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Help needed choosing a scythe

 
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I'm after a European scythe (or 2 maybe) firstly for clearing bracken, reeds, and other course but not woody stuff from paddocks, and later I'd also like to eventually make hay and harvest grain with one too.

The first question I have is about snath height - the localish scythe seller says that for heights in between 158 cm to 176 cm I should choose a 150cm long snath ('regular' size) - I am 170cm, and I am usually more comfortable using tools designed for tall people - is working with a scythe similar to working with other long-handle tools, and that I'd feel more comfortable with a longer snath? The 160cm snath is for people 176cm to 188cm tall, I am not sure if this would end up feeling too awkward for me if I got this? Is it best to just go with their recommendations for the smaller size?

Another question I have is about how easy it is to change the blades around - If I wanted the shorter and stouter 'bush' blade for clearing land and a longer one for hay and grain, is it easy enough to change the blades around when I need to?

What length blade would be best for hay and grain?

Is there anything else that is good to know before choosing a scythe?
 
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Maybe I was too lucky to run across an aluminum handled scythe which would be less tiring in my opinion. Also I remember the blade had a tang at the base which could be placed in alternate holes to adjust the angle because in cutting grain or grass a swinging motion is desired whereas tougher weeds would take a pulling motion.

 
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First of all, I’m not here to offer help, I couldn’t. I ordered mine from Scythe Supply, gave them the measurements they needed, and they built the handle/snath according to those.

I am here to express how glad I am you are considering getting a scythe!

I grew up watching my grandpa and people using this tool to make hay for the cows, and when I finally had my own grass and bramble to mow, I knew exactly the tool I wanted for the job.

I use mine a lot, it’s light, fits in my hands perfectly, does not make any noise, or use any gas, and I can go with it in places a powered mower can’t possibly go.

I’m looking forward to advice from the pro’s about changing the blades. I never thought about that. My blade is considered a “brush” blade, so it can do both grass and brush to a certain thickness.

Mine has been is use, and abused a little, for almost 10 years. The perfect tool!
 
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I come from American scythes as my chief focus so pardon me for using inches instead of centimetres, but typical grass blade length historically was between 26-32" with some haying blades going up to around 38" while grain, which is easier to cut, could be handled with blades a whopping 48" long as the standard. That may not be the best option for you though. As far as swapping blades out it's a simple process, though the manner in which the blade is fastened to the snath will vary a little depending on what specific hardware you're using.
 
Kate Downham
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I just found this written about snath length:

https://scythecymru.co.uk/scythes-for-sale/choosing-snath-length/


5ft – 5ft 10————-Size 2 (150cm)
5ft 8 – 6ft 4————Size 3 (160cm)

People who are at the edge of the height range may not be sure which snath length to choose. If your legs are long in proportion to your body length you should choose the longer snath. If they are short in proportion to your body length choose the shorter snath. This should give you the most useful range of adjustment of the handle positions.

 
Kate Downham
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:I come from American scythes as my chief focus so pardon me for using inches instead of centimetres, but typical grass blade length historically was between 26-32" with some haying blades going up to around 38" while grain, which is easier to cut, could be handled with blades a whopping 48" long as the standard. That may not be the best option for you though. As far as swapping blades out it's a simple process, though the manner in which the blade is fastened to the snath will vary a little depending on what specific hardware you're using.



Thank you - this has helped me to decide. The longest blade I can get is 90cm (35"), so it sounds like this would be a good choice for both hay and grain.

Although, this page has a lot of good information about blade length that has me confused again: https://scythesupply.com/bladeselection.html

We consider long blade lengths to be 30 in/75 cm or more. At first glance it seems a longer blade cuts more area in less time. This is true when the scythe is in the hands of an experienced mower. For mowing large areas we find that most people are more successful with a 28 inch blade. This is particularly true for new mowers.

