Before we attempt a description of the latest improvements on this rural instrument, we shall briefly observe, that the well - known Hainault, or French Scythe, for reaping wheat, has of late years met with many advocates in Britain. It consists, according to the description given by Dr. Templeman, of a short blade, being about one-third of the length of those commonly used in England; with a wooden handle to be held in the right hand, having a bend and a broad rounded piece at the upper end, for the support of the arm. Farther, an iron hook is fixed to a staff, four feet in length, made of oak or ash, to be used with the left hand, with a mortise near the end, for the conveniency of the husbandman's carrying the scythe on his shoulder. On the handle of the scythe, and staff of the hook, at about half a yard from the bottom, are placed leather loops for the fingers, to keep the two grasps at proper distances from the ground.
Having already stated the disadvantages, which cannot be avoided in the use of sickles for cutting corn, under the head of Reaping ; and likewise pointed out the superior utility of scythes, in the article Mowing, we shall now give a description of two instruments, which are eminently calculated for both purposes. These scythes were first introduced to public notice, by the Patriotic Society of Milan, in one of the earlier volumes of their Transactions. Convinced of the inconveniencies arising from the use of the common instruments, they procured a model of a Silesian Scythe, with which the corn in that country is uniformly mown. Having caused a similar implement to be constructed, it was accordingly tried ; and, notwithstanding its imperfect manufacture, as well as this circumstance, that the labourer had never used a scythe on such principle, it was fully proved, that nearly half the usual time was saved, and the fatigue or labour, was considerably lessened. Farther, the corn Was thus cut without receiving any injury from the concussion in falling to the ground, on which it was spread in a regular manner, so that it could be easily formed into sheaves. - The Milanese Society was afterwards presented with an Austrian implement, differing from the Silesian in a few respects, which will be noticed in the subsequent account.
This figure represents the Silesian Scythe, which varies little from that commonly employed for mowing grass: the blade, however, is somewhat smaller, and has four wooden teeth which are fixed parallel to it, with a view to prevent the grain from being scattered, when it is cut; so that the labourer is enabled to lay it on the ground in an even and regular way.
a, b, the handle, which is two Milanese brasses and 9 1/2 inches, or about 4 feet and 4 inches English measure, in length.
b, c, represents the blade, being one brass and 3 1/2 Milanese inches, or about two feet one inch long. - The piece of wood, in which the teeth are inserted, is one brass, 1 1/2 inches, or nearly two feet in length.
The Austrian scythe greatly resembles the instrument above delineated, excepting that the blade is larger, and the number of wooden teeth is increased to five, which are consequently longer.
The Patriotic Society of Milan observe in their memoir, that the difference in the construction of these two implements, will render it necessary to employ each of them in a peculiar manner, which can only be acquired by practice. They farther remark that, though, in mowing grass, the feet are kept in a direction nearly parallel to each other, it will be advisable to place them, when corn is reaping, in a line, one behind the other, the right foot being thrust forward, and the left drawn towards it; because, in the latter case, if they were advanced in a parallel manner, the labourer would be obliged to turn and bend his body in a very inconvenient posture.
Such of our agricultural readers as arc accustomed to the use of the common scythe, will easily ascertain the most suitable and advantageous mode of employing the instrument now described : and, before we complete the history of the new implements, it will not be too great a digression from the subject, to mention the manner of reaping wheat in Flanders, by means of a very simple scythe, greatly resembling that above explained by Dr. Templeman ; and a model of which is preserved in the repository of the " Society for the Encouragement of Arts, etc." Adelphi, London. Another account, as well as a representation of this useful tool, was communicated to the public by Mr. Adam Walker, in 1788, and inserted in the 9th volume of Annals of Agriculture, where he observes, that corn, thick clover, and vetches, are thus cut down with great regularity, and such expedition, as to surpass the sickle, in the proportion of three to one.
After the above given descriptions, and observations, relative to the Silesion Scythe, had been published, the Milanese Patriotic Society made additional experiments, from which it appeared, that when the stalks of corn are bent down in consequence of heavy rains, the wooden teeth are apt to catch some of the ears, to the stalks of which the blade does not extend 5 and thus, not being cut below, the ears are pulled down and the grain is scattered. This accident happens principally, when the labourers, not being sufficiently acquainted with the use of the scythe, are unable to adapt it to particular circumstances.
To remedy these inconveniencies, it occurred to an ingenious black-smith, to add a collector or gatherer, made of cloth, the construction of which is represented in the annexed Cut.
a, b, c, is a common scythe.
c, d, m, l, o, f, n, e, is the gatherer ; which at c, d, e, is composed of a thin iron plate; having a cavity at its extremity, for receiving the point of the blade. At e, d, are holes for sewing in the cloth, which is light, coarse and cheap: it is likewise fixed to two thick iron wires, the upper of which is continued to f, where it terminates in a hole, in the handle: - the other is secured to the back of the blade. The method of fixing the gatherer to such blade, will be more clearly understood by referring to the small detached figure, delineated in the Cut above given, and representing one of the iron6, which are secured by means of screws to the back of the scythe. These irons proceed from, and constitute a part of, the upright irons in, n, I, o, that that serve to keep the gatherer extended.
This contrivance is very simple and cheap : an attempt, however, has been made to simplify it still farther, by substituting for the gatherer two iron-hoops, represented in the Cut last referred to, by the dotted lines, marked h, g, k, i, with a cross-piece, that serves to connect them ; thus saving the cloth and iron plate before described. - Experiments, however, have been made with both these implements ; from the result of which it appears, that the gatherer is, upon the whole, preferable to the hoops, as no ears of corn are left behind; and that the latter alteration promises to be most serviceable, when there is no short corn, that can insinuate itself between such iron hoops.