Mower information page

Mower and other machinery info"

Since I first wrote this topic a good many years ago now, might be about time to add in some qualification so here and now 16th of April, 2011:
Manufacturers face the dilemna of rising costs across the board, so they opt' to take their base off shore (reffering here to Australian manufacturers). these decisions are made to keep their product in production at a price that the consumer can afford or better still that the market place dictates.
This move off shore can have a negative effect on quality, as the move may not deliver all that was anticipated, so the manufacturer may have to amalgamate or even be taken over by another maker, so the end product is a "Badge" product that is the machine is of the dominant maker, so understandably the original quality may not be maintained.

This you need to keep in mind before deciding on a brand due to its quality record in the past, when it was home made. Do your research before you buy.

With such a wide diversification of machinery available for the home gardener, choosing the right equipment can sometimes be monumental task. Which Whipper Snipper/Brushcutter, which Blower/Vac, which type of mower and the list goes on, hopefully I may be able to give you some options to consider, before you purchase that not so inexpensive piece of machinery.

 

WHAT Mower??

Before you even consider brand of mower, type of mower i.e., rotary, reel/cylinder or lawn tractor, you must first consider the size of the area you propose to mow, the geography of the area (is it a steep block or a flat block), the type of grass you wish to cut and the type of lawn you would like to develop.

Next you will need to decide between 2 stroke powered mowers and 4 stroke powered machines (this is generally confined to normal rotary type mowers). As a rule I usually recommend that a 4 stroke motor be used as they tend to be more efficient in fuel usage, and have the added benefit of not emitting smoke during operation. 2 stroke mowers hold their own when you have a steep block to mow, as the 4 stroke runs with a splash feed sump and taking this type of engine off of the flat situation can cause internal lubricating problem.

As a rule rotary mowers tend to keep lawns clean and tidy looking, but remember if you use a catcher on one that the suction created by the rotating blade (more on this on my Lawn Care page), to lift grass into the catcher also lifts soil particles. The rotary action of cutting also leaves the grass with a jagged cut.

If you want to create that manicured look then you will want to select a reel type mower (they cut the grass with a scissor action), as this type of mowing promotes that clipped neat appearance with the added benefit of using a roller at the same time as you mow, these mowers are also self propelling so lighten your mowing load. A reel mower would not be considered to be ideal to use in the following situations :-

1.... If your lawn contains a lot of loose stones/gravel.

2.... If there are dog bones around.

3.... If there a lots of little hardwood twigs in the yard.

4.... Or any other hard objects that could damage the cutting blades.

Any of these objects or any other like objects can damage the cutting blades of your reel mower, any damage to the blades generally means a trip to the engineers shop to lathe sharpen the reel blades, and replace the bottom blade. If blades do become damaged you will see the immediate result in uncut strips of grass, or a corrugated appearance to the lawn. There are some adjustments etc., that you have to carry out as normal routine but these would better be discussed at the time of purchase.

Remember that reel mowers don't suck at the ground to lift the grass they cut and throw it into the catcher, so they will not do a flash job of picking up leaves, this is a job for the blower/vac or yard broom or rake.

Just as a further note for cylinder/reel mowers, the question has been asked "are they safe to use on new lawns", in short the answer would be very safe as their scissor cutting action does not tug at the grass like a rotary mower might, things to consider is: Has the new turf settled at all, that is if it hasn't been rolled or settled in the cylinder mowers rollers may find soft spots and cause hollowing, or if the lawn has been maybe watered a bit heavy it could be boggy under the layer of turf/sod. So you would need to be aware as you mow and keep these points in mind, walk over the lawn area should give you an indication to firmness. As always the disclaimer applies as I can't be there to ascertian the new turfs readiness for mowing, if in doubt contact those who laid the lawn for you, or your local landscape centre.

With all mowers you must decide what power the engine will need for your lawn (with reel mowers this is not so critical as these mowers are geared and the motor does not have to be revved as hard), the average 27 to 30 perch block would need a motor of 3.5 HP or above, there are some smaller motors around but they are really only suited to very small lawns. Because smaller powered mowers are generally cheaper than others, people have bought on price only to find that the power of the motor is insufficient to mow their lawn effectively and efficiently. So the best rule of thumb is don't buy on price.

Unlike some other household products it is recommended that you purchase your lawn machinery from a specialist shop, as generally they sell top of the range models from the manufacturers, and provide point of sale professional advice and after sales service and warranties at point of purchase. When I worked as mower mechanic/salesman in a specialist store our policy was to unpack and assemble all machinery at point of sale and start and tune the motors, while explaining to the customer what servicing will be needed, and explaining the safe way to use their new equipment.

