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my scythe arrived!

 
Posts: 6950
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I am enjoying this so much!

I have always dreaded mowing, especially when we had a gas push.  Now we have a great electric but still we have to wait for the grass to dry to mow and to bag especially.  I never minded the pushing, just the heat of the day.

With this scythe I can get out at my favorite time of day, dawn! and mow barefoot if I like.

I'm finally getting it well sharpened to no reflection on the apex and it's cutting nice although still a little like a bad haircut sometimes.

I might be pushing this blades limit and should get a brush blade also? I'm cutting mostly grasses but there are some stemy, almost but not quite woody things mixed in.

I don't understand what to look for to tell when it needs peening again though? Will it just cut less well?
 
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Judith Browning wrote:I am enjoying this so much!

I have always dreaded mowing, especially when we had a gas push.  Now we have a great electric but still we have to wait for the grass to dry to mow and to bag especially.  I never minded the pushing, just the heat of the day.

With this scythe I can get out at my favorite time of day, dawn! and mow barefoot if I like.

I'm finally getting it well sharpened to no reflection on the apex and it's cutting nice although still a little like a bad haircut sometimes.

I might be pushing this blades limit and should get a brush blade also? I'm cutting mostly grasses but there are some stemy, almost but not quite woody things mixed in.

I don't understand what to look for to tell when it needs peening again though? Will it just cut less well?



Thick stemmed weeds shouldn't be a problem. As far as peening goes, a rule of thumb is to do it every ~8 hours worth of use. You'll notice it needs it when touching it up with the stone no longer brings it back to the same level of cutting ease it had when freshly peened. If good and sharp, a lazy stroke on fairly short grass should cut clean.
 
pollinator
Posts: 132
Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
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Great to hear! I love mine as well. What I've noticed on mine is it will dull quickly when it needs to be peened again. The peening work hardens the edge steel and over the course of dressing the edge with stones you eventually wear through the hard layer. Being soft it gets dull much faster.

I'm currently mowing grasses that are "overgrown" and possibly too heavy for my blade, but the ditch and brush blades are heavier and more work to swing. My recommendation is to use the grass blade and take smaller bites as needed. If you take a slice and the blade stops on a thicker patch, either touch up the blade or take another light slice at it, just don't try to force the blade through. That is exhausting. If you are getting into real stalky/woody/stemmy stuff then a ditch blade might not be a bad idea.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Caleb Mayfield wrote:Great to hear! I love mine as well. What I've noticed on mine is it will dull quickly when it needs to be peened again. The peening work hardens the edge steel and over the course of dressing the edge with stones you eventually wear through the hard layer. Being soft it gets dull much faster.

I'm currently mowing grasses that are "overgrown" and possibly too heavy for my blade, but the ditch and brush blades are heavier and more work to swing. My recommendation is to use the grass blade and take smaller bites as needed. If you take a slice and the blade stops on a thicker patch, either touch up the blade or take another light slice at it, just don't try to force the blade through. That is exhausting. If you are getting into real stalky/woody/stemmy stuff then a ditch blade might not be a bad idea.



Some elaboration here. Peening does increase the hardness of the steel a bit, but doesn't increase resistance to abrasive wear. It increases the hardness by disrupting the crystal lattice of the steel rather than fundamentally changing its phase. So what it's doing is causing a reduction in ductility and increasing resistance to plastic deformation. Dulling occurs in two primary modes: abrasive wear and plastic deformation. So the hardness helps keep the otherwise very soft steel of Euro blades (typically about 45 Rockwell C hardness, which is as soft as a common hardware store axe) from being so prone to rolling and deforming as it otherwise would. That does increase edge retention, but it's not going to change how the edge responds to, for instance, cutting grasses that are high in silica, accidentally hitting dirt/anthills, and so on. Basically the chief advantage of the work hardening is in increasing the edge stability. But the primary reason to peen is because it thins the geometry immediately behind the edge, allowing it to cut easier with less "wedging" force. The closer to the apex of the edge you get, the greater the order of magnitude by which the geometry affects cutting performance. So while the very edge itself imparts the greatest degree of influence by far, the thickness of the edge right behind it still matters a lot. This thickens up over repeated honing, and is the big reason why frequent peening is so important. It maintains a thin and penetrating cutting geometry. The fact that it also work hardens the edge is kind of just a bonus because they made the blade soft and thin enough to make peening easier. It's kind of an inter-related system of factors, but the largest reason for it all is maintaining a thin geometry. :)
 
Judith Browning
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Benjamin, I know I haven't scythed anywhere near eight hours yet so that's good to know.  I'm only cutting a little most mornings for not even a half hour...pretty much until I notice I'm hacking or pulling instead of swinging.
Sometimes I am able to do this as you mentioned  "a lazy stroke on fairly short grass should cut clean"  

Calab, Thanks!  What I have is a ditch blade.  I knew I would rarely be cutting just grass. I doubt I ever cut anything heavier than what I am now so maybe it's good enough and one day I'll get a grass blade also.  Are you mowing pasture?  My husband was the scythe person on our old farm until his back surgery.  He has an American scythe that worked well for him but size wise did not for me. (and we did not have Benjamin's expertise to call on back then)  This was back before we were connected to the internet so I had no other advice and always thought it was something I would never be able to do.   That is making it doubly enjoyable now  
 
Caleb Mayfield
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Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
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Judith Browning wrote:
Calab, Thanks!  What I have is a ditch blade.  I knew I would rarely be cutting just grass. I doubt I ever cut anything heavier than what I am now so maybe it's good enough and one day I'll get a grass blade also.  Are you mowing pasture?  My husband was the scythe person on our old farm until his back surgery.  He has an American scythe that worked well for him but size wise did not for me. (and we did not have Benjamin's expertise to call on back then)  This was back before we were connected to the internet so I had no other advice and always thought it was something I would never be able to do.   That is making it doubly enjoyable now  



