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Need help regarding scythes

 
Tim Nam
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Location: Arcata, CA zone 9b
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We have a couple American style scythes with either poorly functioning or non existent ring clamp side handles. Been unsuccessful
Locating replacements but haven't tried everywhere yet. I'm just wondering if it's even worth it. From what I've read, the Austrian scythes are much lighter and better to use. I'm sure I could sharpen the blades but ... Im not intending to mow lawn necessarily more cover crop terminating and farm chop n drop type stuff. Thanks for any advice
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 1986
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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American Snaths This is the best place I've found to purchase parts or even complete Snaths for American scythes.

snath restoration
This is a forum with good photos and explanations of the American scythe and snath parts.

To use your blades for chop and drop, you will still need to peen the blade edge, just not as thin as the European grass, haying blades are done. Once peened, you can then hone at a 23 degree angle so the edge will hold on with out nicking or breaking out.

I have one and love it for slicing through blackberry canes that are 1-1.5 cm thick at the base, it works like a charm for me.
 
Tim Nam
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Location: Arcata, CA zone 9b
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Just want to note prior to this original posting that my search on permies for previous discussion regarding scythes, etc came up empty! But searching from yahoo yielded previous permies threads! Looks like the jury's still out re American vs Austrian style. I'm leaning toward new snaths for the old existing blades
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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While I do like the Austrian made blades and snaths, I have not yet purchased one. The fact that I would need three different blades, one for grass, one for heavier stalks and one for brush, is a bit daunting money wise at the moment. My Old (made in 1890) Kent blade still has years of use in it, even though the previous owner filed it to sharp, which for most American blades is the correct method, instead of peening and honing. Once I got it de-rusted I gave the edge a light peening on my blacksmiths anvil to bring it back to proper form, then ran it over a grinding wheel before I brought it to razor sharp with my water stones. I left it with a steep angle edge for now so I can cut brush and blackberry canes with it, the canes tend to not attach themselves to my arms or legs as I mow them down with my scythe. Wolf, my wife has informed me that this scythe will be hung on the wall once I am through with using it. She has also informed me that "IF you want to continue scything, you will get the Austrian one you showed me!" I'm guessing I will own at least one of those blades in a year from now.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Tim Nam wrote:Just want to note prior to this original posting that my search on permies for previous discussion regarding scythes, etc came up empty! But searching from yahoo yielded previous permies threads! Looks like the jury's still out re American vs Austrian style. I'm leaning toward new snaths for the old existing blades


I might venture a statement here in that I believe it isn't an argument about which tool is better than the other. I offer that there are scythes that are better suited to different jobs. Notwithstanding costs, what may help in determining which scythe someone uses will depend on their property and their intended uses. However, advocates for both designs use them for a wide range of uses. But, my point is that it isn't a matter of which design we all think is the best.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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[quote=Dan Grubbs I might venture a statement here in that I believe it isn't an argument about which tool is better than the other. I offer that there are scythes that are better suited to different jobs. Notwithstanding costs, what may help in determining which scythe someone uses will depend on their property and their intended uses. However, advocates for both designs use them for a wide range of uses. But, my point is that it isn't a matter of which design we all think is the best.


Very true, also a truth is that the scythe is not for everyone, and it may not be the best tool to choose for certain tasks. I have a commercial trimmer ( equipped with both string and blade attachments ) as well as my scythe and both are very useful for different reasons. I have used several European designs and the American designs, all are great if you like the scythe, it is much easier today to locate and buy the European designs as the only American blades I have been able to find are considered antiques.
 
Peter Ellis
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There is a "Scything Improver's" page on Facebook, where a number of people with diverse interests provide loads of good information. Among them is Benjamin Bouchard, rather an authority on the American scythe Ben also posts here.

With regard to sharpening American scythes - if they are hardened according to the prevalent standards for American scythes, rather than to European standards, then peening is likely to crack the blade. They are simply too hard for peening and are meant to be sharpened with a stone.

As to which is "better", the current generation of scythe enthusiasts in North America has grown up almost entirely with Austrian style blades. This leads to many statements being made about how superior the Austrian blades are, coming from people that have never handled an American scythe. I've not had the chance to work with an American blade myself, but if you look around on youtube you can find some interesting video, including footage of a couple of octagenarians happily mowing away with their American style blades and snaths. Watching those gentlemen made it very clear to me that arguments about the American scythe being "too heavy" cannot be taken seriously
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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You can not peen an American blade like you would do an Austrian or other European blade. As you mention Peter, they are to hard for that to be useful, also the blade shape is not conducive to true scythe peening. I used my blacksmith hammer and anvil to gently nudge the metal blade back into shape, not to thin the edge. I still went very slowly and used light blows to move the metal where it belonged. My Kent blade is not a "bimetal" type blade, it is a single piece forging. It only took me five days to locate the literature from the company that made my blade. Thank goodness my library had the information in the reference only area.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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An old Emerson & Stevens catalog page from my collection showing the lamination of their premium American scythe blades:



For those unfamiliar with the methodology of the American pattern scythe, see my guide on the subject HERE.

