Benjamin Bouchard

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since May 23, 2012
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Recent posts by Benjamin Bouchard

Scott Obar wrote:So what I bought is a "toothed sickle"? Dumb question, but do the direction the teeth are oriented towards, indicate the direction you should cut?

Correct, you purchased a toothed sickle. The orientation of the teeth does not inherently indicate the direction you'll cut, as it will still cut in either direction, but will be more aggressive when the teeth are leading in the cut rather than trailing.
6 months ago

Scott Obar wrote:I just bought a couple of these

If you can't tell from the photo, the teeth are oriented towards the handle. I'm right handed so I assume I just pull out to the side away from my body with a slight wrist flick motion at the same time.


Watched this video,
and thought it sounded like the right way to use it , but sure enough someone at the bottom of the comment section begs to differ. It's probably not the same thing as what I bought though. Not sure if that makes a difference. Here's the comment I'm talking about:

Improper use and a low quality example of the tool. It is not a sickle, but rather an offset grass hook--sickles are of different form and used for the manual harvest of cereal grains. There are several varieties of the American type grass hook, of which the shown tool is one of the economy sorts. A properly hard American grass hook does not benefit from peening and should have the bevel set with a file or water cooled grinding wheel. The edge is then maintained with a stone. Edge angle should be very thin and the scratch pattern forward facing. A very fine edge is desired. The grass hook shown is intended to cut on the push stroke--one made for a pulling stroke would have a more open angle of presentation to the blade.

You're making the common mistake of conflating grass hooks and sickles. Toothed sickles ARE sickles. The one shown in the video is an American pattern grass hook and he's describing using it LIKE a sickle when a grass hook is intended to be able to cut on a push stroke (as well as a pull--there ARE circumstances where that's a desirable method, but swinging the tool from the wrist and fingers is how grass hooks ARE meant to be used, when he says they aren't.) The rice harvest he was describing having watched would have been done with a sickle in the method he was describing. He merely was in possession of a different (though related) tool.

Toothed sickles are a smooth bevel on one side (usually the lower face) and the serrations are cut in on the other. Sharpen the smooth-faced bevel only. You'll grasp your target material in the off hand and make the cut with a pushing or pulling action of the wrist. The material you're cutting will determine which direction works most favorably. Sometimes the more aggressive direction of cut is a benefit, other times a detriment, so try both to see which responds better.
6 months ago
I'll be there doing a seminar on American scythe maintenance and restoration. Should be a fun event!
6 months ago
Put together a video today while doing some snath assembly.

7 months ago
Looks like a No.105 snath, made either by the Eastern Handle Co. or Sta-Tite. The blade appears to be an Austrian-made American pattern blade produced for Seymour Mfg. by either Redtenbacher or Schroeckenfux.

Getting a low enough angle with a file often necessitates using the draw-filing method at just the tip of the file, or else you run into clearance issues.

On grasses you want the edge to generally be running about a finger's thickness off the ground. If the blade isn't lying that way on its own (and it likely isn't) then the tang will need adjusting. If you're not equipped to do it yourself a local mechanic or metalworker can probably do it for you (ensure they keep the heel of the blade cool with a wet rag and do NOT quench the tang after heating--allow it to air-cool!) or I do such work as a mail-in service along with grinding work.
7 months ago
You may file it top and bottom to a suitably thin geometry. While a hollow is ideal, what matters most is a low edge angle of about 7-9 degrees per side. Those Bartlett All Steel Scythe Co. blades are literally the only American blades I know of that were actually stamped construction. True Temper had some riveted blades but the tang and blade were still forged, just independent of one another.
7 months ago
A lovely song! Thank you so much for sharing that with us! 💕

I do have to express my concern about the description of the American pattern. The example you have does appear to be a heavy bush unit but could be slimmed down into a thinner, lighter form if deemed more appropriate to your needs, and could certainly be brought back to ready-to-mow shape based on what I can see, but is definitely not ready for use as it currently stands. A good weight for American snaths with average-weight hardware is 2lb 12oz to 2lb 8oz, with bush snaths left a little thicker to be able to withstand cuts to thumb-thick green woody growth without losing energy due to the snath flexing. Having some amount of weight at the business end of the scythe can actually be of benefit (within reason, that is) as it provides a flywheel effect to even out the effort curve of the stroke, allowing you to cut deeper per stroke without being bogged down or causing yourself excessive strain.

The American type is beveled by grinding only as needed, typically only a few times per season rather than daily, but still benefits from honing over the course of the day. I am of the opinion that if a blade will not cut cleanly at slow speeds with little challenge then it is in need of attention, and for me this means that I touch up my American blades every 15 minutes or so, and my European blades approximately every 5. It's a quick, light pass, but it keeps it in peak condition so that no undue effort is ever made in the actual mowing. American blades are also often slightly upwardly curved from heel to toe (known as the crown of the blade), and while the web of the blade is flat front to back they are nonetheless curved in the bead and rib that run along the back, which provide stiffness just as the dished shape of the European scythe aids in its rigidity. However, by having a flat web the edge will be less prone to changing how it rides over the course of its life, as the edge doesn't change in elevation as much as it wears.

At the end of the day a good scythe is a good scythe, and there are advantages and disadvantages to all of their many variants, including amongst the many variants of European scythes.  

I may be mistaken but it looks like you have room to move your ring a little closer to the end of the snath and it will hold its position better without being as prone to slipping out of place when accidentally snagged. It does appear to be tugging at the grass which is a common side effect of a blade that's slipped in its ring and become too open in its presentation to the grass.
8 months ago
It's a grain cradle, used in the harvest of cereal grains. It is NOT well suited to general scythe use and I would put away all thought of doing such with it. The technique intended to be used with such cradles was up off the ground, and grass is much more difficult to cut than ripe grain. The long and open-set blade will cause all manner of trouble if you try to use it as a regular scythe, and you will probably end up damaging the blade, the cradle, or both.
9 months ago
I generally find that starting off with the narrow cap to peen the very edge a bit knocks a step down that the broad cap can then flatten out thanks to the step reducing the contact area of the broad cap, while trying to start with the broad one tends to feel like you're making no progress since you have a large contact area and the steel is at its thickest and most resistant at that stage.
1 year ago
At this stage a ball pein hammer on the end grain of a stump would probably work. The end grain should crush so the metal won't squish.
1 year ago