Back in January I had an email from a customer about a broken blade. It took a month or so for our stars to align so I could get out and check out the blade and the mowing action, and once again, after discussion and some one-on-one guidance, the customer was satisfied that the mowing action was the problem.
I also announced that this particular blade had to win the “most broken” award. It was torn from the edge right back to the rib, and the rib had even been bent backwards. I was asked if it could be repaired. I said I’d give it a go, gratis, as an experiment.
On closer inspection at home, there was also a hairline crack running along the rib as well. I was left thinking that any standard weld along the tear would be very short-lived; even if the weld survived, the blade had clearly ‘let go’ along the rib too, and it would only be a matter of time before that became an issue.
I was also hesistant to weld out to the edge. The welding bead would almost certainly behave entirely differently to the blade (in peening, honing, and holding an edge). So I sat down and had a good long think about the best way to do it. I settled on a “cut’n’shut” – that is, removing some blade and joining it together again, but shorter.
I removed the steel from the blade section to the right of the tear, as shown in the top section of the picture above, with the intention of then sliding the tang section onto the top of the remaining blade, and welding the two rib sections together, and along the edge of the painted black part. This would reinforce the rib, while effectively making the crack under the rib a non-issue, and would also keep all the welding a good inch away from the cutting edge (meaning it wouldn’t interfere with the edge, and would also reduce the chance of annealing the steel on the edge).
I took the blade along to a mate who does little welding jobs like this for me, for whisky. Unfortunately we apparently spoke too much about Lagavulin and stills, and too little about the welding job, and my intentions weren’t communicated well. He must’ve assumed I’d been lazy and had only done half the job of preparing it; he cut away the bit that would’ve formed the lower overlap, and welded it so as to restore the blade as one thickness in its entirety. Which meant that the crack on the rib was still there, but he welded that up too. In short, he turned what I figured was a relatively straight forward ‘rough and ready’, but entirely practical, solution, into something requiring more of his skills. The shape and length of the blade was the same as I’d planned, but he’d achieved it without overlapping the steel.
The end result was pretty damn good, actually. The biggest issue – which I knew was going to happen with the cut’n’shut approach – was that the hafting angle was way out. I had to heat the tang and open it up (which also happened to be a pretty good test of the weld too, because the neck of the blade is incredibly strong – even with heat, it takes a lot of leverage to open the hafting angle).
Having done that, I cleaned up the edge, gave it a three-line peen, and honed it, then put it to the test.
I’m more than happy with the result, given that this is the most busted blade I’ve ever seen. It’s now only a 54cm blade rather than a 65cm blade, but hey, it still mows grass…