Long blades require very good mowing technique. Long blades create greater drag, so take more energy. Your swing has to be easy, light and smooth with a steady rhythm. You have to make use of your upper body mass to help carry the blade through the grass. The blade has to slice. If you force the blade, especially in heavy, dense stands of grass, the blade won't cut well. It catches in the grass so instead of a smooth, flowing stroke the scythe moves with a jerky motion. The mower tires very quickly and little grass is cut. Large areas often are more efficiently mown with a shorter blade; 24” to 28” are good lengths. Bear in mind, most people are not going to mow an acre a day. Most mowers will harvest only a small portion of that area at a time so a shorter blade suits the conditions better.

It is true that anyone can learn to scythe with what ever length blade they choose. After many years of helping people learn to mow we have found it is best for new mowers to learn on blades shorter than 30 in/75 cm.



Maybe 75cm would be a better choice for a beginner?
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Kate Downham wrote:

Benjamin Bouchard wrote:I come from American scythes as my chief focus so pardon me for using inches instead of centimetres, but typical grass blade length historically was between 26-32" with some haying blades going up to around 38" while grain, which is easier to cut, could be handled with blades a whopping 48" long as the standard. That may not be the best option for you though. As far as swapping blades out it's a simple process, though the manner in which the blade is fastened to the snath will vary a little depending on what specific hardware you're using.



Thank you - this has helped me to decide. The longest blade I can get is 90cm (35"), so it sounds like this would be a good choice for both hay and grain.

Although, this page has a lot of good information about blade length that has me confused again: https://scythesupply.com/bladeselection.html

We consider long blade lengths to be 30 in/75 cm or more. At first glance it seems a longer blade cuts more area in less time. This is true when the scythe is in the hands of an experienced mower. For mowing large areas we find that most people are more successful with a 28 inch blade. This is particularly true for new mowers.

Long blades require very good mowing technique. Long blades create greater drag, so take more energy. Your swing has to be easy, light and smooth with a steady rhythm. You have to make use of your upper body mass to help carry the blade through the grass. The blade has to slice. If you force the blade, especially in heavy, dense stands of grass, the blade won't cut well. It catches in the grass so instead of a smooth, flowing stroke the scythe moves with a jerky motion. The mower tires very quickly and little grass is cut. Large areas often are more efficiently mown with a shorter blade; 24” to 28” are good lengths. Bear in mind, most people are not going to mow an acre a day. Most mowers will harvest only a small portion of that area at a time so a shorter blade suits the conditions better.

It is true that anyone can learn to scythe with what ever length blade they choose. After many years of helping people learn to mow we have found it is best for new mowers to learn on blades shorter than 30 in/75 cm.



Maybe 75cm would be a better choice for a beginner?



Blades in excess of 30" require skillful use, but I find that a 30" blade is a solid sweet-spot for all-purpose mowing. The blade length encourages good edge engagement rather than hacking.
 
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I've been considering a scythe! How do you find it compares to a weed whacker for edging around log perimeters and fencing and such? Also our food forest is young and will need some mowing in close spaces this year so a scythe won't get a full swing...
 
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Hi
I have an Austrian scythe from http://www.thescytheshop.co.uk/index.html


Lots of info from there. I bought the most aggressive bush blade, a medium grass blade and a ditch blade which is about halfway between the two. I have only used that one.

I don't yet have and grasses of a big enough area to need a long blade, and slightly closing the face of the ditch blade lets it cut heather stems for instance.

And because of the ununiformity of what I have been cutting with it for the last two years means my technique sucks.

But to nuzzle the back of the blade against a young tree and cut weeds away from it with zero damage is infinitely better than a strimmer.

The speed of getting it out and cutting far surpasses a strimmer, no noise, no annoyed neighbours, it's about as quick while cutting too and I have a lovely big powerful strimmer.

What it doesn't do is mulch. It can only cut with some free space to swing, and for the intact length of what it cuts needs some space to go to. This is supposed to be carried to the end of the swing and left in a nice straight line working your way up your nice uniform crop, but I don't have that yet so it and it's product can get in the way of it's use, especially with longer stuff.

You also need to sharpen with a fine stone very often during use. Absorb the above link!

I love it.
 
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Jesse Styer wrote:I've been considering a scythe! How do you find it compares to a weed whacker for edging around log perimeters and fencing and such? Also our food forest is young and will need some mowing in close spaces this year so a scythe won't get a full swing...



