Shear Perfection

The first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830; he came up with the idea while observing a cloth mill, which used a cutting cylinder (or bladed reel), mounted on a bench to trim cloth.

Budding’s first production mower was made from cast iron; it was so heavy that it took two people to operate it–one person to push and the other to pull. Naturally, these first mowers were known as reel mowers because the blades rotated on a horizontal axis.

But enough history–let’s talk about the mower we all use at work and at home–the rotary mower. The name is derived from the blade that rotates on a vertical axis. Although many commercial manufacturers have entered the large rotary market (48 inches to 16 feet width), for the sake of this article I will be describing rotary mowers with a cutting width of 22 inches or less. These smaller rotary mowers are great for residential and trim work.

The Right Mower For The Job

Visit any hardware store, mower shop or home improvement store and it’s easy to see how technologically advanced rotary mowers have become, as well as the many shapes, sizes and colors that are available.

Do you prefer to push a mower, or is the terrain you maintain too hilly, forcing you to rely on a self-propelled mower? Is your staff composed of people with limited mobility? If so, maybe you need an electric-start mower. Where is it going to be used–in front of the administrative office or a place that is highly visible? Perhaps a self-bagging mower is best suited for this application. Is it to be used in several locations that will require different cut heights? Will it be used to mulch leaves in the fall? Make sure it has a mulching blade.

But remember, all of these options add to the price of the mower. I have had many instances where a basic mower was all I needed. Many of my colleagues purchase mowers knowing they will be scrapping them the next year for new ones, so they stick with the least-expensive available. Give some thought to what the mower is going to be used for, and that will help greatly in your decision.

Make That Mower Last

Even though push mowers only account for a small part of my budget, I still want to get the most out of each one. Here are a few tips to prolong the life of yours:

1. When you first purchase a mower, have your mechanic wax the underside to keep the grass from sticking to it; this makes for easy cleanup. Be sure to disconnect the spark plug before doing this.

2. Change the oil and air filters, and sharpen the blades regularly. Additionally, be sure to keep the blades balanced. If they’re not, they cause major vibrations and premature engine wear. An easy way to balance blades is to drive a nail into the shop wall and hang the blade on it; it will tilt to one side or the other. Whichever side the blade tilts down, grind that side until it sits level on the nail.

3. Clean the mower after every use. Wash under the deck with water or compressed air (wear safety glasses). If you wash with water, start the mower and run it to dry it off; this will dry all the electrical parts and make it easy to start the next time it is used.

4. Store the mower indoors during the winter. Before hibernation, however, clean it thoroughly–wax the deck (no need to wax in the spring), sharpen the blade, fill the fuel tank with gasoline and fuel stabilizer (filling the tank leaves no room for condensation to cause problems in the spring), pull the spark plug and spray WD-40 or another lubricant into the spark plug hole (to lubricate the cylinder walls and piston). After spraying the lubricant, pull the starter to spread it around the cylinder. Put the spark plug back in the engine.

String Trimmers

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