Sunday, January 11, 2009

Getting a Handle on the Scythe

I visited a friend's farm, and noticed several Austrian scythes similar to mine hanging in the barn. Bright duct tape proclaimed them to be both well-worn and recently used. I had to laugh. My snath (scythe handle assembly) used to have the same problem, though I never resorted to duct tape.

The upper nib (handle) on this manufacturer's wooden handle is affixed by a mortise and tenon joint, the long shaft culminating in a small rectangular wooden "tab A" that fits into "slot B" in the turned nib. A small nail and some glue is supposed to keep this joint connected through thousands of hours of swinging in all kinds of weather. In reality (and in Kansas), extreme fluctuations in humidity and heat combined with hard use cause this joint to loosen. Once loose, it rapidly becomes looser.
After being merely loose and wobbly for a long time, eventually mine finally fell off mid-season one year. Without time to properly deal with it, and too busy to even find the duct tape, I simply learned to operate the tool with less and less dependence on the upper nib. Eventually the nib completely parted company with the snath, and found its way into some random corner of the workbench, while I learned to swing the scythe without it at all.

Eventually, M. and I puzzled out an elegant solution to this problem joint that has worked very well. A strip of strong leather was cut about 6 or 7 inches long and the width of the snath. The ends were cut nicely rounded. I re-glued the joint, replaced the nail, and then wrapped the leather along one side of the snath, over the end of the nib, and down the other side of the snath. I placed the ends asymetrically, so that I could use small brass washers and screws to affix the leather to the snath without them running into each other. Then I took stainless steel wire (which was on hand--brass would have been a nicer touch) and tightly bound it around the leather and snath at the base of the joint. This has kept the joint absolutely solid and looks very nice.

No comments: