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  1. #1
    New Member
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    Jun 2003
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    2

    Default Sickle Bar Questions

    First off, thanks to everyone for all of the data in this forum! Really good stuff! I have been considering the puchase of a small tractor but have had a lot of reservations, mainly in the area of fuel usage and also just trying to maintain a smaller footprint here on planet earth...I think you are really sucking me in!



    I tried searching throught the posts but I did not find this particular thread anywhere. I was wondering if anyone could give me some information on the sickle bar mowers. Likes and dislikes, how much maint. they require, what kind of fields and conditions you can use them for, life expectancy, comparison to a rotary mower...?

    I have a couple of fields that I have to mow (just weeds and grass, not hay) and was wondering if this might be a good option since it would be easier to pick up the cuttings and possibly use them for compost. They have been bushogged with a rotary mower (tractor mounted) at least 3-4 times a year so I don't really have to worry about saplings.

    Thanks!

    -jim

  2. #2
    Bronze Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    82
    Location
    L.I. N.Y.
    Tractor
    Gravely LI, C8, Pro12

    Talking Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    Hi Jim, Your 2 choices (that I know of) are BCS and Gravely. I am a Gravely person (so you know what I am going to recommend). The Gravely sickle bar has been around a long time. It is a heavy duty unit. It came in 42", 48", and 60" versions. You run it alittle above idle no more or you'll shake it apart. It cuts extremely well IF the grass stands straight up. If the grass is bent over the sickle bar will not cut it. It will ride over it. The sickle bar does not get choked down like a rotary mower. With a rotary the cuttings can't get out fast enough so the mower will bog down. You have to fiqure out what's right for your application. Any questions jusk ask. - Kris

  3. #3
    Super Star Member Egon's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
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    18,059
    Location
    Nova Scotia, Canada

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    Sickle bars need good conditions to operate well. Rocks, saplings etc. may play havoc with the knives. The knives also require sharpening and the bars always need maintenance to keep all tight and cutting well.

    The cut grass will compost naturally were it falls. There is no need to pick it up for composting. The exception will be if the growth is heavy and covers the ground. In this case it should be removed.
    Egon
    50 years behind the times
    Livin in a
    Worn out skin bag filled with rattlin bones

  4. #4
    Bronze Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    86
    Location
    The NC High Country
    Tractor
    BCS 850

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    I'll chime-in to say that I LOVE my BCS 54" oil-bath sickle-bar attachment. When my area-to-occasionally-mow grew significantly, suddenly my old 26" brush-hog attachment seemed awful small. The 54" sickle-bar was the cure. BCS also makes a grease-able gearbox sickle bar in that size, but I was warned against it due to its reputed reduced durability and greater shaking.

    The same advice as was said upthread about Gravely's applies to BCS sickle bars: in order to avoid undue shaking (even with the oil-bath gearbox), run them barely above idle. On my BCS 850, 3rd gear gives the right pace and power for most mowing situations, with 2nd being good for slow/careful situations.

    Other nice features about the BCS sickle bar attachment includes a few degrees of pivoting to better handle slopes, and the 54" bar balances my Kohler engine out nicely. I first wanted the 60", but Joel at Earthtools warned me that the larger unit might get unwieldy and also outweigh the engine. If you are running a heavier engine and/or working some flatter ground then I, then the larger sickle might serve you well.

    Another note about maintenance of sickle bars: keep some used motor oil and an old paintbrush around. When done with the sickle, wire-brush off any accumulated dirt/brush/sap, then "paint" the entire sickle bar with a coat of the used motor oil...

    -otus
    Kubota L-39 TLB
    BCS 850 Walking Tractors
    '96 F-250 Super Duty 7.3l PSD

  5. #5
    Veteran Member jimmysisson's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
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    1,770
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    W.Mass
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    1993 NH 2120 (the best), 1974 MF 135 (sold, but solid), 1947 Farmall A (bought, sold, bought back, sold again), 1956 MH50 lbt (sold, in 1980, darn it)

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    The most trouble I ever had with a (Gravely) sickle bar was the grass falling forward, away from the operator, and the bar riding over it rather than cutting. I thought that was from the wrong ground speed (tried 'em all), the wrong engine speed (lots of shaking, as noted), cutter bar range, wet vs. dry grass, etc. I think you just have to cut it while it's standing up tall.
    Other than that, you'll get a workout but you'll use less gas than with a rotary, with any size tractor, because you're not mulching the grass, just shearing it off. With Gravely, the dual wheels really smooth out the "ride" for going up and down a field.
    Jim
    "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly" Mae West

  6. #6
    Banned shvl73's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
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    2,552
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    NH
    Tractor
    Mahindra 2810HST

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    I had an old 4hp GardenWay sickle mower and it would cut most anything. The downside was all the cuttings laying on the surface where a rotary cutter seems to shred the cuttings for faster decomposing. The GardenWay/Troybuilt sickles can be found somewhat inexpensively if you choose to go that route. They are sickle only, no versatility like the Gravely or BCS.

  7. #7
    New Member
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    Jun 2003
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    2

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    I appreciate all of your advice. I had been thinking about the sickle bar because at some time in the future I would like to do some hay and possibly grains, but figured in the short term I could use it on my fileds and the collect the cuttings for composting. So it sounds like it might be a good choice.

    Thanks!

    -jwulf

  8. #8
    Platinum Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    707
    Location
    Fairmont,WV
    Tractor
    New Holland Boomer2030

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    I use mine for cutting Autumn olive bushes and green briars.
    Solo
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    425
    Location
    Northern West Virginia
    Tractor
    JD

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    I've used a Gravely with a 5' sickle bar (4' seems to be much more common) for 30 years. It's great for mowing briars and up under trees, etc., but sometimes grass (esp. soft Orchard Grass) can be a pain. When grass is leaning, it helps to mow in the right direction. It does vibrate a lot at higher RPM's. We used to joke about what happens to a young fruit tree when you attempt to mow up close. If you see it start to shake, it's too late. It's going to have the "Gravely wilt".

    Incidentally, the knives (triangular cutters) for a Gravely sickle bar can be replaced with John Deere knives, and the JD knives last a lot longer and are less prone to breaking. They can be 3rd party replacement knives for a JD; they don't have to be JD brand.

    I've also used a 7' JD sickel bar on the back of my tractor. Smooth as can be in a large field, but very unwieldy in tight places (like in an orchard).

    These sickels can cut 3/4" saplings with ease. They can also cut legs off small animals.

  10. #10
    Platinum Member
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    May 2003
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    686
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    NE PA
    Tractor
    AC 5020, Gravely Com12, JD M, JD X300R, WH 16 Auto

    Default Re: Sickle Bar Questions

    The Gravely wilt,,,,, I like that!,,,,,, If it fits between the guards it's toast

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