Off the wall trail maintenance tool.- Mtbr.com
Results 1 to 14 of 14
  1. #1
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598

    Off the wall trail maintenance tool.

    I'll preface and paraphrase by saying what I have learned from one of my trail mentors and that is "any trailwork done by a willing participant is good trailwork." So this isn't a dig at the willing participant, just a safety and efficiency concern that I'm not 100% certain should be allowed to continue.

    I held a brushing day yesterday at one of our State Parks which we have very close ties. The goal was brush clearing in some priority spots where things have become very tight passage or reduced sight lines. All of the work involved hedging to clear the tread width and also open up sight lines on some straights and switchbacks.

    One of our regulars for years brought an old school Scythe and has done this a few times. The last was on a project for one of our new trail networks where grasses and tall weed like Mustard were the primary target. We just sent him out on his own and let him go as the trails were closed and no users present.

    This workday was a very minimal amount of grasses and mostly woody sage, some baccharis (coyote brush), some native woody shrubs, with vining berries occasionally in the mix as well as the ever present poison oak that is pushing its way into the flora. The hedge trimmer on a stick is KING for this work as well as most all of the other brushing work at other local trail networks we service. Once again, he had the scythe and insisted he had a grass blade as well as a hedging blade. I sent him off to an area he wanted and had 2 others in support for clean up, carrying loppers and handsaws as a backup. I have a short report of their work done and though it was a very minimally encroaching area needing pretty minimal clearing, what I have seen regarding progress was absolutely minimal. Especially compared to the same sized crew toting hedgers in much heavy cover. I need to go out and physically check the site to see how it came out as I did not have the opportunity to do so yesterday.

    Anyway, after all that, I'm wondering if anyone else on board here have experienced similar scythe usage? How has your organization treated it or has it ever come up. I've looked into scythe work on Youtube and see that it works well in grasses when done by someone that is really expert at it but that work is very seldom the case for our trails. I also saw some absolute nightmare videos of less experienced users swinging that thing at tall grasses that made me think we wouldn't want one of those things within a mile of our workdays! We're generally hedging and lopping. To do it right, that scythe has to be insanely sharp and requires some seriously back breaking motions and work. After lumbar surgery, there is absolutely no way I could ever consider attempting to do this correctly. Kudos to those that can swing it. For the life of me, I can't imagine a safe means for side and top trimming of woody plants. Not safely and certainly not on a trail that has users flowing through occasionally, some of which would ride right up behind a guy with a running hedge trimming swinging back and forth! Lots of variables.

    Thoughts?


  2. #2
    Location: 10 ft from Hell Moderator
    Reputation: life behind bars's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    4,439
    Would OSHA frown on it (they would)? If so a different plan needs to be put into place.
    I ncredibly
    M yopic
    B ackstabbing
    A ssholes

  3. #3
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598
    Good point. After 25 years in the tree industry as an owner/arborist, I can honestly say that I have never come across any standards for safe operations for a f'ing scythe! It truly would add a whole new dimension to weekly tailgate meetings!

  4. #4
    Formerly of Kent
    Reputation: Le Duke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    11,614
    Iíve used hand tools for weed and vegetation removal extensively. I worked for the university farm for three years in college; most of the fields had to be hand-weeded due to the hybrids we were growing. And harvested that way, too, in some cases. So, hoes and scythes.

    Yes, it is backbreaking at first. Youíll be sore. And, yes, they both need to be super sharp. I have several scars on my hands from the morning or afternoon sharpening gone awry. Look aside, something slips and youíre bleeding. A lot.

    One thing that always amazed people is how accurate a hoe or scythe can be. Iím guessing I could cut a dime sized object in half at 4í from my feet, first time, 8 times out of 10 if not better.

    In rough terrain, they seem like a no-brainer to me, in terms of getting the equipment to the location in question. No fuel, no batteries. Just food, water and a good file. Maybe a leather glove for your sharpening hand.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Death from Below.

