The gorgeous scythe blade above, was made for export to the USA, by the Redtenbacher scythe factory, of Austria. Redtenbacher was the largest scythe factory in the world, at the time. It finally closed it's scythe production in 1987, due to the huge decline in demand, with the rise of mechanized agriculture. One of it's factory buildings was turned into a scythe museum; the Geyerhammer Scythe Museum. It has three heavy water-wheels, and shows 400 years of scythe blade making history. It is now popular tourist destination. The Scharnstein castle ruins nearby, also add to it's attraction. See http://www.sensenmuseum.at/
At it's high point, the Redtenbacher Scythe factory produced a 120 different models of scythe blades, and sold to over 90 different counties, including the USA. Each model was produced in 2-6 different lengths. They produced a brand of scythes labeled Schwanen Sense, and several models were exported to the United States, and they were especially popular with the Pennsylvania Dutch here. I know that the model above was produced in 70-75-80cm lengths.
Walter Blumauer, who was the last owner and and manager of the Redtenbacher scythe factory, has put together a rare historical video of how scythe blades were made in his factory, and recently posted it on YouTube. It shows step by step, the stages of scythe blade production.
The scythe blade pictured at the top, and the blades on the left, are examples of some of the finer work that they exported to the USA. Fortunately for us, these were so beautiful, I think many people were afraid to actually use them, and preferred to put them on display instead, and so they have survived rust-free into these times of iPhones and YouTube. These blades turn up at estate sales, and antique shops in Pennsylvania. I have been collecting them for several years. The ones with all their colors and old labels intact, I also find too beautiful to use. However I have come across some used and rusty ones that I have restored, and felt free to put through their paces. I can vouch that they weren't just made for their looks! They are ideal for the rough clay soil and heavy grass that we have here between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Dutch (actually Deutsch) knew what they were doing.
These blades have a 65mm mid-width, which gives them a broad belly and they have quite a bit of rocker (i.e. the tip is raised), that enables it slide easily over rough ground. It has a hint of a hook-nose at the tip, which enables them to cut at a more open hafting angle, and cut more per stroke, than the more common Bavarian-style blades. It's a well designed blade. They were also made with a harder steel than most blades are now a days, which together with it's form, give the longer blades a great stiffness when mowing thicker grass. Between the strength of the three curves, and the hardness of the steel, you can tackle some heavy mowing conditions, without the blade flexing on you. That is not to say that it is an indestructible weed slasher! You still need to mow like they were intended to be used. Below is an example of me mowing some 6 foot tall reed canary grass, with the exact same model blade as pictured above, in 80cm long. Because of the thick stems and the snow, I have to really put my weight into it, and as you can see the blade handles it beautifully. Mowing with this blade taught me a lot about scythe blades.
It was my favorite blade for a long time. I used it in my How to Mow with a Scythe video. It's still my favorite blade for reed canary grass. For haymaking I started wishing for a longer blade, and when the 85cm 2010 blade became available it quickly became my new favorite blade for mowing hay. The 95cm 2010 blade was too long for me, on my terrain. The 85cm 2010 blade was just right. I would love to try a 85cm Redtenbacher Schwanen sense blade like this, if I can ever find one.
- Botan Anderson