Tips & Advice

General Advice

An unmounted blade lying upright on a flat surface is the model for proper blade position when you’re mowing. Make the necessary refinements in your snath to achieve this.

Before gluing the handles, if you wish to try the handle position with a tight fit, place a thin cloth over the tenon end and stem ends . Wedge the handles on. Try mowing. Make adjustments. Mark the position. Pull the cloth & remove handles, line up the marks & glue.

The following are guidelines for fit with the blade mounted:

  • Lower grip near the point of your pelvis (hip bone), about 4” above your hip/ground measurement.
  • Elbow on lower grip, top grip out of reach by 1-3 inches.
  • Upper grip will land somewhere around your chin.

Keep the lower section of the snath well sealed. If you’ve been mowing in wet conditions, back off the clamp screws to compensate for swelling of the wood.

Take your key into the field with you to adjust the hafting angle when necessary. Tie a piece of surveyors flagging tape to it.

Check your hafting angle frequently and adjust. In heavy mowing the tang can be jarred to an open position especially on a new scythe.

Tighten the ring clamp screws firmly and evenly. Alternate between the screws tightening only a quarter to an eighth of turn each time. Check their tightness frequently while the setup is new, as the blade will seat and the screws will loosen until the wood is fully compressed.

Stone the blade frequently in the field, as often as every 5 minutes. When you feel the blade lose its "bite" its time to hone. Honing should take about half a minute. A sharp blade has a characteristic sound as it cuts the grass.

Put the stone in the holder, then fill the holder half full with water and wear it on your belt. Too much water and you'll wet your pants every time you bend over.

Wipe the blade clean before stoning. Use a handful of grass as a mop, or carry a thick rag.

To stone the blade in the field stand the scythe on end, blade at eye level with the BACK of the blade facing you. Hold the blade at the tang end with your left hand. Hold the whetstone by an end in your right hand. Place the stone under the blade and with some pressure draw it away from the edge as you slide it towards the tip. Repeat this in overlapping strokes 4”to 5” long. Move your left hand along the blade for support as you move the stone down the blade. Lightly stroke the back side of the blade to remove any wire edge. Try not to bevel the back of the blade. Keep it flat.

Aluminum sharpens steel. Use a piece of aluminum rod just as you would your whetstone. Your local welder will probably give you a 8”-12” scrap piece of aluminum rod. Any diameter from 3/8 on up will do. Use this as your final hone and you’ll strop your edge to a razor polish. Any smooth, clean rod will do. Aluminum is soft & less likely to damage the edge if misapplied.

Mowing

Mow when the grass has the most moisture. Early morning or evening is the best mowing.

You are the center of a circle. The scythe blade describes the circumference of that circle as it travels through the arc of the stroke.

Face the direction you want to go. Picking a point in the distance, a tree, for instance, and mowing towards it helps keep a straight swath.

Begin the cutting stroke with the blade at the 3 or 4 o’clock position with the blade drawn back to your right. The tip will be facing the direction of your travel. Shorter strokes are fine, too, especially if you are new to this.

Engage only the first third (6-8 inches) of the blade into the uncut grass otherwise the blade will try to cut more than it can handle. By the time the blade has moved to the 1 o’clock position it will be cutting its full length and the momentum of the stroke will help carry the blade through the grass. If you have to force or jerk the blade thru the grass you are trying to take too big a bite.

The blade cuts on a skew angle slicing the grass like a scissor blade. Do not pull the blade into the grass.

Finish the stroke at the 9 o’clock position. The blade’s point will be facing backward.

Your left hand will finish behind you at the end of the cutting stroke. Try to put your left hand in your back pocket at the end of the stroke.

The windrow of cut grass should form well to the left of your left foot. If you take a full arc this windrow can be up to 3 feet to your left.

Shift your weight from right to left during the progress of the stroke. As you develop a rhythm, your left foot may be completely unweighted as you start the stroke. In finishing the stroke your right foot will become unweighted. Get loose and learn the dance.

On the back swing the blade is NOT lifted from the ground. It just skims the grass. Keep the blade on the ground in both the cutting and return stroke. On rocky ground or ground with hummocks you will have to lift the blade.

Use as little force as is necessary to finish the stroke. The words hacking, whacking, ripping, slashing and chopping are not scythe related. Mowing is a gently art. It does not require great strength. Your scythe expects finesse not brute force. Work with your leg muscles. You are rowing (rhymes with mowing).

Find a pattern of use for each arm. There will be opportunities within the strokes for each to be relaxed and not working.

Both arms direct the snath through the circular sweep; the right hand is more of a fulcrum point, while the left hand is more of a lever.

Look behind and admire your work.

Peening

The cross peen section of your hammer should have a very slight crown across the face. This will allow the head to reach into the hollow of the blade & have one small contact point. Hammers that we sell are reground to this specification.

Most hammer handles are overly long as they come new. Choke up on the handle to find a comfortable balance point. Don’t be afraid to cut the handle shorter. The hammers we sell can be shortened about 2½” for better balance and control, if you wish. Wrapping the handle with sports tape (hockey stick tape) will increase control and comfort.

A new blade will take several sessions of peening and honing to achieve maximum sharpness.

Dismount the blade from the snath for better, easier peening.

As the edge approaches final thinness, reduce the force of the hammer.

Work evenly and accurately. Strive for a uniformly hammered edge.

Look closely at the edge as you peen. Try rubbing chalk on the edge to help make the hammer strikes more visible.

Never hammer the post of a peening jig without it having a cap in place and a blade beneath the cap or you will damage them.

Re-Peen before the previous peening is worn away. The peened zone is about 1/8” wide. When half to two-thirds of this is stoned back you should peen again. If you wait longer the peening becomes more difficult as you will be working in the thicker part of the blade.

Keep your blade out of the hot sun. It will warp.

Safety

Wear gloves to protect your hands from cuts when sharpening the blade.

Be aware of others around you. Keep children at a distance and pets tied up or inside. Kids are curious beings and dogs see a toy.

Store your scythe in a safe place with the blade covered.

Use Common Sense.

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