Judith, I'm mowing what my wife and I have agreed to call "yard" versus "lawn". The yard might as well be pasture at this point, but I've just about gotten caught up now. Finally had some applicants and hired two. I get a day off once a week now! Some parts of the yard were thin but tall, and our south slope is thick and tall. It is a real workout even though the blade is sharp and cutting well. It's a lot of grass to move into a windrow. I started with a 30" American pattern grass blade on an old snath I cleaned up. It was an American Pattern wooden snath my grandfather had in one of the barns for an unknown number of decades. I never quite got the feel for it and ordered a new snath from Scythe Supply. Game changer. Getting into the heavier grass with the 30" blade was getting to be too much so I ordered a 26" grass blade and it was as much a game changer as the new snath was.

My desire is to mow the yard areas with the scythe when they get mid shin to knee high and try laying it up for hay mulch this fall. I bought Ian Miller's Scything Handbook and want to try a few things from it if I get the chance this year. If not, then next year.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Caleb Mayfield wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:
Calab, Thanks!  What I have is a ditch blade.  I knew I would rarely be cutting just grass. I doubt I ever cut anything heavier than what I am now so maybe it's good enough and one day I'll get a grass blade also.  Are you mowing pasture?  My husband was the scythe person on our old farm until his back surgery.  He has an American scythe that worked well for him but size wise did not for me. (and we did not have Benjamin's expertise to call on back then)  This was back before we were connected to the internet so I had no other advice and always thought it was something I would never be able to do.   That is making it doubly enjoyable now  



Judith, I'm mowing what my wife and I have agreed to call "yard" versus "lawn". The yard might as well be pasture at this point, but I've just about gotten caught up now. Finally had some applicants and hired two. I get a day off once a week now! Some parts of the yard were thin but tall, and our south slope is thick and tall. It is a real workout even though the blade is sharp and cutting well. It's a lot of grass to move into a windrow. I started with a 30" American pattern grass blade on an old snath I cleaned up. It was an American Pattern wooden snath my grandfather had in one of the barns for an unknown number of decades. I never quite got the feel for it and ordered a new snath from Scythe Supply. Game changer. Getting into the heavier grass with the 30" blade was getting to be too much so I ordered a 26" grass blade and it was as much a game changer as the new snath was.

My desire is to mow the yard areas with the scythe when they get mid shin to knee high and try laying it up for hay mulch this fall. I bought Ian Miller's Scything Handbook and want to try a few things from it if I get the chance this year. If not, then next year.



You may actually find that a heavier blade works better in those mowing conditions. Another way to mimic this would be attaching a weight to the business end of the snath. Most of the work in a stroke isn't in the cutting, but rather in the carrying of the cut material into the windrow. That means the start of the stroke requires the least amount of energy input while the end of the stroke requires the most. A heavier blade/snath is slower to start, but the excess energy is stored as inertia that can be expended at the end of the stroke, and so it evens out how much effort your body has to put into the stroke at any given point along it. This is one of the several reasons I prefer my American scythes in most contexts of use. For general purpose mowing I find a light snath with a 30" grass blade weighing 1lb 8oz to 1lb 12oz to be ideal. Once you learn how to work with the weight rather than against it, it makes mowing heavy vegetation much more pleasant.
 
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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Haha...yes, yard  explains much better than 'lawn'.   We try to keep the front yard a little tidier so our neighbors here don't freak out but the back yard and orchard and along the creek, the edges of the gardens are a lot less visible and those are the spaces I'm cutting, slowly....a nice full wheelbarrow each time I cut and we use for garden mulch.

One day, when I get good, I would like to scythe out front and see what the riding lawn mower crowd might say  They are already surprised that an electric push mower can cut this much and this well.
 
Judith Browning
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This is the area out back, down by the branch to the creek.

I mowed two swaths next to the fence with the push mower as I was afraid I would swing into the wire and then, it looks like my swing ended too soon and my pile of grass was on uncut stuff....anyway, I got two extra full wheelbarrows just off of that small area that went immediately to the garden to mulch the tomatoes.



IMG_6852.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_6852.JPG]
 
Judith Browning
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This morning cutting was even easier.

I had done two things before starting...one was use a course stone to add a 'toothy' edge (as Benjamin suggested) and then sharpen.

The other was to 'open' the angle of the blade some.  I had been keeping it set at what I think Scythe Supply called 'closed'? They said that that would be easier for beginners I believe.

I think the difference must be in the blade angle because I have sharpened that way once before...it did make the bermuda cut easier but this was even smoother?

I have to brag a little about my new found sharpening skill at 68...my husband, who has kept everything quite sharp for the house, farm and his woodworking tools for more than forty years, says I have it sharper than he ever had his....(and I have a new bandaid to prove it )


 
Benjamin Bouchard
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The funny thing about a closed hang is that depending on your stroke, dimensions, and the particular curve of your blade, it's possible to accidentally set the blade so closed that part or even all of the blade ends up trailing during the cut, so the edge is actually moving away from the grass! So definitely, for some units and users, a more open hang will give the best results, even if you're looking for a fairly shallow swath!
 
Caleb Mayfield
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Finding the sweet spot on the angle makes a world of difference. I experimented with mine for a couple hours when I first started. Not only the angle, but my stance and stroke. You know it when you find the right combo.

Glad it's going so well!
 
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