I’m in Austria this week and have just attended the Sensenverein Osterreich (Austrian Scythe Association) end of year dinner which Christiane Lechner and I were invited to by Walter Blumauer.
The association has 220 members of which 31 turned out to enjoy the dinner and hear reports by chairman Hansjörg Rinner and treasurer Walter Blumauer. This year 19 courses were run with the members also attending and demonstrating at 14 other events. An interesting development is that the running of the scythe shop has been handed over to Silvanus, a company which deals principally with forestry equipment. This will be in conjunction with the association, who advise on products and take a commission from sales. This year 500 scythes were sold.
Hansjörg also unveiled the new peening jig which has been developed along with the Schroeckenfux scythe works. Although the current peening jig is a good tool for shaping the scythe blade edge it has some shortcomings and this new model will shortly replace it. We were lucky enough to be sitting at the same table as Adolf Staufer and Hubert Weingartner who both worked their whole lives in scythe production and are hugely knowledgeable. I enjoyed watching how they both examined the new jig and discussed it’s design with Adolf. I hope to get my hands on one to try out and review.
Scythe teachers in Austria all go through a training and assessment programme run by the Sensenverein. This is quite a testing process with teachers expected to have a high skill level and be able so set up and use the huge number of different snath-blade combinations which exist in Austria. This year 7 new teachers were trained, mostly from Germany and South Tirol. During my brief conversation with Hansjörg Rinner we talked about teaching mowing and he expressed his interest in me being the first englishman to take this training.
After the reports we enjoyed a couple of short films made during the year of a scythe course and an event attended by the association, Erwin Zachl was given an award in recognition of running 9 scythe courses himself and we then had a selection of traditional xmas songs played on a quartet of dulcimers. Printed song sheets were provided so we could join in but as these were written in phonetic Austrian it was still a challenge for me!
With the Scythe Association (Britain & Ireland) in it’s fledgling days, it’s interesting to look to the Sensenverein which has been running since 2005 in a country with a strong, ongoing tradition of scythe use. I hope to establish links between the two organisation so see how we might learn from their experiences and help each other to promote the use of the scythe.