Wirecutter reviews Grasscutters
September 10, 2022 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Wirecutter reviews string trimmers for your lawn....and also a scythe. "If your trimming needs include taking down a large grassy area, like an LA hillside or maybe a spot that’s not quite lawn, but also not quite woods, consider bringing a scythe into your life, specifically, the Lee Valley Traditional Austrian Scythe Set. The scythe is an ancient tool, discarded by our modern culture, yet wildly effective at cutting grass. In addition to its cutting abilities, it offers a tranquil mental and physical experience, accompanied only by the whooshing swish of the blade against the grass. In a lot of ways, it’s the anti-string trimmer. "

"Cutting grass with a scythe has a learning curve, and knowing how to sharpen the blade is essential, but these are both learnable skills and not as physically demanding as you may think. There’s no question you’ll look out of place and people might whisper when you’re not looking, but that’s okay because your eye-rolling neighbors probably don’t understand what an enjoyable, peaceful time you’re having. But those same neighbors should also appreciate the fact that you’re using a silent tool and not a squealing string trimmer. The Lee Valley Scythe Set delivers everything you need to get started on your scything journey. If the Lee Valley Set is sold out, the individual pieces (blade, handle, sharpening stone, and holster) can be purchased separately for roughly the same cost."
posted by storybored (97 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Huh, I have been putting off getting a weed whacker because I hate power tools. A scythe might be just the ticket. Plus, doubles as Halloween decor!
posted by the primroses were over at 7:45 PM on September 10 [7 favorites]

[Screams at blades of grass] The end is nigh!
posted by fairmettle at 7:53 PM on September 10 [12 favorites]

Ego’s ST1511T far outperformed the other brands in run time and power. Its telescoping shaft and handle are easy to adjust and make the tool very comfortable to use, even for extended trimming sessions.

$199* from Lowe's
$199 from Amazon
*At the time of publishing, the price was $303.

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of badness
And it was clear mow couldn't go on...
Then the door was open and the scythe appeared
The grass blew and then disappeared
The flowers flew and then it appeared
Saying don't be afraid
posted by clavdivs at 7:56 PM on September 10 [9 favorites]

posted by bonehead at 7:56 PM on September 10 [26 favorites]

I would think a scythe is a pretty terrible tool to use in lieu of a string trimmer. And vice versa. I mean, if you want to cut "a large grassy area, like an LA hillside", a string trimmer is a crappy tool to use.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:02 PM on September 10 [23 favorites]

Imagine trying to get home on the bus after picking up a scythe at Lowe's or Home Depot.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:08 PM on September 10 [42 favorites]

A kama or weeding sickle is very useful for clearing spaces between plants or in confined areas where a weeder is ineffective.
posted by SPrintF at 8:18 PM on September 10 [10 favorites]

I still use my grandfather’s grass scythe to cut the lawn at our cottage. More of a clearing in the woods than anything else. It is a fairly relaxing way to do the job. The clearing is too uneven and has too many rocks and roots to use a lawnmower, and why disturb the quiet of the wilderness with the scream of a gas engined string trimmer? It takes about the same amount of time with either a scythe or a string trimmer.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:24 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]

Why you should trust us….For the scything portion of this guide, I spoke to Ian Miller, scythe enthusiast and author of The Scything Handbook.
posted by lalochezia at 8:25 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]

As of converting my front yard this year, I have ~1800 square feet of native prairie-looking garden. I like the idea of using a scythe on it in the spring to cut it back, since burning it as the good lord intended is frowned upon in urban areas.

Also as someone who is into woodworking if not hand tool woodworking per-se, of fucking course Lee Valley sells a bespoke scythe.
posted by MillMan at 8:42 PM on September 10 [15 favorites]

""The Marugg grass scythe proves itself an excellent tool. It is the most satisfying hand tool that I have ever used. In tough grass it cuts a little less uniformly than the power scythe. In all other ways, in my opinion, it is a better tool because, it is light, it handles gracefully & comfortably even on steep ground, it is far less dangerous, it is quiet & makes no fumes, it is much more adaptable. In rank growth one narrows the cut & shortens the stroke. It always starts - provided the user will start. Aside from reasonable skill & care in use, there are no maintenance problems. It requires no fuel or oil. It runs on breakfast. It's cheaper to buy than most weed eaters & is cheaper to use than any other power mower. And best of all it's good exercise."

