Offcuts: More Lawnmower Power By: Don Heisz

Anyone who has read my Offcuts posts here from the beginning may recall I have had some issues with lawnmowers in the past. You can go browse or read Lawnmower or I’ll just repeat it.

When I first bought this house, I had the more-or-less stupid idea I would avoid the hassle of cords and gasoline by buying a push mower. Well, maybe that would have been a good idea if my lawn was (a) 4 square yards and (b) actually mowed regularly. Neither is true. In fact, the stuff that grows in my yard hardly qualifies as grass. Last time I checked, grass didn’t have thorns.

I replaced the push mower with lively electric mower. And that may have been a good idea if (a) my lawn was 50 square yards and (b) mowed regularly. Once again, neither is true, and the poor mower would chug its way through the dense mire every month or so until, eventually, the blade fell off. The bolt holding it on simply sheared off.

Incidentally, I’m sure I’m to blame for all of this. After all, I tend to expect tools to do what they claim to do. I may expect them to do it a bit better than they claim to do, or a bit faster, or under more duress. And most things, tools or not, don’t ever really do what they purport as well as they claim. And no one complains, so that situation just gets worse.

I replaced my electric mower with a gasoline mower. It’s not a complex one – it doesn’t propel itself, it doesn’t … do whatever any fancy one does (I really don’t know – I just want the stupid thing to mow the lawn).

I had a bit of a problem a month or so ago, and it was definitely my fault. I ran over a stump and bent the lawnmower blade. Since the lawn was 99% mowed, I put the mower away. When I next went to mow the lawn, I turned the mower on its side and straightened the blade using my hammer and a fair amount of anger. That worked well, except, within 5 minutes, I hit a different piece of wood (a bit of a railway tie that was hidden in the grass. Such ties were everywhere around the house when I bought the place and this is the only one I didn’t remove, since the end of it is embedded in the asphalt of the driveway).

The blade bent like an elbow. This time, I took the blade off to straighten it. I accomplished that using my hammer, the crux of a tree, and a lot of irritation. The blade ended up looking dubious, but I put it back on.

I resumed mowing. Everything went well until the thing started to chug and suddenly a whole steamtrain’s worth of white smoke erupted from it and filled my yard.

pretty, ain’t it?

That was thrilling.

So, it’s a good design. When you put the lawnmower on its side, all the oil runs out of it. Why does it do that? I don’t know. But there was no oil in it.

I put oil in it and it miraculously started running again. It did erupt white Vesuvius clouds a few times and chugged a bit. I think the blade no longer has a shape proper for ejecting grass, so I may need to replace it.

Anyway, I put it away and forgot about it for a few weeks.

This morning, since it was cool, I took it out hoping to do the final lawnmowing of the year (unlikely). I realized that there is a simple foam filter that was likely full of leaked oil that may have been contributing to its chugging, so I removed that to clean it. Sure enough, there was a cup of oil soaked into it.

When I replace it, I noticed something odd. There was some stuff I recognized on the front of the mower and I didn’t know how it could have got there. So, I walked around and looked at the mower from the front.

That stuff, hanging down from under the plastic housing that holds the winder (or whatever that’s called in lawnmower-techno-speak), is stuff that mice love to use for their nests.I didn’t bother trying to get any out, because it would be useless. I removed the plastic cover and revealed the extent of it.

Any kind of fluffy stuff a mouse could find was stuffed in there, into every available space, wrapped around every moving part. My guess is some mouse had decided to make that place its winter home, it just started on it a bit too early. The funny thing is, some of it appears to be from rolls of carpet I had stored in the shed about 5 years ago. Maybe they’ve stockpiled it under the shed.

It took five minutes to get every bit of it out.

When I started the mower, I immediately ran over that stuff.

The mower mowed the lawn without incident.