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help with a (very) old scythe  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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A few years ago, my father acquired my grandfather's old scythe. From what I recall the blade is covered in rust but other than that, it appears whole and intact.
Having a small amount of experience with metals, I am leaning toward heating the blade over hot coals for a few minutes to loosen, and remove the rust. Then if it's still viable, pack it in clay (which we have an abundance of in East Texas) and return to the coals for a bit to temper. Ideally I would like to restore, service, and use this blade in the future, it it's possible....just gotta get the rust off first.


Anyone know a better way of removing rust, so that any defects can be revealed?
 
Stacy Zoozwick
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What about just sand blasting it? The taking a DA to it?
I grow up watching my Dad and Grandpa restore old cars and that was the proses to get rid of rust.
I know it is not a car but mettle is mettle.
 
Stacy Zoozwick
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What about just sand blasting it? The taking a DA to it?
I grow up watching my Dad and Grandpa restore old cars and that was the proses to get rid of rust.
I know it is not a car but mettle is mettle.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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couldnt you just wire brush it wearing eye protection and then use some steel wool? Because of the humidity here we are always having to remove some degree of rust from blades, pruners, shovels etc.and thats what we do and then try to keep them wiped with a thin coat of oil.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Both good ideas, thank you! I'll have to do some research into which method will be least damaging and most efficient though. From what I gather, the old boy sat untended for the last two or three decades, so it might be a lost cause irregardless. All the same though; wont know until I try, right?
 
Stacy Zoozwick
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At the very least with the sand blasting your meddle will be pitted from the rust.
But it is a family heirloom so it will help it.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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Tempering is a fussy business, you could spend a lifetime studying and practicing....scythe blades are fussy too...the odds of getting it just right by winging it aren't good Not sure how hot your coals are, but slow cooling is going to anneal the steel which is exactly what you don't want.

European scythes are tempered a bit different than american ones and are sharpened (initially) by hammer and peening anvil, or a peening jig, with the final edge put on with a stone. I think the peening process work hardens the edge. My understanding is that american scythes are tempered harder and are too brittle to peen, the edge cracks and breaks. Probably you have an american style scythe, but you might look up some photos and tell.

If I was you I'd stay off the working edge and give it a once over with some fine emery clothe or steel wool, just to take the worst of the rust off and to see how bad the pitting is going to be. If it's not trashed, I'd look up some scythe sharpening videos on youtube that show how you can use the ridge at the back of the blade to define the stone stroke and the bevel. Then I'd try to borrow or maybe pick up a couple of long curved scythe stones...it wouldn't cost an awful lot for a coarser synthetic stone and a finer natural waterstone. You might be able to redefine the edge with the coarse stone just past the pitting, then put a polish on with the fine and remove the burr and you're good to go...

I think there are scythe people on this site that are really into this stuff, so maybe they can weigh in...or head off to a scythe forum..it'll be a great heirloom whether you get it working or hang it up in the barn for inspiration..cheers..
 
Dennis Mitchell
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I refinished an old rusty scythe using a 5 inch disk sander and steel wool. Worked like a charm.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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I agree with what others have said here. I would not try and heat the blade. I would oil it 1st and see how deep the rust actually is on the blade. Then try steel wool, or a light sand paper to clean the blade, then a stone to sharpen it. I would not mess with the temper of the steel and would not try to use heat to remove rust.
 
Warren Nerraw
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A word of caution regarding sandblasting, depending on the sandblaster size and experience level of the operator, a flat piece of sheet metal can be made into a "Pringle" shaped disaster due to the heat(friction) involved produced by the air pressure/volume of sand. Proceed with caution. I'd use a scraper to get the heavy stuff off and follow up with a coarse Scotch Brite Pad. Maybe soak it in a Coke bath for a day.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Warren Nerraw wrote:A word of caution regarding sandblasting, depending on the sandblaster size and experience level of the operator, a flat piece of sheet metal can be made into a "Pringle" shaped disaster due to the heat(friction) involved produced by the air pressure/volume of sand. Proceed with caution. I'd use a scraper to get the heavy stuff off and follow up with a coarse Scotch Brite Pad. Maybe soak it in a Coke bath for a day.