  5. #5
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598
    Yeah, I was impressed by the amount of growth the operator was able to cut in one swath with a scythe. The example was set in fresh, tall, straight growing green grasses. I even saw a video with a mad dog scythe wielding dude racing a guy with a weed eater. So, no doubt it is a very effective tool for those very specific conditions. Other than the one trail area I described above that is primarily grass and mustard, the perfect conditions do not exist on our trails and the work is most exclusively hedging so this is where I am at a loss from a scythe standpoint. That and the safety issue around other crew members and potential passers by. Any tool can be deadly and we always have distance requirements between crew but damn, some 3 feet of razor sharp blade out there on a trail just ruffles my feathers from a safety standpoint not to forget its effectiveness on the project, especially when it hedge work.

    My first reaction is to say no and to not allow it on an organization workday. I'm trying to wrap my head around whether that's really a necessary call to make and possibly alienate a long standing member that consistently turns up at our workdays.

  6. #6
    Formerly of Kent
    Reputation: Le Duke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    11,614
    Tough call.

    One obvious thing: on scythe days, we werenít allowed to wear headphones.

    And clear glasses only; we wanted to be able to see each otherís eyes.

    One thing we did that wonít work for your situation is have each person a set distance apart (8 rows of plants, for example).

    If you can figure out how to set up a system (people? signs and tape across trail?) that warns them ahead of time, that will help. And, luckily he can only cut in one direction, so that could help with figuring something out.

    But, yeah, without precautions it makes me cringe. Occasionally weíd hit a rabbit or mouse hiding in the vegetation. Usually just cut clean in half.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Death from Below.

  7. #7
    K&K
    Reputation: ki5ka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    931
    You're in a difficult position and I think your concern for safety is admirable.

    I have used sickles and scythes since I was a boy. Because it takes skill to use one, I assume someone wielding a scythe is experienced and skilled. As LeDuke says, they are precise, omni-directional, quiet, and the area of concern is limited to the swath. Unlike a chainsaw, it doesn't kick back, unlike a mower, it doesn't throw shrapnel, unlike an ax or machete, it doesn't glance unpredictably. In general, more predictable and controllable than many other tools. Unlike all powered machines, it makes little noise so the wielder is more aware of people around him. This may be a safety concern as well as there is no obvious warning that a noisy chain-saw offers.

    I am more nervous around users of these other tools because inexperienced people seem to have no hesitancy to grab one and use it without the necessary skill to do so safely.

    I like the clear glasses only rule. Not only does it allow one to see where someone else is looking, but the rule helps raise awareness of the need to pay attention to where others' attention is.

    Perhaps having him teach you to use it will help you understand how controlled it is and put you more at ease. Sounds to me like you have a great asset and it would be unfortunate to make him feel less than appreciated.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    1,286
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    I'll preface and paraphrase by saying what I have learned from one of my trail mentors and that is "any trailwork done by a willing participant is good trailwork." So this isn't a dig at the willing participant, just a safety and efficiency concern that I'm not 100% certain should be allowed to continue.

    I held a brushing day yesterday at one of our State Parks which we have very close ties. The goal was brush clearing in some priority spots where things have become very tight passage or reduced sight lines. All of the work involved hedging to clear the tread width and also open up sight lines on some straights and switchbacks.

    One of our regulars for years brought an old school Scythe and has done this a few times. The last was on a project for one of our new trail networks where grasses and tall weed like Mustard were the primary target. We just sent him out on his own and let him go as the trails were closed and no users present.

    This workday was a very minimal amount of grasses and mostly woody sage, some baccharis (coyote brush), some native woody shrubs, with vining berries occasionally in the mix as well as the ever present poison oak that is pushing its way into the flora. The hedge trimmer on a stick is KING for this work as well as most all of the other brushing work at other local trail networks we service. Once again, he had the scythe and insisted he had a grass blade as well as a hedging blade. I sent him off to an area he wanted and had 2 others in support for clean up, carrying loppers and handsaws as a backup. I have a short report of their work done and though it was a very minimally encroaching area needing pretty minimal clearing, what I have seen regarding progress was absolutely minimal. Especially compared to the same sized crew toting hedgers in much heavy cover. I need to go out and physically check the site to see how it came out as I did not have the opportunity to do so yesterday.