If you want to promote a good lush growth without the application of copious amounts of fertilizers then the Mulching Mower is the way to go, some points to remember though the Mulching Mowerisn't designed to cut as short as the average rotary mower can, it generally does not use a catcher and you may need to mow your lawn a couple or so more time a year.

The chassis design of the mulching mower is generally safer to be around than a normal rotary mower as the skirting around the blades is a generally lot lower than the actual cutting blade is, this is so that no air can be drawn in and no clip can be expelled.

SHOULD I choose a Reel Mower??

About the only criteria for deciding on a reel type mower is:- Do you have a basically level even block ?

If so then is the lawn even you know not too many humps and hollows, is the grass that is growing best suited for the use of a reel mower.

Now don't plan on creating a bowling green lawn or a lawn tennis lawn, as the grasses that are used in those circumstances are special breeds, and take a lot of care and attention hence the need for a green keeper. the mowers that are used on these lawns have more cutting blades on the reel blades than does a conventional reel mower, a conventional mower generally has around 7 or 9 blades, greenkeeping mowers have between 12 and 24.

Having decided to convert to reel mowing, you will now need to make yourself aware of how to look after the cutting blades, as they can be damaged through careless use and will need more frequent sharpening and replacement of bottom the blade if the cutters aren't adjusted frequently, at least checked if not altered before use at each mow.

Blade servicing is most likely the single most expensive item in owning a reel mower, as the reel cutters can be bent as can the bottom blade, and once damaged need either replacing as in the case of the bottom blade or lathe sharpened for the reel blades.

WHAT Whipper Snipper/Brushcutter??

As with most products there are items that are built to price and not for performance, you can work these out or direct mail me.

The rule of thumb here again is motor size and bent or straight shaft?

Usually the bent shaft models are fitted with motors under around 20cc, so these machines are for use in light work application areas e.g., small yards and light trimming jobs.

Generally I recommend for the average to larger blocks, that a customer should purchase a straight shaft machine as these are designed to cut heavier work loads. The motors fitted to these machines are generally from 22 cc upwards to around 35 + cc's, they are understandably heavier machines than the lighter bent shaft models, so depending on your physical strength whether the straight shaft model will suit you. And with the advent of 4 stroke motors you now have a wider range to choose from. My feeling is that sooner or later the 2 stroke motor will be no more, at present there are no 4 strokes that get into the commercial range ie.,. over 25cc, but they will come.

For the average yard a 22 cc to 25 cc model should suffice unless you have plans of doing some extra brush cutting on regular intervals. For Professional lawn care people and users with larger to acreage blocks choosing a machine in the 30 cc up range would be desirable. Remember with this type of machinery don't make price the only consideration, as a good quality machine should possibly never need replacing, and will have few breakdowns.

These engines are mostly powered by 2 stroke engines, however there are electric powered units and now some 4 stroke powered units (these will be my option next time I buy), so will have the usual thing noise and smoke. It is recommended that you mix your 2 stroke mix at the time you are going to use the Brushcutter (once oil is added to fuel the fuel starts to deteriorate and can end up after a period of 3 months or more little more then a smelly gummy mixture, that if poured into your machine will cause problems). Of late ther are machines coming onto the market that are recommended to be run on fuel mixes down to 50:1 and possibly 100:1, just in my opinion based on the imminent demise of the stroke market I don't think anyone is going to be putting valuable dollars into trying to make 2 strokes more environmantaly friendly so to speak, nor do I think that any oil company is going to put money into researching and developing oils that may work better in lesser quantities in these engines, why would they this market could be a dead end.
I have recently purchased a new brushcutter (2 stroke the 4 stroke isn't big enough yet) it uses noticably more fuel than the previuos machine yet they recommend a 50:1 fuel mix, my feeling is that they run an oil leaner mix but jet the carby to run richer, to me this could be a bit like pulling a rabbit out of the hat routine. At all times use the manufacturers recommended rate of oil fuel ratio, if you try running less I think you are only fooling yourselves as the life expectancy of the machine could be seriously compromised, I'll be running 32:1 mix in my 50:1 machine as I want long life of the machine and with the ambient heat and work load the machine should run cooler the downside maybe the spark plugs won't last as long but they are heaps cheaper than new machines.
Outside of fuel there is very little other maintenance, apart from putting a bit of grease into the gear box, replace the spark plug each season and keep the air filter clean.

