A scythe consists of a wooden shaft about 170 centimetres (67 in) long called a snaith, snath, snathe or sned (modern versions are sometimes made from metal or plastic). The snaith may be straight, or with an "S" curve, but the more sophisticated versions are curved in three dimensions, allowing the mower to stand more upright. The snaith has either one or two short handles at right angles to it – usually one near the upper end and always another roughly in the middle. A long, curved blade about 60 to 90 centimetres (24 to 35 in)) long is mounted at the lower end, perpendicular to the snaith. Scythes always have the blade projecting from the left side of the snaith when in use, with the edge towards the mower. In principle a left-handed scythe could be made, but it could not be used together with right-handed scythes in a team of mowers, as the left-handed mower would be mowing in the opposite direction.
A scythe blade is made by peening the leading edge of the blade. In some uses, such as for mowing grass, the blade-edge is made almost as thin as paper. After peening, the edge is finished and subsequently maintained by very frequent stropping or honing with a whetstone or rubber (fine-grained for grass, coarser for cereal crops), and peened again as necessary to recover the fineness of the edge.
The "American" scythe blade is not usually peened as part of sharpening, being made using a stamping process that produces a harder blade than other styles of scythe blade. The harder blade holds an edge longer and requires less frequent sharpening. Rather than being maintained through peening, the edge of the American pattern of blade is traditionally reshaped after heavy use by grinding on a large diameter grindstone.
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