Saturday, February 7, 2015

Scythe Work

I mentioned a few months ago that I sold my weed-whacker to the neighbor and went back to the scythe and sickle for what I can’t get with my riding lawnmower. The whacker never started when I wanted to use it, partly because I didn’t use very often. Besides, in my country setting, I’m not easily upset by a few strands of long grass or a stray clump of weeds. I just do like the state road and call them “naturalized areas.” My wife isn’t so liaise-faire, though, so I still have to keep a certain semblance of order about the place.

Most of my trimming is around trees, where a whacker shouldn’t be used anyway. A sickle works just fine for such areas, as would a pair of those “hand-clippers-on-a-stick” with the little wheels on them, if I had a set. There are a few slightly larger areas where a scythe is best, plus a small area that I used to brush-hog. The section that I used to brush-hog went unmowed last year, since I sold my tractor to live on while I attended trucking school last winter. Afterward, I gave my brush-hog to a distant neighbor.

Before I tackle that larger area with a scythe, though, I need to do some modification on the snaths (handles) that I have. Three are the normal American curved style, but they don’t have enough curve to allow the mower to stand upright. The one straight snath that I have doesn’t have enough LENGTH to allow the mower to stand upright. As a result, I’ve always used the typical back-breaking style of most occasional hand-mowers and rested my back as needed. The fact is, a properly fitted snath allows the mower to stand upright, so he doesn’t have to work bent over. That would allow for easier work and fewer breaks.

I think I’ll lengthen the straight one by cutting it and then fitting both pieces into a steel tube about 18 inches long. I happen to have the rails from an old stretcher that are just the right size. As for the curved ones, I believe that I can achieve the desired effect by raising the lower cob (handgrip) by fitting an extension for it to the snath, so the snath has a forked appearance. In fact, I’ve actually seen pictures of forked snaths.

I have five blades, four of the tapered European style, plus an American brush blade. One of the European style blades has a small crack in the edge, so I’ll have to grind the blade narrower to get rid of it. I’ll probably put it on the straight snath and use it around the yard for light work. The American brush blade seems best used with the chopping action so often seen practiced by amateurs, but the European blades are best swung in a large arc. More by coincidence than good management, all of the slender European blades are Schwann brand. That was my dad’s preferred brand, though all but the one that I inherited from him came from other people.

I’ve got a LOT of small jobs around here that I’d like to get done before spring. I guess if I don’t get around to remodeling my snaths, I’ll just rest my back more often for a while. Once I get at least one scythe altered, though, the next step is to learn how to peen the blades. I have both the old-fashioned anvils for that, and the modern tubular style. Few things do a job better than the old ways, so adding another skill to my repertoire won’t hurt anything. © 2015


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I haven't used my scythe much this winter, about the only thing to cut is blackberry and wild roses. You can probably make a handle that will fit you. I have seen some that were tree limbs and have a lot of natural strength since they haven't been messed with.

Ralph Goff said...

Up here we put the scythes and sickles away when we bring out the snow shovels. At least three more months before we will see green grass.

Gorges Smythe said...

You know, SF, with a little patience, a guy could carefully bend and tie some saplings, let them grow about three years and then have a "naturally" bent snath.

Yeah, Ralph, but with my tendency to put things off, now's a good time to get started on getting ready!

Chickenmom said...

Make sure you take pics of your progress. A local farmer holds a big auction every Spring. The old hand tools are the first to go.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Our state calls the hard to cut areas Prairie Rehab areas. Funny how they are mostly around highway clover leaves or deep, deep culverts. Other than some special state parks, I have not seen a huge flat area designated for this!

Lady Locust said...

Saw a smaller one yesterday at a thrift shop for <$5. Didn't get it though, because then I might have to use it.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yeah, Cm, but I think most folks just hang them on their wall and thank their lucky stars that they don't have to use them.

Our state does such things too, Kathy. Brush and weeds are called "naturalized areas," while improperly drained mosquito-infested areas created by poorly designed highways are called "wetlands areas," (we used to call them swamps).

There's always that danger, LL, so better safe than sorry! lol