Cutting grass on a mower, or getting hay on a harvester, is efficient as all get-out but let’s face it, a person walking through a field, cutting hay by swinging a huge curved scythe, the sort that Death carries, is a lot more impressive.

Former NH Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor talks about the technology in his Valley News column (read it here, with some cool potos) that will teach you a new vocabulary worth: snath.

Some people might think mowing with a scythe is a simple proposition, but if they take it up, they’ll soon learn otherwise. There are multiple elements to the swing; it is not at all like chopping down a tree or trimming a hedge. The blade needs to be kept parallel to the ground throughout the swing and the edge must be moving horizontally against the plant stem, like a knife slicing a loaf of bread. And a smooth cut will allow the severed stems to fall uniformly without becoming entangled in the next swing.

While the word scythe is the generic term for the tool, correctly the word only applies to the metal blade that cuts the crop. The handle to which the blade is attached is properly called the snath and the projecting grips attached to the snath are called the nibs. In American usage a snath is made of wood that is shaped into a pair of sweeping ergonomic curves. European snaths are often straight shafts fitted to broader, heavier scythe blades. And snaths now appear on the American market that are made of aluminum or even fiberglass.

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