Ringing in the New Year

Sessions front

While winter resists to move on quickly, and the grass in the fields, gardens and other green areas is dormant, what a better way to kill time (until spring comes) than to open up an antique mantel clock, disassemble it, investigate it and hopefully put it back together again. Before I continue I should say than I am not a horologist and certainly no expert in clock repairing, but I like discovering why a clock is not working. You would be surprised how many times simply looking at the movement (the moving parts and pieces inside) helps you identify what the problem is. And that is already a lot.

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It is true that scythes and mantle clocks have nothing in common. However keeping good timing helps even when mowing!

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This Sessions mantle clock was my first one. It was filthy inside and outside, and I observed that the movement—except for the missing pendulum—was complete. There was no sign of a big problem. So I got a pendulum. It ran for a few minutes and stopped. But all it needed was a small adjustment, and a lot of patience, Finally it is running with the precision expected from a clock.

Case and face

Here is an ongoing bigger project. I have the case, the face and a few other parts. Now I just need to find the remaining missing parts and put it together in the next few weeks (or months)

Gilbert face open

This nice Gilbert also needed a few minor adjustments and now keeps the time very well, but it chimes the way it wants and as many times it wants. and other times it chimes and don’t stop until it runs out of wind.

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So I will disassemble it and try my best to put it back into working order.

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If you have pets, sometimes is a good idea to close the toilet lid!

Happy Holidays

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Since these days there is little to mow, and the blades are all clean, sharpened and in good shape, I went to spend a little time in the woods. In order to keep my hands busy, I brought home a few nice pieces of branches that I cut from a dry, fallen old oak tree.

What I needed from those little branches was a 10-inch fork. The project this time was to make a slingshot to take care of a few unwanted creatures encroaching in the neighborhood.

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It is relatively easy, inexpensive and you don’t need much to complete the project. Imagination? Not even that, because it is self-explanatory. All you need are some rubber bands that you buy over the internet or maybe an inner tube from a bike’s tire, and a piece of leather to hold the stone back as you stretch the rubber bands and, last but not least, a pocket full of rocks! Once the project was complete, I tried a few shots to warm up, testing both the artifact and the person (the last time I used one was at least 40 years ago). It worked perfectly, and I now rush to finish these lines so I can go to my post and wait for those not needed creatures to show up.

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This is a closer look at how I inserted the rubber bands into the arms of the fork.

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And finally after all that work the whole thing paid. I caught the bad guy, I saved the skin and hung it on the wall.

Happy Holidays. Feliz Navidad and Stay sharp my friends..

Winter Tasks and Projects

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There is little rest even during winter for scythes, except on rainy and snowy days. This is the best time to check if the blades require more attention than the regular peening and cleaning. This is when we take care of more serious repairs. It is wise to disassemble the blade from the snath if we are not going to use it for a few days, especially those humid days, because we all know that humidity swells wood. If the blade still attached,

IMG_20141128_143643the ring will not allow to expand naturally the part of the snath that is covered (by the ring itself) as a result, it will become tight and weaken the wood at that point. This is obviously something to consider all year round, every time the snath gets wet.

Winter is a good time to grab an axe and a brush axe

IMG_20141128_120720and trim trees, clearing and eliminating all those saplings and new trees growing around stones and fences. And of course, at the same time we always look for those branches that might become a potential handle for axes, hay rakes, forks, etc.

Because during winter most trees do not have leaves, it is easy to spot what we have to cut and where. Also the whole process is easier since, without the leaves, brunches are much lighter. Meanwhile growth is almost stopped during winter, and the wood gets tighter and harder. As a result, the wood we cut at this time shrinks less that what we cut in late spring or summer.

Speaking of winter projects, here is one of mine: attach some handles on these totally different brush axes.

ATT_1417201158412_IMG_20141128_121909 The big one is called a kaiser or sling blade (yes, like the movie), and is double-sided, with a sharp bevel on both sides and weighing about 750 grams. You can easily cut, with one stroke, branches the size of an arm. It is a terrific tool.

The little one weighing 430 grams, has a hook that, (no is not for scratching your back) when you are cutting brush, allows you to hold back the tangled branches that sometimes fall toward you and position them at the right distance for the next stroke.

