The scythe: a tool with history

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In the old days the peasants shouldered their scythes and moved early in the morning towards the field to mow the grass. A light drizzle would be no problem, a real shudder, however, would lay down the grass and blazing sun the long stalks - no ideal weather for the time-honored craft. Without grass resistance, mowing with the scythe becomes a burden.

Just like then it sounds today when Bernhard Lehnert mows the grass with the scythe: the hiss swells briefly, then it stops abruptly, to start again shortly thereafter. He finds a different rhythm for his steps. Slowly he moves forward on the meadow in Gersheim, Saarland. Above, his body works in a different tact than below. "The scythe is like an extended arm," he says. "This unit of mower and tool is only available on very few devices." The horse of the neighbor is watching him. It seems to know that it will find the crop later in the feeding trough.

A question of the blade


Sounding beats, faster than every second: Those who, like Bernhard Lehnert, still regularly eat today, should also be able to master the barking. Every stroke of the hammer throws the scythe blade a little more. Due to the expansion, the mowing tool becomes dangerously sharp - just right to cut even unruly grasses and herbs with one swing

Depending on the load, Bernhard Lehnert has to denle each scythe several times a year. He works on the scythe with short quick hammer strokes, so that the steel is beautiful thin and sharp. "Dengeln" comes from the Dangl, that is commonly called the sharpest five millimeters along the scythe edge. It takes about 1400 strokes, until a medium-long blade of 70 centimeters has its basic sharpness. "Anyone who sleeps when peeling becomes awake while mowing" is an old saying. Then as now, successful scythe was above all a question of the blade. A well-sharpened leaf slides loosely on the ground and is a condition for a smooth, even body movement without much effort.

Until 50 years ago, the scythe still counted as the most important companion of farmers and farm workers during the season. Their quality depended on how much grass or grain you could mow during the day. Especially in the Alpine region, where the mechanical processing of fields and meadows was often difficult, but also in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, the sleek helpers were still in use for a long time: rather flat and long blades for the soft grasses of the north; shorter, broad and strengthened leaves for the steep slopes of the mountains. Steel tips provided extra durability in case the ground was rocky or uneven.

Scythes for different purposes

Among the most popular models were the heavy, robust "Hochrückensense" for grain and its counterpart for grass, the light curved "Reichsformsense". Blade length, leaf shape and other properties determine what the scythe is used for. For example, you can mow five-centimeter-tall grasses if the blade is very thin.

Different blades

1. A narrow, long leaf (105 cm) is suitable for flat, large-scale terrain and soft grasses. 2. The half-wide "Jokelesense" (75 cm) is a popular Grassense with thorn from the Stuttgart area. 3. "Original Rasierschnitteensen" (70 cm) mow normal grass meadows. 4. The "Golden Razor Cut Sense" (75 cm) has an exceptionally wide cutting edge ("beard"). It is suitable for meadows with more robust herbs. 5. With the curved "Turken-Sense" (65 cm) you can work on smaller garden plots or orchards on which the trees are closer. 6. Shrub tendrils (45 cm) master even hard stalks like those of wood seedlings or blackberries

In the Lehnert scythe workshop posters hang in old German script, which ask the farmer to mow with the scythe and reminiscent of this time: Small advertisements warn of "unruly scythe-hawkers" - before Schlawinern who demand far too high prices. Colorful labels adorn the blades and make you smile. "Jokele go on ahead, you have the best scythe on it," call about seven Swabians courage, which apparently pull against a hare in the field.

The intensification of agriculture in the post-war years finally deprived the scythe works of most orders. Also in the Achern scythe works John, where the popular "Black Forest scurf" was made, stood from then on tail-Breithammer and polishing machine. Today, the scythe is a mowing tool for nostalgics, horse owners, friends gentle farming or owners of hillside areas. Bernhard Lehnert knows what drives her. "People do not like the noise of the mowers anymore," he says.Bees played crazy next to bar mowers, beekeepers told him. But switching from powered high grass mowing to manual mowing, such as orchards, is not always easy. Short, hard cones of tree sprouts left by the machines have to be removed first: they ruin a scythe straightaway.

Depending on the equipment, a scythe costs about 120 euros. An individual device is worthwhile, so that the mowing does not tire. "Many scythes from the hardware store are too short, even though people are getting bigger," says the expert, "a suitable length is obtained by subtracting from the height of 25 centimeters." He came to the scythe 20 years ago by chance. Today he passes on his knowledge in the scythe workshop. Should a beginner prepare with special physical exercises? Not necessary, says the expert: "Mowing with a good scythe has nothing to do with strength, right scythe strengthens even the back." He smiles, pulls the attachment of the scythe on a stick one last time with the Allen key and starts again. And, swinging the scythe, step in harmony with oneself and nature over the wide orchard.

Set the scythes correctly and sharpen them

Adjust the angle

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Adjust scythe and sharpen

The scythe: a tool with history: history

Also, the angle between the scythe and the tree must be right so that the scythe does not take too much crop. It is adjusted by hand on the scythe ring, which encloses the blade handle ("Hamme").

The scythe: a tool with history: grass

To whet one up the scythe upright and cleans the sheet roughly with a handful of grass

The scythe: a tool with history: history

To whet the scythe, place one arm on the back of the blade and hold the scythe with the appropriate hand. The whetstone - a natural or artificial stone, which is transported in the stump on the belt - is guided while sharpening parallel to the sheet. This is important because you would make the scythe edge dull in case of excessive inclination. The blade is alternately whetted on the front and back of the reaper blade with pulling movements. For quick resharpening usually 25 strokes are sufficient

Adjust the angle

Clean with clippings

Scythe blade whet

Mowing with the scythe: A flowing movement

When scything the right posture is important. You stand loosely upright, the upper body can be slightly inclined. It is important that you do not pull the device like a rake. Rather, it is a rotational movement out of the hips. The scythe movement describes about a semicircle. The leaves are always allowed to slide on the ground; the tip should not point upwards. You only go forward in small steps, otherwise there will be narrow grass strips between the individual scythes. A wildflower meadow with lush grasses or clover, for example, is mowed two to three times a year from the first flowering in June.

Correct posture

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The scythe: a tool with history: history

The scythe: a tool with history: tool

The scythe: a tool with history: grass


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Mow properly with the scythe

The scythe: a tool with history: grass

Posture and grip distance are very important to be able to mow comfortably for a long time. Simple measuring aid for the correct grip distance: If you hold the so-called "Worb" under the armpit, you should be able to grip the center grip well. Otherwise, you must move the handles accordingly

The scythe: a tool with history: history

You place your right foot forward and hold the scythe in front of the body. The left hand grips the upper grip, the right hand the middle grip

The scythe: a tool with history: tool

The cutting edge is guided in a rotational movement out of the hip flat over the ground

The scythe: a tool with history: scythe

After each swing put both feet a bit further forward

Correct posture

Mow correctly Step 1

Turning out of the hip

Slide the sheet over the ground

Video Board: Scythes in battle!.

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