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Antique Scythe Salvage

 
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Hello, I’ve been looking for an antique scythe for a while and found one I liked (light, fairly short handle) for $28 at an antique tool store. I was told it’s a grass scythe from maybe the early 1900s.

I took all the metal bits holding the blade apart and found the part (I am still learning scythe anatomy names) that latches onto the wood was cracking. It’s pretty much cracked in three parts :-( The wood where the metal patches onto is also split but isn’t broken. The blade itself and everything else looks reasonable.

I’m still working on getting the handles loose with WD40. It’s pretty seized but one of the handles has started shaking a bit, so maybe there’ll be some progress there.

I’d really love to remove the rust from the metal parts (with salt and vinegar) and sand the wood down and apply boiled linseed oil and have it become a Christmas present but...

My question is, can I still salvage this scythe by finding replacement parts, having someone weld the broken bits together... or anything?

Thanks!



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pollinator
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The part that is cracked, is it cast iron or drawn steel?  It looks to be cast.  Cast can be welded, but most welders don't have the experience.  If you don't have access to someone whom will weld cast, JB Weld is a good home solution.  (two tubes of epoxy paste mixed together)  

You may not need to go salt and vinegar (can be aggressive.)  Try a can of cola first.  24 to 48 hour soak.  

If the bolts on the handle won't loosen with WD40, try a little penetrant oil (auto supply store) or some automatic transmission fluid (sparingly) on the threads.  (half acetone/half ATF is an old homebrew penetrant but wear gloves.)
 
Amanda La
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I think it is cast iron; looks and feels like cast iron rather than steel. Cool!! I’ll see if the local technology school has someone who could weld or look up JB Weld. Nice to know there’s hope. And hopefully the handles will come unseized too.
 
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First things first, looks like you have a Derby & Ball No.30 ironclad there.

You may have success in getting the collar welded, though it's cast ductile iron, which can be finicky, and brazing may be a better option. In preparing the part you'd want any grinding in preparation for the bead to be done from the backside of the plate so you don't end up with the welding/brazing bead interfering with the fit of the swing socket heel plate (the part that bolts in place on top of it.) I may have a replacement part if it comes to that, and it may be cheaper to buy it (about $35 and shipping) vs. the minimum charge a lot of welding/brazing shops will ask, but you may have someone at your disposal who can do the work for less.

Get yourself some TiteBond III for the cracked end of the snath, as it's a waterproof wood glue. Allow it to seep down into the crack and once it's together, drive a corrugated fastener into the end grain perpendicular to the crack to keep it from ever pulling apart.

During reassembly, smooth down any repaired metal to help with fitting in place, and the collar is likely going to be a little loose on the end of the snath. A good two-part epoxy can be slathered on the end of the snath to build up a layer there that can be rasped back down for a snug fit--you don't want ANY wiggle in your parts!
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Also, I don't suggest the use of acids of any kind, whether vinegar or cola. Electrolysis is the best method of rust removal, but if you don't want to bother with it you can just use a wire wheel in a hand drill to take off most of the crud without destroying the patina, but also you can soak it in diluted molasses and the natural chelating agents in it will remove the rust without etching the part, though it's much slower than electrolysis. In use the part will just be getting wet again, though, so I wouldn't invest too much effort into it beyond a QUICK cleaning.

The threads on the nibs will be left-handed, so turn them RIGHT to loosen.
 
Amanda La
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Thank you Benjamin. I suppose you are right that the parts will get wet again. Yes, I am sad to remove the patina. I started the vinegar thing before I read your reply (and vinegar is quite available to me) but I’ll probably stop it prematurely and just clean it with a wire brush or fine steel wool.

I’m not very optimistic about the cracks and will ask around for a welder. Good to know about the spare part you might have. How do I contact you should I decide to check that you have one?? I’m new to the forum.

Still waiting for the WD40 to loosen the handle but looks like I’ll have to make a trip to the store to get some penetrator oil and wood glue. Lol, I looked up what a corrugated fastener was and, well, I’ll have to ask around if anyone has one or stop at a construction site.

It’s fun and amusing to learn new things!

Thanks for the information. Any extra information is always welcomed.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Amanda La wrote:Thank you Benjamin. I suppose you are right that the parts will get wet again. Yes, I am sad to remove the patina. I started the vinegar thing before I read your reply (and vinegar is quite available to me) but I’ll probably stop it prematurely and just clean it with a wire brush or fine steel wool.

I’m not very optimistic about the cracks and will ask around for a welder. Good to know about the spare part you might have. How do I contact you should I decide to check that you have one?? I’m new to the forum.

