At the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, in the valley of Saurat, is the last quarry and factory for making natural whetstones, still in operation in France. Established in the early 1900s by the Cuminetti family, this operation was taken over in 2006 by Mr. Soucille of Thiers. The fine grain and mineralogical purity of the schistose sandstone of this quarry, allows for the manufacturing of a complete range of sharpening tools, from stone nail files to grinding wheels. And luckily for us, they still make scythe stones! In the video below Mr. Soucille takes us on a tour of the quarry and factory where these whetstones are produced.
The first time I gave the scythe any thought as a potentially useful tool for me, was while watching an episode of Elliot Coleman's cable TV show called Gardening Naturally. (See 17:25) He said that the scythe that had come to this country, was the "English" (aka American, or Anglo-American) scythe. It had grips that pointed to the front. But, he said the style that he preferred was what he called the "Swiss or German" style of scythe (aka "Austrian"), with the grips pointing toward you. I started out with the style that Elliot recommended. The first time I ever laid eyes on one these "English" scythes, was at the 2006 International Scythe Symposium, where Peter Vido brought out what he called "THE BEAST", as an example of the "perpetuation of a bad idea in snath design". "The Beast" was a surprisingly thick and heavy, and curvy Anglo-American style snath.
Not only did the Pennsylvania Dutch or "Deutsch", have good taste in scythe blades, they also had some world-class peening anvils, for the times, to sharpen them with. As proof that there has been a long tradition, of use of the "Austrian" scythe, in this country, these anvils are plentiful in and around Pennsylvania Dutch Pennsylvania. While all the blades seem to have been imported, these scythe anvils were hand-forged here in the USA, over a 100 years ago, out of wrought iron with a bit of hard steel inserted for the anvil face. The Pennsylvania Deutsch called them "Dengelstocks", but in their homeland Germany, the word dengelstock means the stump or base that the anvil is set in for peening, which is called "dengeln", in German. We would classify it as a tall scythe anvil. Tall anvils were usually used on large stumps that the person peening, could sit on as well. the anvil was tall enough for the seated person to get their legs underneath the blade. Most of them seem to be narrow anvils, but I have a seen some examples of wide dengelstocks in my collection. I like to point out that the Pennsylvania Dutch were actually Deutsch or German, because this is a very southern German or Bavarian-style of anvil.
The gorgeous scythe blade above, was made for export to the USA, by the Redtenbacher scythe factory, of Austria. Redtenbacher was the largest scythe factory in the world, at the time. It finally closed it's scythe production in 1987, due to the huge decline in demand, with the rise of mechanized agriculture. One of it's factory buildings was turned into a scythe museum; the Geyerhammer Scythe Museum. It has three heavy water-wheels, and shows 400 years of scythe blade making history. It is now popular tourist destination. The Scharnstein castle ruins nearby, also add to it's attraction. See http://www.sensenmuseum.at/
At it's high point, the Redtenbacher Scythe factory produced a 120 different models of scythe blades, and sold to over 90 different counties, including the USA. Each model was produced in 2-6 different lengths. They produced a brand of scythes labeled Schwanen Sense, and several models were exported to the United States, and they were especially popular with the Pennsylvania Dutch here. I know that the model above was produced in 70-75-80cm lengths.
Just got these peening guides back from our local machine shop. I spent many hours over the past couple of weeks, in hardware stores trying out all kinds of combinations of aluminum bars, and nuts, bolts, washers, and spacers, until I finally came up with a combination and design that worked. Then I had a local machine shop cut the aluminum pieces, router out the slots, drill and thread the screw hole, and chamfer all the edges. They did a beautiful job. The finished product is sleek, and works wonderfully.
From my limited experience with harvesting grains, I would say that oats have got to be one of the easiest grains to mow with a scythe, but one of the hardest to mow neatly. It practically jumps out of the way of the scythe blade, but the grain heads fall to the right, or every which way, unless you use a grain cradle. "Where can I get a grain cradle?", you ask. If I could get them, believe me, I would carry them. Unfortunately, I don't know of anybody that still manufactures a grain-cradle. It's on my list of products to develop for 1SR, but until then you will have to make your own.
Or.... you could try this simple technique. In the video below, these people are implementing a brilliant idea that I have not seen, or heard of before. An assistant to the scyther, holds a light pole against the standing grain, for the scyther's next stroke, which keeps it from falling over, and apparently has the effect of guiding the stalks to move over to the left, just like it would with a grain cradle! I can't wait to try this myself! If any of you get to it before I do, let me know how it works out.