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Tuesday
May102011

The Quiet Achiever

Anyone who has ever ground their teeth at the noise of an electric or petrol-driven whipper-snipper/weed-eater/brush-cutter (even while using it themselves), will be pleased to know that there is a better technology available to do the job of that infernal machine.  And they may surprised to know that it has been available for several centuries.

Scythes are so much more energy-efficient than their fossil-fuel-guzzling usurpers that its hard to see how they ever fell from popularity.  Some commentators (namely the author of The Scythe Book) blame the use of heavy bent hardwood snaths and mass-produced pressed blades which could not be sharpened properly.  It may also have something to do with the relative skill-levels required by users, or the modern obsessive fear of sharp things.

Hammered blades made by experienced smiths can be useful for many decades with proper care and use.  The embodied energy in a scythe is a tiny fraction of that of in the more complex machine.  And the noise!  The majority of the energy liberated by internal combustion is lost as heat, noise/vibration and pollution.  The health and safety risks to stinkwand users are so many and varied that they must wear the gardener's equivalent of riot-gear: ear and eye protection, gloves, boots and full-length clothing.  And there is little protection from nerve-damage caused by the vibrations of the machine other than to stop using it.

The hand-mower, on the other hand, can mow naked if they choose (where by-laws permit) and soon learns to identify birds by their song.  The risks to the user's feet are negligible so footwear is optional (watch for prickles though) and a full kit including blade, custom-fit snath, stones and peening jig for sharpening can be ordered online for about the same price as a decent whipper-snipper... minus the first tank of fuel.

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