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Snath building adventure / advice wanted

 
Posts: 34
Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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hey folks! (or hay folks? heh...) i grew up using a scythe on the family farm but didn't give it much thought for a long time, now that I'm working on managing my own small property, I had been using the gas mower to bag the grass for mulch but I've not been liking the fumes, noise, and hacking up dirt that I have inhaled the next day, and was thinking of solutions and it struck me that I should be using a scythe instead! So I did a little looking around and ordered a scythe from scythe supply, but due to the covid stuff going on, they were super backed up, and my grass don't care, it keeps on going. So I did what any sane person would do and ordered another blade from OSR which was shipping much faster, and I got it in yesterday and set about making my own snath from a stick i had laying around. I gave it a few swings and it cuts great, I was pleasantly supprised at how much more mulch I got in a few moments farting around than from a decent amound of time behind a mower. I am undecided though as to the best way to attach a handle to it. I have a stick that I shaved up and cut that will make a good handle for it. According to my research usually handles are either attached with some kind of hardware or attached with a mortice and tennon of some sort. While I dabble in what I like to think of as "functional" woodworking a little bit, I'm not the best. I don't have a large enough drill bit to do a decent size round tennon (and im not 100% confident in my woodworking to cut a round peg on the end of the handle either) and also the skill involved in a square one seems a bit beyond my reach at the moment too. so maybe the hardware option is a way to go? I feel like if i cut a little groove on the top of the snath and square off the end of the handle so it could key in to the snath essentially, and used a screw and some glue that might be a decent solution? thoughts? anyone who's made a snath that's not god level craftsman with every tool ever and had good results doing this and wish to share pictures of what they came up with or advice on what worked for them?
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You can use a furniture assembly barrel nut and a machine screw/washer to affix a grip.
 
Posts: 546
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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A pvc saddle T attached with hose clamps?
 
David F Paul
Posts: 34
Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:You can use a furniture assembly barrel nut and a machine screw/washer to affix a grip.


I like this idea, however I do not currently possess such an item, and am not exactly sure where i would go about getting one besides ordering online and waiting a week or whatever

Burl Smith wrote:A pvc saddle T attached with hose clamps?



I'm not sure I can quite picture what you are getting at, but i'm a bit leery about using pvc on stuff that's going to get a lot of sun, also I think it would take it's rustic looking quality away and leave it looking a bit more like something cobbled together with junk...
 
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David F Paul wrote: anyone who's made a snath that's not god level craftsman with every tool ever and had good results doing this and wish to share pictures of what they came up with or advice on what worked for them?



We switched to scythes 5 or so years ago.  Had a really bad experience with a combine harvester on our organic rice crop.  Lost most of the crop for lack of a few O-rings.

I've just finished my 20th snath.  It is a laminate of Nara, (reclaimed from the door frame of an old share croppers shack), and bamboo.   For us in the provincial R.P. most of the wood available is soft, punky, tropical.  Gets brittle when it dries out.  That is why I chose to combine with bamboo.  Nara for work-ability, Bamboo for strength an spring.

When I started making snath's I followed what info was available on line.  Most of that calls for the snath to be the height of the user, with handles spaced shoulder width apart.  Mine is one hand taller and the handles are one hand wider than shoulder width.

I sliced up the Nara and Bamboo.  There is a particular species of Bamboo that grows solid.  You can get good wide slices out of it and plane them down to uniform shape easily.  Boiling water to soften and bend with.  Used parquet flooring glue on the laminate.  Put a slight curvature post handle / pre blade.  

In retrospect I should have put more curve in.  And formed a slight blade cut side curve to minimize the blade toe.  Next time. Cured it in alternating sun / shade / damp / dry for 6 months or so.

The handle arrangement is different than the traditional European snath.   The back handle  is straight shaft.  This allows for an over or under hand grip.  Changes the cutting angle a bit.  After years of swinging one that is what feels good to me. Especially after a whole day of dancing.

My front handle is an oversized square mortise / tenon.  Glued in place with wooden flooring adhesive. The wood is Mango.  The finish is plain motor oil of no particular viscosity.  I wipe down the blade and snath after every use.

The blade attaches with a clamp that is available from Scythe Supply.  I did fabricate a "Snath Saver" out of 2 mil galvanized flat sheet.  It spreads the stresses over a longer segment of the snath.  Helps prevent breakage and cracking.  I highly recommend you come up with a similar arrangement.  

Here is a link to the clamp.  https://scythesupply.com/equipment.html.  Here is a write up on snath savers.  https://www.scythes.com.au/on-the-necessity-of-snath-savers/.

I sharpen it by peening with a normal ball peen hammer on a regular vice anvil.  Nothing fancy.  I whet the blade with a normal medium coarse water stone you can get at any hardware store.


