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New old scythe, need advice  RSS feed

 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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I found this used scythe on ebay for 8 bucks (paid a lot more for shipping to Colombia than for the scythe itself, which is why I have resisted buying one until now) and I just couldn't resist. The pictures showed that it had a ring attached to it, but it wasn't clearly visible how. For some reason the previous owner decided to weld the ring to the tang, which almost completely destroyed the markings on the tang. Fortunately some letters were still visible and I have been able to find out that it has a TrueTemper marking so I am fairly certain that it's an american scythe. I think that works fine for me since it is impossible to find any peening tools here (no one sells or uses scythes here, this is weed wacker and machete country) and I would have had to improvise, however grind sharpening equipment should be easier to find.

I have been able to remove a lot of rust with an abrasive pad and steel wool, but there is still quite a bit, specially in small and difficult to reach spots. Is there anything I can use to chemically remove some of this rust without compromising or damaging the steel? Could I use a rotary tool with a brush attachment or will this cause any harm?

Can someone point me to good instructions on sharpening with a file? I also have access to a small bench grinder that can work at low revs but the wheel is only 4 inches in diameter and less than 1 inch thick - could I use this or do I risk damaging the blade?

Should I separate the tang from the ring? Again here I can use my rotary tool with a disc cutter and take them apart. Are there any potential issues?

I will also have to make my own snath. I have some experience using bamboo from making two bicycle frames from it, so I will try to use it also for the snath because it is light and strong and I can harvest some for free. I have read the articles on snath making at ScytheConnection and it seems doable for me, but I would like to know if there are any special considerations on making a snath for an american blade.
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Tang with markings
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Charles Tarnard
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Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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Search electrolysis rust removal. I haven't done it, but I've seen results and it's pretty fantastic.

I think you'll have a hard time getting the blade sharp enough with a file, unless it is super fine. I use a hand file to retouch while I use the scythe and a stone to sharpen mine between a handful of uses, and while it's not the best it works well enough for as little as I use it. I don't have much experience with grinding wheels.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Charles Tarnard wrote:

I think you'll have a hard time getting the blade sharp enough with a file, unless it is super fine. I use a hand file to retouch while I use the scythe and a stone to sharpen mine between a handful of uses, and while it's not the best it works well enough for as little as I use it. I don't have much experience with grinding wheels.


Thank you Charles. What kind of stone do you use to sharpen and how do you do it? The American Scythe Primer from Baryonix Knive mentions that a puck axe stone could also be used instead of or together with the file. Is that what you use?
 
Charles Tarnard
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Juan Sebastian Estrada wrote:
Charles Tarnard wrote:

I think you'll have a hard time getting the blade sharp enough with a file, unless it is super fine. I use a hand file to retouch while I use the scythe and a stone to sharpen mine between a handful of uses, and while it's not the best it works well enough for as little as I use it. I don't have much experience with grinding wheels.


Thank you Charles. What kind of stone do you use to sharpen and how do you do it? The American Scythe Primer from Baryonix Knive mentions that a puck axe stone could also be used instead of or together with the file. Is that what you use?


No, it's just a generic two sides stone I got at an Ace hardware. I think it's 500/1000 grit. Rectangular, about 2x4x1 or so.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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That's an American scythe blade, believe it or not my ace hardware carries an aluminum handle for that type.... Austrian scythes are very popular but are physically different so filter any info you get through the knowledge that your blade is flat not curved in three directions. That is a good price!
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Charles Tarnard wrote:

No, it's just a generic two sides stone I got at an Ace hardware. I think it's 500/1000 grit. Rectangular, about 2x4x1 or so.


How do you use it? do you drag the blade across the stone as you would do with a knife? or do you drag the stone against the edge of the blade in a particular motion?
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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What kind of snath do you guys recommend for this type of blade? will a straight pole work fine or are the curved snaths specifically better suited to american scyhtes?
 
Josiah Miller
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I posted a similar thread a year or so ago. original thread

There was alot of helpful replies, and links to other threads scythe related.

Benjamin Bouchard has some great videos and pdf files explaining american Scythe use and maintenance. Most of it's listed on his website http://www.baryonyxknife.com/. It was really helpful when I was revamping a scythe for some homegrown barley harvest.

Hope that helps,
Josiah
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Josiah Miller wrote:
I posted a similar thread a year or so ago. original thread

There was alot of helpful replies, and links to other threads scythe related.

Benjamin Bouchard has some great videos and pdf files explaining american Scythe use and maintenance. Most of it's listed on his website http://www.baryonyxknife.com/. It was really helpful when I was revamping a scythe for some homegrown barley harvest.

Hope that helps,
Josiah


Thanks Josiah,

I have indeed watched the videos from Benjamin, hence my original question on sharpening with a bench grinder or file because I don't have access to a low speed grindstone like the one he uses. He has a recent video showing how one could use a file to sharpen but I still would like to get as much information as I can so that I don't damage my already used and worn blade.



Thanks for the link to the other post, lots of great details there.
 
