Snath, sneith, snaith, snead, sneath, sned, snathe,... scythe handle!

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Project by dgom posted 02-23-2014 10:55 AM 3717 views 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Seems that this highly traditional item is known by many names…

There is an area on my parents in law’s farm popularly called “Ekekullen” (oak hill). It lies between their house and a creek and has long been kept with a scythe to keep open. Traditionally grass was harvested for the farm animals there. In 1979 my father in law gathered some friends and had the first hay guild. This tradition has grown and today usually 20-25 friends and relatives gather in midsummer each year to jointly cut the grass on the field with scythe and then finish with a feast together. In recent years the area has also been of interest to conservationists because of some rare plants that thrive on hayfields.

My first hay guild was in 2002 and during the first years I borrowed a modern scythe from my father in law with an iron tube handle. A few years later during a culture trait in the town where I live, a man popularly called “the Reaper” had an exhibition of his collection of scythes and scythe handles. I had a really interesting conversation with him which ended with that he promised to send me plans of a type of scythe handle, ‘Simlångsdalen’, that is traditionally used in the south western parts of Sweden. A few months later I got the plans and I started to nourish a dream of making my own scythe handle.

According to the plan the handle is made from alder, alternatively linden, poplar or birch. When my father in law took down some alder trees that grew to close to the road leading to their property, I asked him to save a log for me. I stored the log in his barn for a few years to dry before I started to work with it.

The upper grip shall be made from alder or some other tough wood species. The upper grip shall be tenoned into the handle and locked in place by two pins. I made my upper grip from a piece of birch.

The lower grip (called ‘knagg’ i Swedish) shall be made of some hard wood species as cherry, pear or birch. Preferably the piece shall have a natural curve to it to gain optimal strength. I made mine from a piece of birch that had a natural 45 degree curve. The lower grip is locked in place by a round wood splice, traditionally made from plum tree.

Traditionally Swedish wooden scythe handles are blue. I finished mine with egg oil tempera which I dyed with cobolt blue artist oil paint. The only disadvantage with this type of finish is that it dries “forever”. However, when it is dry it sticks forever! The unpainted parts of the scythe handle are treated with boiled linseed oil.

There are a lot of “traditional rules” for how to properly adjust the angle of the scythe blade with respect to the ground. It is also important how “open” the scythe is, i.e. the angle of the scythee blade to the handle. Once these settings are made the scythe is ready to use.

I have now used my scythe for a few years and I am very pleased with the handle. Since it is made to my length, it is a real pleasure to use it for prolonged periods of time.

Here is a link to Wikipedia with more information on the scythe for those interested.

Below are a few photos from a traditional hay guild on the “Oak hill” in 2011.

A photo of Kjell Gustafsson (“the Reaper”) with his collection of scythe handles. Here he shows that the scythe handle he holds is about one hand to short for him:

For more interesting photos from Kjells course see:

3 comments so far

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 3503 days

#1 posted 02-23-2014 01:40 PM

Good job. Fine looking country-side as well.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2886 days

#2 posted 02-23-2014 02:33 PM

Cool, learn something new every day!

I see people leaning on their tools… that would be ME after about 3 minutes. I cant IMAGINE swinging one of those things all day!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View rdlaurance's profile


380 posts in 4226 days

#3 posted 02-24-2014 08:02 PM

I’ve been contemplating learning how to use ’en lie’ (scythe) and carving my own handles as well. Possibly will get around to it in another year or thereabouts so I’ll be able to exercise my way through some grain stalks for the hen’s winter diet (here in NW Skåne).

Great job, dgom!

-- Rick, south Sweden

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