Still waiting for the WD40 to loosen the handle but looks like I’ll have to make a trip to the store to get some penetrator oil and wood glue. Lol, I looked up what a corrugated fastener was and, well, I’ll have to ask around if anyone has one or stop at a construction site.

It’s fun and amusing to learn new things!

Thanks for the information. Any extra information is always welcomed.



You can reach me by email at sales@baryonyxknife.com if you end up needing a replacement part. I also have other replacement parts like nibs (the side handles) and so on, if it comes to that. Corrugated fasteners can be found at most hardware stores in the same place you find small wire nails, upholstery and carpet tacks, and so on. When you remove the parts from the vinegar make sure to thoroughly rinse them so you don't get left with any residual acid. Baking soda can be used to neutralize any that remains on the surface if you want to be extra sure. As far as the cracks go, brazing will probably be your best choice. If you have a wood stove shop near you, though, they may know of a local welder who's familiar with working with cast iron.
 
Amanda La
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Hello again,

So a little update and a few questions (with pictures)

Update:
1) The local welding class instructor agreed to braze the broken pieces back together for me with his class! So just waiting for the bit whilst I carry on.
2) I used copious amounts of penetrator oil (Liquid Wrench, cause there’s a YouTube video that showed it performed best on the guy’s test, lol) and neither of the handles budged when I turned right like Benjamin said. However, by chance when I was sanding, I turned the top handle and it popped off. I think it’s partly because there’s a couple cracks on the nut (still secure) which loosened its grip.
3) I sanded the wooden part down with sandpaper (80, 120 and 220).
4) I bonded the split head of the wood with Tite Bond III. I think the split seemed a bit less than initially so it was kinda hard to get the glue in between the cracks. I tried pushing it in with a thin blade as best I could but any glue is probably 2mm superficially into the crack
5) I was contemplating placing a joint/corrugated fastener to prevent further cracking but I’m not sure if I’ll end up doing more damage

Question:
1) I tried hammering a joint/corrugated fastener into a 2X4 as practice and I couldn’t get it in!! I tried on some greenish wood and I could get it in but it’s very shoddy work. I looked around online and there’s written stuff on hammering it in (just hammer it), but all the videos use air guns. I’m not so confident I can get it in at all, and if I do, without any serious damage. Any advice on how to hammer in a corrugated fasterner?
2) I read some where that one can “waterproof” or “water resist” the wooden part of the scythe that contacts water by submerging the tip in 50-50 mixture of linseed oil and turpentine (I would use paint thinner since that’s what I have handy). How useful is this step?
3) I was going to cover the rest of the scythe with linseed oil/Danish oil. Having never used this finish, do I have to apply several times and how long should I leave in between coatings? Does it even matter for a scythe?
 
Amanda La
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Oh I also sharpened the blade. I didn’t preen...  or try preening yet.

Here’s some pictures in case anyone was interested
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Benjamin Bouchard
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So, first things first, DO NOT PEEN THAT BLADE. American blades are beveled by grinding, and peening them can risk cracking them and/or in the case of laminated blades cause your edge to be comprised of cladding iron rather than the core cutlery steel.

With the corrugated fastener, it's meant to be used in the end grain, not across the grain. Try tapping it into the end of that log and you'll find it MUCH easier. You can gently grip it with some needle nose pliers to make it easier to drive in. If you were using a fastener across the grain you'd use a "Scotch" fastener, aka "wood joiner" like so.

Linseed oil/Danish oil benefits from repeated applications. The old rule of thumb is to apply every day for a week, every week for a month, every month for a year, and then once a year from then on out, but in my experience you don't need to do it nearly so much. Make sure to wipe off any excess, as too heavy of an application will begin to oxidize on the surface without seeping in and will make a tacky mess. Safely dispose of any rags or paper towels used to apply the oil either by burning them, disposing of them in a fireproof container, or by allowing them to dry completely in the sun away from flammable materials before discarding in the regular trash. The drying process can occasionally generate a lot of heat to the point where rags/paper towels can sometimes combust and start a fire.



 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Also, looks like you've got a long way to go with sharpening the blade. The bevel should be about 1/4" wide on both sides presuming the blade is of typical thickness. 7-9° per side with the apex centered in the middle of the web (the flat span between the edge and the back. )
 
Amanda La
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Oh cool. Thanks, Benjamin.

So, on the blade it says Austria. Is it still an American blade?

