and relaxing exercise.

With this site, I would like to take what I have learned over the decades, scything grass and hay in Spain and the United States, to a wider audience who might appreciate its nuances, its “green technology,” its connection to the earth—and in particular, to share in the Washington, D.C., area (including Maryland and Virginia) my passion for and knowledge of this ancient tool.

The scythe is more than a simple curved blade. It is a tool perfect for maintaining land, body and mind. When you mow, you exercise almost every muscle of your body. You establish a meditative rhythm, the arms and scythe as one, cutting swaths with a gentle whoosh, revealing newly manicured green. And with no gas exhaust produced, it is just you and the smell of cut grass. The process is pure joy.

alfonso scytheGas mowers bombard our senses, produce noise and air pollution, and damage vehicles when they launch stones and gravel like missiles. They are also hard on grass, by breaking rather than cleanly cutting each stem. Scythes, on the other hand, do not damage plants, vehicles, sidewalks, corners of structures or your senses of hearing and smell. It has access to narrow and uneven places that a mower does not. And there are almost zero maintenance costs since one blade properly maintained lasts many years. Indeed, around the world farmers and city managers are rediscovering the scythe for manicuring public and private spaces cost effectively and efficiently.

The scythe’s origins may have faded into history. But the tool is as relevant today as it was before gas-powered machines were built to mow.

Feel free to visit this site regularly for new information, instruction schedules and random musings as the mowing season begins.