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Scythe Buyers' Guide





Making Your Own Snaths and Scythe Accessories

Please see: Snath Innovations by Larry Barefield

On the whole, I have been surprised at how very few of the scythe-using crowd are willing to make use of the rather straightforward instructions we have provided on this site for the most simple of snath designs.

The general lack of self-reliance is evident everywhere, and it saddens me to see how much of our culture has been progressively conned into buying (instead of making) so many of the items we use. People usually tell me that either they "have no time" to make a snath or don't trust themselves to "get it right"; buying one is eminently simpler. The trade-off, from my point of view, is forsaking the experience of what David Pye referred to as the "workmanship of risk"-- a process by which, until relatively recently (in our species' history), all goods were made. Had an attitude of "no time" and "might do it wrong" been maintained, we might all still be living in caves...

If the current trends continue, a few years from now nearly all items we use daily will be made in China -- at little cost to our wallets, and great cost to the Earth's ecological and social systems.

However, the impending collapse of the Global Economy (and the end of "cheap" shipping of lone pieces of wood, i.e. snaths) means that perhaps what we actually have no time for is waiting to learn all we can about being resourceful, using local materials and making items with our own hands.

That said, I must add that every so often my exasperation with the general state of affairs is pleasantly tempered by the daring and creative individuals who have made snaths...and more!
Presently on that list is Steven Edholm, whose years-long dedication to preserving ages-old crafts and skills is noteworthy. Self-reliance and ingenuity in the field of scythe equipment came naturally to him. I want to put his example on record here for the benefit of us all and the empowerment of the "half-hearted".

Steven's unique stone holder deserves the description "out of this world", though not in the way that idiom is often used in the English language. It is very much of his physical world (as well as the realm of his passion) -- and, really, closer to anyone's world than a purchased whetstone holder!

Photos of Steven's creations and excerpts from his letter.

The "Oregon Snath"
A Two-Grip Snath for All Heights

by Steve Leppold

(Click photos for a larger version)

A tall person who wants to use a scythe has limited options for finding a well-fitting snath. The one-grip "Slavic" or "Eastern style" snath is a good option (as presented by Peter Vido here with instructions for making them). Its straight shaft requires a relatively steep-tanged blade, and the single grip is forward-facing.

The "Oregon Snath" (named for easy reference) is a two-piece, two-grip snath design inspired by the one-grip snath. Made with a similar total length of the same straight shaft material as the one-grip snath, the Oregon snath has two pieces connected at an angled joint, with backward-facing grips. The right-hand grip is connected directly to the main shaft of the Oregon snath (instead of the branched connection of typical two-grip snaths) which should give some mechanical advantages to the right wrist and in theory would make the scythe easier to control. Ideally, the ergonomic Canadian grips (developed by Peter Vido) should be used. The result is an optimally-fitted, ergonomic two-grip solution not just for tall folks, but for anyone with a suitable scythe blade they want to use with a two-grip snath.

Like the one-grip snath, the Oregon snath can be made at home using hardwood lumber. A unique feature of the Oregon snath is that it can be disassembled into two halves for easier transportation. With both grips removed, the snath can pack down to an especially compact size.

The following brief instructions will attempt to explain what is not obvious from the photos, and will skip some details that are already covered on the site. See the references below for the related information.

To create an Oregon snath and optimize its fitting, it is best to already have on hand a blade that would otherwise be compatible with a straight one-grip snath for the user. This allows for a precise fitting process in real time with the blade attached. The matched units offered by ScytheConnection give some clues as to which blades should work well with a one-grip snath for users in a specified height range, and Peter Vido has other blades available (not listed in the catalogue) with a range of tang angles reaching in excess of 50 degrees (which, when combined with a wedge, could work well for someone over 7 feet tall!)

To estimate the required tang angle for anyone, regardless of height, a scale drawing can be made on graph paper, or a bit of trigonometry can be applied. Assuming the person is right-handed, measure the the height of the right hand in the mowing stance (usually with the right arm almost completely straight), and divide this number by the theoretical distance between right grip and end of snath (following the instructions for making the one-grip snath), and find the arcsine (or "inverse sine") for this quotient. The result is the approximate tang angle required for both the one-grip snath and the Oregon snath.

The hardwood lumber (1-1/4" square section) should be at least as long as the user's height. Two shorter pieces can be used, one piece about six inches longer than the hip joint measurement (from the one-grip snath instructions), and the other piece about 16 inches longer than the length of the user's cubit measurement from elbow to outstretched tips of fingers.

Having the blade on hand, the first step of the precise fitting process would be to shape the end of the shaft to fit the blade. With the blade attached and resting on the ground at the proper angle for mowing, the optimal grip locations can be determined, starting with the right-hand grip. The unattached grip can be held by the user and tentatively positioned along the snath to find the best location. The distance from the right grip to the blade end of the Oregon snath should be similar to that described in the instructions for making the one-grip snath, but this distance can vary according to the physiology and preferences of the specific user.

The tenon of the right-hand grip is then fitted into a hole in the snath (but not glued yet), or a removable right-hand grip (with hanger bolt and squared-off base) can instead be fitted into a dado in the snath, similar to the dado for the left-hand grip (in which case, the right grip can now be bolted into place, but don't cut the dado yet). In the case of a removable grip, a second position for the right grip can be added, to give a position for field mowing and an alternate position for trimming.

The final length of the lower snath piece should include two inches of snath extending beyond the right grip (for attachment of the threaded rod), although a modification to this design could eliminate the two-inch extension and have the threaded rod located just below the right grip.

The two pieces of the snath are joined below the right grip, to result in an upwardly sloping upper piece. Each piece has a 1/4" dado, and the two dadoes interlock to make a 1/2" overlap. The joint is bolted (1/4" bolt) and somewhat resembles a scissors. The exact location and angle of the joint is determined by optimizing the location of the left-hand grip. The hole for the joint can be drilled and bolted to allow variations of the joint angle, with the goal of positioning the left grip in the best location for the user. The left grip can be temporarily clamped into tentative locations while doing this. The height of the left grip and the distance between grips are the primary factors. Once the best joint angle is determined, the left grip location and joint edges are marked, the bolt is removed, and the dadoes are cut. While a hand saw and chisel were used to make the dado for the left-hand grip, a more-precise table saw was used to make the dadoes for the main joint.

The main "scissors" joint is the critical link of the snath, and it gets some reinforcement. When the scythe is being used, the predominant stress on the joint acts to close the scissors. To reinforce the dadoes to resist this closing, two blocks (1/2" thickness) are attached to the upper snath piece (on either side of, and flush with, the lower snath piece). To keep the scissors from opening during certain movements of the snath, a thin threaded rod (approx. 8" length) connects the end of the lower snath piece (near the right grip) to the upper snath piece. The threaded rod is hand tightened to keep the joint snug, but it doesn't have to be tensioned beyond this. The resulting joint is quite solid.

With the main joint connected, the two grips can be secured. The right grip should first be twisted to adjust it to the best angle for the user before gluing it into place (or before cutting the dado for the squared-off base). Various angles can be tried by the user while swinging the scythe (with blade attached), to find the optimal angle of the right grip. The left grip angle can also be adjusted, but not as easily.

The upper piece of the snath is cut to its final length beyond the left-hand grip. There is extra length on the pictured snath to allow the left-hand grip to be repositioned later if desired. Additional wood can be attached to the snath under this grip to fine tune the snath's balance.

Steve Leppold
Eugene, Oregon
March 29th 2010

References ( pages)
Making your own snath
Snath and blade fitting

2 Jul. 2007
Modified 9 Apr. 2010

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