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difference between European and American Scythe?  RSS feed

 
Kylie Harper
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6, Kentucky, high water table
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My mother was feeling generous last week and surprised me by ordering me a scythe. I'd been talking about it for awhile, and so while she was in a local hardware store, she had them special order one.

...the only problem is that neither she nor the hardware people were very scythe-savvy. They ordered "a" scythe. I'd had my mind set on a European, but this scythe is an American style.

And in my excitement, I never verified which style it was, and already ordered an extensive peening/sharpening collection of tools meant for a European style from Scythe Supply. Oops.

Soooo... your opinions, please. I've not heard good things about American scythes. Do they have any redeeming qualities?? I feel like I need to start all over again in learning how to use and care for this scythe - but are they really that much different from the European style? Will the peening anvil that I bought still be of use? And, are they used in the same manner as European scythes? The only difference I am currently aware of is that they cover a smaller range per stroke, but is there any other difference I ought to be aware of?

And finally, if it turns out I'm totally disgusted with this scythe after trying it out for a bit, does anyone know of an American scythe enthusiast that would be interested in a discounted one? Or, someone willing to trade for a European scythe would be pretty awesome, too. But, maybe I am getting ahead of myself here.

 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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DON'T PEEN!!! Unless the manufacturer says it is OK. I have an American blade that needs to be trimmed down because I started peening and CRACKED the end

I prefer an American snath, but that may be because I grew up with one.

 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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hmmm. ask if you can return it. seriously. they're not fun. best to do that before you try it out, else the answer is rather more likely to be negative.
 
Kylie Harper
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6, Kentucky, high water table
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tel jetson wrote:hmmm. ask if you can return it. seriously. they're not fun. best to do that before you try it out, else the answer is rather more likely to be negative.


I still haven't put it together yet, and I think I will return it. I finally got around to watching videos of how to use it and how to take care of it, and it looks like it really is a high-maintenance tool that makes you stoop over to use it. Ouch.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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I have used a syth of that type and you do bend at the waist and use your body to rotate the syth . You do not chop with it, you use your body, not your arms. Once you are on to running it, the tool works well, your back does not really take a beating, and you can really cut alot of tall grass etc with it. Your body sort of gets into a rythum and you can go like that for some time. When I was 17 no one told me how to use one, they just handed me a syth and told me to go cut the weeds around the equipment in the yard. By noon I was useing it correctly, because that was the only motion that my body would allow me. My arms hurt, my back was sore, I could not move anyway but the easiest way to use the thing. My body showed me how to use it correctly.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Ain't that the truth! Our bodies are constantly telling us thing...we just need to learn to listen.

Probably over half of the medical maladies could be eliminated if we would listen (and act accordingly).

 
Benjamin Bouchard
Posts: 212
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I am an enthusiast of the American scythe--perhaps I can be of help! American scythes are excellent tools, but very intuitive to use. Below is an excerpt from a "user guide" I've been working on. Setting up the scythe properly is the first step in proper and enjoyable use of the tool. Please bear in mind the below is a rough draft!

A Primer on the Selection, Use, & Maintenance of the American Scythe

Fitting the scythe to the body: The first important step to ensure success with the American scythe is to test-fit the snath to your body. Modern snaths produced by Seymour Manufacturing are sized to the average modern man, but many vintage snaths will be on the small side for the taller American of today. Fortunately, the first step of tuning your scythe is very simple and can be performed in the store from which you intend to make your purchase.

Adjusting the Nibs: First, check the nibs to make sure they may turn freely. The nut at the top of the nib runs on a left-directional thread, so rather than the old adage “lefty loosey, righty tighty” it’s “lefty TIGHTY, righty LOOSEY.” This is important as you don’t want to make an already tight nib even tighter--especially when rust may be involved. Once the nibs have been freed you may adjust them to their proper position for your height. Stand relaxed with your feet shoulder width apart and the scythe standing upright on its head next to you (blade end on the ground.) While standing thus, bring the lower nib to the level of your hip joint (NOT the highest point of your hips!) and tighten it gently in place. Now rest your elbow on the nib with your fingers outstretched. This marks the position of the upper nib.

Now, re-assume the relaxed stance you employed to find the first nib, but now hold the scythe by its nibs at the three o-clock position with the blade resting on its spine. adjust the rotation of the lower nib until you achieve balance in the “rock” of the blade’s spine--i.e. the point where the spine is resting on the floor should be equidistant from the point and the beard. It is important to note that this point DOES NOT correlate with the height of the point and the beard from the ground, as the nose of American scythe blades commonly lift slightly to avoid burying the blade in the dirt on bad swings and to assist with the scooping motion used at the start of the cut.

Once this balance is achieved, adjust the rotation of the upper nib to where you are most comfortably able to lift the blade off the ground by pushing down on the upper nib and allowing the lower nib to roll in your hand as a pivot. This initial adjustment is all simply to get you in the ballpark for your particular scythe configuration, and you will likely find yourself making further adjustments while using the scythe for extended periods. Listen to the tool and it will tell you how it wants to be used. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your adjustments!

Selecting a Blade: The blade you choose is the next most important thing for you to consider after snath selection, and they generally come in variations on the following styles:

Grass blades: The most common variety. Typically long, thin, and light as a feather. The “run” of the blade (or the set of the web) tends to be either parallel to the ground or only slightly lifted. A blade of this style in medium length will usually be capable of handling everything from fine lush grasses to (with practice) heavier woody plants like goldenrod, but they are more prone to damage than other varieties due to their light build and long blades, which can compound the leverage of a bad cut and damage either the blade or the snath. They are, however, both the most commonly available blade style as well as the most versatile.
Bush or Brush blades: These blades are shorter and heavier, with a much broader blade, and are intended for clearing young woody growth ranging from goldenrod, burdock, and thistles up through very young saplings. They are robust in the spine and have a steep upward set to the web to allow the edge to cut with an upward shearing stroke along the grain of growth.

Ditch blades: These blades are the shortest and heaviest of the lot with the steepest run of the blade--many times simply having the web set in the same plane as the tang! These work best for the task implied by their name--clearing ditch overgrowth. They are not recommended for anyone not performing a similar task, as they are completely inappropriate for general mowing duties.

Once a blade is selected, the mounting process will depend on the collar system used by the snath, but most make use of a loop bolt through which the tang is passed, and a series of holes for receiving the bent end of the tang. These are used for adjusting the hafting angle of the blade, allowing you to make the angle more open or closed. A more closed angle is generally recommended as it minimizes strain on the blade and snath and cuts more aggressively though it narrows the swath of the cut. An open angle is used in fine grasses and clear ground, and is advantageous when clearing a large area as it maximizes the reach of the blade. A heavy patch of oiled leather or rubber may be inserted between the loop bolt of the snath collar and the blade tang to provide a more secure fit and prevent wear on the parts.


I have yet to write the portion on proper technique in usage, but you can check out some videos of me using my vintage American scythe on my YouTube channel HERE.

Hope that helps a little!
 
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