Untill the next project, lets take the shirt off, relax and watch soccer…

ATT_1417193144595_IMG-20141126-WA0000Stay sharp my friends…

Old School Tools

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Every time I go to a hardware store, I like to visit the section displaying the latest version of toolboxes. Full of beautifully organized wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, etc., they make me think that there must be an engineering brain behind those designs just to make all the pieces fit so perfectly. Of course every tool has a specific purpose, and in the hands of a handy person or a true professional, it is amazing what some tools can do. But this phenomenon of having available to most of us such a variety of specific and advanced tools didn’t exist that long ago, and people had to build and make things they needed, including other tools. And of course they needed tools to repair even scythe blades!

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In my village most of the old houses have outside a rain catcher, made out of either limestone or some kind of sand stone. They are about 30 inches high, 30 inches across, the walls are about three inches thick at the top and they weight about 500 pounds. These stone vessels served a secondary purpose: a “tool” that people used to fix the bevels of damaged blades and hoes, and to sharpen axes, sickles and kitchen knifes.

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Many of them present very visible grooves from years of use, where one put the blade, then ran it back and forth in the notch. The motion is the same as if you were cutting a piece of wood with a hand saw.

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Needless to say, not all types of blade or edge damage were fixed that way. Serious cracks, for example, needed careful filing, and treatment with hammer and anvil. But damages such as burr, bended bevel, small cracks or chips can perfectly be fixed with a rain catcher!!!

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a large bee, working along pointy and sharp edges

Just a Few Photos

Here are a few related and unrelated photos that you might enjoy:

I had the pleasure to attend to Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil (SOFA) annual event where I made a nice little horse shoe. For more information about this unique event visit their website.

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I highly recommend this event to whomever wants to purchase some tools related to the profession

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or whomever wants to see great professionals in action.

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After forging we trained to march the chicken brigade.
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The next two photos shows the sequence of life….

Before…

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And after.

Disgusting or delicious….

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All That Glitters Is Not Gold (In this case, is not green)

 

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The same joy, good feeling and confidence that an appropriately dressed couple experiences when they walk into a party, a proud scyther feels when he walks (properly equipped) into a tender-looking, green grass field, just to mow. But a surprise can lurk around the corner for anyone. That good-looking couple suddenly realizes that they cannot dance to the music playing. That deception is similar to the one experienced by the well-equipped scyther who finds himself with a lovely field that he cannot mow as gracefully as he thought he could. Why? Well, this time because he found that a few inches under the green grass there are a few more inches of a stubble,

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a muggy mass of old grass that has not been properly cut and raked in the previous season or was used as a pasture with not enough animals to eat all the grass.

 

The best, well-peened, sharpened and honed blade, in the hands of a good experienced mower, will not be sufficient to leave a nicely manicured area. It is also frustrating because you can only advance with a fight. And forget about the nice, clean windrow.

 

The area to be mowed with a scythe needs to be as clean as possible and, contrary to what I explained in previous posts—unfortunate encounters as you mow part one and two—in those situations, we do not have control of the obstacles that we find hidden. However this situation can be controlled just by raking well all the cut grass, and we will see the benefits next time we will mow.

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When you are mowing around a pond, you never know who is watching you or what their intentions are…

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An Afternoon of Hay

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The task of harvesting hay—you love it, you hate it… or both.

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When I was a teenager, I had more reasons to hate it since the whole process was done human powered except some final heavy transportation done by animal traction. Today, it is probably not a pleasure but a whole lot easier. Also, I am not a teenager with other things on my mind.

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However, one thing is true and that is that whether you like it or not, once you learn how to do it, it is basically a simple task. And it can, at the same, be as complicated as you like. Back in the day, most of the lessons and “training” was done hands on, knowledge transferred from one generation to the next. Today (particularly in large operations) modern technology helps you advance more quickly. But the knowledge transfer is the other way around—GPS on cows, computerized tractors and feeders, computerized milking, hay baling, etc. Most of the time, the transfer is opposite: from the young to the old, including with tools.

But it is very pleasant to see that there are still corners in the world where, for one reason or the other—maybe because they don’t like change, or because they don’t want to loose the traditions, or because they can not afford new machinery or because the terrain or conditions do not allow—people are still harvesting hay the old fashioned way and it is perfectly OK, as it always has been. Luckily, a combination of both practices, traditional and new are compatible.

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A few weeks ago, I helped my sister and her husband harvest several small fields of hay—the norm in northern Spain—and had the pleasure of participating in a peening and scything contest.

In the next few days, I will continue with this post with other specifics.

Holy cow, happy cow!!!YMAIL_ATTACH_1411269120776_IMG_20140829_065627
She was supervising us working for her…
Then she said “catch me if you can”