Well, Peening Day is done for another year; I hope you got your blades nicely cleaned and sharpened ready for the mowing season. Peening is a vital part of using a scythe, without it you’ll find the blade not cutting as you want no matter how much you hone it.
In the UK, peening is a pretty unknown skill, we don’t hammer the edge of any other tools so there’s a lot of learning to be done. I’ve been lucky enough to learn to peen scythes from some real experts in Austria and have taught many people through the learn to peen courses I’ve run in Cumbria. Like with my other courses, I’ve been taking apart the process to find the best ways to teach people how to peen and explain the method. I’ve had lots of success with students and plan to write a few posts here to try and help those of you just getting started.
First, here’s a few starter questions to ask yourself if you’re struggling with peening:
1. Do you understand the geometry of the scythe edge, which side is beveled, what the cross-section looks like and why it’s like that?
2. Do understand how the peening jig and anvils work to form these shapes under the action of your hammering? At the scythe festival last year I did a 1-to-1 for someone who was smart enough to say that hitting a curved shape with a flat hammer didn’t make sense to him. Once I’d explained and he understood it, it was much easier to start to learn the peening process.
3. Do you do any other craft activity that involves hand-eye coordination in the same way as peening?
4. Can you peen with the jig? People often underestimate what you can achieve with this tool and how important it is as a method for progressing to the anvil.
5. Do you have a decent setup for peening and, most importantly, can you see what’s happening when you strike the blade – do you know what to look for?
6. How much time do you put into learning to peen; how many blades do you have and how often did you peen them last year?