I find it much better than a weed wacker! It is just as accurate, doesnt require ppe, doesnt throw shredded plastic everywhere, and doesn't shred the material leaving it in great shape to use as mulch and it's easyier to pick up. Once you get the swing of it too you can even use the scythe to kinda pre pile stuff so its easy to pick up. I also have a long handled kama, which i find works best for weeding in between plants that are close together. the only drawback to these kinds of tools is you have to learn how to sharpen them correctly and keep them very sharp. I've always been kind of a blade nut and love sharpening things so it's a joy for me but it might not be for everyone!
 
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I got burned on scythe supply after receiving a snath that didn't match my measurements, then they wanted to argue was my technique that was the problem.

If I was to do it again, I'd buy from https://scytheworks.ca/ so I could adjust the snath.
 
Dan Vernon
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Also, the peening jigs are pretty much useless in my experience.
 
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Jesse Styer wrote:I've been considering a scythe! How do you find it compares to a weed whacker for edging around log perimeters and fencing and such? Also our food forest is young and will need some mowing in close spaces this year so a scythe won't get a full swing...



I bought my scythe several years ago from Scythe Supply, and also bought their hand sickle. The hand sickle works very well in getting up close to trees, buildings etc. I have also found that the scythe can do this as well, but you can't take a full swing. Kind of like bunting in baseball or a short chip shot in golf. Also the shorter blade makes it easier to trim.

I had never used a scythe before, and decided to go with the lighter mowing blade, it worked very well but after a couple of years of grounding a crack developed in the blade. I then bought the heavier brush blade and have been very happy with it.

If you keep the blade sharp and use your hips more than your arms mowing is just as fast and I think easier than using a power mower.
 
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Nice thread! We have two scythes at the cottage and have been using them to clear the "monte" as the Mexicans say (a mix of grasses, lupin, nettles, what have you). (The Mexicans use this delightful word "monte" for weeds, which is the same as "wilderness" or "forest". Basically they're saying it's a piece of forest there in your field, you might not want it there, but it's not inherently wrong, just mis-filed as it were.) Using the scythe is satisfying although we're beginners, but we've already worked out the "swing from the hips" and "slice don't hack" basics. If it was good enough for grandma, it's good enough for us... Then visiting neighbours show off their machismo by sharpening it and dissing the sharpening technique of whoever had a go at it last time.
 
Jesse Styer
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Thanks guys!
David Paul, I'll probably learn to keep the blade sharp before learning to maintain a gas-powered motor. They either work or I curse at them and walk away to do something productive. :-/
 
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I've wanted one for a long time but just haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to tackle the back field. I can't remember where I found out about this company but you might want to take a look at their website http://www.themaruggcompany.com/products.htm
 
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I also got mine from scythe supply, so the measurements were up to them. I got their hybrid ditch blade, and have been quite pleased with it overall.
On their design, the blade is super easy to change, as long as you don’t lose the key for the ring, which is like a hex key, but square and not easily substituted. Important to keep around, because the blade can loosen a bit with use and weather changes. Sadly, I used it without tightening enough one day when I had misplaced the key. We have weeds that dry out in the winter to some of the toughest stalks I have come across, and in trying to cut them with a slightly loose blade, I managed to bend the ring. I’m sadly waiting 6-8 weeks for a new ring.
Regarding size, I do remember seeing some with adjustable handles. Might help
If you are between sizes.
 
Dan Vernon
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Lina Joana wrote:I also got mine from scythe supply, so the measurements were up to them. I got their hybrid ditch blade, and have been quite pleased with it overall.
On their design, the blade is super easy to change, as long as you don’t lose the key for the ring, which is like a hex key, but square and not easily substituted. Important to keep around, because the blade can loosen a bit with use and weather changes. Sadly, I used it without tightening enough one day when I had misplaced the key. We have weeds that dry out in the winter to some of the toughest stalks I have come across, and in trying to cut them with a slightly loose blade, I managed to bend the ring. I’m sadly waiting 6-8 weeks for a new ring.
Regarding size, I do remember seeing some with adjustable handles. Might help
If you are between sizes.



