Chapter 2. Blade Selection

Within the industry and wholesale trade, the length, width and “form” (or “pattern”) of a scythe
blade are the terms most frequently used to describe or identify it.
The length, and secondly, its weight, most notably affect the blade’s suitability for a certain
task (and for the hands of certain people). For the purpose of this guide, they will be the only
features discussed.
Regarding length – a 65 cm blade may be the most “multipurpose” for new mowers, whose
livelihood (at least in the “West”) is not dependent on the utmost daily output of a person
swinging the scythe, though there are many instances when a blade of this length IS most
suitable for real survival situations. This is also a historically and cross-culturally popular
Regarding weight – the same (65cm) ‘general purpose’ blade should not need to be heavier
than 450-500 grams. At that weight it will be able to withstand some cutting of tough material
and can be successfully used in a wide variety of situations.
Of course, any multipurpose version of a tool is a compromise to some degree. For work in
tight spaces, shorter blades (40 to 60 cm) are easier to handle and can be used more
accurately, making them more efficient overall. Conversely, if the mower is not limited by
narrow spaces, extremely tangled vegetation or undulating terrain, longer blades can
accomplish more work in the same amount of time. Thus for the purpose of serious
haymaking, blades between 75 and 90 cm long were once the norm throughout Continental
The longer the blade, however, the less forgiving it is with regard to how it is fine-tuned,
sharpened and used. (“Fine-tuned” refers to how well the blade/snath/person unit meets the
three parameters discussed in Chapter 5.) Most beginners would likely benefit from some
experience with shorter or mid-length blades (50-70 cm) before using longer ones.
For the cutting of specifically tough material (young saplings, blackberry canes, etc.), shorter
blades and ones of somewhat stouter construction than would be necessary for an efficient
multipurpose scythe are desirable. For instance, a 40-45 cm blade of average width,
weighing 460-470 gr, if well made, is adequately strong to cut blackberry canes yet highly
maneuverable and light enough to not be needlessly tiring to wield.

The bona fide “bush” blades, weighing up to a kilogram or so, are still another purpose-
specific class of extra strong blades meant primarily for cutting woody stems. They are

seldom justified for the average person’s needs, in our view, and we consider their popularity
among online shoppers to be a temporary stage on the path of learning.

It is an established fact that the ability to effectively use both longer and lighter blades
increases as one gains experience in varied mowing conditions. Throughout Europe, many
now grey haired, life-long mowers have cut everything from acres of grass to mature weeds
and green saplings with very lightweight 70 to 75 cm blades, often the same ones they used
since youth (and some of those blades could still serve the grass-cutting purposes of their
Lastly, the following blade combinations can significantly increase the versatility of this tool. If
not only length, but also weight/sturdiness are considered, the useful pairs are very many
indeed. On the whole, a 15 cm difference in length is a good baseline, with the shorter blade
being the sturdier of the two, for cutting the tougher plants.
Some examples of blade pairs, and situations where they may be appropriate:
1. 40 and 55 cm or 45 and 60 cm – for densely planted properties and/or certain crop
cultures (coffee, small fruit etc.), with relatively small actual acreage to cut, but one varying in
terrain and/or material from fine-stemmed grass to, for instance, blackberry canes.
2. 55 and 70 cm – For those on a somewhat larger piece of land, with more spacious
plantings, perhaps a few goats or a family cow to feed, and relatively small meadows to be
harvested for hay.
3. 65 and 80 cm – For a homestead or a small farm where large quantities of hay or cereals
are to be harvested. Besides what can be procured from more open spaces with the longer
blade, all those patches of growth along fence lines, roadside ditches, and in orchards can
add a considerable amount of livestock feed to the total – and are easier cut with the shorter
of the pair. This combination was once the preferred pair for the country dwelling livestock
keepers in Slovakia, with both blades of a rather featherweight constitution in comparison to
the standard “grass” blades of today.

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