One of our customers has kindly given us permission to use their sad experience as an example, and as a warning to others.
I was told that the scythe had been taken out for its first run and that the blade had been damaged, and the customer was asking for my thoughts.
I was, I hoped, fairly reassuring in my response, which was that “They have to be pretty bad to be completely unrecoverable. If you can send me a pic I’ll give you some ideas, but I suspect that at worse it’ll just need filing out and a bit of peening and honing.” In hindsight that may have been a bit cavalier, but we’ve been using these blades for a while now and while, being so well peened, they are susceptible to edge damage, we’re confident that they’ll perform well when used well.
But then I got the pictures.
Excerpts from my response are below, including the pictures, which I annotated and used in my explanations.
Well, this is awkward…
I’m just going on the photos you sent, so my impressions may be wrong.
The marks on the tang (arrow marking them in the picture below) suggest the attachment ring was on way too low. Those marks should’ve been roughly where the orange circles are. Where they were, the attachment ring would barely have done anything at all to hold the blade in place, and it’d be almost certain to work loose (which again seems to be evidenced by the scraping where the screws were) and kick up, making the cut more of a hacking motion rather than slicing motion, by critically changing the angle of the blade.
From the photos I’d have to say I’m 99% certain that the damage has happened and then been compounded by ongoing use. The photo below has at least three other points of damage that could each have ended up like the bad one if they weren’t repaired (marked with arrows), and the multiple deep scratches suggest more than one impact.
The enormous crack like that also doesn’t just happen, at least not in my experience – it’s a result of minor damage (as pointed out by the arrows above) which has become more and more pronounced until a burr forms (as in the picture below) which then becomes an even bigger point of impact to which a lot of the momentum of the swing is transferred when it catches on something solid, which is when a split like this happens.
So in this case my initial reassurance was misplaced… I gave my email a subject heading of “RIP”. I did suggest a few ways of tackling the problem to get more use out of the blade but they were all very drastic.
The lesson here is that no blade (and indeed no tool) is indestructible. Scythes are particularly prone to damage through occupational hazards (as is, for example, a chainsaw when cutting up logs laying on dirt, or a brush cutter working around wire fences), and our blades are very thin-edged, which is what makes them able to achieve such a fine degree of sharpness.
You need to treat a scythe with respect, by setting it up correctly, using it correctly, and reducing the hazards where possible. Even with all that done, you will still manage to damage a scythe; but the damage incurred under proper use is far more likely to be easily addressed.
And when you damage your blade, fix it. Don’t keep mowing or you’re almost guaranteed to compound the damage. That also means being attentive to changes in sound (‘did I just hit something?’) and feel, and stopping to check. Also check the edge as you’re honing it.