Cutter (sickle) Bar Mowers
Typically called Sickle bar mowers, these have been the traditional mechanized tool for mowing hay for over 100 years. The earliest ones were drawn by horses, and the reciprocation of the blades was powered by the rolling of iron wheels as horses pulled it. The BCS company’s first product in 1942 was a walk-behind motorized sickle-bar mower, the first of it’s kind in Italy, and it revolutionized small-scale hay harvesting in Italy and across Europe.
BCS 853 w. 59” double-action cutter bar
These mowers have evolved considerably over the years. The single-action cutter bar mowers we offer are clog-proof due to a ‘guardless’ lower blade design - which we have demonstrated by cutting right through a hay-bale without clogging. The latest innovation is cutter bars was the advent of the “double-action” mowers a few years ago; these units have the upper and lower blade assemblies that both reciprocate opposite each other to cancel out at least 95% of the vibrations, which are the most objectionable part of using a walk-behind cutter bar mower. (the double-action units do have “guards” affixed to the lower teeth, like a conventional sickle bar, but since these reciprocate, they shake themselves through material and we have found them to be virtually clog-proof as well.)
Spring-loaded blade tensioners
on double-action cutter bar
The double-action bars also come with spring-loaded blade tensioners, which require no adjustments and are extremely easy to disengage when the blade needs to be removed for service. (single-action bars stocked by us all use the standard ‘adjustable’ tensioners, which require periodic adjustment and must all be loosened when removing the blade. The BCS brand single-action bars can be special-ordered with spring-loaded tensioners as well.)
Cutter bar mowers cut down material at the base, kind of like a big scissors, and leave the cut material whole. Therefore they are great for forage (hay) harvesting, or for any mowing application where you don’t need the material “chopped up”. These mowers will cut anything up to a 1” sapling, so they are pretty tough. Some folks use the cutter bars for mowing brush, but if used for this, they will probably require more maintenance compared to a brush or flail mower, due to all the individual blade sections that are riveted into the blade that you may damage on rocks, larger trees, etc. (These blade sections are sharpenable and replaceable, of course, but doing so is time-consuming); plus, as mentioned above, the cut material is left whole, so it takes a long time to decompose & looks ‘messier’.
Cutter bars do have other advantages, however, due to: Low clearance; cutting blade “side projection” which is greater than the wheel width of the tractor for easily mowing under plank, barbed wire, electric or high tensile fence; mowing around pond edges (a reciprocating blade doesn’t care if you stick the end in the water… unlike a rotary mower, which will nearly kill the engine) or mowing under Christmas trees. Also, cutter bar mowers are simply the most efficient mowers around in terms of time and fuel use. They require so little power to run, a very wide width can be powered by a relatively small engine. (Typically, you can figure a cutter bar requires half the horsepower of any rotary mower; therefore the same size motor can run a mower twice the width in a cutter bar than a rotary mower.) So if you need to rough-mow big areas, you don’t mind if the cut material is larger and will decompose slower, and you want to cut it in the least time with the minimum fuel use, the cutter bar is the tool of choice.
NOTE REGARDING CUTTING HEIGHT: Cutter bars cut best when cutting close to the ground, as they rely on the cut material simply falling over backward to clear the material off the top of the blade. If the material is cut too high on the stem and/or the material being cut is too short, the cut material won’t “flow” off the top of the blade properly, and when material builds up on top of the blade, it will “push down” the incoming material you are trying to cut. This is why the standard height-adjustment “skids” that come with cutter bars are not designed to adjust very high; about a 3.5” maximum cutting height is all you can get out of them. The skids are adjusted by means of loosening two bolts on each skid.
Caster wheel option for cutter bars
NOW, FOR FOLKS WHO NEED TO CUT HIGHER (for example: in pastures where you want to leave some material for livestock to eat, or for areas with lots of rocks you want to avoid), we now produce an option of “Caster Wheels” for the cutter bars to replace the skids…these achieve a cutting height from 5” to 7”. (NOTE: Even though they WILL adjust down to very low cutting heights, the caster wheels are NOT good for cutting low…the cut material will tangle up around the wheels. ONLY use the casters when cutting above 5”!! Use the standard “skids” when cutting at low heights!!) (Further Note: depending on the particular cutter bar type and installed accessories, the caster-wheels may mount on the TOP OR the BOTTOM of the cutter bar frame. This picture shows them mounted on the top.) Price of Caster Wheel option:
All cutter bars feature a ‘swivel’ joint in the input shaft assembly which allows the bar to follow the contours of the ground independent of the tractor axle.
We offer several options in cutter bar styles: the most economical are the single-action with grease-type drive units, suitable for occasional use but they must be kept greased… every 4 to 6 hours of use. Next up are the single-action type with oil bath type drive units… the oil bath drive units are virtually indestructible and require only once-a-year oil level checking (and a single grease fitting lubricating the “swivel” joint , grease twice a year). But for large acreages, a double-action cutter bar should be considered not only for operator comfort (virtually no vibration), but also for speed: since the blade reciprocation speed is effectively doubled by the opposite motion of the upper & lower blades, you can simply mow faster (in a higher gear). The Double-action cutter bars all have oil-bath drive units.
IMPORTANT NOTE regarding engine speed: NO cutter bar should be run at full engine throttle; Single-action bars should not be run over 1/3 throttle and Double-action not over ½ throttle, to keep machine & blade fatigue at a minimum… and you certainly don’t need the power of full throttle with a cutter bar anyway! Save fuel, save maintenance cost, and keep the throttle LOW when running a cutter bar mower!!
Cutter bars with Grease-type drive units are manufactured by Grillo; units with oil bath drive units (single and double-action) are made by BCS. We use a PTO adapter to adapt the Grillo bars with grease-type drive to BCS tractors, or a different PTO adapter to put the BCS oil bath units on the Grillo tractors. So, when figuring prices, make sure to add in the adapter price if you are fitting a BCS cutter bar to a Grillo tractor or vice versa (adapter price on Tractor Accessories page; typically $65 - $70).
Cutter bars are relatively light-weight implements, and may require some additional PTO extensions or an implement weight to counterbalance heavier engine options…ask about this when ordering.