Hope this helps

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Burl Smith
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Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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David F Paul wrote:... cobbled together with junk...





I dunno...a bit of nature strung between two bits of technology, kind of a balancing effect.
 
pollinator
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Does you side handle need to have an elbow or anything like that?

Easier if not. Since you seem to have time/schedule issues, quick and dirty while waiting the package to arrive might be good.

If you can get by with just a stick, get a wooden closet pole or something similar and cut a short piece for a handle, and two pieces of 1/16" steel (think window repair angles, but straight). 3/4" wide by, say, 8-10" long. If the closet pole is about the same diameter as the snath, use it for form each piece with  1/4  circle in the center which is NOT deep enough to allow the two pieces to clasp the snath and meet. I've attached a very bad picture below showing a "riser clamp", which is NOT what you want. It's for the concept. You want 2/3 of it, the partly formed curve to clasp the snath,  but not bent so far that it won't mate nicely with your closet pole handle. Drill three holes on each piece (which line up with each other),  two smaller ones (1/4" ?) for the handle, one large one (3/8?) to clamp it. Through bolt it to the "handle" and then cinch it tight around the snath.  A snath protector would be a compassionate  add-on. It probably would be nice to cut flats on each side of the "handle" to take the straps, if you can to that.

This is a terrible, horrible, travesty of a thing, but it's cheap and if you're careful it won't hurt your snath. And it can be made (with sweat and swearing and probably a busted thumb) with the usual barn tools. You can throw it away w/out a thought, or modify it and play around to see what works for you.

And yes, somebody better come up with a better idea. Please! <G>

Cheers,
Rufus
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David F Paul
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Location: Middle Tennesee zone 7b
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Mark Cunningham wrote:

Hope this helps



This looks awesome! Thanks for sharing! I was going to go for a single hand kinda similar to that but with the handle facing more inwards, I might try to do a square tennon. I ended up getting my snath from scythe supply, it's not great. I'm still going to finish the snath i started, I'm kinda keeping an eye out for the perfect handle shaped branch though and hoping maybe i can get away with a round tennon. Thanks for sharing!
 
Mark Cunningham
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David F Paul wrote:This looks awesome!



Thank you.

My next snath will use an outward facing front grip versus an inward facing one.

Outward.



Inward.



I've noticed that the inward grip tends to force the blade tip downward during the stroke.  That can be a good or bad thing, depending on what your cutting.  In either case it puts extra wear and tear on the wrist muscles.

I do not know where your located but if you have decent hardwoods available you could find some saplings and "train" them with straps to the shape your looking for.  I am trying that now with some bamboo.  But it takes patience to wait for it to grow.

I tried all kinds of different tenon's.  Most of them failed.  The one pictured is holding up well.  It's under pretty severe usage.  That one is 30% of the thickness with the original branch length in an attempt to retain some of the grain strength.

Good luck with your build.


 
David F Paul
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Mark Cunningham wrote:

Good luck with your build.




I had also planned to do the outward facing grip on mine. I think the trouble is more the one handle arrangement than anything, with two inward facing grips, you have more leverage in the upper handle to help control the horizontal balance of the blade, but in a single grip snath all the control over horizontal balance is in one hand and the other hand is more controlling the arc of the swing and the hight of blade lay. Ideally you should be able to push the blade with no adjustment to the horizontal balance, and it should just ride on the ground. Most of the single grip snaths I have seen were relatively straight though, I think mostly the purpose of having a bent snath is so that you can have your hands mostly level to allow a more comfortable grip on the upper grip, since it will be gripped with the hand on top. However a single grip snath is gripped on top with an underhand grip, unless the angle of the tang on the blade is very high or very low, or you really want an overhand grip, I think it would probably be better to be straight. Do you grip overhand or underhand with your upper hand on that snath you showed me? Here is some video of that same gal mowing with the single grip  
 
Mark Cunningham
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David F Paul wrote: Do you grip overhand or underhand with your upper hand on that snath you showed me?



I cut a pretty wide range of stuff.  From SRI style planted cereal crops, small saplings, tough weeds / saw grass, the occasional cobra.   The handle I pictured is an "averaged" snath.   I tried to form it to be multi-purpose.  I mount different blades on it for different tasks.   So it does not cut perfectly with one blade, but pretty well on most stuff with all blades.

It is the first one I shaped purely single handle.  All of my previous ones were dual handle with a smoothed out grip section just in front of the rear handle.  After lots of use I found myself not using the second handle at all.

I use an underhand grip if I am slicing easy stuff.  Raises the cant of the edge a little.  Overhand if I am "chopping through", or "picking out".  More power / fine control.

My feeling is that the front grip is the aileron that controls how the blade flies.  The rear grip is the drive and circle grip.


Hope this helps.
 
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