Who else uses a scythe?

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I've just about finished mowing weeds with my sweet weeding rig for now so, with high temperatures approaching 100 degrees, I decided to limit my field work and finish my Russian hayin' wild cherry offset snath. It has a Russian Arti "no. 10" blade on it (10 hands in length = 100 cm in Russia). I've already learned that I don't like the traditional underhand left hand hold on single grip Russian or "eastern" snaths, because the left hand is too high and close to the shoulder to fully complete a forward stroke to the 90 degree point, which is often fine for weeding the thick and heavy nasties but a real hindrance in a nicely cultivated hay field. On the advice of the late Peter Vido (ScytheConnected blog and "Big Book of the Scythe, Vol. I"), I tried an overhand left hand hold on the snath and yes, it works to a very good end, as Peter said. It allows the mower to finish the forward stroke as if "putting the left hand in their rear pocket", which I find to be impossible with the traditional underhand grip and it is also one of my mowing "zen things."

Next I made a second removable/adjustable traditionally fabricated Russian style grip for my left land. The hand angle is the same as the ~11 o'clock position I use for my Seymour upper nib. Though two grips may be unconventional in a Russian snath (the Lithuanian variant sports a rather strange looking under the snath bent upper grip), I like using the second grip too, and it doesn't interfere with an overhand hand hold so I can mow with both styles and find out if one or the other option is better for me.

I made this scythe to be the opposite of my Seymour no. 9 / NWT Earle Special weed blade. This Russian style scythe is all about lightness, though it is also 78" long (my height plus "one hand.") I had to leave enough room to be able to stick the traditional pointy upper tip (spear tip shape) into soft earth during rest periods in the field! ;)

The length and grip positions (a "long cubit" separation) are all about field work. The cherry wildwood snath is nominally 29 to 30 cm in diameter--as light as I dared to go with my draw knife. My digital scale just crapped out so I'll have to weigh it after I obtain a replacement scale.

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Peter Vido also advocated offset snaths for long blades. It turned out that this offset is actually more than is needed for the light 645 g Arti no. 10, but it still balances perfectly with either single or double adjustable grips. His brother, Alexander, also explained to me how Peter was an advocate of hook nose blades. Time will tell whether or not I grow to share his enthusiasm for them. BTW, Russian bent grips have two sides to them, tensioned together with twine; the sides of each grip to be held in hand are the ones most visible in the above photo. Yes--they are close to vertical in use (~11 o'clock), but that's the position that balances the light Arti no. 10 perfectly and I don't find the grip positions to be ergonomically unsatisfactory.

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There's still plenty of timothy behind me for practice (8 acres worth of practice)! Though it's drying daily, my daughter's little goats still prefer it to store-bought bales. I need to finish my hay rake project and build at least a haystack or two for winter use.

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When finishing a forward stroke by "putting my left hand in my rear pocket", more than 180 degrees of arc is easily attainable.
 
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FortyTwoBlades

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Very nice! It does look as though your edge is possibly running a touch low, though it could just be the photos. I do find that the longer Arti blades get a bit floppy, and so are best used for sparse growth where there are relatively patchy stalks but a large area to cover to get them all, and the long blade saves wasted strokes. Perhaps their experiments with American-style ribs will help them stiffen their longer blades. :)
 
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Very nice! It does look as though your edge is possibly running a touch low, though it could just be the photos.
Thanks, FortyTwo! Yes--I think you are correct and I might need a slightly thicker wedge between the tang and the snath for a bit more edge lift. The lift built into the bend at the end of this snath requires approximately the same tang lift as my No. 9. snath and my Arti no. 7 blade's tang that I bent to fit my No. 9 will probably be a good fit. Once I'm happy with all geometries, I can bend this no. 10 tang too, rather than use a wedge, and add a snath saver. (I haven't touched its tang with torch yet.)
I do find that the longer Arti blades get a bit floppy, and so are best used for sparse growth where there are relatively patchy stalks but a large area to cover to get them all, and the long blade saves wasted strokes. Perhaps their experiments with American-style ribs will help them stiffen their longer blades. :)
Agreed. It is somewhat floppy and it requires extra concentration to keep it running as smoothly as possible. After rolling out the steel initially, it seems that Arti has not found a way to work much concavity into the web of the blade (or "tension" it, as everyone seems to call it). I'm very interested in seeing what you and Arti come up with in the development of American pattern blades. Agreed; what they learn from it may lead to some new innovations.