I lost mine too and took the blade off with a flat tip screwdriver.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Dan Vernon wrote:

Lina Joana wrote:I also got mine from scythe supply, so the measurements were up to them. I got their hybrid ditch blade, and have been quite pleased with it overall.
On their design, the blade is super easy to change, as long as you don’t lose the key for the ring, which is like a hex key, but square and not easily substituted. Important to keep around, because the blade can loosen a bit with use and weather changes. Sadly, I used it without tightening enough one day when I had misplaced the key. We have weeds that dry out in the winter to some of the toughest stalks I have come across, and in trying to cut them with a slightly loose blade, I managed to bend the ring. I’m sadly waiting 6-8 weeks for a new ring.
Regarding size, I do remember seeing some with adjustable handles. Might help
If you are between sizes.



I lost mine too and took the blade off with a flat tip screwdriver.



As long as you have rudimentary tools it's possible to self-fabricate a square key pretty easily. Just heat and bend some rod stock and either forge or grind/file the end to the appropriate size.
 
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Kate, I would not hesitate to use Benjamin Bouchard as your resource for all things scythe related. I have used his company for products and inquiries and have been quite pleased with his level of expertise and customer service. A scythe is a thing of beauty  compared to a string trimmer. They do take some practice to get used to but, once you get used to using one you'll wonder why the heck you didn't get one sooner. Few things compare to the sound of a truly sharp blade shearing through grass, stalks, and weeds.  And, it won't throw slug guts back at ya! Get a scythe that fits your body size and intended use, learn to properly sharpen it, and learn the proper technique for using it. You will be AMAZED at how much material you can cut in short-order and, how little effort it really takes...best wishes, John
 
Lina Joana
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:
As long as you have rudimentary tools it's possible to self-fabricate a square key pretty easily. Just heat and bend some rod stock and either forge or grind/file the end to the appropriate size.



Benjamin, I have no doubt that is true, but I do feel that needing rod stock and a forge to change a blade takes it out of the realm of "super easy" for most people!  Maybe upgrade it to "moderately easy" in this crowd...
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Lina Joana wrote:

Benjamin Bouchard wrote:
As long as you have rudimentary tools it's possible to self-fabricate a square key pretty easily. Just heat and bend some rod stock and either forge or grind/file the end to the appropriate size.



Benjamin, I have no doubt that is true, but I do feel that needing rod stock and a forge to change a blade takes it out of the realm of "super easy" for most people!  Maybe upgrade it to "moderately easy" in this crowd...



The most fundamental things you'd need are simply some rod stock from the local hardware store, a bench vise, a hammer, and a file (or any sort of grinder.) A propane hand torch would be preferable but not strictly necessary since you can probably still bend the rod as needed without the need of heat. It's just bending some rod 90° in a vise and filing or grinding one end to the properly sized square, and then you have a new key. Note that my choice of words was "pretty" easy.  
 
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Leslie Russell wrote:I've wanted one for a long time but just haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to tackle the back field. I can't remember where I found out about this company but you might want to take a look at their website http://www.themaruggcompany.com/products.htm



I was excited to check out this other source with great hopes of ordering from them only to discover they are not taking orders atm. My email query came back from a mailer daemon. So back to the scythe company (with its six week lead time) I went. Hopefully by the beginning of July I will be happily mowing my yard with my new scythe.

Still the  marugg website is very informative and includes a pretty comprehensive and entertaining ebook on Scything.  I highly recommend checking it out.
 
Dan Vernon
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You can literally put a mid-size flat tip screwdriver crossways in the square slot and get it off. No need to build a forge in the backyard to get your scythe blade off.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Dan Vernon wrote:You can literally put a mid-size flat tip screwdriver crossways in the square slot and get it off. No need to build a forge in the backyard to get your scythe blade off.