--Wendell Berry, in "A Good Scythe" (from The Gift of Good Land--1981)
posted by mecran01 at 8:45 PM on September 10 [14 favorites]

Some folk calls it a kaiser blade, I calls it a sling blade, mm-hm...
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:46 PM on September 10 [15 favorites]

I have to use a string trimmer for small uneven "lawns" and I'm curious about using a scythe instead... but is it really as easy as they say? When I look up guides they say things like:
There is an art to mowing with a scythe. Many others have developed the skill and so will you, but it does take time, patience and practice. The scythe, and the grass, will teach you. Over years of enjoyment and mowing you will continue to learn.
This is the kind of language enthusiasts generally use to mean "this is really freaking hard to learn and if you're a not particularly dextrous person trying to use our hobby to actually achieve a small practical job you will waste a dozen hours on it and then give up."

Like, if you need a new sweater every two years or so, learning to knit sweaters isn't actually the most effective way to acquire them.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:18 PM on September 10 [22 favorites]

There is an art to mowing with a scythe.

According to the Guide, "The knack lies in learning how to throw the blade at your legs, and miss."
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:23 PM on September 10 [46 favorites]

I have a scythe*. It’s not hard to learn how to use it, but unlike a string trimmer you can’t just wave it around near your grass to get a cut.

The trick is that you are, uh, cutting the throat of the grass. Not hacking at the grass with a sword on a stick. So you swing the stick across your path so the blade scribes an arc of slicing and leaves nice windrows.

*I also have a cat who is an incorrigible chaser-of-things, which is extremely not cool around a scythe, so my actual lawn mowing is accomplished by visits from a dude with an electric lawnmower.
posted by janell at 9:25 PM on September 10 [10 favorites]

Scything isn't necessarily that hard or complicated, imo. But it's not always appropriate for the grass you're cutting.

Here's a woman cutting down 1/4 of a tennis court sized patch of grass in about 3 minutes.
(I think the snath she's using [the handle part] is a little short for her, which is making her work harder than she'd otherwise need to.)

You definitely can't do string trimmer stuff like edging or cutting around a fence post easily. It's more for knocking down a field of high grass than grooming a golf green.

Imagine you have a cabin or cottage you visit in the summers, and by the time you get there every year, it's surrounded by knee high grass, weeds, and wildflowers. Unpack on arrival night, then get out there the next morning with a scythe and enjoy an hour of core-strengthening exercise and a big pitcher of cold lemonade.
posted by bartleby at 10:04 PM on September 10 [16 favorites]

It can also be converted into a polearm with a quick intervention from the friendly neighborhood blacksmith. Try doing that with a string trimmer!
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:25 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]

Polearms are nice, but I've seen gas powered "string" trimmers with circular saw blades on the end.
posted by ryanrs at 11:04 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

Came to the thread for the Pterry ref; didn't even have to scroll far. Five stars. Would click again.
posted by sourcequench at 11:38 PM on September 10 [12 favorites]

I grew up on a farm and, as a teenager, was once assigned the job of clearing nettles from the edge of a field with a scythe. I sliced open my finger badly while trying to sharpen the thing, went to a neighbouring house to ask for medical help and was bitten on the leg by their small dog. Then I fainted. Have not used one since. Maybe time to reconsider?
posted by rongorongo at 11:53 PM on September 10 [38 favorites]

My dad used to scythe his (admittedly generally feral) lawn. More out of a commitment to eccentricity than anything. Worked pretty well though, and I picked up the knack in an afternoon. Just gotta give it a good swoosh.
posted by threecheesetrees at 12:43 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Yea yea, listen to mecran01 and Wendell Berry!
Scything is just quicker: Simon "Greek God" Fairley outcutting a strimmer is a youtube thang.