I got this new/old inventory blade from Alexander Vido. It was made by Sonnleithner of Austria in the early 1960s during "the era of superb workmanship", as his brother said. It's 90cm and 610 g. I have not even mounted it yet but it will definitely not be floppy! You can't really appreciate the extreme web concavity from the photo, but it is very significant. The edge passed the "fingernail" stress test right from the old factory too.

I love the classic quality blades--in European or American form! This Sonnleithner will probably get its own snath, once I accrue more learnings from my current snath project.
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FortyTwoBlades

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After rolling out the steel initially, it seems that Arti has not found a way to work much concavity into the web of the blade (or "tension" it, as everyone seems to call it).

Actually, that's not tensioning so much as just a mechanical form that provides increased rigidity. Think of it as one giant rib, or like half of a tube vs. a flat form made of an equal quantity of material. Tensioning is the cold peening performed to the body of the blade after heat treatment. Arti does do some of that, but due to their blades being a little on the thick side compared to most Euro-style blades and their higher hardness it makes it difficult for them to use that method to increase the rigidity without causing cracking. Hence why an American-style rib makes more sense for blades with hard steel. A combination of slightly increased thickness (which increases rigidity cubically with an increase in the direction of strain) and a rib (which provides this same effect without adding much to the material required to produce the implement) make for a very rigid blade. Tensioning does increase rigidity of the blade's body, but does also increase the risk of crack propagation should one occur, so there are some practical limits to that, as well. The Russian blades sit at the threshold between design schools, and it gives them some eccentricities compared to more typical examples of either style, but makes them pretty accessible, too.
 

FortyTwoBlades

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I did it guys--I finally found a real-life example of a Dutch-bend snath. Better pictures to come when I get a chance, but here's a cell pic for now. Has a super-strong lateral offset in the neck, just like I thought. This thing is nuts.

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I need to take a better video of my nib-sizing process this summer. The one that I originally did was using pretty light blows using a ball-pein hammer, as I figured more folks would have one kicking around vs. a cross pein, but that's not necessarily true, plus I'm still using a specialty anvil that basically no one is gonna' have just sitting around anyhow, so I might as well show my really process with full-force blows. <snip>
Maybe I could do better with your anvil, FortyTwoBlades, but I've never been completely satisfied with the end result of my resizing of my loops. I improved the fit, for sure, and at least I've not found it to be necessary to tighten them as tight as the factory torques them, but the aluminum blocks never fit as well as they should fit against the aluminum snath tube.

The aluminum blocks have small teeth on them at this contact point. Unless the teeth make good contact with the snath tube, the grip of the nib is compromised. In sizing the rings, I could never achieve good contact without having the rings come out a bit oversize. The problem is the circularity of the ring is poor where the sides of the loop nearly join at the gap that precedes the loop weld; the sides of the ring are too straight in this segment and I could not find a method to make them round, despite many attempted methods.

Well I removed the nibs again and found a solution this time. I used a round file to slightly deepen the "slots" in the aluminum blocks, as necessary, to provide a little more relief for the ring. The additional relief allows the aluminum block's teeth to firmly contact the snath tube just as the nib is approaches full tensioning. This mod only requires a little filing of the aluminum block slots and it is an iterative file and trial fitting process. I used a vise to hold the block.

Now I don't have to reef down on my nibs so much and they don't move or make any noise. (Previously the lower nib would make an occasional click sound, even when hand tightened as tight as I could get it, though the motion of the nib was undetectable.) Each aluminum block has customized slots now, so I must keep the top and bottom nibs installed in their correct locations and not accidentally swap them, if I ever remove them.
 
