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American Stye Scythe  RSS feed

 
Robert Woden
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So I just bought an old scythe from the flea market. It is, of course, the "American style" snath, curved in 3 dimensions with the bottom of the snath probably double the diameter and weight of the top. I have been reading much criticism about the American scythe, but also finding very little information on techniques and use. I know the american style relies on upper body brawn, while the european/austrian scythes involves the entire body. What I am particularly curious about is the blade differences and am hoping someone can clear things up. The european/austrian blades are supposedly curved in 3 different ways? While the american supposedly lies flat. However, the blade on my scythe has a curve and arc to it that looks intentional (it looks very graceful) rather than a accidentally bent blade. I was wondering if anyone knows anything about this?
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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If you mean a gradual lift to the point (the blade looks to be gently "smiling" when looking at it edge-on) then it's intentional, and known as a "crown". Not all American blades come with a crown to them but it's generally looked at as a positive. The stroke with an American scythe tends to be ergonomically improved by a gentle crowning since the swing of the arms naturally wants to operate in a plane that's at an angle vs. the plane of the ground. The crown keeps the region of the blade doing the cutting more in line with the ground at any given part of the stroke without as much deliberate thought needing to be put into it. A slight side-to-side "scoop" to the cut is used with a crowned blade and once you get used to it it's much more comfortable for extended mowing sessions than one without. An uncrowned blade may have one introduced through gentle hammering of the chine (the raised lip of the spine) along its length on a good anvil.

Got any pictures of the unit you picked up? I'd be happy to tell you what I can about it.

Also, you may have seen this before, but it bears reposting: This is the present version of the guide I've written on American scythes. In examination of the technique employed I think you'll find that while the primary engine of the stroke does, indeed, come from the upper body as opposed to tension in the hips/waist/lower back, the entire body is still employed under most (though not all) normal mowing circumstances.
 
Ben Plummer
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Benjamin also has some great videos on his youtube channel of American scythes in action.
 
R Scott
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Ben Plummer wrote:Benjamin also has some great videos on his youtube channel of American scythes in action.


And usually has a beautifully restored scythe or two in stock at his store... plus some other chop and drop tools.


I prefer American style over European, but that may be because I grew up using an American blade. I do wish you could peen an American blade.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Just curious--is there a reason why you want to peen American blades? It's technically possible but requires a greater degree of skill to do properly and the increase in performance is miniscule. The harder steel of most American blades renders it unnecessary, by and large.

Bear in mind that many American blades were laminated so when you're resetting the edge be sure to grind evenly on both sides of the edge. You'll tell by the sparks when you hit the high carbon core steel--it'll shower bright sparks vs. the sparse ones of the softer cladding. A laminated blade with the edge ground unevenly will give poor results, as the soft cladding steel can end up in your edge. For the edge to be comprised of the core steel, the edge must be ground to meet it.
 
R Scott
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because I could peen out nicks after I hit a rock. No good reason.

My biggest problem is finding a snath that works for tall people.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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How tall are you? More specifically, what's the combined length of your ground-to-hip socket measurement and cubit (elbow to outstretched finger tip)? That would tell you the bare minimum length for a snath that fits you. As long as the combined length is less than 60" then a standard snath should fit you. My measurements yield a result of 52 and 3/4"

Of course this is supposing that a snath with the upper nib right at the very end would be acceptable, while the reality is that it's good to have at least 3-4" of shaft above the upper nib on which to rest your hand.
 
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