For a few years in the late 20thC I taught short courses in a couple of Finnish Universities. Over lunch one day, my minder said that twice every Summer he went North to the family farm to mow the 4 hectare hay meadow - with a scythe. I was impressed and confessed that I long-long-time desired to be as capable as him in this respect. That perked him up because I became a solution to a problem which had hung over his Institute for some time:

Several years early one of his colleagues decided to switch jobs and, like in Ireland, the tradition is that the remaining work-mates have a whip-round and buy a token gift as a memento. The chap in question was very shy and retiring and hadn't found it easy to make friends. Someone owned the process, gathered the money and went to the hardware store to buy . . . a scythe. The message being that the soon-to-be-ex-colleague was so hopeless at the social aspects of life that he would be best put alone in the middle of a large meadow to cut grass by himself. The last Friday came around, with the presentation scheduled for the afternoon coffee break. The coffee was poured, the cakes passed round, the HoD made a brief boring speech and presented the scythe. The recipient received the gift, and quickly understood the message; he put the scythe down on the coffee table and left the room and their lives without a further word. What to do with the scythe? It couldn't go back to the shop and the cash couldn't easily be returned, so the scythe was taken down to a basement store room and left there . . . until I turned up. Everyone in the building agreed I should take it away. Before 9/11 you could turn up at the airport with a scythe as part of your baggage!
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:22 AM on September 11 [20 favorites]

Scyther here and wife of a qualified scything instructor so I do have significant bias and literal skin in the game. He's currently off at a workshop today learning how to repair warped and broken scythe blades.

The experience of scything is totally different to using a whipper snipper or lawn mower (or tractor). There is a learning curve but once you have the worb (handle) set up for correct ergonomics and are getting into the swing of things it is meditative, great core exercise, the grass gets cut and you have the mental space to observe the grass, terrain, wildlife and other plants around you too. Properly cared for, a scythe setup will last for generations. A truly broken scythe blade can be resmithed to make cooking knives or otherwise recycled.

It is work but nice work.

You can scythe barefoot, without goggles or earmuffs. When our kidlet was still happy to go in a baby sling he would scythe the yard while wearing her.

What is often overlooked is that unless PLA line is used, whipper snippers are continually dropping fine pieces of plastic all over the place.

The cut grass too is tidier, it falls into piles that are easily transported to the compost piles rather than scattering tiny bits all over the place.
posted by pipstar at 1:47 AM on September 11 [32 favorites]

BobTheScientist checking a scythe is still possible! You just ensure that the blade is declared in your checked luggage and the worb goes into oversized luggage due to its length.
posted by pipstar at 1:53 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Scythes are fun, a couple lessons learned for folks considering giving it a shot:
  • Read / watch some vids before hand for sure -- if you aren't doing the motion correctly it's gonna be a LOT harder for you
  • Scything relies a lot on your core / abdomen. I'm not in like, great shape or anything, and I managed to do a fairly large lawn, but yeah -- it's work on the abs.
  • If you have any allergies....well....take some meds ahead of time. Probably applies to all yardwork but yeah, the first time I did it I was just an absolute mess due to all the particulate being chopped and lifted into the breeze.
  • MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A WHETSTONE THAT GOES WITH YOUR SCYTHE BLADE on your hip. Depending on how thick the stuff is you are scything, you're gonna wanna hone that blade regularly.
  • It's fun and meditative sure but you need to learn first -- the learning is hard and takes time. Best to have a mechanized backup option as well, just in case you run outta gas (metaphorically speaking) using body power.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:43 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]

*I also have a cat who is an incorrigible chaser-of-things, which is extremely not cool around a scythe, so my actual lawn mowing is accomplished by visits from a dude with an electric lawnmower.

My cat also does this, is an excellent escape artist from the house, and likes to hide in grass - he looooved no-mow May. Watching bartleby's video of scything in action, I could just see one stroke inadvertently turning him into a cat kebab! I'll be sticking to the flymo I think.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 3:53 AM on September 11

Huh. We've got a weird shaped property with a few bits that a hard to mow and are also in a bit of a no man's land. They're not attached to our main chunk, they're behind the lots of some other houses, and they're in the public right of way, so what tends to happen is we just sort of ... Let it go, and once or twice a year it gets bad enough the city sends a giant weed whacker/hedge trimmer by to clear it.

My husband has offered to try to keep it clear if he can use a scythe so it might be time to call his bluff here.
posted by damayanti at 4:28 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]

Does MeFi get a cut of this post too?
posted by 517 at 5:03 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]

Scythes are fun and all, but I'm really disappointed they didn't mention the classic grass whip. They cost about 1/6 as much as a decent scythe, and are much more maneuverable and far easier to use. It won't replace a scythe, but it's better for most people's typical yard work.