Literally no one said that was necessary. I was discussing how to make a new key to replace the lost one. It's very simple and doesn't require building a forge to make one. If just trying to get the blade off once a screwdriver will suffice. If planning on using the ring repeatedly having a proper key so you can really torque down on the set screws properly. Even when fully cranked down, the blade is still predisposed towards slipping out of its proper hang, so getting it clamped down tight is pretty important and a screwdriver will lack the torque to do the job well. You can limp along with that method, but having an actual wrench is better.
 
Dan Vernon
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:

Dan Vernon wrote:You can literally put a mid-size flat tip screwdriver crossways in the square slot and get it off. No need to build a forge in the backyard to get your scythe blade off.



Literally no one said that was necessary. I was discussing how to make a new key to replace the lost one. It's very simple and doesn't require building a forge to make one. If just trying to get the blade off once a screwdriver will suffice. If planning on using the ring repeatedly having a proper key so you can really torque down on the set screws properly. Even when fully cranked down, the blade is still predisposed towards slipping out of its proper hang, so getting it clamped down tight is pretty important and a screwdriver will lack the torque to do the job well. You can limp along with that method, but having an actual wrench is better.



First, it was a joke. Second, getting it off is what he wanted to do, and has a replacement on order. Sure he could go your route, though for a lot of people that's a bigger investment in tools than just ordering and waiting for a replacement. It's a trade-off between time and money that they'll have to make a decision on. Thanks for the info.
 
Lina Joana
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:

Even when fully cranked down, the blade is still predisposed towards slipping out of its proper hang, so getting it clamped down tight is pretty important...



Second that! Just what happened to me: the blade was just a little loose, then hit some tough stems, and the blade came out of it seat and bent the ring. Very frustrating to have to wait for a replacement while the poison ivy takes over. I haven’t used any other models, but that is a weakness of this design - I wonder if there are other ways of attachment that would be sturdier?
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Lina Joana wrote:

Benjamin Bouchard wrote:

Even when fully cranked down, the blade is still predisposed towards slipping out of its proper hang, so getting it clamped down tight is pretty important...



Second that! Just what happened to me: the blade was just a little loose, then hit some tough stems, and the blade came out of it seat and bent the ring. Very frustrating to have to wait for a replacement while the poison ivy takes over. I haven’t used any other models, but that is a weakness of this design - I wonder if there are other ways of attachment that would be sturdier?



This approach locks the blade completely in place. It does require the use of a heel plate for hang adjustment, but the blade will NOT move when clamped using one of these rings.


 
Lina Joana
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Nice! Where do you find one like that?
 
David F Paul
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Lina Joana wrote:. I’m sadly waiting 6-8 weeks for a new ring.



I ordered some stuff from them, it took 4 weeks to ship and it has now been "shipping" for another 2 weeks. I ordered some stuff last week from onescytherevolotion.com (a snath ring and a different blade) I have already mowed my yard with the stuff i ordered from him. he's shipping ups and has orders filled in 2 days or so, I would definitely cancel my order with scythe supply and order a new ring from him. they aren't listed directly on his page, you have to send him an email or call but he's very quick to respond.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Lina Joana wrote:Nice! Where do you find one like that?



They're my own design. I don't have many of the bell-shaped rings for Euro tangs on hand but the few I do have on hand are here. The straight-walled rings for American tangs and the heel plates are available in higher volume. I do plan on having a batch of the bell rings done up in the future, though.
 
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David F Paul wrote:I ordered some stuff last week from onescytherevolotion.com (a snath ring and a different blade) I have already mowed my yard with the stuff i ordered from him.



One Scythe Revolution is the reason I haven't bought a scythe yet.  I wanted to buy a scythe and take his class because he isn't terribly far from me.  I couldn't even get him to answer emails to sell me one.  Now I'm ready to explore new avenues.  I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars with someone that won't respond to simple emails.
 
Trace Oswald
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Leslie Russell wrote:I've wanted one for a long time but just haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to tackle the back field. I can't remember where I found out about this company but you might want to take a look at their website http://www.themaruggcompany.com/products.htm



This company isn't accepting orders now.  Probably Covid-19 related  :(
 
Lina Joana
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Trace Oswald wrote:

One Scythe Revolution is the reason I haven't bought a scythe yet.  I wanted to buy a scythe and take his class because he isn't terribly far from me.  I couldn't even get him to answer emails to sell me one.  Now I'm ready to explore new avenues.  I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars with someone that won't respond to simple emails.



