This video is a romantic, nostalgia evoking and beautiful portrayal of forging scythe blades presently at the Falci factory in Italy. In the past, when the livelihoods of millions depended on this tool, scythe factories aspired to produce the best quality blades they were capable of. However today, in the global price conscious economic climate the very survival of these century old skills is being challenged. Often, ‘innovations’ at scythe factories consist of omitting certain steps to cut the cost. What is really happening? For more on the subject, please read more below.
Excerpt from an article by Peter Vido:
“… A brief overview of recent history.
What presently remains of the scythe industry in the “Western World” is but little scraps of what was so crucial to all of its agriculture not so long ago, and is still important to a small portion of it.
North America, the relatively new and resource-full land of milk and honey, with its post-WWII agricultural maxim “get big or get out”, was the first of the industrialized nations to deem the scythe as a superfluous remnant of outmoded ways. The last of its makers shut down in 1958, during a period when millions of scythe blades were still produced and used in Europe, as well as in the Near East.
The 1960s — when the Soviet Union converted a former weapons factory in the Urals into a huge scythe-making facility which subsequently supplied the whole communist bloc with speedily-made but functional blades — brought on a crisis seriously thinning the ranks of Austria’s and Germany’s leftover makers. Russia, you must understand, once provided the very best market for the Austrian scythe industry. For instance, during the period just before WWI as many as 7 to 8 million blades were exported there per year. Historically, whenever for reasons of economic crisis or political conflicts the demand from Russia subsided, the Austrian scythesmiths were losing jobs.
In variously caused periodic waves of economic downturns and competition with ever-faster and easily available motorized implements, as well as the influx into Western Europe of cheap scythe blades (first from Turkey, later from China) the trend continued. Germany ceased production by 1989 and during the early nineties France and Spain also joined the list of ex-scythe-producing countries. Insatiable, the “sword of progress” continued on its merciless path.
The two relatively small companies in Scandinavia have taken the route even further (the one in Norway some years ago and in Finland more recently) — their blades are now “stamped”, not authentically forged — with the powerful press displacing a dozen men in one swoop.
And, in a way, most of the rest of the scythemakers have also moved in that general direction. For instance, from about the mid-1980s onward most Austrian blades have been made from what is now referred to as the “stamped zain” as opposed to the traditionally “forged zain”. In this case the formerly required specialist has been effectively substituted by a roller in a large steel mill, and the scythe factory begins the making of a blade at what previously was step three of the process. The casual scythe users didn’t notice the changes, because in all of the instances mentioned above the newer versions do not look that much different from the previous blades. Well, this is progress — fueled in no small measure by our collective urge to seek the “best deal in town”. The “best”, nowadays, is all too often equated with a low price, and the reason why the cheap imported scythes have gradually displaced the quality line in most stores throughout the EU…”