Pictured here are two 28 inch long scythe blades. Both of these blades were made in Austria. The top blade, however is actually an American-style scythe blade. It was made in Austria, but it is not an "Austrian" style of blade. The bottom blade is an Austrian/Bavarian-style scythe blade, plus it's made in Austria. Both of these types of blades are often sold as genuine Austrianscythe blades here in the USA. While that's true in a sense, it often creates confusion for new customers. I originally created my Tale of Two Scythes page, after receiving a phone call from a person that said that they bought an "Austrian scythe" on Amazon, and they needed a handle for it. I asked how they knew it was an Austrian scythe. They said it had "Made in Austria" stamped right on it. There aren't any scythe blade manufacturers in America, anymore. The last factory went out of business in the 1960's. American-style blades sold in U.S. stores now, are being made in Austria. The term Austrian scythe seems to have come into vogue with the publication of The Scythe Book, I think. David Tresamer classified the two blades as Austrian and American. In old USA tool catalogs, however, scythe blades were often classified as German and English scythe blades. Particularly in areas that catered to the Amish. To lessen the confusion, US scythe sellers have now taken to classifying the two scythes as European and American.
Scythe Blade design: Tensioned vs. untentioned
Pictured below is an antique American-made scythe on the left and a modern European scythe on the right. Scythes like the antique on the left can be commonly found at antique stores in the USA, or have been handed down from older generations. Both are "scythes" of course but it is important to understand which one you have. The American scythe has forward facing grips, and it is extra curved so that the lower grip can be attached directly to the snath, at an ergonomic height. Both grips on the American snath are supposed to be adjustable by twisting them clockwise to loosen, and sliding them up or down, and then turn them counter-clockwise to tighten. The European scythe on the right has grips pointing back towards the person holding it. While it is also double curved, it is not curved enough for the lower grip to attach to directly to the snath. Instead it has to be attached to a stem, which rises up from the snath, to place the lower grip at a more ergonomically comfortable position for the mower. The grips for this Fux brand European snath are adjustable as well, with a bolt and barrel nut system.
For more info on how to mow with a European scythe see the Mowing page at One Scythe Revolution.
The American scythe has been getting a bad rap for a long time. As mechanization took over agriculture, the main use American scythes became more and more that of clearing weeds and young brush, and the snaths and blades that most people find now are the ones that were beefed up for such use. Now when people who have no idea how to use a scythe, take one of these old American scythes of their grandfathers, out into a field of old grass and start swinging it, they are absolutely amazed at how much effort it takes to swing a heavy, and unsharpened American scythe, and cut grass with it. The common assumption is that our ancestors must have really had a great work ethic and been in incredibly good shape to work so hard just to mow the grass, and aren't we lucky we have power mowers now! I'm sure the farmers did have a good work ethic and were indeed in great shape, but they didn't waste their energy like that. It's not sustainable. Below is a rare video example of how the American scythe was used to mow grass. It's actually very efficient. Gordon Lohnes and Perry Vienot, both around 90 years old, are probably from the last generation that still knows how to properly use an American scythe. As Gordon Lohnes says in the video, " Yes sir, that can cut!"
Although I myself am a European or "Austrian" scythe enthusiast, the above video of Gordon Lohnes and Perry Vienot mowing together is one of my all-time favorite scythe videos. I would love to mow alongside them. This video was also my first positive impression of the "American" style scythe. When I saw it several years ago, I thought to myself, "Huh. What d'ya know. They DO work". I learn more and more from it every time I watch it. At 1:26 in the video, Perry Vienot says, "It's too bad this skill is getting all forgot, ain't it." Hopefully this webpage can help revive the skill by featuring and linking to Benjamin Bouchard's my own ongoing research.
Mowing weeds and light brush:
A "Trial" of Two Scythes
Benjamin and I have been collaborating, and exchanging scythe equipment, and are testing it out. We will report back and add to this site as we learn more about scythes from each other. - Botan Anderson