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Reed Collecting Tools: Sickles and Scythes

by Tyler

As our departure date to collect reeds for a thatched roof draws near, I've been researching the tools we'll need to complete the job. Namely, sickles and scythes. For centuries, marshmen (such as the one featured in the video below) have used these hand tools for reed collecting, and I'm excited to be among the few carrying that tradition into the twenty first century.

While looking for a good source for our tools, I found, a veritable one-stop-scythe-shop. As I paged through their catalog, I was excited to discover that the farm they operate from is only about 100 miles away from us! A few minutes later I was chatting with the website's owner, Botan Anderson, arranging a visit.

Today, Tara and I took a road trip to the One Scythe Revolution headquarters in western Wisconsin. It wasn't an ideal day to learn about scythes—the nearby fields where we would have liked to have gotten a demonstration were buried under a thick blanket of snow. Still, Botan got a fire roaring in his fireplace, and kindly answered our many questions from the comfort of his living room.

Tyler Holding Fux Competition Scythe Blade Fux "Bush" Scythe Blade Fux Scythe Blades Botan Anderson of Tyler Holding Grass Blade Scythe Botan Anderson Demonstration Scythe Usage

Botan also gave us a short introduction on how to maintain the edge on an "Austrian" style scythe. I'm fascinated by the art of sharpening, so this was easily my favorite part of the visit. The first part of the process is "cold peening", whereby you hammer the blade on an anvil, drawing the metal down to a razor thin edge. The rest happens while you're in the field, with frequent breaks to wet hone the blade.

Cold Peening Scythe Blade Demonstration Cold Peening Scythe Demonstration Cold Peening Scythe Demonstration Botan Anderson Demonstration Scythe Honing

Here is a video that does a better job of showing the process than our photos:

A few hours and loads of questions later, we purchased a scythe and associated sharpening supplies, thanked Botan for his hospitality, and headed home. I have to say, I'm a little daunted by the prospect of cold peening and free-hand honing, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Now we just need a few sickles!

Note from the future: Well, I ordered these (recommended by Botan) and these (recommended by Deanne). Now we just need to know what to do with our new tools—during the second week of January, we'll head to Michigan for a reed collecting and thatching workshop.