Frequent sharpening (honing) of your scythe blade is really important.
- It makes mowing easier and more efficient.
- Mowing with a sharp blade requires less energy, so it is easier on your body too.
- You can use a sharp scythe with less force, meaning you are less likely to damage it if you hit something hard unexpectedly.
- Some vegetation won’t cut at all with out a keen edge. eg short, soft growth will tend to bend away from the blade rather then cut.
A canoe shaped sharpening stone of a suitable grit for using on Austrian style (tensioned) scythe blades.
The grit you need depends on the vegetation you will be mowing and your experience using a sharpening stone. The descriptions of the stones listed in our shop tell you what they are most suitable for.
The stone holder hangs on your belt so your stone is always close to hand. This encourages the frequent sharpening a scythe blade needs.
As scythe sharpening stones are used wet, the stone sheath allows you to carry water when you’re out mowing.
If you haven’t got one you can make a simple stone holder from a plastic milk carton.
Scythe blades need honing much more often then most people realize.
If mowing soft vegetation or grass expect to hone your blade every 5 minutes or less.
Don’t worry if that sounds a lot!
Once you have the knack, a quick hone takes hardly any time to do. You will quickly learn it’s worth the time to stop and do it, for the increased ease and efficiency of scything.
When you begin, it’s important to sharpen slowly and with attention.
By working slowly and sharpening one side of the blade at a time (as outlined below), it is easier to ensure the angles of the stone are correct. Over time you will build up a “muscle memory” of these correct angles.
Speeding it up
As your muscle memory builds you will be able to speed up your sharpening and, if you choose, begin sharpening both sides at the same time.
Soon sharpening will be a quick job and you will really notice the difference to your mowing before and after.
Sharpening with your blade tip on the ground
- Kneeling and resting the tip of the blade on the ground to sharpen helps people learn the process more quickly.
- The blade is held firm whilst you are sharpening, which leaves you free to concentrate on how you are using the stone.
- You can see both sides of the blade, so it is easier to see if you have the angles correct.
Alternative sharpening methods
Some people might find it hard to kneel. You can try resting the point of the blade on a raised object such as a fence post, or move straight to sharpening standing up.
Sharpening standing up
To sharpen standing up, the scythe is stood on the end of the snath with the blade in front of you. This eliminates kneeling but it does have a couple of downsides for new scythers.
- You need to learn to hold the blade steady whilst you sharpen. This means you have to move both hands as you hone – the one using the stone AND the one supporting the blade. This adds an additional process to concentrate on whilst you are learning.
- You can only see one side of the blade, so it is harder to judge if you are contacting the back of the blade with the stone correctly.
If possible, we recommend learning to sharpen resting the scythe on the ground first.
Then move onto standing later if you wish, once you have mastered the stone honing actions.
1) Get Ready to sharpen
- Use a bunch of mown grass to carefully wipe debris from the blade, otherwise they will catch in the stone as you work.
- With the snath in your left hand, kneel, lowering the scythe with you.
- Place tip of the blade on the ground.
Use the narrow edge of the stone and short, overlapping strokes.
Hone one side of the blade at a time until you are confident with the angles the sharpening stone needs to be held at for each side.
2) Hone the front of the blade
First hone the cutting edge of the top of the blade.
- Use the back rib of the blade as a guide to get the stone contacting the blade edge at the correct angle.
- Place the tip of the stone on the rib and lay the stone down to meet the edge.
- Keep the stone at this angle as you move the stone away from the rib and a little way down the edge.
- Repeat this movement until you have honed the whole of the top edge.
3) Hone the back of the blade
Once you have honed the entire top edge, hone the back of the blade to remove the burr pushed over by the first pass of the stone.
- It is harder to find the correct angle to hold the stone on this side of the blade.
- Hold the stone so that it’s length is parallel with the tang of the blade.
- Look carefully to ensure it is fully contacting the edge.
- If you find your blade is not sharp after honing it could be you missed the edge in this step, and the stone was actually contacting the blade further back.
It’s really useful to watch someone sharpening.
We are planning on making instructional videos on both methods of sharpening as soon as we can find some time!
In the meantime below is a video of Phil sharpening kneeling down and a useful instructional video from Botan Anderson (One Scythe Revolution) on sharpening standing up. Botan demonstrates the technique of sharpening one edge at a time, which can also be used whilst kneeling
Videos of good scythe sharpening techniques