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Scythe and Green Fair in Somerset

The South Somerset Green Fair and Scythe Festival
is one that I attended with my family, as visitors. I knew that we might meet a couple of people we already knew, but unexpectedly saw many familiar faces.
On entering the show the first few stalls were tat and tool stalls. Oh what heaven for me, and a ‘come on, lets look around the whole fair’ from the family. I had a quick look, but managed to get back to have a proper look a bit later. I bought a cross-cut saw in more or less unused condition, and a pot or kettle hanger for an open fire.

This old Allen scythe was on sale, a fearsome beast, a predecessor to the bush-cutter and rarely used these days.

Next we met up with Steve Tomlin, who lives north of Dartmoor, and who is a bowl-turner on the pole lathe, and spoon maker. As with most green woodworkers he also makes all sorts of other stuff like hay-forks, and snaths, which is the proper name for scythe handles.

On the stall next to Steve was Mike Abbot with course details, a few books for sale, and his shave horse.

Above is Mark, a member of the Landmatters community. The last time I saw him at his pitch was in Totnes market, over a year ago. Mark sells Gransfors Bruks axes and Frost knives. Not only a seller of edge-tools but a creative writer and deep in conservation here with Lucy.

Just around the corner was alarge marquee: The Scythe Shop. Outside of this were lots of wooden stumps with metal anvils set into the top. Apparently, with Austrian scythes the edge is peened every 4 or so hours of grass mowing. Peening is the hammering of the scythe edge, which make the metal edge thinner. The angle of the bevel of the scythe is long and very acute, which makes for an edge which is not durable, but can slice easily through grass. In America and Britain we do not peen the edge but grind it instead, our blades having a different profile to Austrian blades which makes them easier to grind. Peening will also case-harden the edge. The edge is then honed with a very fine grade wet stone.

A lovely home made snath, made by Steve from Ceredigion. I hope I have remembered your name correctly.

Mike Abbot author of Green Wood working, competing in one of the many heats of the scything competition. Is grass mowing the new pass-time for bodgers?

The finalists of the competition waiting to draw lots, to see which square of grass they will be mowing.

Mark Allery just finishing off his square in the final.

Mike, again, demonstrating the use of his hay rake. All the grass is raked off the competitors square, so the quality of the cut can be judged.

This is Marks finished square, sorry Mark but as you know it is not the best cut square on the field, but nonetheless I was well impressed with how quickly you cut your it.

This is what really good mowing should look like.

4 thoughts on “

  1. Do you know how long I've been looking for a scythe that's not considered an antique that someone (mad as a hatter) doesn't want $500 for? You guys on the other side of the pond have it good, indeed.


  2. Hello Bob,

    European (Austrian Fux) blades are available in the states and I think its through the scythe store.

    Not sure about the adjustable (Swiss) handles that we use here a lot though. You may want to consider making your own snathe.



  3. Sean,

    you have a talent for pointing out my shortcomings! I was very disappointed in the finish quality. As I've never cut a 5m x 5m square before I panicked quite a bit. I have a cure for next year. I will be cutting our lawn which is about the same size with a scythe.

    By the way, the mower with the lovely handle, who I think was simon howarth, won the cup for quality finish.

    For some strange reason, and to my utter surprise, I won the extremely fast but crap finish medal!

    Great to see you on Sunday, hope Lucy enjoyed it as well.

  4. Mark, how else do we learn? also remember that I was very impressed at your speed. Anyway when I looked at the photos I took of your scything it was very noticeable that you swing the scythe up at the end, hence the finished look on the square. I took this on board, as it seem to be a very common action, and when I mowed my very very small patch of grass in our garden, the scythe blade never left the ground. Have a look on youtube there are some fantastic scything vids.

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