What handle configuration you select is to your needs, I've found the loop type handle gives me more maneuverability when I need it as I use the cutter without using the harness, if you need to use the harness due to the bulk of the machine then the twin handle bar system may be more to the point.

Remember whatever you purchase, these machine can be a very dangerous implement, and at no time should juveniles be allowed to operate them without strict supervision, and at all times work alone you do not want anyone within 25 meters of you, as even the nylon line cutter can do damage.

At all times wear safety eye wear, ear muffs, clothing and shoes.

WHAT Blower/Vac'??

The same considerations as in Brushcutters is needed here, electric or petrol size of property and quantity of work.

WHAT Chainsaw??WHAT Blower/Vac??

Here again selection should be along the same lines as selecting a Brushcutter, here as in Brushcutters there are petrol engines and electric machines, the only point to consider here is that an electric motor is not as robust as a petrol engine, there is also the restriction of working with an electric cord to consider, but they don't cause pollution. Like all equipment if you make price your main criteria then you may sacrifice stamina and quality.

This subject is probably best discussed at the time that you decide that you need a chainsaw, as the type of wood that is to be cut and the size of trees etc., needs to be considered before purchasing.

Remember as in all equipment you are really only ever going to get what you pay for, if you opt' for cheaper smaller models for heavier work or opt' for cheaper makes and models from discount stores you may not get the quality, durability and reliability you need.

SOME Tips that may be useful

1.. Follow the manufacturers recommendations especially in the care of 2 stroke motors.
2.. When mixing 2 stroke fuel it is best not to have more on hand than you are going to use in the immediate period, once oil is added to petrol the petrol starts to deteriorate eg.,. by 60 days it should be disposed of.
For me i keep a tin of petrol (unleaded or low octane) and using a medicine measurer and a jar calibrated to 500 millilitres i get the mix i want for the machine i need it for fresh. It is not hard to do.
If you choose to use an after market oil that claims to run in all 2 stroke machines at that oils recommended rate then you may be putting the extended life of your machine at risk, manufactureres of the machine are the ones who recommend a given ratio to give good life in their engines.

My personnal choice is:
Castrol 2T - for my 2 stroke engines
&
SAE 40, 50 or 60 graded oils for my 4 stroke engine, the hotter the summer the heavier the grade.
Use only Unleaded or equivalent fuel, high octane fuels are not necessary in low compression motors.

Something to THINK about

There are lots of incentives to buy machinery from discounters usually sold in the box by people who are at best sales people only! and at worst their only real knowledge of the machine they are selling you comes directly from a glossy brochure.

The saying "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR" has always been and still is very relevent, if a top of the range model sold by an experienced professional with after sales service and back up should sell for a certain price then paying app' 50% of that price from a discounter should speak volumes.
Ok the discounters often large retailers offer things like money back guarantees, this is just to sweeten the lolly that bit more to snag your dollar, sooner or later when manufacturers are no longer making top of the range models then the retailers will tighten policy and the money back will disappear surely? And then when the consumers decide the quality should come before price there will be nothing to select from.

Before you purchase check out the quality that comes with top of the range models, and further to that research the makes where the manufacturer makes discount models yet still expects specialist shops to support and sell their top of the range models, if a manufacturer won't throw all its support behind its top of the range models then they aren't supporting those specialist shops. Seek out manufacturers who only make and supply top of the range quality equipment through specialist outlets that can offer after sales service and spare parts along with experienced advice on makes and models to suit the consumers needs.


If you feel you need more info please feel free to write to me, and as always your input is welcome.

No debate about comparisons of brands or their performance will be entered into by the Author, as all recommendations are just that recommendations from my personal experience, and there is no compliance to follow that recommendations, nor are there any implied guarantees or warranties.

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LINKS

Greenfield Mowers Get it right the first time: Mowing tough, high weeds and grass? - Not a problem: Mowing fine, manicured lawns? - Not a problem either.
Rover Mowers Limited Great Start - Great Finish: Rover Mowers began manufacturing powered mowers in Brisbane, Australia, in 1956.
Masport more at home Designed to work - Built to last: Masport is the Australasian leader in lawn and garden care products with unrivalled market penetration and brand awareness.
Victa Turns Grass into Lawn: Welcome to the fast and easy online resource that's full of essential information on lawn mowing.
Yetman's Directory Lawn & Garden Power Equipment: Australian Servicing Dealers On The Web
Plano Power Equipment The Power Equipment Professionals: We carry a full line of quality outdoor power equipment for home, landscape professional, or contractor use.

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