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Thread: Making a Scythe Snath (handle)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Making a Scythe Snath (handle)

    I have been using this venerable old hand tool to do most of what I use to do with a weed eater lately. The scythe gets the job done faster, does not cover me in pieces of plant material, does not get jammed with weeds every 10 seconds, saves fuel and gives me some exercise besides.

    I want to make some snaths, the long wooden handle that the scythe blade attaches to. I have cut and dried a selection of small trees with decent shapes. Now I need to "whitttle" the lengths of wood into more appropriate sizes and shapes. I am trying to decide what tools might work best. I do not have a draw knife or a concave spoke shave and I am thinking about buying one or both. I was hoping to get some advise here about features and brands to look for. The idea of "whittling' away on wood to make handles for tools gets me excited for some reason. Customizing my own grips sounds like lots of fun.

    Here is a link that shows nice snaths made from hard wood:
    http://scytheworks.ca/catalogue.html#snaths

    Thanks all you old schoolers,

    Mitch

  2. #2
    A drawknife is absolutely the right tool, and a spokeshave is useful for cleaning up after it but isn't essential. Brand new drawknives usually have a chisel edge, which apparently doesn't work as well as older ones, although I'm not sure quite why. As simple as a shave is as a tool they screw it up a lot, and I wouldn't spend money on any of the Kunz crap again.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    College Station, Texas
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    292
    I am trying to make a snath, too! I want to make one with the 3d curves of the American Pattern!

    Here is some good data on Snath Making!

    Here is some data on Snath Ergonomics!



    A snath needs to be fairly light. Don't make my mistake and keep tinkering with it until it is too short. Experiment with flawed wood before using your best.

    A lot of Snaths are made of lighter wood than the nibs are.

    To make a few with the dramatic graceful curves of the full American Form, Willow will make a pretty near perfect snath, but will not hold up to regular use as as many seasons as a harder wood will. I have made a few failed attempts, but I plan to do better next spring. Willow is perfect however for experimenting on shape.

    If you harvest willow in spring, just when the buds are about to sprout, it is easy to strip the wood, and it can be put into shape to harden and dry in position. It would not be hard to mold a willow, as it grows, into into a perfect snath shape. I am thinking of building a frame with short PVC pipe sections for guides, to grow a willow tree through, I won't do this, until I have a tested shape.

    So far my hand made snaths have been failures, but only because of my poor workmanship and constant experimentation. You can only do so much modification, experimentation and alteration to the business end of the snath before you have to cut the end off and start on a clean stub. The only one I really liked, I ended up cutting off too much length so I had to stoop to use it. So I use my aluminum snath, when I really want to use a wooden one that I made.

    Using a scythe makes me wonder about everything I do to sharpen a blade. I peen my sythe, and use a reasonably coarse stone on it, yet is is as sharp as any blade, and it holds that edge quite well.

    The standard American Pattern is a lovely 3d curved but heavy snath, with a heavy and tough blade. The sort of tool you would have an employee use, or put in a photograph.

    The European Snath is usually much simpler and not as romantic in appearance. The European Scythe is carefully tensioned with a curved blade to give rigidity and is very light in comparison.

    If you want more of a challenge, make a grain cradle for it!





    Back when a lot of scythe dealing companies were going under, I managed to obtain a small hoard of really nice Austrian Made, American Pattern scythe blades. They are contoured and tensioned like a top end Austrian blade, but in the American Shape. I have been tempted to use them to make other tools out of the steel, but when I pull one out, it is always too pretty to cut and grind into something else.

    From what I have read, the curved American Snath made the less curved American Sythe ideal. The thought of having the wicked cool and dramatic shape of the American Snath combined with the light agility of the Austrian Scythe, makes me look forward to spring, when I can harvest willow!

    Till then I will have to make do with my aluminum, Austrian pattern Scythe and Snath. That is ok, it is light, tough and works great. I just isn't what a grim reaper would carry. But then, heavy black robes are not the ideal dress for scything in either.

