Restoring the Scythe

I should have taken a before and after picture but i didn’t. Sometimes i get an idea about something and no one can see my vision and i just want to hurry up and tuck into my project before people can talk me out of it. Sometimes documentation falls to the wayside.

I was very overwhelmed with my coursework last fall and i let the grass go wild. By December it was up to my waist around the house and up to my armpits in the orchard and the field. I wasn’t sure what i was going to do to cut it since with mower wouldn’t mow armpit high grass. Something would have to be done. It couldn’t stay like this. The tall grass had allowed the mice to multiply and the snakes had followed the mice. This had not been a good development for Cashew who got bit in the face by a rattler. My online tutor suggested a scythe. I laughed but he said he was serious so i looked into it. He was telling the truth. A scythe wasn’t just a thing included in children’s grim reaper halloween costumes. It was also a tool that many historic populations used to harvest crops in fields. I looked into buying one and quickly realized every modern day scythe was a cheap knock off of the original design that had for some reason deleted most of the design as if the handles or curvature of the wood were not important to its function. In fact, most replicas were thin metal vs stout wood. Customers rated them 1 out of 5 stars 90 percent of the time. I decided a new scythe was not a good idea. I went on ebay and found an old one that had been manufactured back in a day when the design still made sense. I bought it but since i had only a p.o. box i had to ship it to a family member in the city. Since i wasn’t on their mailbox the postman marked it a mis-addressed package and took it to the post office. I drove all the way to the city, a 3 hour drive, to get the package from the post office and they swore i couldnt have it because they had already put it on the truck back to the sender. The sender told me their post office told them it would be a full week before they had it in their possession because the post office on my end was holding it for a week in case the recipient wanted to pick it up in the post office. Long story short the post office on my end lied. They had it all the time. A week later they sent it back to the sender. The sender re-addressed it. I had to pay $70 shipping all over again, and they sent it back to me, this time with my name added to the mailbox of my family member in the city. I drove up for Christmas and picked it up. What a bother everyone had to go through to get it here but when i saw it i knew it was worth it. The blade was not that dull and the handle was sturdy and well built. I took it home and sharpened the blade with my sharpening stone from Italy. Then i used lemon oil to seal the wood against the elements and preserve its condition. The wood went from a dusty gray to a rich brown color.

As soon as i put the lemon oil on the scythe the wood came alive and turned this brilliant chestnut brown.

Once i had the blade sharpened and the wood weatherized i thought i was finished and declared the scythe fully restored. However, the first time i tried to use it, i realized the handles needed tightening. They were shifting around, making it impossible for me to gain the speed needed for a clean sweep. I took the scythe to the home depot, laid it on a trolly, and wheeled it to the outside of the building. There i consulted with some employees on a smoke break. Would they take a look at it and brainstorm some ideas about what to do to stabilize the handles on this antique scythe. I had an idea in my head already but once done it couldnt be undone so i figured i had better save that for last resort. All three employees examined the scythe while they smoked. One of them went over and felt the blade with his fingers. I was quite proud of my sharpening skills when he jumped back and announced that it wasn’t an old dud and was in fact still quite sharp and so couldn’t be allowed entry to the store because it was more of a weapon than a museum piece. I said i understood and that’s why i had come to them outside. One of the guys said that the only way to tighten it would be to turn the rusted screw embedded in the wooden handle. The other guy chimed in, “well how is she going to do that?” The first guy, ideas man, stated that i would have to cut it out of the handle which it was buried in. I didn’t fancy this idea. The guy asked, “you want us to so that? I can do it right now.” I asked, “ how are you going to do that without splitting the wood of the handle?” All the men began making worried noises and they decreed they couldn’t guarantee the aged dry wood wouldn’t split. I said i was more looking for some way to plaster it in place. The men scratched their heads and agreed that liquid nails was the only hope for anything remotely strong enough to hold under the force with which the scythe would be pulled this way and that. I had used liquid nails before and was unimpressed. I did not find it to be like nails or a liquid. It was more of a goo and i remembered it to be rubbery more than anything else. Still, i bought it. I put it on, let it dry for days, and the first time i used the scythe the material came loose. Furthermore, it disintegrated enough to allow me to pick most of it off.

Well, i was done interviewing others on the best option. It was time for my way. I knew of a thing called steel stix. It was two materials in a tube that when mixed together basically created a synthetic form of steel in whatever shape you let it dry in. Once that sucker was dry, for all intensive purposes you had steel. So, don’t expect to change your mind about its placement. Its on there for life. I went to the home depot and found that they had a wood version of this called kwik wood: two materials in a tube that when mixed together, for all intensive purposes became wood. The steel stix would only stick to other metal and i needed this to stick to wood. So, even though the steel stix was much heavier than the kwik wood and i was worried about the strength of something so light, i had no choice but to place my faith in the kwik wood tube. I ended up using two separate tubes; one for each handle. I mixed the materials together and shaped them around the handle and then let it dry, hardening into place.

The kwik wood did the trick. The handles never again budged during use. The scythe was fully restored and functional. I used it to cut down the armpit high grass in the field and then i used that grass to stuff the chicken coop nesting boxes during freezing weather so they would have a place to generate warmth. However, like chickens do, they just ate most of it, forcing me to replace it before nightfall with wood shavings. I now had a tool that had once been an integral part of someone else’s farm and was working once again. And so the scythe began its second life on my homestead. I was very pleased with the width of the blade. There was enough metal present that it would allow for sharpening many times. It was a tool with longevity. The newer models were just ridiculous. The department store that took a crack at it was not at all sure what they were producing. The blade was so thin it would not last long as the act of sharpening it would shorten it to nothing rather soon and the pieces had to be screwed together rather than one long base. It was missing all its curves. I wondered why people bothered to try to replicate old things if they weren’t going to do it right. The ratings spoke for themselves. Sometimes you are just better off buying something ancient and fixing it up than buying something that isn’t functional new.

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2 Comments

    1. I dont think they care. I live in an area where it is mostly ranches and a lot of the land is left wild. And that has been great for me because the mice and snakes prefer the wild land to the cut grass they cant hide in. However, when i left it wild as well there was no reason for the mice and snakes to prefer anyone else’s property to mine. That being said, we have an amazing volunteer fire department that works tirelessly because fire fighting without fire hydrants is a whole different ball game. They are so clever, resourceful, hard working, and any time there’s a fire in any of the surrounding towns as well all their nearby towns water trucks and volunteer fire fighters respond. So the men and women that work in my town fighting fires are always fighting something whether here or in a nearby town. They keep us safe and are the only thing that stands between us and absolute disaster and there’s a tone of great respect for them here.

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