As far as which is better, there are good scythes and bad scythes, regardless of pattern. With regards to weight, this unit is well under the weight of, for instance, a typical Scythe Supply "Austrian" scythe. Many American snaths out there are overbuilt because post-1920's the largest purchasers of scythes were the railroads supplying their crews to maintain their rights of way. You have clerks trying to pinch pennies and relatively low-skill grunts doing the labor and so good thin and light grass snaths were more costly and broken more frequently. The clerks were doing the buying, not the using, and so asked for scythe snaths able to withstand abuse. Even the majority of grass snaths were made with the skill level of the average mower in mind rather than the expert. Most snaths benefit from a bit of shaving down with a spokeshave to lighten them up, and give them the dimensions of one of those snaths made for adept mowers.

DO NOT peen American blades. In addition to the potential for cracking, peening would also incorrectly form the bevel as single-sided. If the blade is laminated it must be ground equally from both sides so the edge rides in the center of the web; otherwise the edge will be comprised of the soft cladding iron instead of the glassy-hard "cast steel" or "shear steel" core. Peening only has an advantage as a beveling method because it does not use consumables, but the effects on hardness are overblown.

For supplies I bear the distinction of currently being the only retailer to specialize in the American pattern. I'm working with Seymour Midwest Tools (the last manufacturer of American snaths) to get the problems with their No.1 ash snath fixed. They currently have a fatal flaws with them that are easily corrected in the manufacturing stages but render the final item a very poor tool. The aluminum models are just fine, though.

All in all, American scythes are just as fantastic as their Austrian counterparts. But they use different design principles and so you cannot use the one quite the same way as the other although they share the same purposes.
 
Isaac Bickford
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Location: Okanogan County, WA
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I can vouch for Benjamin. I bought a scythe and aluminum snath from him last summer and have been quite pleased.
 
Abraham Palmer
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I broke my hickory snath trying to cut down some mature sorghum with a grass blade.  I was only cutting down a few and thought what harm could come if I did it gently, but then I read on the web after the fact that this is a major user error.  Given the cost of snath's these days, I'm going to try to fabricate one out of bamboo.  I have a length picked out that already has one nice curve in it and I've read how you can heat green bamboo and then clamp it while it cools to make the second curve.  Please post if you know using bamboo for this purpose is a stupid idea in advance, but otherwise I'll post the results of the experiment.  Maybe if that doesn't work, I could bend some aluminum electrical conduit. [I've been reading the forums for a while, but this is my first-time posting so hello all  ]
 
David Livingston
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Abraham
Was this a straight snath or a curved one ?
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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If it was hickory it was almost certainly a Marugg Euro-style snath. They're the only ones I know of using hickory for snaths.
 
Abraham Palmer
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David Livingston wrote:Abraham
Was this a straight snath or a curved one ?

It has two gentle curves - one at each end. I don't know the specific type, but it was built specifically for the Austrian-style blade. 
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Is that the Canadian snath? Looks more like it. In which case it'd be ash, rather than hickory. If you bought it from Lehman's or Scythe Works it's the Canadian.
 
Abraham Palmer
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:Is that the Canadian snath? Looks more like it. In which case it'd be ash, rather than hickory. If you bought it from Lehman's or Scythe Works it's the Canadian.

I got it from a local guy and am not sure where it came from and certainly could be wrong about my memory of the wood-type.  Sorry to lead anyone astray.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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No apology necessary! I only make mention of the wood type because hickory would be fairly significant in identifying the maker because of only one company using the wood. There's a reason for that, though--hickory is great for when you want flexibility, like in an axe handle, but not as good when you want rigidity because it's a very heavy wood. Ash is usually preferred in snaths for its strength/weight ratio, though many English snaths used willow. Willow is very light and not very strong, but that means you can use a larger cross section to achieve your required weight and still have a very light snath. Since rigidity increases cubically in thickness, a thicker snath becomes much more rigid, so when after rigidity you're looking for a light wood that's strong enough when it has that larger cross section.

A photograph of the grips on your snath would confirm it, but I'm pretty sure that's a Canadian snath by the look of them. They look quite Vidonian.
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