Can you confirm... that when you say end grain but perpendicular to the crack, is this correct (pictures)?
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Benjamin Bouchard
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Yes, that would be how you'd want to drive it in. Don't feel like you need to drive it to the full depth, either--you can risk causing a new crack if you drive it deeper than it can handle! Just gently tap it in until it feels like it doesn't want to budge any further, then grind/file it flush. You can shorten the width of it by either using a cutoff wheel in a dremel to cut it to length or by bending it back and forth with pliers until it cracks. You'll want at least 1-2 corrugations per side.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Also, yes, that's still an American pattern blade despite being made in Austria. It'll be a "whole steel" (not laminated) blade in that case, so you don't have to be as careful about where the apex of the edge sits in the web.
 
Amanda La
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Cool! Ok, so I snipped one corrugation off by weakening it with some needle nosed pliers and for some reason, I have a pair of tin snips... and snipped it off. Hammered it in slowly and there was no cracking! I wasn’t looking forward to filing it off (would have to find and borrow some metal files).

Off to use some Danish Oil! The warnings of spontaneous combustion really is quite terrifying.

I also started working on the blade. Just one side and a quarter on the other side with a coarse stone... does it look reasonable?

Thanks, Benjamin!!
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gardener
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I agree the corrugated fasteners would likely be asking for trouble, especially on old wood. The collar wrapping around the end is what was originally designed to prevent splitting. If it does not fit tightly, I would consider shims of some sort to make it tight.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Jordan Holland wrote:I agree the corrugated fasteners would likely be asking for trouble, especially on old wood. The collar wrapping around the end is what was originally designed to prevent splitting. If it does not fit tightly, I would consider shims of some sort to make it tight.



What usually works best for tightening the fit of the collar is to build up the end with some durable epoxy and then rasp it down to a snug fit. With cracks like in this case it's really very difficult to get wood glue to do anything of benefit, which is where a corrugated fastener driven into the end grain makes sense. On snaths where you have a slot cut in the wood itself to receive the loop bolt, things get more fiddly. Now that the fastener is in, that crack is fully secure and shouldn't ever split further.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Knowing what I do of those Austrian made blades, you'll likely have the greatest success in shaping the bevel by draw-filing it. Trying to reshape a scythe bevel with a manual stone is technically possible, but would be quite labor-intensive.
 
Amanda La
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If draw filing is what I think it is... then I would’ve had a metal draw file handy to file the corrugated fastener down. Haha. I do kinda need a metal draw file anyway since I have a half finished knife to complete (at my leisure).

I’ll continue with stones for now since that’s what I have handy... lots of novice ignorance (and bliss)!

I’ll update when I get the piece back from the welders!!

Thanks all!
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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There's a good little description of the technique with some diagrams here: https://www.disher.com/2016/08/12/filing-away-use-hand-file/#:~:text=Draw%20filing%20is%20a%20modified,and%20forth%20to%20remove%20material.
 
Amanda La
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Hi. So a little update with a couple questions.

Got the broken metal bit from the welding school. The teacher used it to teach the students brazing cast iron and apparently everyone was a happy camper! Win-win! It fits really nicely on the scythe that I’ve applied Danish Oil to three times. A little annoying that the one handle I couldn’t pop off decided it would pop off as I did the last application of Danish Oil! I guess the penetrator oil worked... three weeks later. I just cleaned the handle a bit and popped it back on - I can’t be asked to sand the whole thing down again 😩 Maybe next time.

I finally found some draw files I thought could handle metal (instead of wood). I tried it first on an old antique draw file which had a lot of weird rough pock marks (as it someone pour acid on it or filled it in with some other type of metal). It removed quite a bit of the pock marks and unevenness to the draw knife blade. I then used stones to smooth everything out. I’m just gonna throw a non-scythe question here: the draw knife is definitely sharper than before but it still has some unevenness to the blade (see pic). Is this okay or just shoddy work on my part?

I tried to then draw file the scythe. I was really having a lot of trouble trying to get a 7-9 degree angle 1/2” into the blade because there was a natural divet on the blade edge about 1/4” in..... I then just read Benjamin’s instructions again and it was supposed it was 1/4” which would have made perfect sense. Eeek! I hope whatever I did working 1/2” isn’t such a big deal???
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Jordan Holland
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If you remove more material the pitting should go away. Pitting on the bevel face probably won't make too much of a difference, but it looks like some pitting might still extend to the cutting edge on the draw knife (it shows up like little serrations). This may not make much difference to you if you are using it for something like peeling logs, however for woodworking it would typically be best to be razor sharp and not have any nicks in the edge at all. The bottom side of the drawknife should not have any pitting at all, at least anywhere near the edge, because as it is sharpened back, you will continually be exposing new pits to the cutting edge.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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Yes, the biggest issue is mostly that if the pits are too deep they won't sharpen out and you'll have a Swiss-cheese'ed edge.