I hadn't thought about it in awhile, but my dad said he used coke to clean rust off of his plow in the fifties...I think it gave me a lifelong disinterest in soda pop.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Before doing ANYTHING to it, post up some pics if you can! I study American scythes and would love to see yours, but also it would be good to assess its condition and whether it's worth restoring. For removal of heavy rust I suggest electrolysis. It's very easy to do at home and there are tons of how-to's on the internet about it. Not abrasive, and no risk of destroying the heat treatment.

Even more importantly is what condition is the snath (handle) in? More things tend to go wrong with snaths than do with blades.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:Before doing ANYTHING to it, post up some pics if you can! I study American scythes and would love to see yours, but also it would be good to assess its condition and whether it's worth restoring. For removal of heavy rust I suggest electrolysis. It's very easy to do at home and there are tons of how-to's on the internet about it. Not abrasive, and no risk of destroying the heat treatment.

Even more importantly is what condition is the snath (handle) in? More things tend to go wrong with snaths than do with blades.


Havent logged in here in a bit, sorry I missed this!
Since I am not state-side at the moment, I'll see if my father can take a couple pictures when he has a chance and send then to me. From what I have learned here so far, I believe it is an american scythe. The snath is very old and if ever put to use would need to be replaced. Though, now that I have educated myself somewhat on the various types of sythes, I think it might be a better investment to purchase a european style for use, and just try to restore the family one to keep as an heirloom.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Don't believe what you've read about American scythes! They're phenomenal tools of equal quality to the European variety but used VERY differently and geared towards a environment. As a general rule of thumb (for which there are many exceptions) a European scythe is going to excel on relatively level ground with lighter grasses while an American scythe does better on more variegated terrain and heavier reedy targets. Either can do the job of the other with experience and a proper blade for the task.
 
Jeremy Stevens
Posts: 37
Location: Tenaha, TX
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Aye, but extremely flat, currently grassland is what I would be using it on. Eventually, I would like to grow grains on the acre(ish) that is currently cleared, which do you think would be best for mowing in that instance?
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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In that case a European pattern would likely be most appropriate. However, for grain harvesting purposes you will NOT want to use a scythe without first fashioning a cradle or Scotch bow for it--the stalks will all scatter in random directions without one, which will make gathering and bundling them into sheafs extremely difficult. If not wishing to fashion a cradle or Scotch bow, the old grain sickle method is your next best bet.

A Scotch bow is the simplest to make, and can be attached to either a European or American scythe without difficulty. However, it is the least effective at gathering and aligning the grain stalks and requires more experience to use properly. A full-blown grain cradle is much more difficult to fashion, and the strongest and most comprehensive ones seem best suited to American scythes from my observations (though I'm no authority.) However, they are exceptionally effective at gathering the stalks. You'll notice in the few videos to be found on YouTube that the scythers are using fairly rigid choppy technique and are having a hard time getting through the reedy growth. I believe that part of this is flawed technique but also partly the fact that they're all using European patterns. I find that an American scythe is unstoppable in difficult growth. Yes--it is a heavier tool on average. But in circumstances like this the extra weight is an advantage as it allows greater momentum that prevents the scythe from being slowed and hung up during the cutting stroke. Generally it also helps to cast your body a bit more into the stroke as if hauling back on a rope.

Here's an example of a Scotch bow mounted on a European pattern.

 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Perhaps I am just easily awed, but that seems simply fascinating! I've never been the type to come up with good ideas (that is my wifes strong point), my speacialty is taking good ideas and through trial and error making them better.
 
Jeremy Stevens
Posts: 37
Location: Tenaha, TX
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Update: My father just emailed these to me, hope they help! (and hopefully they attach ok)