    Bob

  4. #4
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    Hmm- Just in time for Halloween.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Milton, GA
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    Ahhh so you have been talking to/reading Alexander at Scythe Works/ Scythe Connection too.

    I believe Scythe Connection is a site originally constructed by a college professor who wanted to have a public place to post the information and critical Scythe construction ideas Alexander had written about. I think Alexanders family now has the web authoring skills to maintain the site themselves. The idea being to promote the use of the Scythe. Scythe Works is Alexander's commercial venture, supplying scythe and scythe sharpening parts. If you have not been to Scythe Works you should give it a visit. I have studied and read about the scythe blades there for hours.

    My goal is simpler than yours. I just want a snath with a small amount of arc in it, like the Hickory and Ash ones Alexander offers. The handles will be the trickier challenge I think. The snath I am using now is from Scythe Supply and is a relatively heavy tool designed for heavier use. So far I have been using a Ditch type blade for fairly rough areas. Next spring I plan to have a good grass type blade that I can use for "mowing" chores. I will need a lighter snath designed more for the new lighter blade.

    I don't think there is any willow here, north of Atlanta. There is plenty of hickory, oak, poplar and other hard woods. Sounds like a draw knife will be the answer to cutting something into a workable shape. I am thinking a fairly short blade with a little curve to it. Maybe something like the 9" Oxhead Curved Blade:

    http://www.traditionalwoodworker.com...roducts_id/250

    Peening is another whole wood project I am working on. The hickory log I am peeing on now has too small a surface and is too heavy. I want a triangular small end table like device that can hold my two peening anvils and peening jig, one in each corner. I want a triangular stool to match the table at just the right height to peen. I was skeptical about peeing too but I have found that it actually works. I am currently using an Austrian Ditch type blade 60CM. I have my eye on a couple old world blades that Alexander rescues and sells, something 70-80CM, light and thin enough for cutting large amounts of grasses, "mowing".

    Thanks again,
    Mitch
    Last edited by Mike Holbrook; 10-09-2009 at 10:40 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Williamsburg,Va.
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    9,347
    You can still get Austrian blades. we had to make up some snaths for them,and take off the gold paint on the blades. The department of collections in Williamsburg found a source.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    extreme southeast Nebraska
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    I am led to believe you never had to mow hay with one of those when you was young.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    There are actually quite a few places you can get Austrian and German scythe blades. Scythe Works tends to buy up remaining supplies of older "better made" blades but there are still new Austrian blades being made. The blade I have now is a current Austrian model I bought from Scythe Supply.

    Although I have not attempted to mow hay with a scythe I have read that the typical American scythe blade is more suited to chopping brush than mowing grasses or grains. Scythe Connection claims that longer, lighter, grass type scythe blades, properly fitted to a longer snath perform much better. I understand that fitting the scythe to its user is much more crucial for mowing chores. The mowing set up needs to be something that can be used with an upright full body twisting motion which does not tire the worker. There is a video somewhere on U Tube, where a 17 yr old girl, that I think is Alexander's daughter, totally owns some big dude with a state of the art weed-eater. She mows much more area and does a much neater job too.

    I am still in the learning stage but I can certainly see how much difference it makes to have the proper tool, peened and sharpened. Good blade and snath design also make it pretty easy to deposit the hay in a nice neat pile to the outside side of the mowed row, making the collection of hay a much easier task.

    So my goal is to make a custom snath that reduces the effort expended to mow and trim brush & grasses. There are many draw knives out there which all look like they would help trim a small tree into shape. Is the 9" Oxhead a good tool for this job? I assume I want a curved draw knife to fashion a long relatively thin handle? Flexcut makes a 5" carver's draw knife that looks interesting. The description claims it can be flexed to form to concave or convex shapes as needed. I have a brand new belt sander that I can use to dress up the basic work done with the draw knife.

    Mitch
    Last edited by Mike Holbrook; 10-10-2009 at 8:16 PM.

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