Scythe and Cradle
In earlier days, a scythe was used for cutting hay and for cutting grain. The Museum has examples of both a scythe and a scythe with a cradle attached. This awkward looking tool had a curiously curved wooden handle with short wooden handgrips attached and a wickedly sharp slightly curved blade about three feet long attached at the bottom. The scythe was held with both hands and swung side to side with the blade parallel to the ground. The blade had to be kept honed razor sharp to smoothly and easily cut through the grain stems. A good hard worker with a scythe could cut about two acres each day. As with hay, the cut grain stalks just lay there. One or two other farmhands followed behind the one scything gathering up the cut grain stalks, twisting a hank of stalks into a skein, and tying the rest of the stalks into bundles. Later, groups of bundles would be leaned together into shocks with the grain heads standing up. A good hand with a scythe could cut about two acres in a day.
An important innovation came with the development of the cradle. The cradle was a set of wooden teeth that caught the grain as it was cut, then was emptied to drop the cut grain in small bundle-sized piles. The grain still had to be bound into bundles and shocked, but with the cradle, the work of gathering up the separate stalks was eliminated.
Brumfield, Kirby. “This Was Wheat Farming”, Superior Publishing Company, Seattle, Washington. 1968. p15.
By Don McCollor. October 2022
Photo by Linda Westrom