Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Scythe V Strimmer

Almost the first question everyone asks  - apart from "is it heavy?" followed by "Gosh! Isn't it light!" when I let them hold it - is "how fast is it, compared to a strimmer?"

That's the wrong question.

For several reasons.

Firstly, it's not a competition between one and the other. There is no competition, in my view: I will never use a strimmer again, but I will be using my scythe wherever I would previously have used a strimmer.

(NB, "For Sale, Petrol Strimmer : also for sale,  Electric Strimmer with long lead, contact me for details.")

But if you really wanted to compare them, then I would invite you to check out YouTube, and the west country scythe V strimmer competitions. It's quite interesting:. Scythes are slower on some terrains, faster in other situations, so the results are not a clear victory for either side. Personally I would say that a strimmer is generally faster, but not really by much, and it's not actually about speed, it's about precision, and also about enjoying the work rather than sweating yourself to death.

Here are my comparison thoughts:

1) Preparation.

The scythe takes a couple of minutes to assemble, as you can't really move it around with the blade on. Well, you can, actually (thinking about it) with a blade cover: luckily my good mate Jim very kindly made me a superb plastic ventilated cover, perfect for moving it, so if it would fit in my car in one piece, then there is no reason why I couldn't carry it ready assembled, other than attracting rather a lot of attention... but at present I carry it in pieces, so it takes a minute or two to bolt it together. You then have to fill the honing stone holder with water and clip it onto your belt.

A strimmer needs to be filled with petrol, and the operator needs to tog up with all the protective gear, and then you need to get the darned thing started, all of which used to take me 10-20 mins.

Scythe 1, Strimmer 0.

2) Using it.

It's quite similar in use - most strimmer operators swing it from left to right as they move, and I swing my scythe in a similar way, but I cut from right to left only. Theoretically I therefore cut half as much but in practise I still seem to progress through the grass at the same speed.

No points to either side.

3) Nettles etc.

My petrol strimmer used to struggle to get through tough stuff like nettles and burdock. I would often end up with ragged stumps where I had blasted away at them for some time.

My scythe goes through everything. Like butter. It's amazing.

Scythe 2, Strimmer 0

4) Long grass

With the strimmer, it would cut the long grass easily enough, but after a couple of swipes you were up to your knees in tumbled stalks, and couldn't see where you were strimming.

The scythe moves them all neatly to the left, so you can see your next stroke clearly.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 0

5) Goose grass and bindweed.

Oh dear, they both get horribly tangled: the strimmer used to get all choked up with long bits, and the scythe can't move the cut stalks away cleanly if they are all tied up together. No points to either side.

6) Clearing up the mess

The strimmer tends to mash everything down to nothing, whereas the scythe makes hay. So if I am being honest about clearing up afterwards, and discounting the fact that scything produces a crop, then I have to say the strimmer gets the point.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 1

7) Interruptions while working: maintenance.

It's about equal - the strimmer needs occasional fuel stops, and frequent line adjustment, but if you have a decent bump-stop reel, then you don't have to stop the machine to get more line out. Mind you, it normally gets stuff wrapped around the spool several times in a session, which means stopping to clear it. Properly, you should turn the engine off while you do this...

The scythe has to be honed every five or ten minutes or so. It takes about 30seconds to do - experts do it in about 10 seconds but a) I am not an expert (yet) and b) it's not a race!

On balance, no points to either side.

8) Interruptions while working: spectators.

I have never, EVER, had anyone come up to me and start chatting while I was strimming. Dogs would yap, babes would cry, windows would shut, but no-one ever stopped me to talk about it.

Scything, on the other hand... everyone and his dog wants to have a closer look, ask "why are you not using a strimmer?" and tell me stories about their great-great grandfathers.

At least you can continue to scythe while talking, once a boundary has been established:
"May I watch you?"
"Not if you stand there!"
"Why not?"
"Well, you see this wide sweep of cut grass..."
"And you see this pointy end of this sharp blade?"
"If you stand there, you'll get this pointy end right in your shins!"

So, again, being honest, scything does suffer from distractions if there are people around.

Scythe 3, Strimmer 2

9) Cleaning up afterwards.

My strimmer has to be emptied of petrol ("pooey!") which invariably spills all over it and the petrol container, making the car stink all the way home. Then, at home, it needs a good clean, especially of the shield around the line, which gets clogged with a green mush.

The Scythe has to have the blade taken off - although, as per above, I'm thinking I might stop doing that - a quick wipe with a glove, a quick squirt of WD40 on the blade,  empty out the water and that's it.

That's two points for the Scythe.

Scythe 5, Strimmer 2.

We have a winner!

And I'm not awarding any points for sheer enjoyment of using it. But I assure you, it is a pleasure to use!

OK, you get blisters the first few times, especially if it's really hot weather, as it has been, but the strimmer - oh I forgot to add a point for the scythe not weighing as much - used to make both arms and my shoulders ache, not to mention cramp in the hand from holding the trigger down.

So, on balance, then? Scythe wins, hands down!  But that's only my opinion...



    1. Wow, no need to shout! Oh - you were shouting over the noise of a strimmer, I get it!

      Last year I was talking to the owner of a mowing business, who was intrigued by my scythe. I suggested that he should get a couple of them - a minor expense for a largeish company like his - and have a couple of operators trained to use them, because then he could offer a scything service to the many eco-aware people out there, who really hate strimmers. He thought it was an excellent idea, because of course it would be a specialist service, and you can always charge more for those.

      So if I were you, I would promote yourself very strongly as a scythe operator, and tap in to the lucrative eco market.

      Good luck!


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