NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe  (Read 592 times)


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« on: April 07, 2019, 10:43:43 am »
Finally bought an Austrian Scythe (Fux) last year in France from Emmanuel Oblin, a gentleman recommended by Simon Fairlie. Whilst it did come with some good and simple instructions with useful photographs,I was grateful to Simon for supplying his very detailed booklet in English.

Selection of the 'snath' or handle (manche) was done simply by reference to my height- they come in three lengths. The blade (lame) recommended was 60cm general purpose blade, the shorter 50cm blade is for hacking undergrowth and the longer 80cm for grass. Sharpening the blade caused a lot of confusion, which is why I am writing this, although it may be obvious to some. In the end I bought a natural Pyrenees stone (La Royale) which turned out to be a good buy.

The snath was sealed with Danish oil (can't buy that here) as recommended, but not the handle grips. The paint was taken off the edge of the blade with stripper and the whole thing assembled to instructions. This worked out well first time as, after experimenting, I ended up back where I was.

A lot is written about hammering the blade to sharpen it and realistically that needs a special tool set. But it became apparent that a super sharp blade like that would be great for grass, but when out cutting hay in our fields it would be wrecked immediately by anthills. There seems to be three grades of edge, the coarse one for undergrowth is a greater angle produced with coarse stones only (100-200). I sharpened mine using a coarse wetstone followed by a fine dressing with the Royale, which I would say is about 400 grit or finer. It does produce a fantastic edge on anything that needs to be sharp- shaping axe, sickle.

One thing I did learn quickly was that a whetstone needs to soak in water and stay soaked, otherwise it blocks up- which is what happened to me and was unblocked by leaving it soaking until the steel rusted out. I do need a proper stone carrier.

The scything technique is pretty simple if you don't overstretch yourself and try to replicate the YouTube videos! I found a 2 metre cut was really my limit. Hay can only be cut when damp with water acting as a lubricant, so before the dew has burned off. After that the stem juice sticks to the blade and the blade just drags the hay down, rather than cutting through it.

Great exercise it was last year and lovely to be out at first light for an hour or so. So peaceful. 4000m2 cut last year and laid over weed patches with great effect as the areas are ready for reseeding now. I did have a donation of an English 4 tyne pitchfork, which was essential and for which I am very grateful as our two tyne was useless for gathering up. Now looking forward to this years hay, which we cut very late to help the wildlife.
Voss Electric Fence


  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2019, 11:41:24 am »
Great! I use my scythe mainly to cut nettles and docks and not for the hay, but it is an amazing art. My safer and pleasant than strimmer (much cheaper as well tbh)
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.


  • Joined Mar 2015
  • West Suffolk
    • Notes from a Suffolk Smallholding
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 12:46:00 pm »
That’s really interesting, especially cutting the grass while it is still damp. How long did it take you to scythe 4000sq m (which I think is about 1 acre)? How do you store the hay once it’s gathered?


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2019, 01:48:14 pm »
Cutting is quite slow (for me) as the depth forward is only a toes length and can be less if the hay is dense. We also have some thorny bushes to work round and anthills to avoid. I was touching up the blade every 10-15 minutes, or immediately after cutting through an anthill. I managed 60 -100m2 per hour, which in this climate is per day. The hay was left in the neat rows automatically formed (because it drops off the blade at the end of the swing) to dry for a day or so and then moved onto weed patches and left. We have no livestock at the moment, it's just  a great way to kill our weed patches. So we don't store it yet, but I intend to make a hand bailer and store it in a mezzanine level (another two build projects) in the barn.

I found the biggest danger is in the sharpening. The instructions say and show the stone grasped in the hand and moved up to the blade to then sharpen on the downstroke. Tried that and gave up for fear of serious injury. I now grip the stone with my fingers, rest the base in my palm and sharpen with diagonal overlapping strokes downwards and back up well away from the edge- slow but safe.

Very important to remove the back burr carefully, to avoid creating a back bevel. The difference in blade sharpness for a few careful stokes of the stone is staggering.

Rupert the bear

  • Joined Jun 2015
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2019, 07:07:32 pm »
Maybe investing in a chainmail or kevlar glove is an idea , not cheap but available, whereas the stock of spare fingers is very low


  • Joined Apr 2019
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 08:41:27 am »
You may find that hammering sharp would help with edge retention, it realigns the grain in the steel in the direction of the bevel, although never forget that "hardness" translates to brittle if you go to far!
The tooling isn't that special for hammering sharp, its basically a tall fullering post, you'd want to use a rounded edge cross peen or maybe a ball peen       


  • Joined May 2018
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2019, 03:52:33 pm »
First off - confession - I know nothing about sharpening a scythe.  However, I do know a bit about furniture making.

To avoid putting a back bevel on a chisel when removing the burr I use a strip of hard leather glued to a block of wood.

Could you have something say  2" x 1" piece of 3/4" ply with an old belt glued on popped in your pocket to do the same?

Just a thought - Chris


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2019, 07:13:17 am »
The strip of hard leather might be worth a try Clanger, but it's a 60cm blade and that may be a long job. The blade peening pushes the steel out towards the edge giving a very thin cutting section- extremely sharp for grass, but hit something like a stone and it would be wrecked. Perhaps if the exchange rate improves I'll buy the special punch and die set and try it as I don't think I'm accurate enough to use the anvil and hammer.


  • Joined Aug 2015
  • Montgomeryshire
    • Gribin Isaf
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2019, 08:41:39 am »
I use a scythe like this to cut a three-quarter acre meadow every year plus for general maintenance round the site.  After a bit of experience I find it efficient and pleasant to do,  I sharpen the blade about every ten minutes while working - the process takes about 30 seconds.  Peening (the hammering) is needed, for me, a couple of times a season and is easiest to do having been shown by someone.  I would not be without my scythe and really look forward to using it.


  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Devon
Re: My experience of using an Austrian Scythe
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2019, 11:27:07 am »
This has been a great incentive to get my scythe out and start using it again this year. Perfect for our small wildflower meadow.


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