  I’m sorry to hear that! I think with a lot if these small companies, it is easy for things to fall through the cracks... despite the current delay, I have had a fantastic experience with Scythe Supply. When I bought my kit, they double checked my measurements because my legs are long for my height and they didn’t want to get it wrong. Then, I manage to lose the handle (you have to glue them on so they fit your grip). I contacted them to buy a new one, and they just sent it, no charge. So even with the delay, and sometimes missing an e-mail - I give them high marks.
 
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This is a great thread and I would feel confident getting one except for what I saw as a kid. I remember my great granddad using a scythe. Like Obi Wan said, “It is an elegant weapon.” In his hands it certainly was. As a forty something novice I was a dab clunky. Actually a lot clunky. I absolutely couldn’t use it and had no idea how anyone else could. It seems so short and the blade seemed way to long. I told my dad that the handle was just too short. He replied that my granddad was 6’4”. I’m 5’8”.I gave up and handed it back to him feeling rotten. How was it I couldn’t use it at all?
 
jason holdstock
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There's also The Scythe Book by David Tresemer   ISBN-13: 978-0911469196

He talks about the how to's from set up to peening if I remember correctly. But the site I linked to above has lotsa helpful stuff to read first.
 
David F Paul
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Trace Oswald wrote:
One Scythe Revolution is the reason I haven't bought a scythe yet.  I wanted to buy a scythe and take his class because he isn't terribly far from me.  I couldn't even get him to answer emails to sell me one.  Now I'm ready to explore new avenues.  I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars with someone that won't respond to simple emails.



Huh, that's odd, I got a reply from him the first day after I emailed him (i was asking about rings which weren't listed on his webpage, but he does have) I got all the stuff quick, and I have recently ordered some new stones and a new snath, he was taking a while to ship it out, so I called him around 11am last week and we chatted for an hour or so. He's a nice guy, sounds like he's so slammed with orders right now he's having trouble getting to everything. either way, I'm really not a fan of the scythe supply snaths, and i also paid extra to have my blade sharpened by them and it was not sharp enough to do anything with. the blade i got from osr was very sharp (though i think it's just standard falci blades come really sharp, and I didn't pay extra to have it sharpened) I will probably be posting a detailed review of scythe supply, as well as a detailed review of the snath I get from OSR. It's tough times for people operating on their own right now so I wouldn't let it put you off too much. either way you are probably looking at waiting several weeks, but I suspect that the fux snaths that have a lot of input on design from peter vido that osr sells, though a little more pricy, will be much nicer than the snath that scythe supply sells. i could get into more detail here, but I will probably just do one big review. sad to say i wasn't happy with it, but I should have researched more. I spoke to one of the ladies from scythe supply on the phone too and she was very nice, but I feel like I shouldn't have to make a trade off between locally made and quality i actually want to use. I feel like i would rather pay more for high quality locally produced tools that I plan on using for the rest of my life, than just a token "we make a cheap thing but it's local" I think it's problematic because the increased quality is going to require larger manufacture costs, and i get that, and because a lot of people are coming to the scythe as first time users they don't want to spend a whole lot, but i think that getting a cheap not very ergonomic one leads to more failures and frustration from first time users and it will not take off as a worthwhile tool for them. so they are kinda shooting themselves in the foot. it's a hard compromise to make though and i get that...
 
David F Paul
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Leslie Russell wrote:I've wanted one for a long time but just haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to tackle the back field. I can't remember where I found out about this company but you might want to take a look at their website http://www.themaruggcompany.com/products.htm



This company isn't accepting orders now.  Probably Covid-19 related  :(



I don't think it is actually, according to the folks at scythe supply they haven't been able to contact them for a year or so. sad though, it was a very old company, and it's the most local to me. though their snaths are notoriously bad ergonomically
 
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