Snathmaking – handgrip alignment

I’ve been making snaths since 2007 when Peter Vido of Scythe Connection gave me a very quick tutorial on the various angles and ergonomics of a scythe handle. Since then I’ve studied the info online, talked further with Peter and built a few snaths, learning and improving along the way. At the Somerset Scythe Festival I’ve been asked several times  to give presentations on snath making and improving the standard Swiss-made snaths used in the UK.
Snaths are subtle things and making one from a stem of wild wood is no straightforward matter. Eventually, I’ll write more details on what I’ve learned but for now I wanted to put up a bit of info to help Rico over at Survival in the Wasteland.

Scythe handgrip alignmentAn important part of making the snath is getting the right rotation of the stem and aligning the handgrips with the blade. Draw an imaginary line through the two handgrips (or the place on the snath where your hand sits if there’s only a single grip) and note where this line crosses the scythe blade. There’s a ‘sweet spot’ on the blade about one third of the way along it’s length, measured from the heel. This is where the blade rides on the ground as it cuts and the handgrips should be in alignment with this point to direct your energy most effectively into the blade.

Rico's scythe snathI’m fortunate that, through knowing Christiane Lechner, I can examine the snaths that Peter Vido made for her. In the top photo the camera was placed on the left-hand grip and you can see how the lower grip aligns with the sweet spot. On Rico’s snath, in the lower photo, the grip is rotated too far to the right.

Hope this helps, Rico. Glad you’re enjoying the mowing.

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About Steve Tomlin

I am a greenwood worker and scythe tutor. I carve spoons, bowls and other products from locally sourced greenwood. During the summer I teach scything around the UK.
This entry was posted in Scytherspace, scythes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Snathmaking – handgrip alignment

  1. Evert Larsson says:

    Hello
    Steve
    As a mower from Sweden it is hard to not use the snath we call “over arm snath” even thou it has its shortcomings, as well as some advantages. On You tube there is a video showing my “combi snath” which you can use both ways. In the start the snath is used the common “free hand way” and after a while my grip is changed.

    Have a nice scythe summer.
    Evert from Sweden

    • Steve Tomlin says:

      Hello Evert,
      Thanks, I have seen your video before but I’m sure others will find it interesting. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of the “over arm snath” ? I’ve never used one but I’ve seen them used throughout Scandinavia.

  2. Evert Larsson says:

    The advantages is two. At first it gives you some more strength in the upper arm trough the longer left handle. I am not certain of the English term, but the upper grip gives a longer lever, hope that is correct. This is an advantage in thick, heavy crops.
    According to my experience it also give an advantage for beginners because of the fixed position of the snath closer to the movers left side. When doing your first experience in mowing it is a common mistake to try to make the cut as broad as possible. The over arm snath limits the possibilities to do this mistake.
    The disadvantage is that the over arm snath limits your freedom of positioning the snath to variations in environment, as uneven land, obstacles as stones, trees and so on. It also limits the possibilities ta change the width of the swath.

  3. “Draw an imaginary line through the two handgrips (or the place on the snath where your hand sits if there’s only a single grip) and note where this line crosses the scythe blade. There’s a ‘sweet spot’ on the blade about one third of the way along it’s length, measured from the heel.”

    Mr. Tomlin, might you provide a more robust image of what you mean, perhaps a drawing to illustrate. I have been making wildwood snaths ala Vido for a few years now and wish to better understand your point. Thank You. Jeromy Biazzo. Fingerlakes, New York, America

    • Steve Tomlin says:

      hi Jeromy, The first photo in the post is intended to illustrate the point; the camera was place on the top hand grip and the photo taken along the line through the lower grip so you can see where this line crosses the blade. Hope this helps clarify but if not, let me know and I’ll try to put up some diagrams/ photos of what I mean though it will probably be in the new year now.
      I’d be interested in seeing some of your snaths (with blades), there are very few people making them over here and there’s always something new to learn. Did you learn from Peter Vido or through his writing on Scythe Connection?
      Steve

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