Charles Tarnard
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My snath is probably a bit small for me at 6'2", but even with that I can tell you a curved snag is going to be the way to go. It allows you to swing without doing much body twisting or bending and over the course of the job that is cumulative strain you are avoiding.

I think a straight snath would force you to use it like a rake or do a lot of bending and that's not near as efficient.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Charles Tarnard wrote:My snath is probably a bit small for me at 6'2", but even with that I can tell you a curved snag is going to be the way to go. It allows you to swing without doing much body twisting or bending and over the course of the job that is cumulative strain you are avoiding.

I think a straight snath would force you to use it like a rake or do a lot of bending and that's not near as efficient.


Thanks, now I need to find some instructions on how to make a curved snath, its dimensions and so on. Any ideas?
 
Bill Erickson
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Juan, a usable chemical for converting rust is plain old soda pop - specifically a cola like Coke or Pepsi - but any one with a really high phosphoric acid content (extremely mild compared to full concentration) should do the trick. Put it into a container and cover the blade with the cola, let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes, remove it, let it sit for another 15 to 20 minutes, rinse it off with clean water and then dry it. That actually will keep more of your metal intact as opposed to wire brushing or scraping off the rust.
 
Charles Tarnard
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Juan Sebastian Estrada wrote:
Charles Tarnard wrote:My snath is probably a bit small for me at 6'2", but even with that I can tell you a curved snag is going to be the way to go. It allows you to swing without doing much body twisting or bending and over the course of the job that is cumulative strain you are avoiding.

I think a straight snath would force you to use it like a rake or do a lot of bending and that's not near as efficient.


Thanks, now I need to find some instructions on how to make a curved snath, its dimensions and so on. Any ideas?


Sorry, if I were to take the time to work a new one for me it would be little better than guesswork. I can tell you you want the handles to be reasonably level, to have your arms be able to hang loosely at cutting height and the blade to be turned up just a bit in the direction of the cut, but how to get that into a shape is a bit of a mystery without the trial and error.

 
allen lumley
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Juan Sebastian Estrada : When ever a new post is created ( just exactly like this one was) Our Permies computer looks for key words to form a list of similar topics ,

and then posts that listing to the bottom of this page in a group called " Similar Topics'' That and learning how to use the Permiws search engine to look thought the

100s of thousands of Prior postings is a special and unlimited tool to al members ! For the good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Peter Ellis
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Benjamin at Baryonyx is The Man for American scythe info. Best source for the right answers to all of your questions. He is very helpful and generous with information.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Peter Ellis wrote:Benjamin at Baryonyx is The Man for American scythe info. Best source for the right answers to all of your questions. He is very helpful and generous with information.


Thanks, I have indeed asked him a couple of questions on youtube which he has answered almost immediately. I was hoping that he would eventually read this thread and guide me on myother questions. Maybe I'll send him a purple mooseage to try and get his attention, I just don't want to abuse his generosity.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Just a quick response to let you know I got your message and will respond soon. I'm a little tied up at the moment with business work (a winter storm cut our internet for a few days, which caused a backlog of work) but as soon as I do a little catching up I'll post what I can. This'll be a bit of a challenging topic since there's a lot going on with it. I can tell you, though, that that blade is VERY "tired" (a good way through its usable life span) and the reason it was probably welded to the collar (negating the advantage of the adjustable heel plate) is because one of the previous owners broke or lost the retaining loop bolt. You can use a straight snath but it'll use a different stroke style that's mostly right-hand driven and you may experience left shoulder fatigue in heavier mowing conditions with one. If you've built a bicycle frame you can probably make a curved or at least stemmed snath without much issue, but there will be certain factors to consider when doing so. A dry, high-speed grinding wheel can technically be used, but you have to be working the top of the wheel and you need a steady hand and light touch.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote:Just a quick response to let you know I got your message and will respond soon. I'm a little tied up at the moment with business work (a winter storm cut our internet for a few days, which caused a backlog of work) but as soon as I do a little catching up I'll post what I can. This'll be a bit of a challenging topic since there's a lot going on with it. I can tell you, though, that that blade is VERY "tired" (a good way through its usable life span) and the reason it was probably welded to the collar (negating the advantage of the adjustable heel plate) is because one of the previous owners broke or lost the retaining loop bolt. You can use a straight snath but it'll use a different stroke style that's mostly right-hand driven and you may experience left shoulder fatigue in heavier mowing conditions with one. If you've built a bicycle frame you can probably make a curved or at least stemmed snath without much issue, but there will be certain factors to consider when doing so. A dry, high-speed grinding wheel can technically be used, but you have to be working the top of the wheel and you need a steady hand and light touch.


Thanks a lot Benjamin, I look forward to your comments.

The loop bolt was probably broken, there are still parts of it attached to the collar and the threaded part of the bolt is also still inside the collar welded to it. I do hope to be able to "break" everything apart so that it will receive a loop bolt again.