    Anyway, after all that, I'm wondering if anyone else on board here have experienced similar scythe usage? How has your organization treated it or has it ever come up. I've looked into scythe work on Youtube and see that it works well in grasses when done by someone that is really expert at it but that work is very seldom the case for our trails. I also saw some absolute nightmare videos of less experienced users swinging that thing at tall grasses that made me think we wouldn't want one of those things within a mile of our workdays! We're generally hedging and lopping. To do it right, that scythe has to be insanely sharp and requires some seriously back breaking motions and work. After lumbar surgery, there is absolutely no way I could ever consider attempting to do this correctly. Kudos to those that can swing it. For the life of me, I can't imagine a safe means for side and top trimming of woody plants. Not safely and certainly not on a trail that has users flowing through occasionally, some of which would ride right up behind a guy with a running hedge trimming swinging back and forth! Lots of variables.

    Thoughts?

    Similar to the hatchet thread, blades and velocity are very dangerous. I would not use a hatchet, machete, or scythe.

    My main tooks are pick mattock, chainsaw, silky big boy, mcleod.

  9. #9
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598
    Well, I can offer some closure to the thread after today's workday event. A couple weeks ago while on a ride in the park, I came across one of my State Parks cohorts and we both stopped to chit-chat. In taking the opportunity to fill him in on the results from the previous workday I reference in this post, I took the opportunity to mention that one of our crew had utilized a scythe during that workday. He said he was glad I mentioned this after-the-fact as opposed to before the workday as if to say that it was definitely frowned upon. He further stated that he personally had used one in the park a number of years prior and it was decided that they wouldn't go there again. Not a whole lot of details divulged but it was obvious it wasn't a desired tool within the park. It's not hard to make some guesses as to why. I did discuss this issue with some other board members and the consensus was that we should probably not allow this to continue, at least in the State Park, but realistically not anywhere where our organization is working.

    So, today I have my workday that picked up where we left off a few weeks ago bringing forth this thread. In usual form, my scythe wielding attendee showed up. He had his trusty scythe in tow. I was wrapped up getting equipment started up before sending it out so one of the directors went to cordially tell our member that the scythe was not to be used any longer in the park. I wasn't right there but was within earshot to catch the bulk of the friendly delivery of the rule and it wasn't taken well. What I was afraid might happen...happened. Our member got irate! He went back to his car, loaded his stuff, and bailed even though he could have participated in the day with the more modern tools that he had used for years in the past. I'm beginning to realize that perhaps this whole thing was just a playground for him to use his tool. I'm hoping he comes around and returns to help us in future events so we'll see where this goes.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    82
    What would be the modern equivalent? A sickle is great for cutting grass/ferns/small trees all in one swoop.

    I've used brush saws before, they seem to be more dangerous than a sickle and don't do great with grass/ferns. A weedwhacker would work to a degree, but not with the bigger stuff.


    I used a sickle on Saturday to widen my trail through a recent clearcut, there was a LOT of grass, ferns, raspberry bushes and small trees that all needed to be cleared. The sickle worked very well.

    On the safety side, there was almost a 0% chance of encountering someone, and if I did it would have been obvious someone was working before they saw me.

  11. #11
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598
    Quote Originally Posted by ironhippy View Post
    What would be the modern equivalent? A sickle is great for cutting grass/ferns/small trees all in one swoop.

    I've used brush saws before, they seem to be more dangerous than a sickle and don't do great with grass/ferns. A weedwhacker would work to a degree, but not with the bigger stuff.


    I used a sickle on Saturday to widen my trail through a recent clearcut, there was a LOT of grass, ferns, raspberry bushes and small trees that all needed to be cleared. The sickle worked very well.