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FortyTwoBlades

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The nib band should be pretty snug before tightening the grip down, and should have the shoulders of the loop riding against the mouth of the block, with space in the top of the loop sufficient for it to contract when drawn through the mouth of the block. It should be fairly tough to move the nib band from its position at that point before even putting the grip on it. :)
 
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The nib band should be pretty snug before tightening the grip down, and should have the shoulders of the loop riding against the mouth of the block, with space in the top of the loop sufficient for it to contract when drawn through the mouth of the block. It should be fairly tough to move the nib band from its position at that point before even putting the grip on it. :)
Yes. I agree, and that's a very accurate summary of the optimum pre-tightening state of the block and ring. Thanks!

I was motivated to file the slots in the blocks by the lack of firm contact between the teeth cast into the concave surface of the blocks and the snath tube, even when fully tightened. The problem was exacerbated by the non-circular shape of the nib bands in the region under the block, which causes the rings to fail to contact the tube in that region. (As much contact surface area as possible is desirable, with the teeth devised to contribute additional grip, if at the expense of some marring of the polished aluminum surface.) My nib rings are nearly straight under the block and, lacking a proper heavy cone-shaped mandrel, I could not form them to be round to the snath tube, despite my attempts to do so with ball and cross peen hammers of various weights, my homemade ring expanding mandrel, a piece of schedule 80 metal pipe, and the roundish surface on the back of my vice.

The benefit realized by a little filing is remarkable and it takes only a few minutes to accomplish (slowed by the need to proceed cautiously). As the grip is tightened onto a nib band and immediately before it starts to increase the already fairly tough effort required to move the nib band from its position, there should exist only a very small gap between the block's toothed concave region and the snath tube. If the gap is too large, the block won't fully clamp down onto the tube before the nib is fully tightened. I further believe that a too-small gap (or no gap before tightening) will hinder one's ability to optimally tension the nib band--at least in the case of my nib rings, which could be more round under the block.

I posted my discovery here, because I've read reports (mostly elsewhere in reviews) of Seymour snath users having trouble with too-tight rings when delivered (which you've addressed), only to be plagued by loose rings after repositioning them (which you've also addressed to a large degree) and I thought that people who lack your mandrel or your metal-forming finesse might benefit from filing their blocks a bit too.

Given that Seymour is the only major league game in town in this century when it comes to American pattern snaths, I honestly see how they get a bad rap. (Gee--I wonder if I could make a 10" extended Seymour for Botan! ;) ). I don't find them to be a one size, fully adjustable to fit-all affair and, just as you claim, attention to various manufacturing details is lacking. I'm a tinkerer so I've enjoyed the project of getting my Seymour No. 9 up to speed (and up to length for my nearly 6'2" height with my 5-3/4" oak snath extension segment), but I suspect that most Seymour snath users don't know what they are missing, if they don't buy a customized and corrected Seymour snath from you (or your new Longfellow)!

By the way, I weighed my Russian offset snath. With one grip (the configuration I've settled-upon for its under or over-handed left-hand hold options) and blade attachment hardware, it weighs 3.24 lbs. It could not be sensibly made thinner so that's about the minimum for that style for my height in wildwood cherry. My No. 9 with my heavy 5-3/4" solid oak extension (13-3/4" total wooden dowel length, including the internal lap joint segments) weights 3.46 lbs. I believe that both snaths fit me very well but, for only about 3-1/2 oz of additional weight, I benefit from the much greater stiffness and strength in my custom aluminum No.9! I suspect that a similarly lengthened custom No. 8 snath would weigh about the same as my Russian wildwood snath but still be much stiffer and stronger than the Russian. Of course the very large offset of my Russian pattern snath does add a little extra weight to it and such offsets are not typically incorporated into Russian snaths.
 
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I picked this up yesterday & haven't been able to find much out about it.
It looks Austrian to me. However, it appears that the tang has been modified and bent--perhaps too much or with oil or water quenching, making it brittle. (Is that a crack I see forming?). The nob that anchors the tang at its end to the snath also appears to have been modified in the style of a Russian blade. The tang hole and tang attachment hardware is also occasionally used in Russian scythes, but the German language stickers and overall construction don't match a Russian blade.