I suspected as much about its remaining life, but at least I can gain some practice on handling, maintaining and using it for when I can get a better one in the future.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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For dry grinding, work at an angle over the top of the wheel like so. This works with with bonded abrasive wheels or belt grinder contact wheels like this one. The belt is running away from me.



For a snath, you're simply trying to connect the blade to the hands, and the way you do it can be accomplished in a number of different ways. In general, there are 4 basic families of snaths: Slavic, Nordic, Austrian, and Anglo-American. The names merely indicate the regions most strongly associated with those regions--not to say that they're exclusive or unique to them. A Slavic snath is straight, with a single grip for the right hand, and the left hand uses an underhand hold on the butt end of the snath. The rest all have the hands at nearly the same height: The Nordic snath has a straight shaft running through the right hand with a stem dropped down for the left hand grip. The Austrian snath has a straight shaft running to the left hand, with a stem raised for the right hand. The Anglo-American snath runs a straight line to the right hand, but then bends and runs to the left hand, eliminating the need for a stem.

 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Benjamin Bouchard wrote: The Anglo-American snath runs a straight line to the right hand, but then bends and runs to the left hand, eliminating the need for a stem.



So is the curvature more of an aesthetic thing or does it add any mechanical advantage? is there any relationship between the distance between hands (or grips) and the arc (radius?) of the curvature?

Also it seems to me that there is also a slight bend (towards the left or in the direction of the blade's travel) at the end of the snath where the collar is mounted. Is is critical and how is it defined?

Thanks for all the valuable info.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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A bend in the neck of any snath serves to reduce the angle required for the blade's tang. The more in-line with the blade the tang is, the stronger it is at resisting forces on it. American blades traditionally came with the tang dead flat, because with the strong curve in the neck of American snaths, only about 10-15° usually needed to be added to bring the edge suitably low. You can still mow with a blade laying too upward, but you can't mow with a blade that lays excessively low. It was typically the job of the local blacksmith to set your tang properly for your biometrics, snath, and mowing conditions. You'd let him know how much of an angle you wanted, and he'd set it for you. Many folks cheaped out, though, and tried to set their tang by locking the heel of the blade in a vise and cranking it, which lifted the tang but also but a twist in the heel of your blade that kept it from cutting effectively. Today you can either do the job yourself or have a local mechanic, machine shop, or (if you're lucky enough to have one) blacksmith do the job for you. I go over the details here.

The overall curves of the American scythe mostly have to do with the fact that they're steam bent. So, given a sufficiently strong joint, you don't strictly need it to have curves if you're able to produce angles.

For the overall styles of snaths, Slavic and Nordic snaths work best with the right hand providing the force and the left hand as the pivot. The Austrian style works best with the left hand providing the force and the right hand as the pivot. The American style can be used interchangeably, but with the blade weight is usually best used with the left hand providing the force and the right hand as the pivot.

 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Finally managed to sepaarate the blade from the collar. Used an angle grinder and dremel with cutting discs and managed to do almost no damage to the tang and none at all to the blade. Still need to grind away a lot of weld but at least now I can work on them separately.



Now that they are apart it is more evident that the tang has been heavily bent and I will probably have to straighten it back some. I'm actually puzzled because it eems to me that when the blade is lying flat the collai would point up at an angle of over 45 degrees. Isn't that too steep?

I'm 1.7 meters tall ( or should I say short? ) or about 5'7". Is there a range in which the angle of the tang will suit me better or at least from which I should start adjusting by trial and error?
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Benjamin Bouchard
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Oh my goodness! Yes that's QUITE steep! The angle on a typical American blade would only be 10-15° on average, and almost never over 20°. Most European blades have an angle under 30°. The exact degree range that's good for you will depend on your snath (and its tuning) your own biometrics, and how high you actually want the edge to ride above the ground when performing a "neutral" stroke, but that tang is very clearly way out of the correct range.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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After many weeks the scythe is coming into shape. I wasn't able to bend the bamboo into the american type snaths shape. I don't have a torch strong enough to heat it uniformly or a way to steam it, so I decided to go for a slavic type and make a handle. You can see the pictures of the process for bending a bamboo piece at a 90º (almost) angle by making a series of "v" cuts for the handle. Afterwards it was glued and fixed in this position using epoxy resin reinforced with jute fiber and attached to the snath using a bicycle's seat tube clamp that I had at hand (this way it can be moved along the snath like a nib by loosening and tightening the clamp).

The blade is attached to the collar using a loop bolt of the kind used for tightening steel cables. The blade was taken to a blacksmith to correct the angle of the tang but it still has a long way to go to be sharp. Right now it cuts through small brush (like bracken or small plants) without effort, but the grass remains untouched by it. I also have a lot of practice ahead of me to learn not to drive the tip into the ground . All things considered I'm happy with the progress I've made so far, I hope this will also be useful to others.
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Making cuts in the bamboo to bend it
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The bent piece being glued and ready to be reinforced
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The bamboo snath
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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I'll probably also make or attach another small handle to the butt of the snath to see if that is more comfortable than the underhand grip of the snath itself.

Attached is another picture showing the blade attached to the snath.
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