July 24, 2023

Dan's Power Scythe

Once upon a time we had a sickle mower.

our old sickle mower

It was a great alternative to the scythe, as it could cover more ground, more quickly. Not that we're always in a tearing hurry to get things done, but sometimes expediency is helpful. Unfortunately, this Troy Bilt was discontinued years ago, and replacement parts are impossible to find. Eventually, it stopped running and Dan couldn't fix it. So that was that. 

Since then, Dan's done all of the hay cutting, wheat harvesting, and tall pasture grass mowing with his scythe. But we've discussed options. Such as a new walk-behind sickle mower (selling for something like $6000), a sickle bar for the tractor (large and also expensive). or better yet, a sickle attachment for our old John Deere garden tractor. It will take attachments, except the small bars are now longer manufactured, and we have searched in vain for a used one. 

What about "inventing" something of our own? We discussed that for years. The best idea we could come up with was to somehow rig a hedge trimmer for sickle work. Here's Dan's first experiment.

Dan's power scythe, the prototype

He attached a hedge trimmer to the snath (handle) of his old American scythe (he prefers to use his European scythe) Here's it's first test run.

As you can see, it worked well. It even cuts through clump grass easily! (Something the scythe doesn't do well). Even so, it needed improvements. For one thing the wooden snath made it even heavier than it already is, and the controls couldn't be accessed except by bending over (not always convenient.)

Here's version 2. 

Lighter aluminum frame

Hand control for the throttle

Wiring for the throttle.

Here's version 2's test run.

That went well, so the next test was to put it to work, cutting a small patch of hay. It worked really well. He's able to catch the cut grass on the trimmer's blade guard and then lay it down in nice, neat rows. 

Can you see the rows? (Probably not enough contrast.)

As with most of our tools, we have both a power version and a manual version. We'll take advantage of the benefits of power tools while we can, but we have a backup in case we need it. 


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Nice! Very creative! With the high cost of anything right now, that is great he can build it on his own.

DFW said...

Well done Dan! I love seeing the rows of hay. We have about 10 acres on the front of our GA property that we let 'go to hay'. Our neighbor cuts it & uses it for his cattle. Usually gets about 40 or 50 of those huge rolls (another fine sight to see). He uses a tractor with specific attachments to cut it & roll it. He then uses a small truck & a roll 'picker upper' to get each roll. One at a time. He only lives about 1/2 mile down the road where he stores it.

Leigh said...

Kristina, it's a wonderful asset and has made a big difference on what we do and how. :)

Deb, wow! That's a fantastic arrangement. The saddest thing I see is people out on their riding mowers scalping their "lawns." I always thing, "that could feed somebody!"

Florida Farm Girl said...

Dan's ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. Good job.

Ed said...

I've been interested in one of those walk behind sickle mowers for some time at our place here in town. When I took over the mowing from the company we hired, I stopped mowing the steeper sections of the knobs because it felt way to dangerous for really no benefit. We never use those parts of the yard anyway. But it is starting to grow up with invasive shrubs that I would rather not have either. As you pointed out cost is quite expensive for something I may only use a few times a year and then comes storing it. I have no place to store one out of weather. I have thought with a bumper hitch, I might rent one if it came with a trailer but haven't investigated that route. I'm not sure I want to rent a trailer and implement from two different places on the same day.

I like what Dan did and I do have a hedge trimmer but with the steep terrain, I'm not sure walking and swinging would be something I could do safely or without aching back. If I could mount it to a wheeled dolly of some sorts and push it, I might be in business. I'll have to think about that.

Leigh said...

Sue, thanks!

Ed, attaching a trimmer to a wheeled dolly is certainly something to try. Some of them have arm attachments for trimming trees. They can be angled. Maybe that would work?

I would not be comfortable trying to use a walk-behind sickle mower on a steep hill. They're heavier than regular lawn mowers and awkward to handle. At least ours was.

Will said...

Sickle mowers like that Troy Built I haven't seen in very many years, not since my father used to use a UK model known as the Allen Auto Scythe, long since discontinued. They were so much better than the rotary mowers as they didn't mash up the grass, so could be used for hay.

Anonymous said...

Could you buy a used self propelled lawn mower, take off the blades and use it as a platform for his hedge trimmer.
You can tell I'm getting older huh.
Life is short, garden

Leigh said...

Will, it's truly a shame they don't sell sickle mowers any more. I've not seen many rotary mower, but there are plenty of "mulching" mowers around. But they scalp the grass, pulverize it, and blow it to kingdom come, so there's no actual mulching going on.

Jari makes a walk behind sickle mower. And Grillo and BCS make sickle attachments for their walk behinds. But you're talking thousands of dollars here. We just couldn't justify spending that much money for the thing.

Anonymous, it would be worth a try! Dan wants to figure out how to attach it to the riding mower (for the same reason!)

Anonymous said...

I am impressed. Pretty darn cool and yes you can see the rows.

Leigh said...


Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Jealous beyond belief and now I want one. Well done Dan!

The balance would be the big issue, but looks like that is solved.

Leigh said...

Pretty much, TB. It still has some heft to it, but the time saving and results are huge.

daisy g said...

It's amazing how well he adapts things to what he needs. Some folks just have The Gift.

Leigh said...

I agree he seems to have a talent for it. He never enjoyed academics as a kid, but he certainly could have been an engineer!

I think, though, that this is something that can be learned. It's knowing how to analyze a need, imagine alternatives, and basically think outside the box for a solution. Not having much money really helps. People are pretty much trained from childhood to be impulsive consumers and purchase solutions to perceived problems. It's what society expects and it's the habit of our times.

Rosalea said...

We have a sickle mower that we run around some of our more 'sun-exposed' trails once a year to keep things in check. Dan is certainly a 'keeper'!

Leigh said...

Rosalea, that's the other good thing about sickle mowers, they can trim small brush. Very helpful for trails, as you say.

Nancy In Boise said...

Great job!! Ingenuity at it's best

Leigh said...

Nancy, a little bit of help is really useful; especially as we get older!

bornfreev said...

You guys always amaze me!