    On the safety side, there was almost a 0% chance of encountering someone, and if I did it would have been obvious someone was working before they saw me.
    The reality of our situation, none of that applies. Especially at this particular state park. As I mentioned in my first post, we're dealing with virtually no grasses. At least none that are creating significant issue. It's mostly all native sages that are very woody and stout. Stuff even a gas powered hedger can have issue with. It's top and side work on these taller stands of scrub. I mentioned that in my search to educate myself on scythe use, I can see some incredibly fast, efficient, and safe looking uses of the scythe in a tall grass scenario but I found absolutely nothing on its use as it applies to cutting woody plants by side trimming and top work. What I did find regarding tough, tall weedy abatement was users swinging the scythe like a golf club. I honestly don't know if that is the premise for our local guy. He never bothered to attempt to educate us on the use of his massive bladed instrument. He just wanted us to essentially turn our back and let him roll how he wanted.

    We DO have riders and hikers and equestrians on the trails while we are working. Sometimes a good number of them. That's one reason why we send a couple people out in support of a tool user. We have lots of limited site lines due to foliage along our trails. It's easy to be surprised by other trail users on corners and limited sight bends. It's amazing how often we'll get riders and hikers that will ride/walk right up on the back of someone using a hedger at full power, obviously having heard the equipment as they approach. I had concerns over the same happening with a scythe operator swinging a 3' long blade.

    Both forms of tools have inherent risks. Personally, I'll take that of a hedger that is generally being used in one direction and most always buried in the brush it's cutting. I can't say the same about a swinging, razor sharp blade.

    So, I would ask again, how does one cut hedge or woody plant tops with a scythe? Is it even possible?

  12. #12
    Dirt Monkey
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    278
    The design of a typical scythe isn't going to work well cutting above ground level. The body mechanics are wrong. It's a highly specialized tool meant for cutting grasses at ground level.

    A power scythe/hedge trimmer for general purpose trail trimming is superior. The caveat being it's not as effective in grasses as a bladed scythe. However, it's a tool you can hand someone with zero experience and still get good results with minimal risk.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    82
    Quote Originally Posted by aero901 View Post
    The design of a typical scythe isn't going to work well cutting above ground level. The body mechanics are wrong. It's a highly specialized tool meant for cutting grasses at ground level.
    Exactly.

    I was cutting everything down to the ground, cutting entire (very thin) trees and grasses and ferns and raspberry bushes and then moving them off the trail.

    We do the same thing at our local ski hill with brush saws, but there is way more tree cover so we are not cutting grasses and ferns, just small trees.

  14. #14
    Rent this space for $
    Reputation: Oh My Sack!'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,598
    So this is just confirming what I pretty much know about it. It's definitely not the tool for our particular mission. We do have a property we are heavily invested in where it might shine if in the right hands where the growth is exclusively tall grasses and heavily stalked Mustard plant and some Milk Thistle. The Scythe has been there and I think that might have been its first introduction to the group, IIRC. That land is controlled by a conservancy so again, I would defer to their desire whether it stays or goes. The last time it was there, we sent him off to an area that was away from gas powered teams and he had one helper that he had brought. I'd certainly consider its use in that situation next season.

    One of my biggest complaints from the last work detail where it was used, I had 2 other support crew that went on that detail and the work was extremely slow. Very little trail was covered in comparison to the other crews that day. I would have rather had those 2 support guys helping the other crews in covering even more ground. We have to maximize our time on target as these work days don't come often enough to stay ahead of the seasonal growth. That's another subject altogether, though.

    I think this and the latest outcome pretty much solves our scythe dilemma.

Similar Threads

  1. Method of mounting Park Tool wall mount clamp to pole?
    By Henrythewound in forum Tooltime
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 01-19-2013, 01:23 PM
  2. Replies: 20
    Last Post: 11-26-2011, 08:22 PM
  3. Giant Tool Shed Multi-Tool - Ten Bucks - incl. chain tool
    By aa240sx in forum Where are the Best Deals?
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 06-23-2011, 11:17 AM
  4. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-27-2011, 07:55 PM
  5. Custom Trail Maintenance Tool
    By bweide in forum Trail Building and Advocacy
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 03-20-2011, 11:58 PM

Members who have read this thread: 2

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

THE SITE

ABOUT MTBR

VISIT US AT

© Copyright 2020 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.