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An Ergonomic Scythe Handle

An Ergonomic Scythe Handle

I have on this website made numerous references to the "ergonomy" of a snath (scythe handle) and criticized most designs for the lack of it. The partial explanations of what I mean by better design, starting with the diagrams and text of The Scythe Must Dance, have been scattered in various places rather than presented in a concise and conveniently-read piece. The material in this section is by no means a complete picture on the subject; not only because the concept of ergonomy as applied to various tools continues to evolve, but because we simply have not found the necessary time and energy to share what we have learned thus far. An entire book (not a booklet) could be written on the topic of creative snath-making, and though it would be my pleasure to write one or help someone else do it, presently the important tasks are too many and the hours too few. Until then, we will address the subject in a partial but hopefully more useful/comprehensive way than up to now.

I've been told - over and over again - that our civilization is increasingly impatient; that people want to first see the end result before reading detailed instructions of how to get there, that those taking a scythe course want to mow grass before hearing an explanation of how to sharpen a blade so it "cuts with ease".

Complying, though reluctantly, with these modern desires, we'll show first a variety of ergonomic snaths. As different as they are from each other, all are examples of design principles which take the user's comfort - rather than economy of manufacture - into consideration. The late David Pye (author of The Nature and Aesthetics of Design and The Nature and Art of Workmanship) would certainly have referred to all of them as products of "workmanship of risk" and as a lifelong craftsman endorsed the results.

Fig. 1- Some of my earlier homemade snaths (1998-2001).

For serious mowing with long blades, I prefer my more recently-created models; a few examples below:
Fig. 2

Fig. 3

More of the same with blades mounted.
Fig. 4

Fig. 5


A bit of trivia--below are the two scythes that Kai and Fairlight used at the competition in Truro, N.S. last year. Kai's is a more normal "farmer's scythe" with an 80cm/32" blade. Fairlight won, despite her smaller size, partly due to a longer (100cm/39") blade and a snath designed for competition use.

Both snaths are made of the same "inferior" wood--the alder species common in this area (Alnus incana).

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8


More photos and text to appear soon.

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