03 Tooling by Mike

Session-toolsAs the good T says ‘let the tool do the work’

You provide the motor but the tool ‘knows’ what it wants to do. Reminds me of my experience way back on a dry stone walling course. ‘Go with wall’, says Ben the instructor ‘feel each stone and let it go where it wants to go. It comes with practice’. Yeah, right. Say 20 years of practice. But just maybe there is something here about Nature and natural rhythms………….

Speaking of which let’s turn to this Ross Poldark and this here scything scene. Apparently according to press reports his technique with the scythe was all wrong, too much effort, too much grunting, too much bare chested flesh. Chris Riley an expert scyther reckons you

-slice the grass at an acute angle

-always keep the blade on the ground

-let the sharpness of the blade do the work

-don’t stoop but keep your back straight

-bend the knees and elbow to enable the rotation of the whole body

-keep your top on

Now GG does not seem to have a scythe but the next best thing we do use and which is way up there with my favourites, is the slasher. This combines the facility of the bill hook and the sickle with the leverage and the reach of a shafted tool. Thus the curve of the blade can vary and sometimes the cutting end can take on the appearance of a medieval halberd. This can give you the ability to swish like a scythe but also chop like a billhook (of which I prattle elsewhere).

There are of course almost certainly some overlaps in technique between the scythe and the slasher but with some important differences. The head of the slasher is much heavier than the blade of the scythe and the weight is less dispersed. The slasher can cope with a variety of material to be cut of varying thicknesses and texture whilst the scythe is better for single stalk varieties of standard length like a field of buttercups or indeed a cereal crop. In the latter case the scythe is far more ergonomic for continual use and accuracy of cut than the traditional as depicted sickle.

I find with using the slasher

-since the rotating movement can play havoc with muscles of chest and waist, vary the direction of the swish from right to left to left to right

-on the downward swing the right hand holds the bottom of the shaft palm down, the left hand holds the shaft towards the blade palm up

-as the blade descends the left hand slides down the shaft

-the movement and the weight of the blade combine to give a momentum that leads to the ‘tool doing the work’ without further effort on your part

(I’m pretty sure Newton’s Laws of Motion come in here somewhere)

Soon you feel the rhythm of the movement and the process using your muscle as the motor whilst the blade and head of the slasher does the cutting without an additional push from you. There is a pleasant and functional co-ordination of tool and body just as it should be. Exactly like swinging a golf driver ‘muscle memory’ takes over.

Getting to the bare chested bit…………..

I can dimly remember in another century and in a parallel universe on a village green on May Day in a Bedfordshire village, watching two men scything the long buttercup riddled grass around the maypole. What were they wearing? Well this was the 1950’s so they probably had string round their trousers but they certainly had collarless shirts, rolled up sleeves and waistcoats. Any more bare flesh would somehow appear to be not quite decent as well as non-functional, clothes absorb sweat and keep out radiated heat. I seem not to see much bare flesh at GG, there do not seem to be many Ross Poldark look a likes in our ranks. Moreover with our lovely green T shirts, polos and sweat shirts it would be a pity not to show those off to an adoring public!

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