Signed, a guy who almost bought a scythe but is glad he heard about grass whips first.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:24 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]

I love a good Turk blade. That is the key to having a good scythe. They must be frequently sharpened as you work.
In Sarajevo I saw a man cutting grass at the airport with a scythe and city workers cut grassy areas such as grave yards with scythes. Many ‘lawns’ are at a far too steep incline for any type of lawn mower machine, so people cut them with scythes. The work is quieter and keeps you in shape.
I had one for my lawn.in my town. A Vix from Austria. One of the last 3 in my city. Got it on sale for $75. My son - in - law now owns it. It may be a collector’s item as the Vix factory went out of business late in the 20th century.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:42 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]

Thanks for the tip on grass whips, SaltySalticid! I've always prioritized having homes with yards so small I can use a trimmer to cut them, but the cordless trimmer I bought ~6 years ago is starting to fade in terms of battery life, and a scythe is too big to cut around a lot of the odd things in our yard. A grass whip looks like it might be perfect.
posted by Shepherd at 6:01 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

I've seen gas powered "string" trimmers with circular saw blades on the end

So I may have broken my local laws and imported a conversion kit for my 2-stroke trimmer. It's quite good for taking out brush---sort of a light brush hog---but I'm super careful with it. I always wear my chainsaw chaps when using it. My wife, sensibly, refuses to. It's kind of terrifying. If I stop posting here suddenly, there's a decent chance this thing is to blame.
posted by bonehead at 6:11 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]

I'd like a review of trimmers that do not produce microplastics. I'm sure there must be some beyond a scythe.
posted by joeyh at 6:43 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

A 2-stroke trimmer with a metal blade may not drop plastic everywhere but it does emit a whole lot of nasty combustion byproducts. I don't suppose we could get you to throw it away, huh?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:34 AM on September 11

If I use a scythe can I say I'm reaping?

Loving the new vocabulary: snath, worb, kama
posted by chavenet at 7:36 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]

You're only reaping if you're harvesting what you cut, which you probably aren't. I mean maybe if you consider it a harvest of fresh material for you compost that would count. On balance, I'll allow it :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:40 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

If you have any allergies ...

Scything introduces you to all sorts of allergies you never knew you had. A stand of nettles and a scythe turned me into a quivering snot-wreck
posted by scruss at 7:55 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

grass whip

Too much flora's going on?
You must whip it
Before the weeds are too far gone
You must whip it
When your lawn is getting long
You must whip it
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 AM on September 11 [20 favorites]

of fucking course Lee Valley sells a bespoke scythe.

Glad I wasn't alone. Before I even read the article I was thinking "bet you anything they are reviewing the Lee Valley scythe" and wasn't disappointed.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:16 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Is this a stealth promotion for the upcoming Scythe movie?
posted by Nelson at 8:22 AM on September 11

I remember when The Wirecutter was a useful, indispensable site that I visited several times a week.
posted by 3j0hn at 8:53 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]

I've heard that reaping burns a lot of calories.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:00 AM on September 11

The fact that a lawn-and-garden review in the Times mentions a scythe as a serious option means that we're three years past peak-ironic-scythe, and so while bladed polearms are becoming A Thing out in Westchester, it also means that the true cutting-edge (heh) lawn-trimming enthusiasts in Bushwick have long since turned to less traditional tools, like hand-hewn oyster shells grafted to the knuckles on your left hand.
posted by Mayor West at 9:16 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

TIL that Lee Valley also exists in the US.
posted by Kitteh at 9:55 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

I want to learn to scythe, but Phil Gyford’s experience makes me hesitate a bit.
posted by congen at 10:01 AM on September 11

Back when I was a teenaged Windo, I cut people's grass. Somehow I got a job to clear what was basically an overgrown, empty lot.

The lawnmower couldn't deal with it. We did have a grass whip. I think I spent three days whacking at that shit. Wish I had had a scythe.
posted by Windopaene at 10:06 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

"The Covid Pandemic has affected my business by tripling the demand for scythes."
posted by box at 10:29 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

My brother uses a reel mower in suburban Florida. I suspect he's the talk of the neighborhood. Maybe I should get him a scythe for Christmas.
posted by Mavri at 10:40 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]

“Scythe - VERY valuable harvesting tool”—Edible Acres, 31 May 2022
“Scything - Basic Techniques”Id., 19 June 2022
posted by ob1quixote at 10:59 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I'll use a scythe once or twice a year to trim grass and weeds around my in-law's cabin in the woods. It's perfect for that particular job.
posted by ovvl at 11:04 AM on September 11

"The Covid Pandemic has affected my business by tripling the demand for scythes."