As far as the scythe goes, if there's a divot in the blade you may be able to pound it back to flat on an anvil surface. If a proper anvil isn't available, just use a sledge hammer face. Doesn't look like you did the blade any meaningful harm in working on it so far--looks like you only just scratched the surface, so you'll be just fine. The visual bevel width is just a rule of thumb, not a hard rule, as it's just the cosmetic result of having ground the edge at 7-9° per side rather than you actively trying to produce a bevel of that width. The given angle imposed onto different material thicknesses will produce bevels of different widths, so it'll vary depending on the particular thickness of the blade.

 
Amanda La
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I’m using the draw knife for a making a sapling bow. I just need to shave enough wood off slowly and the draw knife does that as it is if I shave at a 90 degree angle. I think it’s okay for now but when and if I need to just it for finer work, I’ll try and take the serrated edge off. The pock marks are less deep than when it started (no horrible bumpy sounds with a sharpening stone anymore).

As for the scythe blade... I marked 1/4” of the entire length of the blade both sides with marker and will slowly scrape it off with my files. The “backbone” of the scythe on one side, and the middle smaller “backbone” on the other side gets in the way of of my file so I’m only really able to use the tip. The current angle of the blade is definitely more than 7-9 degrees. It’s more like 15-20 degrees. I don’t have an anvil or a hammer so I think I’ll just try and file it down to 7-9 degrees... which makes me think this won’t be ready in time for Christmas. Haha. Oh well, there’s no grass to cut now anyway.

Thanks guys!
 
Amanda La
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I guess I do have a question. If the current angle is 15 degrees, should I maintain this angle or try and file down to 7-9 degrees? I think working hard now to file to a flatter 7-9 degree angle is better since the bevel will ultimately last longer with future sharpenings??
 
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Great thread, thank you!

And I have my inspiration for the next science project for my two boys. Rust removal via electrolysis!
 
Jordan Holland
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Amanda La wrote:I guess I do have a question. If the current angle is 15 degrees, should I maintain this angle or try and file down to 7-9 degrees? I think working hard now to file to a flatter 7-9 degree angle is better since the bevel will ultimately last longer with future sharpenings??



I'm a big proponent of trying things out as is before altering them, because it takes time, wear and tear on me and the tools, and once removed, material is much harder to put back on. I can also learn why something doesn't work a certain way for future reference. How you intend to use the item may also affect how to sharpen it.
 
Amanda La
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That's a really good point. I could sharpen the current bevel with stones and not change too much. There's no dents/pits in the current bevel so it shouldn't be too crazy to use stones in the first instance.

As for the draw knife, there are pits in the back too! Not as obvious but I guess I'm never gonna get it razor sharp without the saw tooths. I guess I now know what to look for when buying older bladers. Good lesson! Luckily the draw knife does what I need it to do. Whew!
 
Jordan Holland
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Amanda La wrote:That's a really good point. I could sharpen the current bevel with stones and not change too much. There's no dents/pits in the current bevel so it shouldn't be too crazy to use stones in the first instance.

As for the draw knife, there are pits in the back too! Not as obvious but I guess I'm never gonna get it razor sharp without the saw tooths. I guess I now know what to look for when buying older bladers. Good lesson! Luckily the draw knife does what I need it to do. Whew!


That is a nice draw knife. Having more than one is not a bad thing.
 
Michael Cox
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I followed  through on the suggestion above for using electrolysis for rust removal.  It worked amazingly well on the first small test we did.

Setup was a tub of water, with some baking soda mixed in.

The power source was an old laptop charger brick. 19V DC, 3.5A. I cut the ends of the DC wire, stripped it back and used a multimeter to test polarity. +ve terminal gets attatched to the sacrificial metal, the -ve to the piece you are cleaning. The pieces are hung in the tub of water and turned on.  We had bubbles in seconds and after about two hours the water was filthy brown with rust.

Our first test piece was the ruler part of an old steel set square that my dad has owned for 30 years or more, but the markings haven't been readable for at least 10 years. A quick scrub with a wire brush, followed by two minutes with wire-wool, and the metal was bright and clean again. Every scribe mark on the ruler was perfectly visible.

We have a bunch more tools to work on over the next week or so. I'll start a new thread for those at some point soon, with some photos.
 
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