Bedtime on this side of the world now, so i'll check back again tomorrow morning (tonight, in the US).
Andy-w-Scythe_1.JPG
[Thumbnail for Andy-w-Scythe_1.JPG]
scythe side view
Andy-scythe_2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Andy-scythe_2.JPG]
scythe front view
scythe-1.JPG
[Thumbnail for scythe-1.JPG]
scythe heel & tang
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Looks like the blade is pretty tired but still has life in it. All of the steel components on the scythe (blade included) could do with some good solid rust removal and heavy oiling, and the edge on the blade will need restoration. Are the nibs (side handles) still adjustable? They use a left-handed thread so it's righty-LOOSEY lefty-TIGHTY. Don't want to accidentally crank it on tighter when trying to see if it loosens! If you are able to loosen the nibs give them a good once-over with some oil as well (especially the threads) and you ought to be in business. For oil I suggest mineral oil or Ballistol.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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I believe they are, though I cant say for certain. He sent me a picture of the snath and handles, but i could only attach 3 at a time I think.
scythe-handle.JPG
[Thumbnail for scythe-handle.JPG]
snath
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Looks to be in fairly decent shape overall, which isn't as common as you might expect! Treasure that thing and use it wisely until it's all used up. I suggest saturating the entire thing with a whole bunch of mineral oil. This will both help loosen rust, prevent further corrosion, and rehydrate the wood so it isn't brittle.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Duly noted! Presumably, the mineral oil bath should be in the dis-assembled state? Also, I found the excerpt you posted from the primer you are writing and passed that on to the old man, since he said he has been using it on occasion with some limited success. Indeed, knowledge is power!
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Excellent! That reminds me that I still need to write the technique section of that guide. Never enough hours in a day! :p

Re: the mineral oil, yes I suggest taking everything off it (except the collar at the end of the snath--leave that on) and give everything metal a gentle scrubbing with steel wool to remove any rust. Then give all the parts a heavy wipedown with mineral oil and reassemble. After it's back together, apply a liberal film of the oil to all of the wooden components and allow to hang. It should be dry in 24-48 hours, the oil having absorbed into the wood. Every week for about a month and a half, give it a quick wipe with an oil-soaked paper towel and allow it to absorb. The condition will have greatly improved.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Awesome! It has occurred to me just now that I haven't thanked you for sharing this wisdom, so Thank you! Looking back on the start of this thread, I'm glad now that I decided not to treat the blade as I would a regular knife, and attempt to re-fire and re-temper the metal. I've learned quite a bit about this wonderful tool, and look forward to putting it to good use next year, when I have a chance to go home for a spell.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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My pleasure! I just happen to be amongst the small number that truly embrace the American scythe and I like to share what I can of my experiences. The blade on yours is fairly "tired" from much use and resharpening, but still has life in it yet. It has the bearded heel characteristic of the "Dutch" pattern which I find a very nice feature on reedy growth. It's a user for sure! Just take good care of that snath. Old blades in good shape are MUCH easier to find than good snaths!
 
Rufus Laggren
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A gentle way to remove rust (any kind): Let it sit in white vinegar for a day or five. Check each day. But an oil film will prevent the vinegar from acting so you must clean the surface first. Dish detergent combined with scrubbing with a steel brush will work; so will brake cleaner (read the safety warnings).

When you are happy with the rust removal you have to IMMEDIATELY rinse, dry and paint the surface. The rust starts the instant you remove it from the bath. Have your paint setup ready to go; if you have a hair dryer handy that's often the fastest way to dry a part for painting. Keep you fingers off the part to be painted - your finger oils will mess up the paint adhesion.

Rufus
 
C Shobe
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Rufus Laggren wrote:A gentle way to remove rust (any kind): Let it sit in white vinegar for a day or five. Check each day. But an oil film will prevent the vinegar from acting so you must clean the surface first. Dish detergent combined with scrubbing with a steel brush will work; so will brake cleaner (read the safety warnings).

When you are happy with the rust removal you have to IMMEDIATELY rinse, dry and paint the surface. The rust starts the instant you remove it from the bath. Have your paint setup ready to go; if you have a hair dryer handy that's often the fastest way to dry a part for painting. Keep you fingers off the part to be painted - your finger oils will mess up the paint adhesion.

Rufus


You can also use a baking soda solution to neutralize the lingering acidity, which is what encourages the rust. Then oil.
 
Jeremy Stevens
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Location: Tenaha, TX
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Casey Shobe wrote:
You can also use a baking soda solution to neutralize the lingering acidity, which is what encourages the rust. Then oil.


Seems like it's worth a shot

I've got approximately just under 100 more days until I get a chance to visit home, and try these ideas out, and see what works!
 
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