Disappointed and yet relieved that the link didn't go to the Grim Reaper's personal blog
posted by chavenet at 11:12 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]

Just some old white dude who really, really, really likes scythes. If, for whatever reason, he rubs you the wrong way, there are numerous other options available.
posted by box at 11:24 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

posted by BeeDo at 12:25 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

"The Covid Pandemic has affected my business by tripling the demand for scythes."

So, per the business name, it won't be a "One Scythe Revolution?"
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:42 PM on September 11

Greg_Ace: "Imagine trying to get home on the bus after picking up a scythe at Lowe's or Home Depot."

I made friends with an American once in Ecuador. He was planning a jungle expedition of sorts, so I went with him to pick up a machete. He carried it back to the house in his hand, no case, bag, nothing.
Walking through the streets of Quito with a large, blonde, machete wielding gringo was an experience.
posted by signal at 12:59 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]

I just watched that video about scything (what a charming old man) and I'm trying hard to think of what advantage a lawnmower or string trimmer really has over a scythe. Like, the scythe is probably actually lighter ... for my personal shoulder issues, I think it actually wouldn't fuck em as bad. Is a lawnmower easier? Only because I got taught how to use it. Less dangerous? Probably, but my brother still fucked his fingers up in the lawnmower.

And on the flipside, the scythe has more control and doesn't have to get hung up on stones and sticks. And no worries about fuel (gas or electric). I already switched from a lawnmower to an electric string trimmer because it was lighter, more controlled, and less dangerous, so maybe a scythe would be right up my alley.

But there's gotta be a reason people liked lawnmowers enough to switch. Makes me want to look up how they were first advertised.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:18 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Polearms are nice, but I've seen gas powered "string" trimmers with circular saw blades on the end.Spent the weekend using my neighbor's. I use it for stuff I can't get through with my Greenworks string trimmer*.

* I have grown to like the UK word "strimmer" for this tool
posted by terrapin at 1:28 PM on September 11

well I am not dextrous but I have a small scythe and it cuts rough long grass very nicely. It would be even easier if I weren't rubbish at sharpening the thing
posted by glasseyes at 1:59 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I mean the resultant greensward is pretty shaggy but it's a lot shorter
posted by glasseyes at 2:00 PM on September 11

we have a reel mower for our small lot in a central ontario subdivision. for years my neighbors would come offer to let me use their electric powered (or occasional gas monstrosity) mowers, and seemed baffled when I politely declined because my reel mower worked just fine. After we planted wildflowers in the right of way they realised we were insane hippies and started leaving us alone.
posted by hearthpig at 2:18 PM on September 11 [11 favorites]

I’d love a scythe. I am slowly converting much of my turf to eco grass which is a slow growing drought resistant fescue mix. It grows about a foot tall and folds over forming wavy clumps. You’re supposed to mow it once or twice a season but being soon a mower is a little clumsy.

And as someone mentioned up thread, a Japanese weeding sickle is amazing. I have a couple of them that I use all the time. They are amazing for clearing lots of dried weeds in the late spring. Grab a clump of them and *whack!* slices them right off.
posted by misterpatrick at 2:37 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I don't suppose we could get you to throw it away, huh?

I've got most of my yard tools over to electric but the two that are still, stubbornly ICE-powered are the chainsaw and the heavy string trimmers. Batteries just aren't there yet for either application. I do in fact have a battery string trimmer and a battery chain saw and those work great for touch ups and light jobs. But when I need to spend the morning clearing brush on a hundred meters of bank or spend the day cleaning up the trees that fell during last summer's derecho, I'm afraid the gas tools are what's needed.

