Sunday, August 29, 2010

Black walnut snath

From the mailbox at, sent by the happy maker of a beautiful snath:

To the Vido Family,
I want to thank you for all the fabulous information you have published. Your web pages inspired me to construct a wild-wood "one-grip" snath. I used black walnut and ash from dead wood found on the property and antique hand tools found at a garage sale. I'm so glad I found and your website and decided to build my own. I would not have been able to do it without you. Thank you so very much.

Today, I completed the setup and mowed a section of very mature forage grasses and chickweed.  I am tickled with the results.

All the best,

Some initial comments from me about this snath
(Peter Vido might have other comments to add):

1.  The wood is attractive; the coloration is striking.

2.  The grip looks like it is set at a good angle (slightly toward the blade).

3.  The location of the grip looks proportionally close to the blade; I'd know more by seeing a photo of the snath being used and the resulting position of the user's body.

4.  With the curves, I can only guess at the hafting, but a more acutely hafted blade may give even better results.

5.  The tang steepness and the lay of the blade in use is likewise unknown to me at this point.

6.  My overall impression is quite positive, especially since the maker is so happy with the results.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Improvised whetstone holder

A container from the recycling bin and an old curtain hook can be combined to create an effective whetstone holder.

It's a close fit for a Bregenzer stone in this container, which can keep water from sloshing out.

A discarded scrap of aluminum foil or other material placed in the bottom of the container
can prevent the stone from eventually making a hole.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brubaker scythe blade (Made in USA)

This was sent by Jack Brubaker, who forged his own scythe blade

and uses it with a homemade wildwood snath:

Today I found some time to attempt forging a blade from a one inch round of W1 tool steel. That is a simple carbon steel with 1% carbon. I know it is too much carbon, but I had it on hand. I used the largest of my hammers the 300 pound copy of a Beche. It happened to have a flat die on the bottom and a very round drawing die on top so I decided to give that combination a try. The top die is round with no real flat on the bottom so it was messy forging the zainen, but it was done with a little patience. I was just forging off the round stock rather than starting by cutting a blank so I didn't know how much steel I used. Once I had the stock roughed out and began spreading the blade it became clear that the top die was too round to form a sharp and crisp transition between the back and the thin body of the blade. I hammered the transition so that the edge of the back was the right thickness and the metal then thinned quickly toward the thin blade. This left the back more of a triangle then a rectangle but it did allow me to pull out the remaining metal into a fairly thin blade. I of course had some trouble with the blade forming the wrong curve (backwards at one point) but it all worked out in the end. To bend up the back I used a V block on the anvil and hand hammered the base of the triangular back down into the V with the cross pein of the hammer. This is a messy way to get it done as it left a lot of rough hammer marks. I envision a tool I can make that would do a much better job, but that will await more time to play. The first photo is of the blade at this point. As you see the round top die and the bashing with a hand hammer left a rough and uneven back. 

I then cut off the excess steel and refined the shape of the blade with more hammering. At this point it really began to look like a scythe blade and I got eager to try it out so rather than risk hardening and tempering now without a proper tank for the oil (I have a large stainless tank of oil for hardening hammer dies but it is round and not long enough) I elected to just hammer the blade cold as it was at that state. I thinned the edge on the anvil and hand hammered with the edge of a round flat faced hammer to get the effect of the dotting hammer and tension the blade. The blade stiffened up nicely and when pressed point against the floor it has a nice spring and curves with some grace. It is too stiff I think as a result of being a bit heavy. But not bad for a first try. I put it in a snath sharpened it some and it actually cuts grass. I doubt that it will hold an edge as well as a properly hardened blade but I am encouraged to try more of this! There was no way for me to form the tongue that reinforces the blade to tang area since my top die was too wide to form the narrow forged groove between the back and the tongue. I will have to make a better top die. The blade is 25.25 inches long(over all) and 3 inches wide at the beard. 

I have used my first home forged blade quite a bit along side a new blade from Rossleithen. It is lighter than an "American" blade but noticeably heavier that the Austrian blade (don't have any way of weighing them yet). There are things I look forward to doing better in the future, but I find it to be serviceable and it seems comparable in edge holding. I hope to be able to look back on this blade as my crude first attempt but first I need to wait until fall when I foresee having the time to work on blades in a more focused manner. I am inspired by an old blade I brought back from Austria (thanks to Walter Blumauer) that was made for the Middle-East market and is really thin and light but has a good tension and springy feel. I had the chance to try the first sample of a blade that Gerhard Walter designed and had the Rossleithen factory produce that is aimed at modern mowers. That blade is an interesting variation on standard European blades, mows very well, and has features I'd like to try out here in Indiana. 
So, there is much to do.

(Source:  Text and photos by Jack Brubaker, used with permission.)