Home made hickory snath (scythe handle)

I love things made of wood.  The look good, feel great and when you break them, you can repair or rebuild them.  Our scythe had been getting quite a bit of use and the snath decided to call it quits.

I couldn’t find a piece the right thickness (1 1/8 inch), so I purchased a thinner piece, which I could cut into two pieces and glue together.

This is a very straight forward project that only took a few hours of time, in two sessions.

Tools:

  • Bandsaw with 1/2 inch blade ( a table saw could be used)
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill.  5/16 inch wood drill bit and (5/16 inch straight router bit, optional).
  • Router with a 3/8 inch rounding bit.
  • Wood glue.  I prefer Tightbond III

Materials:

  • Hickory.  I used a 3/4 inch board.  If you can find it, a 1 1/8 piece will be perfect and will not need to be glued (jump ahead to the 4rd step).
This is the broken snath, along with a piece of hickory from the wood shop.
Notice the chainsaw in the background.  It’s my last gas powered lawn tool.  Everything else (mowing, trimming and edging), is done by hand.
Note the curves that the original snath has.  I didn’t recreate these.  They looked like too much work and I could accomplish the same thing just by using a longer handle in the middle.  Also, the folks at scythesupply.com said that bush blades go on straight snaths.

Here, the original piece is cut in half

I glued and clamped the two pieces, to create one thicker piece.  After the glue dried overnight, I trimmed it down to the same thickness as the original snath, about 1 1/4 inches.  I didn’t taper anything yet, I wanted to know where the handle was going to go before tapering.

The finished size was 1 1/8 inch thick, by 1 3/8 inch wide and my shoulder height in length.

I rounded the first 12 inches of the top edges of the snath with a 3/8 inch router bit.  This was a lot easier than rounding the top by hand, which needs to be round to accommodate the ring that holds the blade in place.
I drilled two 3/8 inch holes into the snath, to make one oval shaped hole.  This is for a European type blade, which have a tab at the tip of the tang, to hold the blade in place.  The hole doesn’t look like it lines up with the original, because it doesn’t.  I shortened the original snath and drilled a hole that was off-center to change the blade angle, which is exactly where the snath broke.  The hole is 1/2 inch long and covers a space from 3 1/2 inches to 4 inches from the end.
I attached the blade to the snath, to see how it fit. When the blade was horizantal, the snath was not level.  I marked the side that had to be trimmed.
It’s possible to measure this angle and cut it precisley, but it’s more important that this angle “feels” right.  I didn’t want to over do it because, you can always trim more, but you can’t add it back

My bandsaw has an adjustable table, making it the perfect tool for this job.  About a 5 degree angle was trimmed into the end of the snath.  I test fitted it, but this didn’t feel quite right.

I settled on a 10 degree angle at the end of the snath.  I had to drill the holes a little bit deeper, because of how much wood I trimmed off.

You shouldn’t cut this angle unless that is what is right for your blade.

This is how the blade and snath should lay when sitting on the ground, stretched out, like you are getting ready to mow.  The blade is horizontal and so is the top edge of the snath.  When I install the handles, they will be horizontal also.
I drilled a number of holes in the snath to start the mortise for the middle handle.  The exact location for this hole varies for each individual.  If you stand the scythe straight up, with the blade on the ground, this hole should place the handle at the point where your hips bend.  For me, this was 36 1/2 inches from the ground, or about 34 inches from the end of the wood.

Scythesupply.com has a great photo illustrating this measurement.  Click here.

I used a jig saw to square the mortise hole until the handle fit.  I reused the handles I made in this earlier article.

Using the bandsaw, I tapered the snath from the middle handle to the end, to accommodate the original end handle, which I glued into place.

Here it is, fully assembled, the Brush blade with the straight snath.  Because of the new angles, improved sharpening and moving techniques, it works much better.  I can imagine myself spending hours mowing a field of spelt or barley.
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A computer geek with a taste for sustainable living, organic food, green products, buying local, woodworking, bicycling, running, yoga, recycling and doing-it-yourself.