Although I misspoke above. the 2-strokes are mostly gone to recycling now. The bush blade is on a 4-stroke system that's a much lower NOX and PM2.5 emitter.
posted by bonehead at 2:50 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Here's a genuine question: is this a tool that works best when the user is a particular height? I'm six and a half feet tall and find that many things in life, including yard tools, are uncomfortable to use for very long because they're designed for someone 8 inches shorter than me, so I have to stoop or hold my arms at weird angles or what have you. Have any tall Mefites ever scythed without destroying their backs in the process?
posted by saladin at 2:50 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

You’d ideally get a scythe handle proportional to your height, AIUI. Germany was still making tall person ones when I was a teenager.
posted by clew at 3:09 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

You definitely want the a properly sized snath, saladin, or the ergonomics will be terrible.
posted by janell at 3:09 PM on September 11

The one in the video linked above looks pretty adjustable.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:11 PM on September 11

From One Scythe Revolution, linked above:
Or tell us how tall you are and what you wish to mow with your scythe, and we will give you a recommendation.
Looks like OSR is an importer of scythes.

Good name. Cf. One Straw Revolution.
posted by clew at 3:15 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

I'm trying hard to think of what advantage a lawnmower or string trimmer really has over a scythe.

Trying to trim right up to the fence with a scythe seems like a real No Fun time to me.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:21 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Imagine trying to get home on the bus after picking up a scythe at Lowe's or Home Depot.

If people stare, be polite, be friendly, explain that it is for gardening purposes and that you understand their anxiety.

And at irregular intervals, twitch slightly and exclaim "I AM A REAPER OF SOULS" in an oddly high-pitched voice, then return to normality.
posted by delfin at 5:02 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]

posted by Greg_Ace at 5:41 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: you ideally want a properly sized snath
posted by hearthpig at 5:43 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]

I love the way this thread has focused on the scythe! I never really thought about actually using one, but now I really want one! My GF and I recently purchased a vacant lot to build on, but while we choose a builder, plans, etc. we are just keeping it trimmed a little to distinguish it from the other lots in the neighborhood. A scythe would be just the thing to keep it trimmed to a reasonable level, and with halloween coming up, I know just the outfit to wear to keep curious neighbors from asking too many questions!
posted by TedW at 6:32 PM on September 11

I like the idea of owning a scythe, but the learning curve might be a touch too steep, and the likelihood of babes weeping and women crying out "Dear God! What is that thing" is significant. On the other hand, my ears would be safe.
posted by tigrrrlily at 6:40 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I use a grass whip because I let the grass get long and the (corded, really a nuisance) electric mower leaves lots of tall bits. I've been converting lawn to blueberries, herbs, vinca, etc. The people who recommend against lawns are kind of hand-wavy about how hard it is to convert to native wild plants. Storing firewood on the front lawn removes significant square footage from mowing. The back yard is now so shady that mowing is needed 2x a summer, to prevent volunteer trees, so my goal of not mowing is realistic.

I'd love to try a scythe. Lawn mowers are high maintenance. The electric ones are okay, but a rock can jar the blade and break the motor's magnet, and you'll cut the extension cord every 10 years or so. I hate the sound, smell, and pollution of gas mowers.

When my kid was @ 11 or 12, he wanted to be The Grim Reaper for Halloween. Found an old graduation gown, made a hood, made a cardboard scythe blade on an old broomstick. And then we started going to houses in our neighborhood, where many neighbors were pretty old.
posted by theora55 at 7:00 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]

I can’t see the word “scythe” without thinking of that scene in Poldark.
posted by k8bot at 7:45 PM on September 11

SaltySalticid, years ago my dad made a grass whip out of a golf club whose head had broken off.

My brothers used it for years at our lake cabin to cut the grass growing in a very steep hill. Worked like a charm, which was surprising for teens who didn't yet know how to golf.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:54 PM on September 11

I like the idea of owning a scythe, but the learning curve might be a touch too steep, and the likelihood of babes weeping and women crying out "Dear God! What is that thing" is significant. On the other hand, my ears would be safe.

Your perfect ears...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:02 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

That Poldark scene, whatever its other merits, is pretty bad scything. Hack hack hack instead of swoosh-slice, swoosh-slice.
posted by janell at 9:39 PM on September 11

Though the foilage was Queen Anne's Lace. A fairly sturdy stalk to slice.
posted by clavdivs at 11:32 PM on September 11

Yeah, a scythe is an efficient tool, and it's pretty easy to learn how to use. It's limited to fairly flat terrain (or should I say, smooth, because a slope can be cut just fine, as long as it's not all that irregular), and doesn't work well if there's other, tougher plants and small shrubs mixed in. However, 145 dollars seems wildly excessive, although maybe this one is really good and nice to use, I dunno.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:00 AM on September 12

Ok, I have been looking up the various websites that sell scythes and every single one in the US seems to be out of stock; what’s up with that? I did find one set for sale, but it is for people over 6 feet tall. And google gives results for everything except actual scythes.
posted by TedW at 4:36 AM on September 12

Harvey Penick wrote that a good way to practice one’s golf swing is to use a grass whip. He said it’s the same motion.
posted by MtDewd at 5:49 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]

So today I learned that "grass whip" is the name of that stupid antique golf-club like thing my dad had me cut the grass with up at the cottage before I was old enough for him to trust me with the scythe. Those things are awful. It would have been faster to cut the lawn with a pair of scissors.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:19 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]

Hmm. On second look, the grass whip at our cottage has a very short blade, not much longer than a golf club, while a lot of the ones I see demonstrated online have much longer blades. Maybe that would be better.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:28 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]

Relevant Fesshole tweet that came across my feed.

I'm unable to change the wire on a garden strimmer successfully so once it comes to an end I end up buying a new strimmer with the wire already ready to go.

I've never thought about it, and have changed the line in mine several times, but I can 100% see this happening based on the number of strimmer's I seen walking out the door at Home Depot, and the occasional strimmer I've seen poking out of trash cans in my neighborhood.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:00 AM on September 12

If "successfully" means getting the auto line feeder to work, I've never changed the line in one successfully, though I have changed the line in mine several times.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:04 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]

I remember my father using a scythe on the tall grasses that grew near the woods line in our very large backyard. He'd swing that thing for hours at a time. He finally bought a small tractor with a sicklebar.
posted by bz at 9:44 AM on September 12

We have a Ryobi trimmer and I had to use it for the first time last week because my partner was hit by a car and has a badly broken (now surgically repaired) knee.

I am 5' tall and that thing was way too long for me, I had to use my shoulders and biceps to keep it at the right height/angle, and frankly even then couldn't do so successfully. Plus, the battery has buttons on either side that you have to depress simultaneously to remove it from the charger or the trimmer itself. Guess whose hand is too small to span the distance from side to side on the battery?

I'm happy to keep the lawn mowed during his 3+ month convalescence but we're just gonna have messy edges.
posted by misskaz at 10:55 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]

As much as I've been enjoying this thread, 2 days later I still find the idea that Metafilter as a group would suddenly get all hyped up about scythes - scythes, of all random things - a bit mind-boggling.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:00 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]

I assume I’m not the only person who has an offline life that just doesn’t fit Metafilter’s discussions very well, especially on the blue.

For Dealing with Outdoors, scythes and grass whips are the next step in a lot of things we say we want - lower emergy use, less stress for animals, ground either valuable enough to be tended step by step or left for wild.

In twenty more years we’ll all be talking about our grazing regimes.
posted by clew at 11:29 AM on September 12

I hate string trimmers, electric or gas, and my yard is a reasonable size, so I use a pair of long-handled grass shears for trimming. Silent and work very well. And no messing around with stupid strings.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:36 AM on September 12

But of course, Lee Valley has a fancy-schmancy set of grass shears with wheels to push it along as you snip!
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:44 AM on September 12

Get a blade and replace the string on those trimmers. Much more fun.
posted by snwod at 12:54 PM on September 12

I love weed whacking so much (except over uneven surfaces like broken concrete or rock paths, not uneven like lawns)! I've wanted to offer my services to the public, back when we had a smaller lawn.
I've had the same issue with the Ryobi being too much for me, but I get by in the end.

I have also tried to buy a scythe with no success so far. I'll keep going to farm estate sales and hoping a serviceable one turns up. I'm pretty sure I'll be the only one in the household using it, but I can't wait to try!
posted by 7ajax7 at 1:29 PM on September 12

Imagine trying to get home on the bus after picking up a scythe at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Easy. Buy it around halloween, and wear a black robe. Nobody will look twice.
posted by mosst at 6:30 AM on September 13

posted by Greg_Ace at 8:08 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

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