The "Maherfertig" ("ready to mow") sticker looks like it might be a match with the sticker on blade #4 at Peter Vido's now closed webstore:
http://www.scytheconnection.com/adp/retail/catalogueBlades.html
You can also search his brother's (Alexander Vido's) webstore photos and look for similarities. Many of the models there are old stock and no longer available:
https://scytheworks.ca/scythe-blades/

Alexander would probably know the blade, but he's very busy and can't always reply to emails.

You might try poking around the archive timeline for the scytheconnection and scytheworks sites here too. Sometimes photo of older blades popup there:

http://web.archive.org/web/20180815122713/http://scytheworks.ca/blades.html

http://web.archive.org/web/20100224...onnection.com/adp/retail/catalogueBlades.html

Sorry I can't tell you more. I'm not an expert. Even though FortyTwoBlades is an American pattern aficionado, he probably still knows more about European blades than I! I'm sure he'll wander by the thread soon. :)
 

FortyTwoBlades

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A bit of digging seems to indicate that those are commonly sold through off-brand vendors on Amazon, eBay, and similar, and as such they're probably Chinese manufacture angling for the European market. The tang probably bent in use, which is consistent with reports I've heard of the quality (or lack thereof) of those cut-rate blades. Note the total absence of a "hart's tongue" reinforcement in the blade/tang transition. You can find them presently for sale with identical coloration and stickers, and they're sold with an ovoid tubular snath.
 
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Thanks C calinb & FortyTwoBlades FortyTwoBlades , I don't have a clue when it comes to scythes so thanks for the info. Sounds like it was just as well it was the equivalent of about $4....... I might make a sickle from it!
If there's no crack yet, I'd probably stick a potato on the heel of the blade (to not kill whatever heat treating the Chinese manufacturer imparted to it), put it in a vice, heat it with a propane torch (or two, simultaneously) and bend the tang back to a usable angle and then try to sharpen the blade and make use of it. Nothing to lose, right? If nothing else, it might prove to be a good "practice blade" for adjusting tangs!
 

I'mSoSharp

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If there's no crack yet, I'd probably stick a potato on the heel of the blade (to not kill whatever heat treating the Chinese manufacturer imparted to it), put it in a vice, heat it with a propane torch (or two, simultaneously) and bend the tang back to a usable angle and then try to sharpen the blade and make use of it. Nothing to lose, right? If nothing else, it might prove to be a good "practice blade" for adjusting tangs!

It isn't cracked but is obviously lacking the "tongue" reinforcement as FortyTwoBlades pointed out so that'll be why it's bent.
It is very definitely hand made, I'll see how hard the edge is & take it from there, I can put the tang at the correct angle & reinforce it but will work out whether it's worth the effort or not first.
Thanks for the input, I'll report back here with the outcome..... eventually..;)
 

FortyTwoBlades

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It isn't cracked but is obviously lacking the "tongue" reinforcement as FortyTwoBlades pointed out so that'll be why it's bent.
It is very definitely hand made, I'll see how hard the edge is & take it from there, I can put the tang at the correct angle & reinforce it but will work out whether it's worth the effort or not first.
Thanks for the input, I'll report back here with the outcome..... eventually..;)

That's probably not why it's bent. Just an indication of the relatively primitive form compared to those made by more legitimate companies. Definitely not "handmade" in any traditional sense. It's a factory blade. There's probably some degree of open-die forging going on, sure, but it's under power hammers in an industrial mass production setting. The reason it bent was probably a combination of a low quality blade with poor technique by the original owner. It's good that it at least didn't break--a common complaint with a lot of the Chinese blades is that they often break right at the tang.
 

FortyTwoBlades

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Fixed the image code:
uw7S6Mt.jpg


Quite curious, indeed. Looks like Rixford was purchasing unfinished grass hook blades from NWT Co. for private labeling with their own labels/handles.
 
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