Category Archives: History

1861 H. Waters Scythe Curvature Brochure

An illustrated brochure from scythe manufacturer Harvey Waters of Northbridge, Massachusetts, circa 1861, demonstrating his offered range of curvatures and describing their regional popularity for what kinds of terrain and growth. Mr. Waters has been credited with a number of manufacturing innovations, including the use of roll-forging as opposed to the typical use of trip hammers. A PDF form of this incredible document can be found HERE.

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The First Modern American Scythe Nibs

Up until the mid 19th century, American scythes had used the English method of affixing their nibs: an iron loop was fastened to the shaft of the snath by means of a wedge driven between the loop and the snath itself. While this allowed the nibs to be positioned at will along the snath, the wedges were prone to working their way loose at inconvenient moments, and in the industrial boom of the mid-1800’s a number of innovations were made in the means of fastening nibs. The most notable of these is the method that eventually became the standard: the so-called “Clapp’s Patent” nib. Patented in 1838 by Joseph and Erasmus S. Clapp of Montague, Massachusetts, it was the first nib known to bear the form that we see so commonly today on almost all snaths, both new and vintage. The nibs made currently by Seymour Midwest Tools are effectively of the same fundamental design.

We were fortunate enough to come into possession of an original example of one of Clapp’s Patent nibs, as well as a contemporary clone by Lamson Co. This company was particularly notable, for its owner and founder, Silas Lamson, is commonly credited with having inventing the steam bent curved snath as we know it today. This innovation is often cited as having been in 1834, though we have documentation that places it as much as 6  years earlier.  An 1830 document declaring his letters patent include, among other innovations, “the mode of fastening the nibs without wedges” although we do not know the specific mechanism used. As can be seen in the following photos, our Lamson nib is nearly identical to the Clapp one. The Clapp patent seems to have been at the center of a court case regarding patent infringement in 1840.

See first the Clapp’s Patent example:

ClappNib3 ClappNib4 ClappNib6 ClappNib7 ClappNib9 ClappNib10 ClappNib11 ClappNib12 ClappNib13 ClappNib14 ClappNib15 ClappNib16 ClappNib17 ClappNib18 ClappNib20 ClappNib21 ClappNib22 ClappNib23

The Lamson Co. nib:

LamsonNib68 LamsonNib69 LamsonNib70 LamsonNib71 LamsonNib72 LamsonNib73 LamsonNib74 LamsonNib75 LamsonNib76 LamsonNib77 LamsonNib78 LamsonNib79 LamsonNib80 LamsonNib81

A Traditional “Rag Knife”

A traditional style of farm knife made from a broken American scythe blade, usually used for topping root crops.

The blade below crack was cut back to the spine, which was forged out into a tang. Normally this would have been simply wrapped with rags to form the grip (which is why they were called rag knives) but we used a reshaped billhook handle instead.

The tang is peened on the end and the grip tightly wedged from the top inside the ferrule for an extremely tight and secure fit.

A Rag Knife A Rag Knife A Rag Knife A Rag Knife

The Real Douk-Douks

The French Douk-Douk knife is arguably much more famous than the Duk-Duk secret society of the South-Pacific Tolai people from which it derives its name. Photographs and drawings of actual Duk-Duk members (who acted as enforcers of tribal spiritual and civil order sometimes quite brutally) are scarce and difficult to track down amongst the throngs of images to be found of the knives that bear the name. We’ve gathered a number of images and arranged them here for those curious in knowing more about the figure behind the iconic tool.

We do not own any of these pictures. If you are the copyright holder of any of them and wish them to be removed, please let us know.

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Ron and Elx”Ron and Ella Lucas's photos of Tolai Duk Duk dancers, about 1964, at Navunarm, 10 miles out of Rabaul, these are from a Tamori

Duk-DukCultists15 Duk-DukCultists12 Duk-DukCultists4 P1140514 Duk-DukCultists3 Duk-DukCultists6 Duk-DukCultists7 Duk-DukCultists10 Duk-DukCultists13 Duk-DukCultists8