To follow up from Chris’ post here’s a couple of photos I took last autumn which really show the benefits of using a bow when cutting cereals. These were taken during our demonstration at Old Hall Farm in Cumbria. My bow, based on old photographs, is in two planes curving up along the snath and then over the blade. The height of the bow in relation to the crop is crucial and it takes some time to master but the photos show how effective it is in rowing up the stems.
In Norfolk, the reed cutters made a willow bow or ‘boyle’ in one plane with a ‘pricker’ added which catches the stems. You can see it in this film of Eric Edwards (see 2:40 for the scythe, bow and pricker) who adds “Whatever you cut with the scythe, it cuts very very clean; a lovely precision thing really to use.”